Thursday, August 9, 2007

Texas, We have a Problem: Don McLeroy

My fellow Texans, we have a problem. Don McLeroy, ID supporter, is the new head of the Texas State Board of Education. To give you an idea of what his views are like, check this speech he gave in 2005 at Grace Bible Church in Bryan, Texas. It has to be read to be believed. It's got all the creationist canards: micro/macro, its not about religion, outdated quotes, and of course, frequent reverent use of quotes from Philip Johnson, William Dembski, all the usual suspects. Those of you who are interested in a solid science education for your children better sit down and make sure you don't have a weak stomach. Here are some exerpts:

"1996 New York Times editorial, guest editorial, this is in response to a comment by someone believing in evolution, and so the guy has made this statement, 'This whole issue might make for an amusing debate were it not for the potentially grave consequences for society at-large. If we’re unwilling to unilaterally brand scientific nonsense as just that regardless of the sensibilities that might be offended, religious or otherwise, then the whole notion of truth becomes itself blurred and our democratic society is in peril as much by this as any other single threat.' Of course, the guy’s threat that this guy was responding to was not the threat of Darwinism, the threat of God as the creator, and it is just amazing that they can describe my feelings exactly. This is exactly how I see this.

That's right, the head of the Texas State Board of Education has accepted the ridiculous argument that accepting evolution means becoming an atheist. I'm sure this would shock the hell out of the millions of Americans who accept evolution and believe in a variety of gods. Personally I accepted evolution decades before becoming an atheist. True, if one puts one's faith in one's deity based on one of the common creationist myths, evolution is going to threaten your beliefs. So why do so? And why support an education department head that does? We move on to the next shocker:

"Uh, G.K. Chesterton, 100 years ago, 1908 basically, uh, made an interesting observation that is really interesting: 'The Christian is quite free to believe that there’s a considerable amount of settled order and an inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.' And I think that really describes it exactly, when you want to see, these people can’t stand anything getting into their spotless machine. They can’t tolerate anything. We can tolerate a lot, but they can’t tolerate anything."

OK, am I the only one uncomfortable with having an education head who can't organize his thoughts more coherantly than this? What in the world is he trying to say here? My best shot is that he's saying accepting evolution=>materialism=>belief in the perfection of ... what? Ourselves maybe? Other animals as well? Anyone who can parse this into conversational English has my utmost respect.

Now that last part is clear enough, but its absurd. The scientists are intolerant, but the Bible thumpers are the ones that can tolerate so much? Riiiiight, its a bunch of evolutionary scientists protesting movies they don't like, reasearch that offends their sensibilities, etc., while the religious right is all about live and let live. [snort]

" is our definition of what intelligent design is: it’s the biological theory, or you maybe leave off biological..."

This would be funny if it weren't real. At least he's on the right track: leave off "theory".

"And one other thing about these lessons, big tent, and this is, uh, in the big tent of evolution we all have disagreements, but we’re united in one thing, and we’re united in what we oppose. And you’ll see this later. This is the power of the deductive argument, but nature is all there is. We’re united against the fact that that’s a true statement."

Depressed yet? Yeah, he's united against facts all right. But more on the big tent:

"Now I would like to talk a little bit about the big tent. Why is intelligent design the big tent? It’s because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is."

Dang it Merle, there he is a-linin up aginst facts agin.

Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of intelligent design. And intelligent design here at Grace Bible Church actually is a smaller, uh, tent than you would have in the intelligent design movement as a whole. Because we are all Biblical literalists, we all believe the Bible to be inerrant, and it’s good to remember, though, that the entire intelligent design movement as a whole is a bigger tent. So because it’s a bigger tent, just don’t waste our time arguing with each other about some of the, all of the side issues. And that’s one thing that I really enjoyed about our group is that we’ve put that all in the big tent, we’re all working together.

That's right, don't waste time quibbling over the fact that some of you think the earth is thousands of years old, and some of you think it's billions of years old. Never mind that some of you think the Noah's ark story really happened, whereas others believe in evolution with a rare touch of the designer for a flagellum here, an eye there. No, no, feh on that. Work together, all your various religious factions. Ooooo, I almost forgot. Don't tell anyone that it's all about religion. It's s-c-i-e-n-c-e, always remember. Shhhhhhhhhhh.

Here he bitches about losing the 2003 battle over textbook content, and gives away the game.

"But I want to tell you all the arguments made by all the intelligent design group, all the creationist intelligent design people, I can guarantee the other side heard exactly nothing. They did not hear one single fact, they were not swayed by one argument. It was just amazing. I mean all the, my fellow board members who were really not even the scientists in the group, they were not impressed by any of this. They said, “Oh well, it’s just two opinions. And there were only the four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board were the only ones who were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say that they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution. Amazing."

Gosh dang Merle, we put up a bunch of religious bullshit pretending to be science, and the only people that bought it were some really religious folk. Imagine!

What is truly amazing is that the head of the Texas Board of Education (am I depressing any of you yet?) doesn't know the basic facts about the most unifying theory in all of biological science, if not all science period.

"...all the arguments are dismissed like this here is a subversive, secret attempt to force religion into science.

It is a secret attempt to force religion into science. Your own words sir, supply ample evidence.

He goes on and on like that, comparing evolutionary theory to The Matrix, and railing on about "naturalism", a straw man of a philosophy that no real person believes, but that IDers/creationists see as the boogey man around every corner responsible for all scientific error.

The battle over the science curriculum is coming. It is inevitable with this man at the helm. Get the word out, and those able to fight him need to prepare for the conflict and speak. One nice thing about creationists is that their schtick rarely changes. They pretty much make the same exact argument every time. This is what got them creamed in Dover, and there is no reason it shouldn't happen here as well.

That issue should also be raised: any school that adopts any form of creationism/ID into its science curriculum is risking a very expensive lawsuit that they are almost sure to lose. The creationists win occasionally with local school boards, but the big court cases always go against them. The Dover case cost the school district $1 million. Anyone considering following the IDers lead had best think twice just on pragmatic grounds.

We are going to be on display for the entire scientific community. Let's not blow it.

No comments: