7:54 p.m. – Once again, a creationist board member (who makes a living as a weekly newspaper editor), challenges a scientist on his knowledge of science. Really.
8:10 p.m. – Board Chairman McLeroy just said he doesn’t know of any board member who has ever advocated teaching creationism in public schools. That’s not true, and he should know. McLeroy and other creationists on the board are on the record in past voter guides as supporting teaching creationism and, later, “intelligent design” in Texas public schools. TFN has copies of those voter guides.
8:18 p.m. – Scientists testifying today have been remarkably reserved in their remarks despite efforts by nonscientists on the state board to somehow “educate” them about their failure to understand that there really are weaknesses to the theory of evolution. But sometimes their frustration is quite evident, and understandably so.
8:30 p.m. – Jonathan Saenz of the Free Market Foundation — the Texas affiliate of the far-right Christian group Focus on the Family – wants the state board to continue requiring that public schools teach “weaknesses” of scientific theories like evolution. Groups on the other side (TFN?) “want to take Texas in a completely different direction.” (Yes, actually, we do — a direction that ensures kids get a sound education based on real science, not ideology.) Teaching only the “strengths” of theories, he says, is “censorship.” If teaching “weaknesses” of scientific theories was illegal, he claims, someone would have sued by now. Oh, and he goes after the TFN Education Fund’s report on what scientists really think about evolution and science. Creationists on the board are asking about it. They’re asking someone from the Free Market Foundation, for Pete’s sake. Actually, they’re not asking. They’re using the opportunity to attack the report’s findings and methodology.
We have a question: If evolution deniers on the board are so curious about our report, why in the world didn’t they ask TFN President Kathy Miller about it when she testified earlier this evening? Likely answer: They’re just looking for an excuse to grandstand.
Board member Mavis Knight: “We’re talking about the Texas Freedom Network as if they’re not here. Can we ask them to answer some of these questions.” Chairman McLeroy: No.
We’re not surprised.
8:39 p.m. – To answer a question from a reader, we’ve seen probably less than a half-dozen evolution opponents testify today. We anticipate that anti-evolution pressure groups will recruit far more folks to speak at the second public hearing set for January.
8:42 p.m. – Terri Burke of the ACLU of Texas makes the case that attacks on evolution are little more than a Trojan horse for pushing religious concepts in public schools. We hope Terri will post her wonderful testimony on the ACLU-TX Web site.
8:57 p.m. – Board member Ken Mercer suggests that the reason evolution deniers haven’t had their arguments published in respected, peer-reviewed scientific journals is because of censorship. We guess it can’t be because their arguments have no basis in science. Nah. Can’t be that.
9:12 p.m. – Creationists on the board keep asking for specific data showing that teaching “weaknesses” of evolution harms students and creates legal problems for schools. Another case of missing the point: Undermining sound science in public schools handicaps the ability of students to compete and succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century. This isn’t a difficult concept.
9:20 p.m. – Chairman McLeroy continues to ask whether there is a hierarchy in which a scientific “theory” becomes a “law” when there’s sufficient evidence for it. He keeps getting the same answer: That’s not how science works. McLeroy, of course, wants to portray the “theory of evolution” as possibly wrong because it hasn’t yet been elevated to a scientific “law,” as in the “law of gravity.” Fellow creationist board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, has made this argument in the past.
9:32 p.m. – Chairman McLeroy lists a number of trade books from highly respected scientists about evolution and proclaims, “I’m not persuaded.” For the record, McLeroy is a dentist.
9:38 p.m. – A number of University of Texas students have also come to speak out in support of giving public school students a 21st-century science education. It’s great to see.
9:49 p.m. – Still about a dozen or more folks are waiting to testify — some who have been waiting since this morning.
9:50 p.m. – Board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, notes that more than 700 scientists have signed on to the Discovery Institute’s “Dissent from Darwin” petition. If you haven’t already, check out the National Center for Science Education’s response to that petition.
9:59 p.m. – By the way, we’re not the only ones live-blogging from today’s public hearing. Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science has been offering his own insights about the testimony here.
10:11 p.m. – “In the science classroom, 95 percent of Darwinian evolution should be thrown out.” There you go, in case you didn’t think any creationists bothered to show up today. There were a few.
10:20 p.m. – Of course, it’s pretty clear that the creationists on the state board believe deeply that the theory of evolution is fatally flawed. We also don’t question their genuine religious beliefs about the origins and development of life (although we continue to point out, as do many other people of faith, that there is no inherent conflict between faith and accepting the science of evolution). What is remarkable, however, is the ignorance about basic science displayed by some of those board members during today’s public hearing. Of course, TFN isn’t staffed by scientists either, but we haven’t chosen to attack one of the most important and substantiated theories in science. We should point out that board members who aren’t critical of evolution have been relatively silent during the hearing.
10:39 p.m. – Another reminder to board members about the importance of sound science standards to the state’s economy and to research in a variety of fields, including medicine.
10:40 p.m. – The Science Teachers Association of Texas comes out strongly in favor of science standards that don’t include the requirement for teaching so-called “weaknesses” of evolution.
10:46 p.m. – University of Texas student Garrett Mize knocks it out of the park. A remarkable young man and a strong supporter of sound science education in Texas public schools. Arch-creationist Cynthia Dunbar sounds frustrated.
10:49 p.m. – Traffic to TFN Insider has just reached a new one-day record.
11:06 p.m. – TFN Student Chapter members close up the testimony tonight. We couldn’t be prouder.
Thanks for staying up late with us!