When listening to the claims of creationists on the Texas State Board of Education, a political thesaurus would be helpful. The board’s far-right bloc has asked the people of Texas to have a little faith. Its members are not, they claim, interested in having public school science classes teach students about creationism, “intelligent design” or any other religious concepts. At a November 19 hearing on proposed public school science curriculum standards, Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, proclaimed that he didn’t know of any board members who want science classes to do so. McLeroy and fellow creationists on the board say they’re interested only in exposing students to “scientific weaknesses of the theory of evolution.”
But that’s not what they’ve said in voter guides from the Free Market Foundation (the Texas affiliate of the far-right pressure group Focus on the Family) and, in some cases, when they were running for office.
Let’s work backward in time, shall we? Click on the thumbnail image below to see a 2008 Free Market Foundation Voter Guide for the State Board of Education:
So far so good. The far-right bloc’s members who were up for re-election were all on message – Terri Leo, R-Spring; David Bradley, R-Beaumont; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; and Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, all said they “Strongly Favor” forcing publishers to include “strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution” in biology textbooks. “Intelligent design”/creationism isn’t even mentioned.
But if you go back to a 2006 Free Market Foundation Voter Guide, you will find that candidates were asked whether they support teaching “intelligent design” alongside evolution in public schools:
Maybe news of the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling in 2005 had not yet reached some board members, so three key current members of the far-right bloc — Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio; McLeroy; and Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond — all said they “Strongly Favor” the teaching of “intelligent design” as a “viable” theory in public school science classrooms. That same year, Dunbar told the Austin American-Statesman that she supported teaching “intelligent design” in public schools. The concept, she said, is “at least as viable, if not more so, than evolution.” (“Five from GOP gun for 2 state education seats,” Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 20, 2006. A link apparently is no longer available, but Burnt Orange Report noted the same story at the time here.) In the same American-Statesman pre-primary election article, Mercer said he also supported teaching “intelligent design” alongside evolution in public schools: “We should let kids hear both sides of the story.”
If we keep following the trail, however, we go back to those heady days of creationism in 2002 – when politicians didn’t have to soft-peddle their rejection of science and support for a 6,000-year-old Earth with code words like “weaknesses” or “intelligent design.” A 2002 Free Market Foundation Voter Guide prefaced a question about “intelligent design” with the label “Creationism”:
Surprise! (Or not.) Leo, Bradley, McLeroy and Lowe all indicated that they “Strongly Favor” teaching creationism in public schools — not “weaknesses of evolution,” but creationism, the real deal.
So what happened? Did these board members change their minds about teaching creationism sometime between the 2002 and 2008 elections? Of course not. This is a time-lapsed visual history of the political evolution of modern creationism.
Bottom line: An “intelligent design” supporter today is a creationist with a thesaurus. And a backer of “weaknesses of evolution” is an “intelligent design” supporter who has read the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. Same motives. Same end game. Same politicians who “Strongly Favor.”
It’s hard, then, to take the McLeroy bloc seriously when its members raise their hands and pledge that they just want to make sure students get all the facts about evolution. Who do they think they’re fooling? The reality is that they are trying to dumb down our schoolchildren’s science curriculum in an effort to promote their own personal and ideological agendas. Don’t let them get away with it.
And by the way, TFN sends a big “thank you” to the Free Market Foundation for documenting the positions of these creationist chameleons so thoroughly over the years. Anyone want to guess what the group’s 2010 Voter Guide is going to say? Early money is on:
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: Support the right of teachers to express their personal views on scientific theories on the origins of life.
Any guesses which state board members will “Strongly Favor” that?