Next Week’s Evolution ‘Show Trial’ at the SBOE

by

The anti-evolution Discovery Institute is crowing about next week’s scheduled science smackdown at the Texas State Board of Education. On Wednesday afternoon, the board will hear from a panel of six individuals appointed to review proposed new science curriculum standards for public schools.

Three of the reviewers — nominated by far-right board members — are creationists who want the curriculum standards to require that students learn so-called “weaknesses” of evolution. One of them — Stephen Meyer —  is a co-founder of the Discovery Institute. (Surprise!) The panel’s other three reviewers — all science faculty members at Texas universities — support the overwhelming scientific consensus behind evolution.

The Discovery Institute has issued a press release that celebrates the board’s decision to hear from the evenly split panel. That should surprise no one. Evolution deniers have been trying for years to manufacture such a “show trial.”

In 2005, creationists on the Kansas State Board of Education attempted to attack evolution in a similar stunt, but scientists refused to participate in the charade. The Texas panel, however, is part of the formal curriculum revision process. As a result, the Discovery Institute will finally get the public “debate” it has tried so hard to bring about elsewhere.

We have a question: when will elected officials in Texas start taking science education seriously?

In 2007, state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, distributed to his colleagues in the Texas House of Representatives a memo that, in addition to attacking evolution, referred readers to a Web site promoting the notion that the sun and rest of the universe revolve around a stationary Earth. Really. (Click here to see the memo.)

The notion of an Earth-centric universe is ridiculous, of course. Likewise, it’s absurd when dentists, insurance salesmen, attorneys and political activists on the State Board of Education argue that the thousands of scientists who have found overwhelming evidence for evolution through more than a century of scientific, peer-reviewed research are all just wrong. Moreover, to use a curriculum revision process to stage a “show trial” in an attempt to “prove” that evolution is a fraud is little more than a stunt designed to perpetuate a lie. Even worse, that lie is aimed at undermining the science education of the next generation of Texas schoolchildren.

The Discovery Institute and its friends on the State Board of Education are hoping the news media will cover the panel discussion next week as if the two sides in the debate were somehow on equal footing. Yet evolution deniers have failed to produce a shred of scientific evidence that supports “intelligent design”/creationism and that truly calls into question the overwhelming scientific consensus supporting evolution. In truth, next week’s panel discussion will not represent a debate between equal scientific points of view. The discussion will represent, instead, what happens when ideologues decide that science can be determined by politics and public relations gimmicks, not by scientific research and evidence.

39 Responses to “Next Week’s Evolution ‘Show Trial’ at the SBOE”

  1. Kay Says:

    Do you have names of all the panelists? I’d like to look them up before the hearing.

  2. TFN Says:

    For more about the panelists: http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5455.

  3. Rusty Osborne Says:

    HA HA HA HA HA, AHEE HEE HEE HAA HA HA HA HA, evolution is a religion, AHEH HEH HEH HEHHH HEE, AHHH, WHEW!! Damn, that’s FUNNY! Heheheheheheheheh, haha, omigod, giggle, ahhh…. do Chisum, Bridges, Meyer, McLeroy, and these other swift-witted epistemologists get paid for the standup comedy?

    Seriously, while it’s a tragedy that both US and state legislators need to be hammered by their constituency on virtually every social and environmental policy issue these days, and activists are experiencing “engagement fatigue” on an unprecedented level, the TX legislature needs to be constantly pestered until they find the political will to take the fundamentalist idealogues on the SBOE to the proverbial woodshed.

  4. grandma Says:

    The correct URL for the link to the Web site promoting the notion that the sun and rest of the universe revolve around a stationary Earth is

    http://www.fixedearth.com/HB%20179%20PART%20III%20ADDENDUM.htm

    Other links mentioned in Chisum’s memo include

    http://www.fixedearth.com/HB%20179%20PART%20II%20ATT.EVIDENCE.htm

    and

    http://www.fixedearth.com/HB%20179%20PART%20I%20MODEL.htm

  5. grandma Says:

    The general web site to the “Fair Education Foundation”, dedicated to “Exposing the False Science Idol of Evolutionism, and Proving the Truthfulness of the Bible from Creation to Heaven”, and which encourages viewers to “Read all about the Copernican and Darwinian Myths (and their many ramifications going all the way to Kabbala-based Big Bangism!)”, is

    http://www.fixedearth.com/

  6. JC Dufresne Says:

    So how about somebody that writes this kind of stuff well create the text of a petition to pass around asking our legislators to stop this BS. I for one will happily get my activist friends going on getting signatures and presenting the petition to our legislators. I’d do it but I’m not sure what to say except “get with the program or be gone” and I doubt that would be terribly effective.

  7. Stacey Tallitsch Says:

    This is more than a local Texas issue. Book publishers like Scholastic use Texas and California (due to population) as the standard for publishing school books for the whole country. So goes Texas schools, so goes the nation, and the Religious Right knows it.

  8. Larry Fafarman Says:

    The original post said,
    — it’s absurd when dentists, insurance salesmen, attorneys and political activists on the State Board of Education argue that . . . —

    Of the board’s seven known supporters of the “strengths and weaknesses” language, four have scientific backgrounds, at least three of them in biology.

    Please look before you leap.

    You call the hearing a “show trial” and Steven Schafersman calls it “The Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown.” I think I will call it a “Texas death match” (a pro-wrestling term).

  9. jdg Says:

    Remember, if this creationist TAKS passes, I will not teach it.

  10. Larry Fafarman Says:

    jdg said —
    –Remember, if this creationist TAKS passes, I will not teach it.–

    But in Peloza v. Capistrano School District(1994), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a school district could require a teacher to teach evolution even if evolution is contrary to that teacher’s religious beliefs — see
    http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/ten-major-court-cases-evolution-creationism

    The court’s opinion is at —
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/peloza.html

    I think you can relax — you are in a much better position than Peloza. There are many “weaknesses” of evolution that are not creationist, even though creationists cite those weaknesses.

  11. Ben Says:

    So what Larry is saying is that of the seven supporters he names, a minority of them have a background in biology. You do the math, Larry. Three out of seven.

    There’s also the point that their studying biology is meaningless. I’ve studied the Bible, but I’m an atheist. Want me giving the sermon at your church? PZ Myers has studied the Bible. Is he qualified, in your opinion, to teach Sunday school? Please say yes. I’m sure he’d love a chance to teach the Sunday school at your church.

  12. Tony Whitson Says:

    The Texas Free Market Foundation, revealed here on the TFNblog as an Dobson affiliate, has launched a campaign of lies that includes a letter from Texas legislators to the SBOE. See
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/fmf-lies/

  13. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams Says:

    jdg, check your state’s code of conduct/ethics for teachers. You may find language that prohibits you from deliberately distorting or misrepresenting subject matter. Presenting the so-called “weaknesses” of evolution would seem to violate such prohibitions; you can refer to the national/state science organizations for numerous statements to back you up.

    Check your district’s curriculum standards and your teaching contract; you may be bound by your contract to limit yourself to those standards. Your school district’s personnel manual might also include language to protect you so you can teach science ethically. If you haven’t already, you might consider joining your local chapter of the NEA, for a source of good legal advice.

    Good luck!

  14. Larry Fafarman Says:

    Ben said (January 17, 2009 at 8:38 am) —
    — So what Larry is saying is that of the seven supporters he names, a minority of them have a background in biology. You do the math, Larry. Three out of seven. —

    ????? I was surprised that there are so many — and a fourth has a degree in science but no specialization is given. The board members must deal with all school subjects and cannot be experts in all of them. Here are the backgrounds of those four members —

    Ken Mercer —

    He earned a bachelor’s in biology from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Business Administration from UT-San Antonio.

    Barbara Cargill —

    . . . she taught biology in the Garland and Hurst-Euless-Bedford school districts between 1982 and 1991.

    Cynthia Dunbar —

    Cynthia Noland Dunbar currently teaches anatomy & physiology to high school juniors and seniors.

    Dunbar obtained her undergraduate degree in biology and psychology from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

    Gail Lowe —

    Lowe attended the University of Alabama. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in 1978. (the field of science is not specified)
    — from
    http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/members.html

    That is far cry from what Steven Schafersman wrote on the Evo.Sphere blog —

    Not one of the SBOE members has any real scientific knowledge, although several of the radical religious right members think they know quite a bit about science.
    — from
    http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/evosphere.html?plckController=Blog&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&plckPostId=Blog%3af12fd84e-253f-46cf-9408-ee579f9a3a0bPost%3afaa7dc94-80fb-49bd-8cf8-4df48c6c24d0

    –There’s also the point that their studying biology is meaningless. I’ve studied the Bible, but I’m an atheist. —

    Well, then why is there a big stink over whether or not they know biology?

    Tony Whitson said (January 17, 2009 at 1:27 pm) —
    –The Texas Free Market Foundation, revealed here on the TFNblog as an Dobson affiliate, —

    “Revealed”? The Free Market Foundation — not named the Texas Free Market Foundation — does not try to hide its affiliation with Dobson — the FMF website says,

    Based in Plano, Texas, Free Market serves as the statewide public policy council associated with Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.
    — from http://www.freemarket.org/aboutus.aspx

    Stacey Tallitsch said (January 16, 2009 at 7:51 pm ) —
    — Book publishers like Scholastic use Texas and California (due to population) as the standard for publishing school books for the whole country. So goes Texas schools, so goes the nation, —

    The rest of the country is not stuck with the textbooks that Texas and California choose. It would be easy and inexpensive to create separate editions of biology textbooks by adding or removing sections that discuss criticisms of evolution.

    Cheryl Shepherd-Adams said (January 17, 2009 at 2:54 pm) —
    –jdg, check your state’s code of conduct/ethics for teachers. You may find language that prohibits you from deliberately distorting or misrepresenting subject matter.–

    Here are excerpts from the official state code of ethics for Texas educators —
    Texas Administrative Code Title 19, Part 7, Chapter 247, Rule §247.2, Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators
    (a) Statement of Purpose. The Texas educator shall comply with standard practices and ethical conduct toward students, professional colleagues, school officials, parents, and members of the community and shall safeguard academic freedom. The Texas educator, in maintaining the dignity of the profession, shall respect and obey the law, demonstrate personal integrity, and exemplify honesty. . . . . . .

    (1) Professional Ethical Conduct, Practices and Performance.

    (A) Standard 1.1. The educator shall not knowingly engage in deceptive practices regarding official policies of the school district or educational institution. . . . . . .

    (G) Standard 1.7. The educator shall comply with state regulations, written local school board policies, and other applicable state and federal laws. . . . . .
    — from
    http://info.sos.state.tx.us/pls/pub/readtac$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=19&pt=7&ch=247&rl=2

    IMO following a curricular requirement for teaching criticisms of evolution would not violate the above code of ethics — on the contrary, refusal to follow such a requirement would violate the above code of ethics (see Standard 1.7 above).

  15. jdg Says:

    Larry Fafarman

    Evolution is not a religious belief. Get over that. I will not teach creationist taks in my classroom. Pity the students that will fail because of this. There are no weaknesses in evolution. Good luck enforcing it creationist.

  16. jdg Says:

    Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    I have already looked at my districts’ code/conduct for teachers and it says that I can not deceive/missinform students. So by those standards, I’m ok. Buy Larry “the creationist” Fararman thinks that evolution is religious belief. Remember Larry, I will not teach creationist taks in my classroom.

  17. jdg Says:

    Larry Fafarman says There are many “weaknesses” of evolution that are not creationist, even though creationists cite those weaknesses.

    All those “weaknesses” you say have been thoroughly refuted by the scientific community. Once again, Larry, I PITY the students who will fail the taks due to me not teaching creationist taks.

  18. jdg Says:

    Ken Mercer- creationist
    Barbara Cargill- creationist
    Cynthia Dunbar- creationist
    Gail Lowe- creationist
    Larry Fafarman — creationist

    Texas Administrative Code Title 19, Part 7, Chapter 247, Rule §247.2, Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators
    (a) Statement of Purpose. The Texas educator shall comply with standard practices and ethical conduct toward students, professional colleagues, school officials, parents, and members of the community and shall safeguard academic freedom. The Texas educator, in maintaining the dignity of the profession, shall respect and obey the law, demonstrate personal integrity, and exemplify honesty. . . . . . .

    Thank you for finding this. As this document states I must ” demonstrate personal integrity, and exemplify honesty”. Since the scientific community has overwhelmingly denounced “strenghts and weaknesses” as creationist, I cannot (and will not) teach it. Thank you Larry Fafarman for shooting yourself in the foot!!!

  19. jdg Says:

    Larry F

    You are the one who is dishones in this discussion. As a creationist that you are you want to slowly enforce your religious beliefs onto others as intelligent design and now S&W. It is truly sad when you don’t even obey your fake god when it says “don’t lie”. Truly sad. Go hide your head in the sand and wait for the “apocalypse”. And thanks for shooting yourself in the foot with the “The Texas educator, in maintaining the dignity of the profession, shall respect and obey the law, demonstrate personal integrity, and exemplify honesty”

  20. jdg Says:

    So, once again I ask TFN: If this creationist Taks passes, will you be willing (or any others) to sue the SBOE for misrepresenting the facts of science?

  21. Tony Whitson Says:

    to jdg:

    A crucial point in the Dover, PA case was when the Dover HS science teachers jointly wrote that they could not read the statement mandated by their Board, since PA ethics standards prohibited them from lying to their students.

    If you want the letter they wrote, and can’t locate it, let me know here, and I’ll try to dig it out for you.

  22. Larry Fafarman Says:

    jdg Says (January 17, 2009 at 9:11 pm ) —
    –Larry F
    And thanks for shooting yourself in the foot with the “The Texas educator, in maintaining the dignity of the profession, shall respect and obey the law, demonstrate personal integrity, and exemplify honesty” —

    You missed these:

    “The Texas educator . . . . shall respect and obey the law . . .

    — and–

    (G) Standard 1.7. The educator shall comply with state regulations, written local school board policies, and other applicable state and federal laws. . . . . .

    And what if the curriculum calls for teaching criticisms of evolution as invalid criticisms? Will you still refuse to teach those criticisms?

    Tony Whitson Says (January 17, 2009 at 10:38 pm) —
    –A crucial point in the Dover, PA case was when the Dover HS science teachers jointly wrote that they could not read the statement mandated by their Board, since PA ethics standards prohibited them from lying to their students. —

    But the hypocritical Dover teachers lied to the Dover school board when they agreed to the compromise of accepting the book “Of Pandas and People” as a reference text instead of a companion text. The Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion says,

    Despite the fact that the teachers strongly opposed using “Pandas” [“Of Pandas and People”] as a companion text, they agreed that “Pandas” could be placed in the classroom as a reference text as a compromise with the Board.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover_decision3.html#p220

    Also, the Pandas book was adopted as a compromise in exchange for the adoption of a heavily pro-Darwinist main biology text —

    . . . at the August 2, 2004 meeting, Buckingham opposed the purchase of “Biology,” which was recommended by the faculty and administration, unless the Board also approved the purchase of “Pandas” as a companion text. Only eight members of the Board were present on August 2, 2004 and the initial vote to approve the purchase of “Pandas” failed on a four to four vote with Buckingham, Harkins, Geesey, and Yingling voting for it. (citations omitted) After Buckingham stated that he had five votes in favor of purchasing “Pandas” and if the Board approved the purchase of “Pandas,” he would release his votes to also approve the purchase of “Biology,” Yingling changed her vote and the motion to approve the purchase of “Biology” passed.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover_decision3.html#p212

    So in the original compromise, the Pandas book was adopted as a companion text. So in the compromise with the teachers, the board made the additional concession of adopting the Pandas book as a reference text instead of a companion text. In the end, the copies of “Of Pandas and People” were placed in the school library — not the classroom as the teachers agreed to — and were not required reading.

  23. Ben Says:

    It doesn’t matter if those members of the SBOE have studied biology, because their religious beliefs obviously prevented them from accepting evolution, which, as mentioned earlier, underlies all of biology.

    An atheist could study religion and the bible in college, but if he or she is still an atheist, you wouldn’t want him or her teaching Sunday school, correct? If you’re okay with atheists teaching Sunday school, I’m sure I can find some volunteers to teach at YOUR church. Just let me know if you want to set that up.

  24. Larry Fafarman Says:

    Ben said (January 18, 2009 at 11:32 am ) —
    –If you’re okay with atheists teaching Sunday school, I’m sure I can find some volunteers to teach at YOUR church. Just let me know if you want to set that up. —

    If you’re okay with having highly technically sophisticated criticisms of evolution taught in YOUR public school’s science classes by volunteer Sunday School teachers who have no expertise in biology, just let me know if you want to set that up.

  25. jdg Says:

    Larry Fafarman Says:
    January 18, 2009 at 2:09 am

    You missed these:

    “The Texas educator . . . . shall respect and obey the law . . .

    – and–

    (G) Standard 1.7. The educator shall comply with state regulations, written local school board policies, and other applicable state and federal laws. . . . . .

    And what if the curriculum calls for teaching criticisms of evolution as invalid criticisms? Will you still refuse to teach those criticisms?

    Just like I said, I will not teach invalid criticisms you creationist!!!. Hey since you’re an evolution denier, are you a holocaust and AIDS/HIV denier as well??? Just wondering, since evolution, the holocaust, and HIV/AIDS are accepted facts.??? Just wondering???

  26. jdg Says:

    # Larry Fafarman Says:
    January 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Ben said (January 18, 2009 at 11:32 am ) –
    –If you’re okay with atheists teaching Sunday school, I’m sure I can find some volunteers to teach at YOUR church. Just let me know if you want to set that up. –

    If you’re okay with having highly technically sophisticated criticisms of evolution taught in YOUR public school’s science classes by volunteer Sunday School teachers who have no expertise in biology, just let me know if you want to set that up.

    Larry, we already know that creationists like yourself are the only ones who are in denial about evolution/HIV/Holocaust. No one from the scientific side (And don’t start with Behe, he got spanked in court!!) has said that evolution has S&W.

  27. Ben Says:

    Larry, of course I’m not okay with that. That’s my point. I don’t want Dunbar and her gang to have input on science curriculum any more than you’d want an atheist teaching your Sunday school.

  28. jdg Says:

    Ben Says:
    January 18, 2009 at 11:32 am

    It doesn’t matter if those members of the SBOE have studied biology, because their religious beliefs obviously prevented them from accepting evolution, which, as mentioned earlier, underlies all of biology.

    Ben, it’s impossible to change Larry’s mind. He is a creationist. He sees “visions” of his fake god. He obviously forgot to take his Thorazine. He also is a Holocaust/Aids denier, they all are. Read the Wedge Document

  29. jdg Says:

    So Larry,

    While the rest of the world rejoices on Darwin’s 200 b-day. What are you doing? Hidding your head in the sand????

  30. jdg Says:

    # Tony Whitson Says:
    January 17, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    to jdg:

    A crucial point in the Dover, PA case was when the Dover HS science teachers jointly wrote that they could not read the statement mandated by their Board, since PA ethics standards prohibited them from lying to their students.

    If you want the letter they wrote, and can’t locate it, let me know here, and I’ll try to dig it out for you.

    Thank’s man….. I acutally have it. The statement letter from dover.

  31. jdg Says:

    TFN,

    I’m still waiting for your answer??? Is it OK to intentionally missinform students??? Or are you guys OK with telling kids the world is flat? There was no holocaust? or Newton wasn’t real?

    Look, TFN
    If I had millions of dollars, I would sue. But I don’t, I’m a teacher. I’m sure you have that cash somewhere. So what is it: Lawsuit yes or no?

  32. TFN Says:

    Golly, you think we have millions of dollars? If only…

  33. Ben Says:

    jdg,

    If you haven’t seen this already, you’ll enjoy it:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/05/good_ol_larry_fafarman_part_2.php

  34. jdg Says:

    Larry F.

    You keep using the word “Darwinist” and “Darwinism”. What don’t you call them as the rest of the world calls them??……
    Evolutionary Biologist!!!

    Ok, now………. head back into the sand Larry F…………..

  35. jdg Says:

    TFN,

    Please don’t take my statements towards you guys in a demeaning way. You guys are good; just as all of us see this as an attempt to weaken science………….. It really bothers me.

  36. Larry Fafarman Says:

    TFN, I am really getting pissed off that you let others attack me personally on this blog but won’t let me respond. Please either poop or get off the can — either allow personal attacks or don’t allow them. Make it one or the other.

  37. TFN Says:

    We have deleted only a handful of comments from you and from others that included what we considered to be inappropriate personal attacks. We certainly have not rejected all of your comments that were in response to criticisms others have made about you and what you have posted. We reserve the right to moderate comments as we see fit and try very hard to be fair to all points of view. But we will not engage in a debate over our decisions.

  38. David A Says:

    There is a broken link in “Next Week’s Evolution ‘Show Trial’ at the SBOE,” date the 15th. The link for “referred readers to a web site” ought to be: http://www.fixedearth.com

  39. TFN Says:

    Fixed it. Thanks!

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