The Science Debate: A Win or a Loss?

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Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, reviews the recent battle over the state’s new public school science curriculum standards and asks: “Did we win or did we lose?”

The results, he writes, were mixed. We think this paragraph, in particular, hits the nail on the head:

The problem was this:  The eight pro-science members (of the Texas State Board of Education), five Democrats and three Republicans, did not vote as a pro-science bloc, while the seven anti-science Biblical Literalist Republicans always voted as an anti-science bloc. Since they did this, all they needed was one additional vote to achieve their aims. Most of the pro-science Board members are friendly, moderate to conservative individuals who believe in collegiality, cooperation, and compromise, so most were willing to accept the weaker but still flawed substitute amendments that the religious right members proposed if their original blatantly anti-science amendment failed on an 8-7 vote, which usually happened. I could detect the emotional compulsion of some Board members to vote with a colleague for a less egregious amendment and to find some compromise on controversial issues. The Religious Right members exploited this characteristic again and again.

The full piece is here.

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7 Responses to “The Science Debate: A Win or a Loss?”

  1. PHarvey Says:

    Yep, the 8 members with generally good sense did not stand firm and vote as a block. They tried to appease the wing nuts. That was a mistake. There is no compromising with extremist ideologues with an agenda.

    They will just keep pushing their far right agenda until they get their way unless the maintream stands up and says enough.

  2. Cytocop Says:

    I don’t see the results as “mixed” at all. As Mr. Schafersman himself describes, it is a clear victory for the religious right. And don’t think they don’t know it! With each victory, they gain strength and support.

    Watch the deterioration of science ed continue…. you can bet your life savings on it.

  3. Silas Says:

    As one who was heavily involved in the process, and in attendance at both critical votes, I think Schafersman’s perspective is skewed by his atheism. Bob Craig (not one of the “religious right”) proposed the wording that students learn “all sides” of each issue. The seven “religious right” SBOE members are not anti-science; I think 3-4 of them have science degrees! I’d describe them as against the atheistically-driven demands Schafersman’s side makes for a one-sided presentation of scientific evidence. Schafersman’s Earth and Space Science course had several biased Expectations, like how “the solar nebular hypothesis explains Earth’s place in the solar system”. There is nothing in that theory that determines or even predicts Earth’s distance from the sun, which the most significant aspect of “place”. So why would he imply that the theory explains something it doesn’t? Because his philosophy demands that science either has or will explain everything by purely natural processes, whether such explanations are valid/plausible or not.

  4. Ben Says:

    Silas, are you a creationist? Forgive me if you aren’t, because you sure sound like one.

    How can the presentation of scientific evidence be “one-sided?” The evidence leads where the evidence leads. It has nothing to do with atheism or theism. Of course, creationists often cry that the “other side” needs to be presented. But that “other side” has no evidence supporting it, and the creationists’ feeble attempts to bolster intelligent design or discredit evolution have done nothing but produce a few good laughs and several lawsuits, which they lost.

    The seven religious right SBOE members aren’t anti-science? Only a creationist would say that.

  5. jdg Says:

    Silas is clueless, he’s a creationist.

  6. Leigh Williams Says:

    No, Dr. Schafersman’s opinion about science education is not “skewed” by his atheism, any more than my opinion, which agrees entirely with his, is “skewed” by my devout Christianity.

    That’s because Ben is right. In science, we go where the evidence takes us. We don’t decide on the destination beforehand and then rig the data so that’s the only place we can go.

    Furthermore, science is ABOUT natural processes, and ONLY natural processes. It’s not about worldviews (whatever that’s supposed to mean), sacred texts, proselytizing, “witnessing”, politics — or humankind’s place in the universe, for that matter.

    I’m sorry, Silas, that you fear science because it threatens your faith. I think that says more about the weakness of your theology than it does about science.

  7. Steven Schafersman Says:

    My perspective is not “skewed” by anything. I claimed the results were mixed, a moderate view. I specifically do not agree with the several pro-science advocates who say we lost big, with the Discovery Institute and SBOE members who proclaimed a glorious victory, or with the newspapers who wrote that science won and the Creationists lost. I spelled out the details in my report: we won on some big issues by preventing the worst language in the standards, we lost on several of the amended compromise standards which present science education with some severe difficulties, and we have the opportunity to succeed really well even with the bad standards IF the textbook publishers cooperate with the science community and resist the expected pressures from the SBOE members to censor their books. So there is both danger and opportunity in the future.

    Silas is incorrect. Cynthia Dunbar proposed the wording “all sides.” Craig and Cargill amended other parts of the language of that standard, c3A. The seven religious right SBOE members are very much indeed anti-science. For one, they are all Young Earth Creationists. How much more anti-science can you be. Now they claim they are pro-science, but their version of science is not the mainstream version practiced in our universities and science laboratories, but Creation Science. They are deceptive and mendacious, and I think these qualities have been exhibited quite well by them. Having science degrees means nothing; all the top Creationists in this country have science degrees. They aren’t scientists because they don’t practice science; they practice pseudoscience. That’s how you can distinguish one from the other.

    Not my philosophy but science demands that hypotheses “explain everything by purely natural processes.” If such explanations are not “valid/plausible,” they will be discarded. That is how science works. The only alternative is to use supernatural explanations. Is this what you propose, Silas?

    Silas, by the way, was an early Christian, the companion of Paul on several of his journeys, and is prominently mentioned in Acts and other NT books. The present Silas is obviously a Christian and, as deduced from his writing, a Creationist.

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