Archive for the ‘science and religion’ Category

2011 in Quotes: The War on Science

December 26, 2011

The assault on science and science education continued throughout 2011. Today’s review of quotes from the past year shows that evolution and climate change were major targets in the right’s war on science, especially in Texas. Read other quotes from the far right in 2011 here.

“The controversy over science standards was actually the result of an attempted hijacking of science for ideological purposes by evolutionists. Their agenda was much more about worldviews than biology. The standards reflect real science and challenge students to study some of evolution’s most glaring weaknesses in explaining the fossil record and the complexity of the cell.”

– Don McLeroy, former Texas State Board of Education member, writing in an op-ed column about the board’s record over the past several years. Austin American-Statesman, January 1, 2011

“If your theory’s right, all these species would get together and form a new species, then where is the cat-dog or the rat-cat, whatever it be. They don’t come together. Cats go with cats, and dogs go with dogs.”

– Ken Mercer, member of the Texas State Board of Education, in another installment of his argument that evolution is bad science because there are no cat-dog and rat-cat hybrids. TFN Insider, October 28, 2011

“Evolutionists will go ‘Oh, it just happened by chance.’ Today we know that’s false. Today we know that even a single-celled organism is hugely complex. When was the last time we’ve seen someone go into a windstorm or a tornado or any other kind of natural disaster, and say ‘Guess what? That windstorm just created a watch.'”

– Texas state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, responding to a question about whether or not he is a creationist. Zedler proposed legislation to bar “discrimination” against college faculty and students who promote creationism. It failed to pass. Mother Jones, March 21, 2011

“Are you kidding me, Earth Day in the schools? We’ve got to save the Earth? I mean, that’s like a tick . . . trying to save a whole heard of cattle. I mean, ticks go along for the ride, they don’t manage the cattle, they don’t tell them where to go. And that’s our arrogance in thinking that we can do something to save the planet and control where the planet goes. You know, we’re just along for the ride and we’re insignificant peons on this thing.”

– David Barton, president of the religious-right group WallBuilders, on human attempts to slow climate change. RightWingWatch, April 26, 2011

“As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, they’d already had the entire debate over creation and evolution, and you get Thomas Paine, who is the least religious Founding Father, saying you’ve got to teach Creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that!”

– David Barton, the religious right’s favorite fake historian, on the Founding Fathers and their opinions on teaching evolution and creationism/intelligent design. Mother Jones, June 9, 2011

“I hear your mom was asking about evolution and, you know, it’s a theory that’s out there. It’s got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

– Texas Gov. Rick Perry, talking to a young boy in New Hampshire during a presidential campaign stop. National Public Radio, August 18, 2011

“I think what you’re advocating for is censorship on the part of government. So the government would prohibit intelligent design from even the possibility of being taught in questioning the issue of evolution. And if you look at scientists there is not a unanimity of agreement on the origins of life. … Why would we forestall any particular theory? Because I don’t think that even evolutionists, by and large, would say that this is proven fact. They say that this is a theory, as well as intelligent design. So I think the best thing to do is to let all scientific facts on the table, and let students decide.”

– Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, at an Iowa forum where she explained her views on teaching creationism in public schools. Think Progress, November 30, 2011

“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

– Gov. Rick Perry, again in New Hampshire on the Republican presidential campaign trail, making a claim that was a contender for Politifact’s “Lie of the Year.” Politifact Texas, Austin American-Statesman, December 5, 2011


Creationist Materials Found Where?!

September 23, 2011

What’s wrong with this picture?

According to the Dallas Observer, this PowerPoint slide was found on the central curriculum website (accessible only by teachers) for the Dallas Independent School District, the 12th-largest public school system in the country.

The slide was apparently part of a presentation titled “The Cell Theory.” The Observer notes most of the presentation was based on sound science. Until, of course, you got to the kicker in this slide.

The slide has since been yanked — after the Observer reporter started asking questions.

How did such blatantly unconstitutional creationism wind up  in the curricular materials for one of the country’s biggest school districts? We don’t know. Honest mistake or not, it goes to show that keeping creationist materials out of public school classrooms requires constant vigilance. Kudos to the Dallas Observer.

Gov. Perry and the Father of Science

September 8, 2011

There we were, almost at the end of last night’s Republican presidential debate, ready to declare that Texas had gotten off embarrassment-free. Then the moderator had to ruin it all by asking Gov. Rick Perry a question about science.

Asked about climate change, Gov. Perry repeated his claim that the idea of man-made global warming is increasingly in dispute in scientific circles (not really), and ….

“Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Here’s the video:

Buried somewhere beneath this flat, 6,000-year-old Earth of ours, Galileo spun in his grave.


Rick Perry’s Problem with Science Education

August 16, 2011

The culture wars will feature prominently in Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The Texas Freedom Network has put together a primer on Gov. Perry’s record in the culture wars at Here, for example, is what the governor says about teaching “intelligent design”/creationism in public school science classes. From a letter to a Texas constituent:

“Recognizing that evolution is a theory, and not claimed by anyone to be more than that, the governor believes it would be a disservice to our children to teach them only one theory on the origin of our existence without recognizing other scientific theories worth consideration. Intelligent design is a concept that is gaining greater traction because it points to a notion that most people believe to be true: that we were created by an intelligent being who designed the human race with great detail and complexity….”

From a newspaper interview:

“I am a firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect, and I believe it should be presented in schools alongside the theories of evolution.”

The governor has also appointed — in 2007, 2009 and this year — three creationists in a row to chair the State Board of Education, which guides what public schools teach nearly 5 million Texas kids.

Read more about Gov. Perry’s record in the culture wars here.

Creationists Target Publisher in Texas Adoption

July 21, 2011

Update: TFN has obtained a copy of letter addressed to the state board signed by five members of the official biology review panels. The letter challenges the alleged “errors” identified in the report presented to the board late yesterday, concluding:

“Holt McDougal’s supplement, as well as the publisher’s response to the reviewers, accurately describes the current state of the science, satisfies the TEKS, and matches the other supplements already approved by the board on Thursday.”

The Texas State Board of Education’s public hearing and debate over proposed new science instructional materials today went well — until a big bump at the end. Most of the instructional materials the education commissioner has recommended for adoption received preliminary approval from the state board. The board has scheduled a final vote tomorrow.

But toward the end of the debate this afternoon, Texas Education Agency staff revealed that a review team had identified eight objections to content in the Biology instructional materials submitted for approval by publisher Holt McDougal. Board members were told that Holt McDougal is arguing that the objections are based on bad science.

Indeed, the objections appear to be largely the work of a young-earth creationist — David Shormann — on the team that reviewed the company’s materials. Here is a review Shormann wrote about the Holt McDougal materials and shared with his review team. We obtained this document last week through a Public Information Act request to TEA.

You can see that many of Shormann’s objections in his review have been repeated — almost word for word — in this document TEA distributed to state board members this afternoon. The TEA document lists the eight objections and includes Holt’s rationale for not making the changes Shormann demands. Because of the very abbreviated and opaque review process the state board established for this science adoption, it appears that few people outside TEA and Holt McDougal even knew about these objections. Indeed, the ability of the public to get information about the proposed instructional materials and reviews has been very limited.

In any case, the state board’s creationist members obviously smell blood. In fact, they successfully opposed even permitting a representative from Holt McDougal to address the board and explain why the demanded changes represent bad science. So the board will have to sort through this issue tomorrow.

Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Debate I

July 21, 2011

4:30 – With the end of the public hearing on proposed new science instructional materials, the State Board of Education is now starting debate over whether to adopt the materials recommended by the Texas education commissioner. In past adoptions, the state board has taken a preliminary vote at the end of this initial debate. The final, formal vote on which materials to put on the official adoption list is scheduled for Friday.

We’re also live-tweeting at #sboe. For anyone who wants to watch the proceedings, the meeting is being live-streamed here. For a primer on what’s at stake today and tomorrow, you can view an archive of TFN Insider posts on the science debate by clicking here.

4:37 – The board will consider the proposed instructional materials by grade level, beginning with Grade 5. Under consideration are science materials for Grades 5-8 and materials for Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Integrated Physics and Chemistry at the high school level.

4:41 – The board is considering a motion that would require publishers to make corrections to errors identified by the Texas Education Agency’s instructional review teams in June. This motion would apply to all materials, for Grades 5-8 and high school. This is not particularly alarming. If the review teams identified real errors, they should be corrected.

4:47 – The board is now voting on approval of the commissioner’s recommendations by grade level, subject to publishers making required changes to errors.

4:48 – Chairwoman Barbara Cargill moves Biology to the end of the list. That’s when we’ll find out if board members have concerns about proposed materials from certain publishers.

5:03 – So far the board has given preliminary approval to the commissioner’s list for Grades 5-8 (subject to publishers correcting any errors review teams identified). (Final approval is required tomorrow.)

5:08 – We should note that the “errors” that publishers must correct include grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes. It’s not unusual for publishers to correct numerous such errors after initial submission for adoption. Alarm bells will go off if some state board members start identifying “errors” that are really personal or political objections to content.

5:21 – Board members are raising concerns that they might be adopting instructional materials without knowing how publishers will make corrections to identified errors. Of course, TFN has noted in the past that this adoption process is greatly abbreviated (compared to past adoptions of instructional materials), leaving little time for board members — not to mention concerns folks outside the board — to review the materials and publishers’ corrections to errors. Board members are only recognizing this flaw in their process now?

5:33 – Board member Gail Lowe is proposing a mechanism for publishers to report their error corrections to the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education.

5:37 – Lowe’s suggestion approved. Chemistry products cleared for now. On to Physics materials.

5:38 – Materials for Physics and then Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC) get preliminary approval. On to Biology.

5:50 – And now we run into precisely the kind of problem we thought might occur because of the lack of transparency in this adoption process. Apparently, one of the publishers — Holt McDougal — has refused to change what a review panel identified as “errors.” Indeed, the publisher is insisting that its materials are based on sound science. This is the first time TFN and state board members themselves have even seen this list of “errors.” It’s unclear whether the “errors” are based on the objections of one or more review panel members. But this is key: the review panel included David Shormann, a youth-earth creationist. The board is now deciding what to do.

5:56 – We’re still studying the objections to the Holt McDougal materials, but they appear to be designed to question certain processes linked to evolution.

6:00 – Board members are debating whether to allow a representative of the publisher to explain the reason for refusing to make the changes. Thomas Ratliff raises concerns that the review panel’s objections might be the product of just one panel member and that board members have no way to know at this point.

6:02 – One of the objections to the Holt material deals with a student lab activity on comparing hominid skulls. Excerpt: “The similarities in human skulls with other hominids may be convergent evolution, but it is erroneous to pretend that common ancestry is the cause.”

6:05 – The board refuses to allow Holt McDougal to address the board on the issue. We’re working to get a copy of the objections in PDF form that we can upload.

6:10 – The board has voted to give preliminary approval to the Holt McDougal materials subject to the publisher making the changes noted in the disputed objections. This just pushes the debate into tomorrow.

6:21 – Other publisher’s materials for Biology are also gaining preliminary approval. But the Holt materials are going to be an issue tomorrow.

6:33 – Motion made by Craig to reject International Databases submission. It passes unanimously.

6:34 – Board adjourns. Tomorrow will be a nail-biter. Stay tuned.

Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Hearing II

July 21, 2011

TFN has taken up its usual post in the board hearing room at the State Board of Education, where we are bringing you up-to-the-minute action from today’s one and only hearing on proposed new science instructional materials. (We’re also live-tweeting at #sboe.) For anyone who wants to watch the proceedings, the meeting is being live-streamed here.

For a primer on what’s at stake today and tomorrow, you can view an archive of TFN Insider posts on the science debate by clicking here.

1:00 p.m. – The SBOE is back from lunch, and the public hearing on proposed science instructional materials is about to begin.

1:10 – The board plans to limit testimony today to four hours, with each speaker permitted two minutes for his or her statement. In the past we’ve seen time for a speaker extended if board members have questions.

1:14 – Clare Wuellner of Austin kicks off testimony by calling on state board members to adopt instructional materials based on sound science.

1:16 – Testifier Tom Davis asks of anti-evolution board members: “Whose story of creation are you going to use?”

1:18 – Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna asks whether Davis can identify anywhere in the proposed instructional materials and curriculum standards where creationism is mentioned. Board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, offers a $500 reward to anyone who can identify where creationism, Jesus or religion is mentioned. Both are being terribly disingenuous. The arguments both have made against evolution come from religion-based “intelligent design”/creationism. And that’s true whether the words “intelligent design”/creationism even show up in the text.

1:25 – And how disingenuous are Bradley and Mercer being, by the way? Here’s a passage from science instructional materials submitted by New Mexico-based International Databases for adoption by the state board:

“Since such materialistic, self organization scenarios now have a history of scientific insufficiency for explaining the Origin of Life on Earth, the Null hypothesis (default) stands. This allows for the testing of the legitimate scientific hypothesis……Life on Earth is the result of intelligent causes.”

You can make out your check to “Texas Freedom Network,” Mr. Mercer.


TFN Insider Will Live-Blog Science Debate

July 18, 2011

TFN Insider will be live-blogging (and live-tweeting via @TFN) from the State Board of Education’s Thursday public hearing and Friday final debate and vote on the adoption of new science instructional materials for Texas public schools. This week’s state board meeting comes two years after board members adopted curriculum standards that creationists hoped would force publishers to challenge evolutionary science in their new instructional materials. Information about the meeting times and location is here.

The Texas news media is focusing on the story, including controversial comments from Barbara Cargill, the state board’s newly appointed chair. TFN Insider broke the news about Cargill’s comments questioning the faith of some of her board colleagues and insisting that the new science instructional materials be revised to conform to her creationist views. Check out an Austin American-Statesman editorial and stories from the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle.

Setback for Creationists in Texas

July 15, 2011

Efforts to push creationist instructional materials into Texas science classrooms were dealt a setback today. The Texas education commissioner’s list of science materials recommended for adoption by the State Board of Education, which was released today, doesn’t include the proposed materials from New Mexic0-based International Databases. The Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education reported last April that the International Databases materials reject mainstream evolutionary science and instead promote “intelligent design”/creationism.

The commissioner’s list is usually based on recommendations from Texas Education Agency review teams made up of teachers, scholars and other citizens. Those teams met in Austin last month to review all of the proposed science instructional materials. Apparently, the review teams decided that International Databases had failed to cover the required curriculum standards appropriately.

On the other hand, the State Board of Education can choose to adopt or reject any instructional materials simply by a majority vote, regardless of what the education commissioner recommends. Moreover, it has been difficult to obtain information regarding any changes the other publishers might have made to their products to meet objections from creationists. And new state board chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, has already said that she and other creationists on the board will try to force publishers to add anti-evolution arguments to their materials.


Barbara Cargill’s Anti-Science Agenda

July 11, 2011

New Texas State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, made clear at her speech last week to Texas Eagle Forum activists that she is determined to politicize the board’s adoption of science instructional materials on July 20-22. She’ll be walking in the footsteps of former board chairman Don McLeroy and chairwoman Gail Lowe, both of whom failed to win Senate confirmation because they put their political agendas ahead of educating Texas kids.

We’ve already told you about about Cargill questioning the faith of state board colleagues who don’t agree with her. And we reported other troubling comments from Cargill’s Texas Eagle Forum talk. But Cargill also made extended comments about the coming science adoption — and those comments aren’t encouraging for parents who want their children to get an education based on sound science instead of ideology.


Censorship Group Targets Science Materials

June 3, 2011

It’s increasingly clear that the Texas State Board of Education this summer will be ground zero — once again — in the religious right’s war on science. The newest indication of the pending battle comes from the website of Educational Research Analysts, one of the nation’s oldest textbook censorship organizations. The website shows that the East Texas-based group will target the scheduled adoption of science instructional materials by the Texas state board in July.

The religious-right outfit in Longview was founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler, who began pressuring publishers to censor their textbooks in the 1960s. The Gablers later turned their operation over to Neal Frey, who continues to run the shop. Here’s what the group’s website says about the upcoming science adoption:


Creationists Appointed to Science Review Panels

May 13, 2011

The Texas Education Agency just released the full list of members serving on the science review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the State Board of Education (SBOE). As TFN predicted earlier this spring, the review panel for biology includes a number of individuals with a history of promoting intelligent design/creationism or advocating the teaching of phony “weaknesses” of evolution in science classes.

Last month the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education identified proposed materials from one vendor, New Mexico-based International Databases, that promote intelligent design/creationism as real science. Now evolution deniers on the review teams will likely use their positions as a podium to promote the same flawed arguments.

Read TFN’s press release here.

A preliminary analysis by TFN of the biology review panel identified at least three anti-evolution activists: (more…)

Gail Lowe’s Anti-Science Crusade II

March 29, 2011

Last week we looked at the anti-evolution activists Texas State Board of Education Chairwoman Gail Lowe wants on official teams that later this spring will review proposed science instructional materials for Texas public schools. But Lowe has been pushing her anti-science crusade for years now.


Gail Lowe’s Anti-Science Crusade

March 25, 2011

Even as Gail Lowe tries desperately to save her nomination to another term as chair of the Texas State Board of Education, she’s demonstrating precisely why so many state senators are hesitant to confirm her. Her nominees to panels that will review science instructional materials this year show that she’s more interested in promoting her personal beliefs than in basing what public school students learn on facts and sound scholarship.


Bill Zedler: Defending Academic Fraud

March 22, 2011

Mother Jones magazine has published excerpts of a conversation with state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, regarding the lawmaker’s House Bill 2454 — what should be called the Academic Fraud Protection Act. HB 2454 would force Texas institutions of higher education to look the other way when creationists fraudulently promote “intelligent design” as legitimate science in classrooms.

In his discussion with Mother Jones, Rep. Zedler pretty much says it shouldn’t matter that “intelligent design”/creationism proponents aren’t making claims based on science:

Bill Zedler: If somebody does decide to weigh in, why should they be discriminated against?

Mother Jones: Because they don’t have the scientific evidence to substantiate their views.

Bill Zedler: The debate ought to be: “How did it happen?” But we’re not gonna allow that one to be brought up! I don’t think they oughta be thrown off campus if they come up with it.