It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Texas State Board of Education Hearings

Here is a press release from the creationists:
AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has scheduled a hearing of scientific experts, including three scientists who are recommending that students should learn about scientific evidence that challenges Darwin's theory of evolution.

On Wednesday, January 21st, six experts selected by the SBOE to review a proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science will give testimony to the board. Three of the scientists will recommend that the board retain long-standing language in the TEKS calling on students to examine the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories in order to strengthen students' critical thinking skills. The other experts are on record supporting repeal of the language.

"We're very pleased that in this Darwin bicentennial year Texas has invited scientists on both sides of the evolution debate to testify about the scientific status of Darwin's theory," said Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture.

According to one of the experts, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, examining the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories is a core part of the scientific process, and abandoning such critical analysis merely to satisfy ideological demands of Darwinists harms students by giving them a false view of scientific inquiry.

"Science education that does not encourage students to evaluate competing scientific arguments is not teaching students about the way science actually operates," emphasized Dr. Meyer in his written report. Meyer, a Cambridge-trained philosopher of science, directs the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute.

Meyer will be joined in recommending the preservation of the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the TEKS by Baylor University chemistry professor Dr. Charles Garner and University of Wisconsin-Superior biology professor Ralph W. Seelke, whose laboratory research investigates the ability of natural selection to produce new functions in bacteria.

Previously, these scientists have advised the SBOE that good science education should encourage students to learn the scientific facts and engage in more critical thinking than they would under the currently proposed TEKS.

SOURCE Discovery Institute

Meanwhile, this showed up in my mail. It's not just the biologists under attack, alas:
From: Christina Castillo Comer
Date: January 12, 2009 1:24:44 PM CST

Subject: Call to Action

Dear fellow science educators,

It is time for a call to action. As you know, the new Earth and Space Science course standards (and all other science course standards) will be up for approval before the State Board of Education during January 21-23.

It is very likely that some of the SBOE members--the seven who are Young Earth Creationists--will attempt to make changes to the ESS standards in ways that will damage the scientific integrity and accuracy of the course. In particular, these SBOE members will try to negatively modify or delete the standards that require students to understand the following scientific topics they consider controversial:
  • age of the Earth and universe,
  • the Big Bang model of cosmology,
  • radiometric dating,
  • evolution of fossil life,
  • fossil lineages and transitional fossils,
  • origin of life by abiotic chemical processes,
  • ancient mass extinction events, and
  • global warming and climate change.

We need you and all your friends and family members to write letters to the individual SBOE members and ask them to adopt the new ESS standards without change!

That's the simple message of your letter: to accept the proposed ESS standards without editing or modification. We strongly suspect an effort will be made to do exactly that by members of the SBOE.

A group of ten individual Earth scientists that included high school teachers, ES teacher trainers, college professors, and industry geoscientists worked together for a year during several intense meetings to create these standards. Their very careful effort and hard work should not be injured by the actions of nonscientists who have ideological and political agendas. Under the Texas Constitution, the SBOE members are politically-elected officials who actually have the power to write whatever science standards they wish, and several have expressed their intention to modify certain standards to align with their religious and ideological agendas.

In addition to writing your individual letters (the same letter to each member is OK) asking that the ESS standards--indeed, all the science standards--not be modified in unscientific ways against the intentions of the scientists and science teachers who wrote them. Please write to colleagues on email lists in which you participate and ask them to do the same. We need a tremendous outpouring of support to counter the probable equal outpouring of support from critics of science among the citizens of Texas. Feel free to use this message.

I attach a PDF copy of the new ESS standards with this message. It is part
of a larger document containing all of the proposed and recommended high
school science standards that can be found on the Texas Education Agency
website at .

The addresses of the individual SBOE members can be found at . You can also email them
individually using a group email address,,
although I think formal letters would be better received and more likely
read by them.

The letters need to be written and sent in the next few days. If you have never written a letter before, now is the time to do so. You should include in your letter:

Please adopt the ESS standards as written without modifications or
unscientific changes that weaken the standards." You can add the other reasons as you wish: our state's economy depends on a scientific understanding of the Earth, citizens need to understand Earth science as well as physical and life science, the Earth sciences affect our lives in so many ways, etc.

We need our ESS course to have an accurate and reliable scientific content,
not damaged by eliminating or weakening important topics that some people
object to for non-scientific reasons.

Chris Castillo Comer
Of course, the trouble is the impedance mismatch between the law and the science.

You can make a case that "Science education that does not encourage students to evaluate competing scientific arguments is not teaching students about the way science actually operates," emphasized Dr. Meyer in his written report. Of course, it's well known that useful science education does not operate the way science operates. And science does not operate the way law operates, either. There's no process besides abandonment for identifying discredited theories. There's no official Board of Hooey that says "c'mon, give me a break, phlogiston?"

So in the eyes of the law, it is hard to distinguish between things that experts actually think about and centuries-old campfire ghost stories originally intended to keep children from wandering out of their tents.

And of course, the fundamentalists are interested in law and politics. It is interesting that while they don't actually accept science, they think they do. There's no expression of contempt for science, just some sort of implication that it is rife with anti-Christian conspiracies. Strange.

As always, see also the Texas Freedom Network.


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