Chair of Texas Board of Education Wants Science Textbooks to Teach ‘Another Side’ to Evolution

Barbara Cargill, the chair of the State Board of Education in Texas, recently spoke in front of the state’s Senate Committee on Education to complain about CSCOPE, an online curriculum management system.

Her main gripe?

It only teaches one side of the evolution “debate”:

Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations… But when I went on [to the CSCOPE website] last night, I couldn’t find anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution. Every link, every lesson, everything, you know, was taught as “this is how the origin of life happened, this is what the fossil record proves,” and all that’s fine, but that’s only one side.

That’s also the only scientifically valid side.

As Brian Tashman writes at Right Wing Watch:

… a biology textbook that includes creationism as a “balance” to evolution would be no different than a geology textbook that includes the views of the Flat Earth Society.

The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group, put out a press release against Cargill’s comments yesterday:

“These comments should serve as a big red flag about rubber-stamping [Cargill's] reappointment,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today. “Senators must ask hard questions about whether she will pressure publishers into writing textbooks to conform to her personal beliefs instead of sound science and once again put the culture wars ahead of our children’s education.”

Cargill’s comments echo creationist arguments about so-called “weaknesses” of evolution even though scientists have pointed out that such objections were debunked long ago. In 2009 the state board approved Cargill’s recommendation to remove a reference to the scientific consensus on the age of the universe — about 14 billion years old — from the high school curriculum standards.

This isn’t Cargill’s first instance of trying to ruin education for Texas schoolchildren. In fact, TFN has a long list of items (PDF) from her troubling record:

In case you haven’t facepalmed enough, Cargill also mentioned in the video that she’s a Biology teacher.

But, you know, that’s only her view. I’m waiting to hear another side to the story.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • pablo_rajczyk

    They just won’t stop, will they?

  • http://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.griffard Geoffrey Griffard

    Scientists decide science – NOT politicians.

    • Sindigo

      Though I agree with you on the face of it, I think it misses answering her argument. The problem is that you are right to question scientists. They’re human and they make mistakes and theories change when new data is established. So, questioning is reasonable. In fact, that’s what science is. People like her win hearts and minds by framing it like that. So respectfully, I would like to suggest that it’s reality that decides science. It’s just that scientists are best placed to interpret it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cecelia.baines.5 Cecelia Baines

        Not really. Taken to the ad absurdem, that means we must question EVERYTHING. Which, yes, we should remain skeptics, but should we question lightbulbs every morning? Put bleach into ammonia daily and see what happens? No.

        This type of thought derails actual progress and science and places science into the realm of woo and golly-gee instead of empiricism and research.

        • NiVeKeR14

          Everything should be questioned, is just that for some things, like lightbulbs, ammonia and bleach, and evolution, the question has already been asked, and in a lot of cases answered. Sometimes hundreds of years ago or more.

          • Bad_homonym

            The problem isn’t repeated asking. Children do it all the time. The problem with these folks is that they don’t like the answers because they aren’t easy to reconcile with the myths they choose to believe. They then keep re-phrasing the questions or re-branding their ‘theories’ thinking that the response they get will be different. Kind of like the definition of insanity

        • Sindigo

          I see your point and obviously you can take things too far but isn’t one of the objectives of high-school science teaching trying to establish a questioning mentality. Kids should be questioning lightbulbs, shouldn’t they?

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

            They should be question how they work, the principles behind that, whether there are better ways to solve the same problem, what the downsides are. There are loads of questions to ask about lightbulbs.

            But not ‘Do lightbulbs work at all’?

            • Sindigo

              I guess that’s what I meant.

      • Jasper

        I think the big difference is that the early schooling is about getting the students caught up with what science currently understands, and then in the graduate level education, and beyond, they can continue the investigations, picking up where today’s scientists leave off.

        Grade/high school isn’t the place for introducing controversy about science. They simply aren’t equipped to actually address the science… probably in part because we aren’t spending enough effort in actually educating them on the scientific method, etc.

      • Jasper

        Okay, post didn’t stick, trying again.

        The main issue here is that grade/high school ins’t the place to introduce controversy The point is to get the students caught up with what modern science currently understands, so that when they enter graduate/post graduate/professional science work, they can pick up where today’s scientists leave off, and continue the investigation.

        We should be teaching more about the scientific method, etc, instead of memorizing facts, anyway.

        I just find it bizarre that creationists are treating it like a class on introducing students to different cultures’ traditional foods, where the students get to taste test and see which ones they like… which is really to miss the point of science class.

      • Jasper

        Okay, attempt #3 at posting this comment:

        The main issue here is that grade/high school ins’t the place to introduce controversy The point is to get the students caught up with what modern science currently understands, so that when they enter graduate/post graduate/professional science work, they can pick up where today’s scientists leave off, and continue the investigation. When they’re first being educated on science, they’re severely ill-equipped to evaluate the theories being presented to them.

        We should be teaching more about the scientific method, etc, instead of memorizing facts, anyway.

        I just find it bizarre that creationists are treating it like a class on introducing students to different cultures’ traditional foods, where the students get to taste test and see which ones they like… which is really to miss the point of science class.

        • Sindigo

          I remember my science instruction as a kid. It completely failed to teach me about the wonder of science. I love it now, as an amateur but I can’t help but think I would have been more interested nearly twenty years ago if one of my teachers had taken the time to explain why we approach the subject in the way we do and what the scientific method is rather than copying diagrams of Fallopian tubes out of a book.

          So, yeah. Maybe I wasn’t listening properly. ;)

      • Jasper

        Oh my god. I hate you Chrome. Why couldn’t I see my posts before?

        • Sindigo

          Absolutely, Question Google and why Chrome seems to be getting worse, not better. ;)

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Yeah, but it’s still more stable than IE or even Firefox. (I switched over due to, I don’t even know, it was like Firefox just rejected the new-and-”improved” Yahoo! mail. Still encountering glitches now and again, but I’m no longer having to close and reload the page to get new messages.)

            • Sindigo

              I’ve never manged to get a stable install of Firefox, so I’m on Chrome on all my devices. I’m sure it’s getting buggier though.

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                Yeah, it’s not just you — it’s getting a bit wibbly-wobbly, and not in a good way.

    • SecularPatriot

      The scientific method decides science – not politicians.

      The exchange of one personal authority(scientists v. politicians) for another sidesteps the epistemological reality: we have a way of finding truth. Consistently and repeatedly. And that’s what makes science better than religion.

      • C Peterson

        That’s a better way of phrasing it.

        Of course, it is scientists who systematically utilize the scientific method, not politicians (which is unfortunate, because the method works for everyone, not just scientists).

  • DKeane123

    Krauss has an excellent rebuttal for this person:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTedvV6oZjo

  • Jasper

    And if I was able to, I’d amend a requirement to teach other sides to the “heliocentrism debate” and “flat/round earth debate”

  • C Peterson

    Letting a person with this record sit on a board of education (let alone chair the state board) is no different than hiring a convicted pedophile to run a daycare center. Completely crazy.

    • Heather

      I know, right? People who voted for Cargill are either just as crazy as she is or they didn’t bother to look at her voting record. Instead of putting up atheist billboards, we need to put up billboards around election time showcasing the voting records of these crackpot politicians.

      • Electrik Kerosene

        Why do you think Obama was elected twice?

        • C Peterson

          Because enough people did look at the beliefs and voting record of the crackpots he was running against.

        • nakedanthropologist

          Because he didn’t call 47% of the nation’s citizens parasites, thinks everyone should have access to basic medical care as befits an industrialized country, and doesn’t believe in magic underwear?

      • WallofSleep

        I hate to be “That Guy”, but nobody voted Cargill into the TSBOE. She was appointed to that position. By Rick Perry.

        Honestly, though, I don’t know which is sadder.

        • curtcameron

          No, getting into the Texas SBOE is an elected position. She was made chair of it by Perry.

          • WallofSleep

            Ah. Thank you for the correction/clarification. Unfortunately, that makes this whole thing doubly depressing.

        • Heather

          My bad. I didn’t know some states didn’t allow voters to choose who’s on their board of education. Glad I got to vote on mine last november. I don’t know if I could stand to live in Texas if Perry was calling the shots like that.

  • Drew2u

    This has no way of reaching 100,000 people, but if I didn’t share it, I wouldn’t be doing my part to promote fairness where fairness is denied:

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/abolish-clauses-constitutions-seven-states-which-prohibit-atheists-holding-public-office/my6MFQb0

    • Heather

      I signed that a while back. Sad that the petition to declare the Monday after the Superbowl as a national holiday has nearly 5 times the signatures. Cause you know, a football holiday is so much more righteous than ending discrimination against non-believers.

      • Heather

        Ha, unwittingly I used a part of html code. Please excuse the mess.

      • Devon

        It’s only discrimination if a Christian is the victim. All other forms of discrimination are labeled as doing the Lord’s work.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
  • Haha USA

    this is how the origin of life happened

    No, evolution does not mention abiogenesis at all. Ever. It teaches about evolution. Not origin.

    She’s lying for jesus.

  • dandaman

    as an ex-biology teacher I would have welcomed the opportunity to analyze the “other side”, but they want “present both sides, not analyze both sides”.

  • double

    If Texas was nuked tomorrow the IQ of the country would rise dramatically while the obesity and dipshit levels would plummet.

  • double

    If Texas was nuked tomorrow the IQ of the country would rise dramatically while the obesity and dipshit levels would plummet.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001351447253 Amanda Hernandez

      That hurts.

      • Glasofruix

        The truth might hurt sometimes :p

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Teach “all sides” of scientific explanations?

    Okay, Ms. Cargill, if you think that Genesis is a valid “other side” to this issue and is appropriate for a science textbook, then all sides would include the creation myths of all 22 major religions, and the creation myths of thousands of minor religions as well. The fact that many of those religions are now extinct does not make their creation myths any less valid than your personal favorite.

    I personally like the one about how Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl built the Earth on the back of Tlaltecuhtli, a huge monster kind of like a cayman. Teaching this scientific explanation will very effectively prepare our next generation to live and work in a world that every day becomes more dependent on solid, evidence-based science.

    Praise the loss of Tlaltecuhtli’s lower jaw and Tezcatlipoca’s foot! Their pain must be repaid through sacrifice!

    • MariaO

      Ignoramus! The worlds were created when the ur-cow, the first, started licking Ymer out of the emptyness. Then Ymer’s knees got to know each other and the giants were born. The worlds (upper, middle, lower) were made from Ymer’s body, where the blood was the waters, the bones the mountains, etc. And I know this to be true, because I have personally seen the cave where the cow Audhumbla sleeps until she will emerge again and destroy what she created. The cave is located between the lakes Vattern and Sommen in Sweden. The lake Sommen was created when the cow kicked the earth – it is clearly hoof-shaped. I have stood in awe before The Cave’s Entrance. Moooh!
      And yes, we were told this in school!

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Wow, that is one awesome creation myth! You definitely have the Aztecs beat. I have to admit that you have physical evidence to back it up. A cave and a hoof-shaped lake are certainly evidence of . . . something. So a cosmic cow licked a primordial clay giant into being, and thus we see all that is around us today. Okay, now that you’ve explained it, it all makes sense. I’m convinced.

        All praise the ur-cow! Her gift of milk, or spit, or whatever must be repaid through sacrifice!

        . . . or something.

        Texas science books are going to be very, very thick. (in more ways than one)

        • Pisk_A_Dausen

          Don’t listen to that heretic. Ymir/Ymer/Yme was created where the forces of the hot Muspellheim and the cold Niflheim met in Ginnungagap, as was the cow (who had a name, by the way: Auðumbla). There was a salt lick there, and from that she licked Búri, the first god, father of Odin and his two brothers. And it was the three sons who killed Ymir and made the world with his body.

          I know this is true, because my teachers in school told me so, and school is a place where they teach true facts.

          • Ann Onymous

            Heathens!

            The first thing Tak did, he wrote himself.

            The second thing Tak did, he wrote the Laws.

            The third thing Tak did, he wrote the World.

            The fourth thing Tak did, he wrote a cave.

            The fifth thing Tak did, he wrote a geode, an egg of stone.

            And in the twilight of the mouth of the cave, the geode hatched, and the Brothers were born.

            After all, if you’re going to teach the other fictions…

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      I like the one where Ra masturbated the world into existence.

  • Rain

    … I couldn’t find anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution.

    Awwww poor widdle cweationist, boo hoo hoo.

  • Mark W.

    What!?! The Texas Board of Education is full of religious idiots more interested in pushing a religious agenda than educating children in Texas…color me unsurprised.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    *reads article*

    Oyy…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Harrison/23417637 Michael Harrison

    I think high school is a bit early to be arguing the relative significance of the various selective forces.

    Wait, that’s not what she meant by the other side of evolution?

  • Timma!!!!!!!

    I am from Texas and thankfully my high school biology teacher was devoted to scientific truth (an oddity in west Texas really). She never once mentioned a “division of the scientific community on the origins of life.” Another thing…the theory of evolution explains the diversity of life and the formation of species NOT THE ORIGIN OF LIFE.


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