Partial Victory in Texas

Partial Victory in Texas January 25, 2009

The Texas Board of Education approved revised science standards without the “strengths and weaknesses” language in them

The State Board of Education tentatively decided to amend school science curriculum standards Thursday, dropping a 20-year-old requirement that critics say is used to undermine the theory of evolution.

The change in curriculum drops the mandate that science teachers address both “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theory. It would be in place for the next decade.

A panel of science teachers had recommended that the language be dropped.

But this is not finalized yet. This is just a preliminary vote and the creationists are still busy trying to do anything they can to undermine the teaching of evolution.

In a desperate last-minute maneuver, however, the board’s chairman introduced a garbled pseudoscientific amendment. That measure could provide a small foothold for teaching creationist ideas and dumbing down biology instruction in Texas. The amendment, which attacks a core concept of evolutionary biology – common descent – passed by a narrow margin. The chairman’s ‘Hail Mary’ pass is now under review by genuine scientists from Texas’ respected universities and colleges. In fact, it is absurd to think that education policy can be made without consulting such experts.

Here’s the language Don McElroy is trying to insert:

Describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.

This, of course, is one of the most common creationist talking points. And the reality is that only common descent can explain the facts of the fossil record, particularly its sequential nature and the successional order of appearance of the various forms of life. And I love this statement from a creationist group about the revised standards:

“It’s outrageous that our highest elected education officials voted to silence teachers and students in science class,” said Jonathan Saenz, a lobbyist for the Free Market Foundation. “Despite being overwhelmed by e-mails and phone calls to keep strengths and weaknesses, the divided State Board of Education ignored constituents and sided with a small group of activists.

“This decision shows that science has evolved into a political popularity contest. The truth has been expelled from the science classroom.”

You have to love how Saenz contradicts himself and seems blissfully unaware of the fact that he did so. The board was overwhelmed with emails and phone calls to keep that language, but the fact that they didn’t shows that it’s just a political popularity contest. Huh? If it was about political popularity, especially in Texas, only creationism would be taught.

The truth is precisely the opposite, that science is not a democracy and we do not determine validity in science with a popular vote.

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