Nov 30 2007

Intelligent Design Fight Brewing in Texas

A few months ago I reported on the appointing of creationist Don McLeroy to head the Texas State Board of Education, and predicted we would be seeing trouble in the lone star state. Well, here comes trouble. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has forced to resign Chris Comer, the head of the state science curriculum. What was her offense? Quoting the article:

“Ms. Comer’s e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral,” the officials said.

The speaker referred to Barbara Forrest, author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse.” The book is about the politics of Intelligent Design (ID) and takes the position that the purpose of ID is to instill religious creationism into public schools. Comer sent an e-mail announcing the upcoming speaker which “implied” she had a favorable disposition toward the author and her book. Egads!

It seems to me that the creationists in the TEA, with their new leader McLeroy, are clearing house. They are getting rid of anyone who declares themselves to be an evolutionist, or to be against infiltrating public science classrooms with a thinly-veiled religious belief that is manifestly not science.

We should be concerned about this, and keep a close eye on it. Texas has influence beyond the borders of the state because their textbook purchasing policies influence the textbook industry. (Another state that has such influence is Florida, and they too have been tussling with ID proponents of late.) This is a case where, even if ultimately the legal battle that will inevitable ensue if Texas tries to pull a “Dover” is won by those defending science, the textbook industry can be panicked into removing the “E” word from their biology books. This is exactly what happened after the Scopes Monkey trial.

I must point out that it is incredible that the miscreants serving as McLeroy’s creationist posse think that science educators should not have a position on whether or not ID is science – in fact that they should not have the correct position. Science is not a democracy, and taking a position of “false balance” or “false neutrality” in regard to scientific questions is not just idiotic, when done by a public official who is charged with the education of the public it is malfeasance.

On the bright side, the internet affords rapid spread of information and allow those like Eugenie Scott at the National Center for Science Eduction, and science bloggers (like yours truly) to respond rapidly to such stories and raise public attention to these issues. Texas will not be able to enact an ID insurgency against evolution in their state without the critical attention of the rest of the country. Also, I think Dover set an important legal precedent and any future cases will be easily won by the defenders of science.

Also, science teachers are not as dependent upon textbooks as they were in the past. The internet also affords many free resources for information, and I hear from many science teachers that they don’t even use the textbooks provided to them.

But make no mistake, the defenders of science and reason are in for a long fight over the issue of ID and evolution. ID is not science and should not be taught in science classrooms, and we will need to remain vigilant to see that it never is.


Other blogs on this topic:

Bad Astronomy: Texas creationists: the story that keeps on giving 

Pharyngula: The real scoop on the Texas science curriculum director’s resignation.¬†

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