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Nov 19 2008

Crippled dogs and one-trick ponies

I’ve just returned from the Texas SBOE hearings on Science TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards, and I’m so full of disgust and dismay that I’m at a loss for words to express it with enough rancor. You can, however, expect me to go on at length anyway. The whole thing was such a goddamn farce from the outset that I’d had more than enough after only one hour, at which point I could only roll my eyes and walk out the door. If you haven’t encountered the gall and dishonesty of creationists on their own turf before, and even if you have many times, it’s always the kind of experience that leaves you feeling worse about humanity in general.

As I write this, people are still speaking, and will be for a few hours yet. I saw no point in sticking around, but for all I know there could be, at any time, a real first-rate speaker who could get across the points that needed to be gotten across, and who would call out the creos on the disingenuous rhetoric they repeatedly spewed. As it is, I left the whole charade with two key observations: 1) That the big pitch the creationists are using isn’t merely the weasel phrase “strengths and weaknesses,” but their defense of that phrase as an expression of support for “academic freedom” that the scientific community apparently opposes; and 2) that the pro-science side, at least as I saw it today, is singly unaware of how to respond to that rhetoric properly and forcefully.

This cannot be understated: Just as the anti-gay contingent of the Christian right sells its opposition to gay marriage as a “defense” of “traditional” marriage that can in no way be compared to opposition to interracial marriage or anything of that sort, so too are the creationists now abandoning the overt, lawsuit-bait language of “intelligent design” for “academic freedom” language that makes them seem like the ones encouraging students to use their minds to think about and evaluate ideas that are presented to them in class on their merits. Conversely, the pro-science side wants to shut this kind of inquiry down, and just require students to be obedient little sponges soaking up whatever the textbooks say.

Why this is a misrepresentation and gross misunderstanding of the opposition to such terms as “strengths and weaknesses” was, to his credit, appropriately explained by Texas Citizens for Science spokesman Steve Schafersman. But he didn’t make the point forcefully enough, and even he seemed taken aback when challenged by one of the creationist board members after giving his alloted three-minute address. I’ll discuss that last, because it was after Schafersman spoke that I ducked out. After all, if a veteran front-line soldier in the science education wars like Schafersman falters when some creationist puts him in the hot seat, it’s clearly time for the pro-science side to step back and understand just how dishonest the rhetoric is, and how it has to be addressed in a no-nonsense manner, calling bullshit bullshit, and stating the pro-science position with sufficient force and clarity that no sleazy creationist ideologue can sit there lying about it and sounding smug and reasonable while doing so. I don’t see that the pro-science speakers today fully appreciated the ideological scrimmage line they were going up against, nor the fact that the game plan was going to be offense all the way.

A quick rundown of some of the speakers I did see.

As I had a number of errands to run early in the day, I was worried that I may have missed a lot of the good stuff. I didn’t end up getting downtown to the Travis State Office Building until about 3:30. But as the TFN announced that the hearing itself wouldn’t start until likely after lunch, and as I recall the last set of hearings I attended in the same building five years ago went on until well into the night, I figured I hadn’t missed too much.

Turned out my timing was excellent. The hearings on the science standards started right around 3:55. That must have been some sheer pain for those folks who’d been there since 9:00 AM.

As the title of the post indicates, what ensued was the kind of dog-and-pony show where the dog has only three legs and all the pony knows how to do is turn in a circle. The first speaker was a dignified and well spoken older gentleman named Dr. Joe Bernal, who was himself an SBOE member in the 1990′s, and who spoke eloquently on the need to keep science scientific and avoid the pitfalls of allowing room for non-scientific ideas. He stated that it was the duty of parents, not schools, to determine a student’s religious instruction. He also reiterated the support among the scientific community for evolutionary theory.

Now, after a speaker has done his three minutes, board members can ask questions of that speaker if they wish. I saw it coming even before it started. The instant the bell chimed on Dr. Bernal’s address, creationist board member Terri Leo leapt out of the phone booth with her Supergirl costume on and hit the ground faster than a speeding bullet.

Her first agenda: discredit the recent survey, cited by Dr. Bernal, that showed 98% of biologists and science educators in Texas support evolution. “Who funded that study? Wasn’t that study funded by the Texas Freedom Network?” Dr. Bernal admitted it was, but stated calmly that whoever funded the study was beside the point. He actually got in a good comeback to Leo, noting that even the science teachers selected by the SBOE to review the science standards voted in the majority. But Leo wasn’t finished. “I always thought that taking polls wasn’t how you do science.” Well, of course not, and the poll wasn’t an exercise in doing science. The science is already done. The point of the poll was simply to get a show of hands among professionals in the relevant fields as to what theory is appropriate to teach in classrooms. But this is the kind of dishonest rhetoric that creationists will throw out there to get the pro-science side on the defensive.

The thing about Terri Leo is, she’s so dumb and sleazy that she cannot resist overplaying her hand. And she did it right away by using shameless creationist language while simultaneously denying any creationist agenda on her or the SBOE’s part. Note that Dr. Bernal only brought up religion in passing in his speech, pointing out that it’s a private family matter and not fit for science class. Leo leapt on this like a hungry tiger, railing that the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” was not religious language, and that the only people making a big deal about religion supposedly being shoehorned into science curricula are “militant Darwinists.”

I am not shitting you. She actually used that term, out loud, in front of a packed room, in her questioning of the very first speaker of the day.

I couldn’t stop myself. I laughed out loud, loud enough for her to hear. (“Hey…sorry, but…”) That was when I knew that the whole day was going to be a complete joke.

Dr. Bernal responded quite impressively by bringing up — and I’m so glad he was the first speaker, which is when it needed to be brought up — that the SBOE had themselves enlisted known anti-evolutionists affiliated with the Discovery Institute, who have not exactly been secretive about their own religious and creationist agendas, to be among those assigned to review science standards. Specifically he asked (to the delight of the crowd), “Why is someone from an institute in Seattle being asked to review Texas science education standards?”

And here we saw, for the first time, the depth of the SBOE’s egregious dishonesty they were going to display today. The presence of the DI’s Stephen Meyer, and creationist textbook writers Charles Garner and Ralph Seelke was brought up many time by many speakers, and no one on the board would defend or even address it. They simply were not going to justify their actions in this regard to the public, or at least, they didn’t in the hour I was there. If anyone reading this stayed through to the end, and he
ard anything from Dan McLeroy or Terri Leo about why these men, with their overt ID affiliations, were asked to review the Science TEKS standards for Texas, do let us all know in the comments.

Unlike 2003, when Terri Leo (working hand in hand with the Discotute) front-loaded that day’s speakers with creationists, I only heard one creationist speak today, some idiot who sleazily brought up the DI’s long-ridiculed “list of 700 dissenting scientists” as if it represented some kind of major controversy within science over Darwinian evolution. (As Ken Miller pointed out hilariously in his talk back in the spring at UT, this number represents barely a single-digit percentage of the total number of professionals in the relevant fields, and the list includes a number of names of non-biologists and similarly unqualified people who happen to have Ph.D.’s.) This guy then shamelessly rushed headlong into Godwin’s Law while the audience groaned, averring (after supposedly having watched Expelled too many times) that by refusing to allow ideas to be questioned in class, we were doomed to be heading down the same path those poor misguided Germans went down.

This inspired such derision from the crowd that Terri Leo — shocked, shocked at just how “rude” people were being in response to the entirely reasonable comparison that had just been drawn between themselves and Nazis — exhorted everyone to be more “respectful” of this poor man, who had taken valuable time out of his day to come down here to call everyone Nazis, and would the board please be more diligent about controlling such inconsiderate and shocking outbursts.

I can’t really put into words the atmosphere of disbelief that circulated around the room at this point. People were being calm, but among the audience and people waiting for their turn to speak (and I saw a very reassuring majority wearing “Stand Up for Science” stickers on their lapels), there was a definite vibe of “Just how much bullshit are we expected to endure?” Well, people, that’s what we all have to remember about creationists and religious ideologues: they are a Perpetual Motion Machine and Bullshit Factory all rolled into one, unleashing an unstoppable deluge of bovine feces that would even make Noah throw up his hands and say, “Fuck it, no ark is gonna save us from this one.”

Finally I come to Steven Shafersman, a man I admire and whose work in battling creationism over the years and fronting Texas Citizens for Science is unimpeachable. I had already made up my mind to disembark this ship of fools, but when I heard Shafersman’s name announced I stuck around, deciding he’d be the last guy I’d hear.

Shafersman did well, but unfortunately his talk left an opening for one of the creationist board members (a portly man whose name I didn’t catch, but who’s been identified by a commenter as Ken Mercer) to pounce on. See, Shafersman’s main point was that the reason it was inappropriate to have language like “evaluate strengths and weaknesses” in scholastic standards is that it requires activity on the part of the students they haven’t got the expertise for. Mercer tried to obfuscate this by making it seem as if Shafersman and the pro-science side didn’t even want students to be allowed to raise their hands and ask questions in class. This is emphatically not the case, of course, and Schafersman explained that, going on to say that in science, theories are critically evaluated in the field by working professionals, not by students hearing the theories for the first time and lacking the proper expertise and frame of reference to do a “critical evaluation” in the first place.

But Mercer kept hammering the false point repeatedly. What about errors and hoaxes in the past? What about Piltdown Man? What about Haeckel’s inaccurate embryo drawings, that were in textbooks for years? If people weren’t allowed to question these things, wouldn’t these errors and hoaxes have gone unexposed, and wouldn’t students be learning misinformation today? Why try to stifle the sort of open inquiry that led to these very necessary corrections?

Here is where Shafersman fumbled the ball, because there was such an easy and obvious response to this that it was all I could do to hold my tongue and not blurt it out as loudly as I could shout. I just wanted Shafersman to say one simple thing, and he never said it, because I think he was so flummoxed by the aggressiveness of Mercer’s questioning that he allowed himself to fall into the trap that had been set for him, forcing him to go on the defensive. (“Why, as a matter of fact I was one of the scientists instrumental in getting Haeckel’s drawings out of textbooks!” To which Mercer simply replied, “Right! So why then…”)

Here’s what I think Shafersman should have said in reply to Mercer:

“Sir, your examples support my point. The Piltdown Man hoax and Haeckel’s drawings were both shown to be false by working scientists, not students. It wasn’t as if some 14 year old in 9th grade biology class pointed to those drawings and said, ‘I don’t know, teacher, those just don’t look right to me.’ Because that student could not have done that. He would not have had the knowledge and expertise. And that is why requiring the analysis of ‘strengths and weaknesses’ is inappropriate language, as it requires students to do something they’re not equipped to do. Imagine a history class where you’re teaching about Alexander the Great. Then you say to your students, ‘Okay, kids, write a critical analysis of Alexander’s battle plans against the Thracians.’ How can they do this? They aren’t generals, they’re teenagers. They aren’t qualified. First, you have to teach them the facts. Then, later on, if they pursue this field as a vocation they may gain the expertise to critique ‘strengths and weaknesses.’ But for now, they just need facts. And that’s why we’re opposed to this language in the TEKS. Our opposition is not a synonym for stifling all academic inquiry or even simple questions, and to claim that it is is an extremely dishonest red herring.”

That’s how he should have shut Mercer down. And to his credit, he did make some of these points. But Shafersman was never as forceful as Mercer was. The best Shafersman could do, it seemed, was feebly try to regain control of the questioning with very weak-sounding responses (to the effect of “We don’t really need to go into the details of Haeckel right now…”, which embarrassingly sounds like an attempt at dodging the issue).

I simply could not handle any more. I bolted.

It was clear that the creationist contingent knew that the pro-science side was going to show up in force at these hearings, and they came loaded for bear with every bit of disingenuous rhetoric in their how-to-play-dirty playbook. You’ll recall in Kazim’s recent critique of the “rumble in Sydney,” in which Alan Conradi debated a minister, that Kazim made a very important point: ultimately, public debates are a matter of the performance, not the content. While these hearings were not a debate in the formal, forensic sense, they were an informal public “debate” not unlike that which goes on in The Atheist Experience and similar live venues, where topics are argued, often skillfully and often not, in an off-the-cuff manner with minimal prep.

The hearings today were that kind of thing, just an extremely farcicial parody of it. In one corner, a sincere collection of educators and science activists simply trying to ensure that the state’s educational standards aren’t diluted by trojan-horse language that, while non-inflammatory on its face, still leaves room for religious teaching to be slipped into classrooms by unscrupulous teachers (like, oh, John Freshwater); in the other, a board dominated by ideologues who aren’t the least bit interested in understanding the views presented to them (all the while hypocritically claiming to promote freedom of inquiry), and who made every effort to obfuscate, mi
srepresent, and lie about those views.

In other words, a joke. A complete and utter joke.

And they wonder why people say Texas is a laughingstock.

Two more observations before I sign off (and remember, this whole epic-length post was simply my report on viewing one hour of this rubbish today):

  1. I would have liked to have stuck around to hear the woman speak who showed up dressed (quite attractively) as if she’d stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie. I imagine she was going to make some point about 19th century education being unsuited for a 21st century world, but there’s no way I could have endured more of Terri Leo and Ken Mercer’s verbal diarrhea while waiting. If any of you did hear her, tell us what she said, please.
  2. The pro-science side does seem to have one solid ally on the SBOE, in the person of Mary Helen Berlanga. Ms. Berlanga was very polite and thanked all of the pro-science speakers, including Steve Shafersman, for their hard work and efforts. But that just made me want to hear more from her. Why not be as aggressive with the questioning in the way Bradley and Leo were? Why not be the one to answer the repeated queries about why known ID-supporters and anti-evolutionists were allowed to review the Science TEKS this year?

Addendum: Made corrections once Ken Mercer was identified in the comments.

26 comments

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  1. 1
    Steve Bratteng

    I find it interesting and more than a little ironic that recently Martin was completely disgusted with my suggestion that testifying at the SBOE was a waste of time because of the absurdity of trying to talk sense to the morons on the Board, and that we might try some other avenues to deal with the situation. And now, he reveals that he found the meeting to be such a joke that he had to walk out. Hmmm.Steve Bratteng

  2. 2
    Zurahn

    There’s something I think should be brought up a lot more with “Intelligent Design” and that’s its definition and support.What needs to be asked is, “What is the definition of Intelligent Design and what evidence is there to support it, without mentioning evolution?”All they do is make fallacious, dishonest and ignorant attempts to discredit the theory of evolution and doing nothing to support their own position.

  3. 3
    John Kingman

    How come you didn’t sign up to speak?Portly man was Ken Mercer, one of the reps for the Austin area.The woman who showed up dressed as if she’d stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie was Clare Wuellner, Executive Director of CFI. I understand that she was also on the evening news. Since you left too soon, you did miss a lot. However, you can go back and listen to it here http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio_archived.htmlonce they upload the audio. There were several people who gave the creos a run for their money.

  4. 4
    Martin

    Steve Bratteng: I am happy to concede you had a point, Steve. On general principles, though, do I still think, farcical as the whole circus was today, that creationists — especially those with the power to decide the course of education of an entire generation of students — need to be confronted, even if it’s only an exercise in talking to a brick wall and enduring lies, insults and absurdities? Yes I do. I may not have the stomach to put up with it, but I’m proud of Bernal, Schafersman, and all the educators, scientists and students who showed up today and whose stomachs managed to outlast mine. Maybe they were only standing on principle, but it’s better than nothing. In the meantime, I wholly support the other avenues of confronting the problem that you choose to pursue, and will back your efforts 100%.John: I didn’t sign up to speak because I wasn’t sure I’d have this day free.Zurahn: “Intelligent Design” is over. They’ve tossed that under the bus. It’s all “strengths and weaknesses” now.

  5. 5
    Steve Bratteng

    I have been to testify 5 times, I think. It is always about the same — really frustrating and discouraging that our educational system is in the hands of so many IDiots. And, as I wrote before, if it did not require taking a day off from teaching, I would still do it. But, something more than dissenting voices are needed, but I am not sure what would work, inasmuch as the Board members seem to be fairly representative of their constituencies. It’s a vicious cycle in which the people of the state are victims of their sorry educational system, and thereby in no position to know better in order to make it better.

  6. 6
    Zurahn

    It’s all “strengths and weaknesses” now.…ok, then what exactly are they arguing in favour of? This is getting weird, even for the creationists.

  7. 7
    dethanos

    “..the Board members seem to be fairly representative of their constituencies.”I know I don’t speak for the majority in District 10, but I just have to say that every statement I have seen from Cynthia Dunbar is in direct opposition to my own values and opinions, regardless of the subject.

  8. 8
    John Kingman

    Zurahn said: It’s all “strengths and weaknesses” now. …ok, then what exactly are they arguing in favour of? This is getting weird, even for the creationists. The contention is over the word “weakness.” This is a trojan horse which they hope opens the door for bogus weaknesses or anti-evolutionary material to be used in the classroom. The word “limitations” has also been used in the latest draft of the Texas science standards in this context.This seems to be the latest Disco ‘Tute tactic. They abhor the use of ID now and, of course the book they got burned with in Dover has been dumped. Now the “weaknesses” gives them the opportunity to sell their new book Exploring Evolution to supply just those “weaknesses.” This book is an affront to science and science education, however. I highly recommend reading this review of Exploring Evolution by John Timmer for the gory details. He calls it “a text that’s wildly inappropriate for use in a science classroom.”

  9. 9
    Barnetto

    For the creative educator, “weaknesses” could be turned into an opportunity to discuss the current debates going on between scientists. Not sure what those would be…is punctuated equilibrium pretty much settled as part of evolutionary theory? Anyways, for such an educator it becomes an opportunity to show that knowledge isn’t just something that gets handed down from dusty tomes and long dead geniuses, but something that is actively happening and, given a solid foundation, something that the kids will have to chance to contribute to as well if they want.Or it’ll just be used by some hack science teacher to spout about gaps in the fossil record and the second law of thermodynamics.Do they define what they mean by “weaknesses” in the standard?

  10. 10
    Clare W.

    Hey, Martin. “Little House” woman here.It was good to see you there, Martin. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat. It did feel to me like we were fighting a losing battle. At one point, I sent a text message to Joe Lapp referencing the Titanic. Regardless, I think the press we got was good (considering) and we made an impression. No one will think pro-evolution folks in Texas are asleep. I was *extremely* proud of the CFI Austin folks who testified. I know they put a lot of time into their testimonies and were there all day waiting for their 3 minutes of facetime. The same folks who were there and many more are working overtime in CFI Austin’s Think Tank. We are creating a web site that will launch in January, just in time for the next SBOE jamboree.You are certainly doing your part in this fight, buuuut… As for not testifying because you weren’t sure you would be free. Erm…I’m not sure I buy it. :) I am a full-time mom (minus the 8 hours a week that my daughter is in preschool). In order to be there yesterday, I had to arrange for tag-team childcare for my two children, which included three people in addition to my husband who had to take time off work (which of late has been requiring ~70 h/wk of his time just to stay above water). While I was waiting to testify, my daughter was on the way to the emergency room where she would get three stitches in her forehead. (She is fine now.) In essence, my whole family (and a couple of other families who helped my family) testified yesterday.I will only mention that procuring the costume took quite a bit of time and effort, too.Next time, why don’t you testify? That way, you can give the SBOE hell in person and tell them everything that you so eloquently articulate on your blog. We need you up there, too.Clare WuellnerExec DirectorCenter for Inquiry Austin

  11. 11
    Tommy Holland

    Every time Earth’s space agencies launches an orbiter or lander to another planet, they carefully calculate the course, taking into consideration the gravitational influence of the Earth, the Sun, and the planet in question. But do you know why they do so?It’s because they are all run by militant Newtonists.Why aren’t these people snarling about teaching the strengths and weaknesses of the theory of gravity?

  12. 12
    AtheistUnderMask

    This probably would’ve been highly inappropriate, but if the speaker after the Nazi guy was a pro-science person, when his/her name was called, he/she should’ve stood up, clicked their heels together and shouted “JAWHOL!” and possibly thrown up the salute.But that’s just me.

  13. 13
    Sparrowhawk

    @AtheistUnderMask:As HILARIOUS as that sounds, I don’t think it would’ve helped any :-). Personally, I think 99% of the time, making the “Nazi comparison” as I call it, is a debate-killer, period. It’s just such a desperate, usually unfounded comparison in just about any matter. Now, how someone could have called them on it “on-the-spot” at the hearing, I dunno. I suspect if you weren’t expecting to hear it it’d really throw you for a loop.

  14. 14
    AtheistUnderMask

    You’re right Sparrow. I try to avoid it all the time myself.I also spelled jahwol wrong.

  15. 15
    Karl Haro von Mogel

    Great post – thanks for going to the event and reporting on it. I wanted to point out that the “Stand up for Science” buttons are probably connected to the Discovery Institute’s “Stand up for Science” campaign. Just like “Explore Evolution”, they are using pro-science sounding terms to hide their agenda, and it takes research to figure this stuff out, and they’re hoping that the average person will not figure it out.

  16. 16
    John Kingman

    Martin, for future reference, the SBoE will accept your testimony whether you can attend or not.

  17. 17
    Steve Bratteng

    dethanos,You said: “I know I don’t speak for the majority in District 10, but I just have to say that every statement I have seen from Cynthia Dunbar is in direct opposition to my own values and opinions, regardless of the subject.”I also disagree with almost everything Dunbar says about these topics, and I think this would be true for the majority of people in her district — at least in the Austin part. However, apparently she does represent the majority of people that are aware of the down ballot races such as for SBOE and actually voted. Perhaps some of the people that supported her were unaware of her true thoughts about science and education.What we need to do is shine a light on her position so that the people who want a good educational system can see how poorly she represents this view. And, we need to find someone with some sense to run against Dunbar and the other dunderheads on the Board.

  18. 18
    Tommy Holland

    I thought of one more comeback to the “What about Piltdown man hoax?” argument.A hoax is not a weakness of a theory. A hoax is a lie, an intentional deception developed to hoodwink others. A hoax is a man-made artifact created for illicit gain (be it monetary, humor, etc.)Does the fact that fake Christian relics have been peddled to the gullible mean that Christianity has huge weaknesses that should be taught in church?

  19. 19
    Martin

    Hi Clare. I totally didn’t recognize you, otherwise I’d have said hi.You looked lovely, though. The dress was quite becoming.I did testify in 2003. Got quite a good reaction to my three minutes, too, considering how late in the evening I spoke (around 10 pm). On the one hand, while I was thoroughly disgusted with what I was witnessing yesterday, I realize, I have to stay involved. I found myself really wanting to speak yesterday, if only to give the creationists the responses I thought they should be getting, and weren’t.If there’s another circus like this, I may just have to choke back my bile, clear my calendar, and sign up. FWIW.

  20. 20
    NickM

    Here’s an idea — the next time one of these sorts of things comes up in some state, why not have one or two veteran anti-creationism wonks take up the last spot or two and act as clean-up hitters. Instead of reading a prepared ahead-of-time speech, just go through the list of creationist silliness that the board has spouted that evening, call it what it is, rebut it, and make the point, “This proves exactly why ‘weaknesses’ language is just code for the same old bogus creationist antievolution propaganda.”OTOH the board already destroyed it’s chances in court I think based on what they said on the record at the meeting. Polystrate fossils?? Might as well raise a big flag saying ‘Noah’s Flood Was For Real and the Bible beats geology!!’ on it. (All my very humble (and just my personal) opinion.)

  21. 21
    WestMichRunner

    So the question remains…where can I get a photo of Clare W. in that dress?

  22. 22
    Martin

    Nick, swell idea, though I don’t think you have any control over where you end up in the sign-up list for speakers. I kept thinking that if I’d been on the list, I’d most certainly have been rewriting my presentation right there in my chair, to respond to the falsehoods I’d been hearing.

  23. 23
    John Kingman

    WestMichRunner:There’s one in Steven Schafersman’s blog down around the 7:30pm mark.

  24. 24
    dethanos

    I doubt if anyone else here reads David Morgan-Mar’s “Irregular Webcomic”, but when I saw AtheistUnderMask’s “Jawohl” comment, I couldn’t help but think…”Nazi science sneers at strengths and weaknesses!”http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/2078.html

  25. 25
    Miss Elaine

    I have to admit, I was cynical about Claire’s get-up at first. I though she might be some kind of quaker or something. Then I saw the “Stand up for Science” sticker. Phew. By the way, in response to a previous post, the stickers were indeed pro-science and not a Discovery Institute ploy. Claire’s speech was fantastic. Way to go, Claire!I ended up staying until I testified, which was at about 9:45pm. The testimonies were very moving and I couldn’t have left if I wanted to. I did become highly annoyed, however, when a young, pretty college freshman got up to testify (I should add that she somehow was able to jump to the top of the list to testify, very unfair, and then took up a lot of time). This young, who is a first year pre-med at UT, explained that she was unable to ask questions on evolution in AP biology as the teacher made it clear that no questions were allowed on the topic. It all seemed suspect to me, I have never heard a teacher say such things, but if true, the teacher was wrong indeed. Cynthia Dumb-as-a-bar and Ms Leo put this girl on a pedastal, saying how brave she was and asked her whether she felt that she had lost out intelllectually by not being able to ask questions. This girl basically said that her education was stymied because of this. GIVE ME A BREAK! When I finally got up to testify, I ruined my prepared speech in order to point out that the girl, a product of Texas education, used the term evolution and origin of life interchangeably, showing her confusion and lack of knowledge about evolution. I was grilled, by Dun-as-a-bar, about my statement that scientists do not disagree about evolution. SHe keeps bringing up this bloody list she has of 700 PhDs that don’t believe it. I tried to explain, just like many before me, that many of these PhD are not even connected to biological science. I made the comment that medical doctors, dentists (I said that on purpose as McElroy is a dentist, he actually laughed when I said that. To be fair, he was hospitable), don’t count. None count, actually, unless they have scientific evidence to back up their doubts. What I should have said is that 700 PhD is 1% of all PhD, and what percent of those are real scientists? And, more importantly, why did they discount the list of evolutionary supporting PhDs provided by the TExas Freedom Network because of bias, and yet brought up this list as evidence constantly when it was supported by the Discovery Institute? ANyways, I think I was a little rude and cut off her questions, I don’t think she deserved and respect. I was also tired by then and very frustrated because the same issues kept coming up over and over. The board would say something ridiculous, it would be completely dispelled by the testifier, and then they would bring it up later like it was a new idea. My favourite moment was when Mercer, I think it was him, brought up academic freedom, again, and said that they way thing are now, Galileo would never have been able to publish in a peer reviewed journal. The speaker as fantastic. He immediately shot back that that is ridiculous as scientists did support him and it was the Church that persecuted him. After that statement a grad student next to me applauded loudly, and then was promptly yelled at by McElroy in a very scary voice, “You can leave!” All in all, I am glad I went, but it was exhausting. Oh, one more thing, it was admitted by the lady that selected Mr. Meyer, Discovery Institute, that she didn’t know about his evolution-bashing articles. In fact, she hadn’t looked him up at all. Wow. She chose a “scientist” to represent the science education for all the children of Texas, and she didn’t even read his scientific credentials. This was appalling. Ok, I’m done. I could go on all day about this.

  26. 26
    John Kingman

    Here‘s a video clip about the event which features Clare Wuellner, Executive Director of CFI Austin.

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