Gabler gone, but it makes no difference

A few years ago, Mel Gabler died, and I put up my response below. Now his wife, Norma Gabler, has also died. Good riddance at last. Those two did an awful amount of harm to American science education by inflicting their ignorant opinions on textbook selection in Texas.


I read this which led to this, where I learned a few months late that Mel Gabler was dead. This Mel Gabler. I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Gabler had a good 89 year run in which he spread poison and ignorance and lies, and made his wretched mark on the textbook industry. He was a dishonest old man who reviewed biology textbooks through the lens of his own stupidity and religious prejudice, and he was darned good at it.

Take a look at his criteria for evaluating biology textbooks. I’ve added links to Mark Isaak’s indispensable index of creationist claims so that you can easily look up the real story. Every single one of these criteria that Gabler used to block the adoption of good science textbooks was a lie. Most of them are trivial and obvious lies to anyone with a little basic knowledge of biology. I look at his rationalizations and see gibbering, spittle-flecked senility…and this is the man the Texas State Board of Education took seriously.

Gabler’s criterion Gabler’s rationalization Isaak’s rebuttal

no fossil evidence for gradual evolution
“Punctuated equilibria” theory admits the systematic gaps between life forms
in the fossil record, and the lack of evidence there for gradual

circular reasoning in “punctuated equilibria” theory
“Punctuated equilibria” theory says evolution occurs too slowly to see it
in the present, and too quickly for the fossil record to capture in the past.
This is circular reasoning: the lack of evidence for evolution proves it
circular reasoning in the standard geological column “Index fossils” are fossils of life forms that evolutionists think lived
only briefly in geologic time. Evolutionists position rocks in the Standard
Geological Column by the stage which their index fossils represent in the
presumed evolution of life. Thus the Standard Geological Column reflects
evolutionary assumptions but does not prove them.
subjective interpretation of the standard geological column No actual single example of the entire Standard Geological Column exists
in nature. The alleged evolutionary ages of rock strata do not always match
the alleged evolutionary ages of some of the fossils they contain. Supposedly
younger strata sometimes contain supposedly older fossils. Supposedly older
strata sometimes contain supposedly younger fossils.
complex initial appearance of life forms in the fossil record Evolution
says complex life forms developed from simple forms. But the “earliest” fossils
of each life form are as structurally complex as their modern counterparts.
The kingdoms, phyla, and classes that first appear in the fossil record still
exist today.
undisputed transitional forms in the fossil record
reappraisal often shows “missing links” to have been either fully human (e.g.,
Neanderthal Man, Cro-Magnon Man) or apes (e.g., Pithecanthropus,
). Archaeopteryx is discredited as a missing
CC050, CC351

no examples of “micro-evolution”
is the process of increasing net genetic complexity (between the original
cell and Einstein, there had to be new genes). Speciation and subspeciation
require no increased net genetic complexity, and are thus not even
“micro-evolution.” Darwin’s finches, Kaibab and Albert squirrels, industrial
melanism (spotted moths), penicillin-resistant bacteria, and DDT-resistant
insects are non-evolutionary adaptations of existing life forms to new
environments, involving no increased net genetic complexity and therefore
no evolution.
Isaak doesn’t cover this one specifically; Gabler has invented his own bizarre definition of evolution so that he can falsely claim evolution has not been observed.

no known mechanism for evolution
reshuffles chromosomes. Mutations restructure DNA. Neither produce more complex
chromosomes or DNA. Thus neither increase net genetic complexity, without
which there is no evolution.
between anatomy and biochemistry
acid sequence differences among life forms often contradict evolutionary
predictions based on anatomical similarities.
Sometimes they do. Convergent evolution can produce similarities that are not homologous. This is not evidence against evolution.
flaws in radiometric dating Radiometric
dating methods give conflicting dates for the same object and/or for different
samples of the same object. These dating methods assume a uniform decay rate
of the parent element, initial absence of the daughter element in the test
sample, and isolation of the test sample from outside contamination —;
all scientifically questionable assumptions on various grounds.
improbability of evolution through chance mutations
if all mutations were beneficial, the mathematical probability of life developing
by chance verges on absolute zero.

Mel Gabler is dead, but his work continues. Texans for a “Better” Science Education still uses Gabler’s dishonest garbage (a page that, coincidentally, was updated just yesterday; no lie reeks enough to convince a creationist to drop it, I guess). The odious Terri Leo has been re-elected to the Texas State Board of Education and will no doubt perpetuate his work.

So, no, I can’t feel any joy at the death of one sad and narrow-minded old man. The evil that men do lives on long after they’re gone, and he has left an enduring legacy. It’s awfully hard to dance on a grave when you’re still battling the corpse.


  1. says

    PZ said: “It’s awfully hard to dance on a grave when you’re still battling the corpse.”

    Worse. There are undoubtedly folks out there right now who are even more clever in their deceitful ways of bringing doubt to legitimate sciences. These folks are not dumb. Many of them are quite intelligent in most ways but have a blind spot of denial whenever their faith is threatened. That’s why they are dangerous. I wish they were stupid.

    Fortunately, we have evidence and truth on our side. We can’t sway all, but with the work you and many others do, the vast majority can be brought to truth – just like they are in many parts of the enlightened world. Keep it up.

  2. Bachalon says

    It’s like a greatest hits of creationist lies. No wonder the evolution unit at my high school sucked so much.

  3. says

    Just on GP: Why should a “conservative Christian” organization of any kind automatically have a carte blanche entitlement to review textbooks? I can think of no reason other than to ensure ideological conformity. Do Hindu organizations get to review textbooks? Of course not. Do I smell a separation issue here?

  4. says

    Thanks, PZ, I was waiting for you to comment on this. And I don’t mind the repost, I had used it here.

    A particularly ugly feature of Norma Gabler’s public profile was that while she was the public face of Team Gabler, she insisted on deferring to Mel in all matters. And Mel got his marching orders from his beliefs in Jesus. His job as head of the family, and the man of the house, was to be The Decider.

    But I am struck at how much power over education they had built from the grass roots, and they weren’t even professional educators. They learned the political grassroots game and used it and convinced people that their role was to promote “accuracy” and progressives can learn from their methods if not their textbooks.

    Most school districts have openings for curriculum review boards, and people who care about real accuracy in education should avail themselves of to prevent ideologues from steering education wrong.

  5. John C. Randolph says

    At my high school in northern Virginia, the quarter we spent on evolution was devoid of superstition, but it wasn’t very deep. Basically, we had to memorize and regurgitate definitions of natural selection, adaptive radiation, adaptive convergence, mutation, etc…


  6. says

    not reading any other responses…
    PZ! You’re TOO HARSH!!!1! you will alienate teh IDIOTS! Ohno!

    also, RIP, you bastards.

  7. says

    damn. not a single troll-response yet. i guess i’ll stand in for it.
    WE MUST RESPECK the STUPIDS! err…Be polite to those who hold imbecilic mythological views! It’s teh politix!

    ugh, ok, that gets tiring.

  8. ChrisD says

    RE: Martin Wagner #3
    Do I smell a separation issue here?

    I wish it were that easy. It’s essentially private sector doings which ultimately and directly affect the public sector negatively. The best method I see of dealing with the issue is to determine which publishers use this consulting firm and press your local school board to not use any books from such publishers.

    Also, if a Christian should ask “Bah, what’s in it for me? I kind of agree with what they’re doing for the most part!” then just tell them the organization is Baptist/Episcopalian/Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whichever sect they disagree more strongly with.

  9. Matt Penfold says

    Here is an idea. Why not let those who teach the subject decide textbook will be used ?

  10. CalGeorge says

    Mel the fuckhead:

    These Christian U.S. History books must stress trinitarian shared sovereignty in government, must cite Biblical principles which restrain man’s sovereignty there. More important than American leaders praying or invoking God’s name is, Did they govern by Biblical principles? Time for Christian Social Studies texts to own the Bible as a political and economic guide as well as a moral and spiritual rule. God’s Word beckons them to wholly cease from secular conceptualizations, to articulate Biblical principles, to vaunt their Christocentrism, to profoundly reinterpret U.S. History, to shame Christian schools that shun them. Trinitarianism is the best interpretive key to U.S. History – its most coherent organizer – because Jesus Christ is Lord.

    George Bush governs by Christian principles, and look what it has gotten us. Plutocracy. War. Torture.

    I can’t stand these fucking Christofascist pricks.

  11. Mats says

    He was a dishonest old man who reviewed biology textbooks through the lens of his own stupidity and religious prejudice, and he was darned good at it.


    “He was a dishonest old man who reviewed biology textbooks NOT through the “official” self-serving lenses of naturalism/materialism, but through lenses that pointed away from the magical powers of unguided forces of nature”

    There. Fixed that for you, PZ! No need to thank me.

  12. Arnosium Upinarum says

    A charge of “circular reasoning” which doesn’t exist clearly comes from a “spherical bastard”.

    The term was coined many decades ago by the astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky, a grumpy but brilliant scientist and a pioneer in studies from “supernovae” (he, together with Walter Baade, originally coined that term too), and neutron stars (fully 3 decades before any had been seen), to cosmological considerations, and one of the first to recognise the existence of dark matter, amongst lots of other nifty things.

    When asked by an annoyed and puzzled colleague, why “spherical”?, he is said to have replied (paraphrasing): “because they look like bastards whichever way you look at them.”

    Neat insult by a fellow with possible Asperger’s Syndrome who incorporates topological symmetry into it.

    Lots of spherical bastards out there. Gabler was aces in that.

  13. Kseniya says

    Troll sighting! Mats the One-Hit Wonder is looking to be fed!

    “Gabler” – what an awesomely apt name.

  14. RamblinDude says

    Looks like Mats was raised on those textbooks.

    Mel Gabler is dead, but his work continues.

  15. Rich says

    @Mats: That whole “I fixed it for you” in a quote thing is old and dry. Haven’t you anything better?

    @Kseniya: I think Gobbler is a more appropriate name for that type. About as bright as the average barnyard fowl.

  16. says

    Of course, there is an upside to the Gabler’s work. Their textbook ratings give a simple method for school boards to find the most scientifically accurate textbook available. Just take the one they rated “Worst” and order a few gross.

  17. Mike P says

    Here is an idea. Why not let those who teach the subject decide textbook will be used ?

    Won’t work. Way too easy for a fundie to become a “science” teacher, and they’d be free to teach whatever blasted thing they wanted.

    Come to think of it, from your comment alone, I can’t tell what side of the fence you’re on. For all I know, that might be exactly what you want to happen.

  18. scienceteacherinexile says

    Garth, the troll has arrived….

    And I wish to repost this from another thread:

    I am from Texas, and will give a very brief account of my science education.
    First an aside, and I have mentioned this in another post on this blog. In my younger years, we were led in the Lord’s Prayer every morning at school.
    When I hit the sciences at the high school level, evolution was really handled poorly. My teacher even said that he believed in changes over time, but he believed the Bible as the final authority, so tell our parents not to worry. Frankly, I wish there had been someone to scream, but there was not in that town.
    Fortunately, I grew interested in science in general, and biology (my minor) in particular at university (also in Texas), and got a better education.
    Now having made (some of) you cringe at my high school education, I must contrast my experience to my student teaching. I taught biology in a small, ultra conservative town. My supervising teacher was completely different, and did an excellent job of teaching biology. There were some in the town who hated him, and even a rumour that I heard while I was there that he was a satanist. But, he went right on doing what he was supposed to do: teaching biology.
    Let’s hope that the latter example is the rule not the exception…
    On a personal note I apologize to my home state that I am not there still teaching biology. It would be the best way I could help fight this fight.

  19. Anti Atheist Resistance Front says

    Can you imagine the hooting and clapping when Dawkins passes, or some of the other fundie atheists?

    Don’t complain.

    You have set the precedent.

  20. CalGeorge says

    Anti Atheist Resistance Front

    I’m confused. Are you resisting those who are anti-atheist, or the atheists?

    You need a new name.

  21. says

    Doggerel #71

    Of course there’ll be people applauding when Dawkins dies, regardless of any precedent we set. They’ll also get great, near-sexual pleasure out of the thought that he’s going to be tortured for eternity.

    The difference will be because fundies are uncivilized and amoral, thus they believe they’re allowed to besmirch the name of a good man.

    We celebrate the deaths of fundies because it generally cuts back the amount of evil they can work on the world. Most woos I run into, especially fundies, don’t seem to comprehend that evil is bad, hence the end of an evil is a good thing.

  22. says


    You’re thinking of the Resistance Front of Anti-Atheists. He’s part of the Anti Atheist Resistance Front. Not to be confused with the Peoples’ Anti Atheist Resistance Front, or the Anti Atheist Resistance Front of the People or of course, one can’t forget the Popular People’s Resistance Front of Anti-Atheists.

    …wait, what?

  23. Brendan S says


    It’s dishonest for you to sit here and claim that certain members of the ID community wont’ be glad to see PZ, Dawkins, etc. pass.

    Don’t ever pretend.

  24. says

    Thanks for posting this, PZ. I thought about dancing on their graves last week when I heard the news, but decided against it. I suppose now I’ll have to do a LOL Gabler to go with LOL McLeroy.

  25. Reg says

    All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

  26. Reg says

    Oops. I Really meant: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Athiests ever done for us?

  27. Mena says

    Hasn’t “conservative” become a standard English synonym for “dumb person who has anger management issues and shouts a lot about stuff that he or she wishes to be true but probably isn’t” *yet*? It did for me years ago. Calling oneself a “conservative Christian” is both an oxymoron and a bit sanctimonious, is it not?

  28. Mr. Person says

    From the Gablers’ Web site:

    In Everyday Math and Connected Math, students labo­riously concoct their own compu­tation methods instead of just quickly learning best practices.

    Not really true, but come on! When I read a conservative Christian Web site, I don’t just want to read distortions of truth. I need entertainment! I want to see BUG FUCK CRAZY!

    Maybe, just maybe, if I keep reading the quote . . .

    Replacing stan­dard algorithms with haphazard searches for personal meaning unconstitutionally establishes New Age relig­ious behavior in public school Math instruction.

    There we go!

  29. RJL says

    Mat @ “but through lenses that pointed away from the magical powers of unguided forces of nature”

    Magical natural forces. I see we are out getting our LULZs Mat.

  30. stinger says

    What’s the deal with speaking no ill of the dead, anyway? Are we not allowed to badmouth Hitler, or Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Jerry Falwell…?

  31. Firemancarl says

    Well, these hucksters and Falwell and now Tammy Baker. We only have a few hundred more to go! Wanna play “Closest to the Pin” on whos the next to take a dirt nap?

  32. says

    I’m unmoved by people finding joy at the death of others. It’s an honest reaction to someone you don’t care for. It doesn’t bother me that many Christians will dance on the graves of PZ and RD. As long as they don’t have anything to do with their demise, it’s fine. To say we shouldn’t be equally celebratory over the deaths of the apologists of ignorance is a disingenuous argument. It’s a human nature thing that causes no harm.

  33. raven says

    Mel the fuckhead:

    These Christian U.S. History books must stress trinitarian shared sovereignty in government

    Huh, what? Disregarding that the USA is a secular democracy by design and history, what is this about “trinitarians”?

    Not all xians are trinitarians. There is one brand called unitarians that have waxed and waned in popularity.

    One good thing about fundie cult xians. When they aren’t trying to take over the government, they are fighting among themselves and other xians. Pat Robertson once called the episcopalians, lutherans, and catholics churches of the antichrist. Bet that went over well with them.

  34. Keanus says

    Celebrating or lamenting how death has silenced the Gablers is meaningless. They have been followed by an army of wilfully ignorant idiots and at least one, perhaps, Terri Leo will take their place. In her case she’s on the state school board, which is something the Gablers never aspired to (AFAIK). And Leo isn’t the only one. Texas, at least those steeped in the old school religion, of which there are many, has a rich lode of xenophobic, narrow-minded, bible thumpers who celebrate their ignorance and too often succeed in electing one of their own to high office (and like Dubya, even inflicting them on the nation) but not always. The governor who preceded Dubya was Anne Richards and Texas today hosts many individuals and groups who will not stand idly by while the ignorant try to destroy the state’s schools. Wish them well and support them.

  35. Ray C. says

    #13 CalGeorge (quoting Mel Gabler)

    More important than American leaders praying or invoking God’s name is, Did they govern by Biblical principles?

    Which Biblical principles? “Love thy neigbor as thyself,” or “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands?”

  36. travc says

    Alas, when did “corruption of the youth” stop being a capital offense? Anyway, hopefully these ideas will decay away along with the corpses of those who push them.

    Though, I did discover that one of my papers is cited in talkorigins… screw the “impact” rating, if that is the only citation I’d be happy.

  37. obscurifer says

    I heard about this on the radio yesterday, and I blurted out, “Good riddance!” as well.

    Unfortunately, the army of zombies keeps marching toward the citadel, so we must continue our vigilance.

  38. Sastra says

    Years ago, I read an article on the Gablers which took the “small folks(s) who make a difference” angle. It was supposed to be an inspiring piece, promoting an example of how ordinary people can make the Powerful Establishment sit up and take notice simply by exercising pluck, perseverance, and a caring concern for their values, their country, and — of course — the children. Gee whiz. Looka here, sometimes you can fight City Hall. Let’s hear it for David! Hoor-ay for the Little Guys like you and me!

    I suspect that a LOT of really stupid things get by the general public because of a deep-seated love and respect for this mythical template, with or without the religious aspect (worse with the religious aspect, of course.) If it’s not the truth, well, it should be. Makes you feel empowered and all that.

  39. Cassius Chaerea says

    Gabler and his equivalents would be harmless if textbook publishers would stand up against them. Unfortunately, they do not. The editorial staffers and other powerless employees may want to publish texts that contain scientific quality, but the bottom-liners that are in charge of textbook houses (most of which are not owned by American corporations, btw) are only interested in what sells. Evolution? Hell, they’d publish pure magic if that’s what they can sell to the fundie school boards.

  40. brightmoon says

    (Can you imagine the hooting and clapping when Dawkins passes, or some of the other fundie atheists?

    Don’t complain.

    You have set the precedent)

    OH, YOU DON’T REMEMBER THE VISCIOUS COMMENTS MADE WHEN STEVE GOULD DIED, DO YOU? sorry Anti-atheist, the fundies started this one

    oh, and Mats, #14 was magical thinking at its worst

  41. wrpd says

    The smarmy, oily, brain-dead D James Kennedy will probably be the next to become worm meat. He is truly one of the worst. I recently saw an article on his site that said John Calvin was the real founding father of the US.

  42. Dylan Stafne says

    Does anyone have any political cartoons in memory of Carl Sagan? He seems more difficult to commemorate than almost any other beloved American, because it would be awkward to put him in heaven, and worse to say that he was in hell.

    When Rosa Parks died, there were about a half dozen different cartoons all showing a heavenly bus with an angel encouraging Parks to sit up front. When Sagan died, did they go similarly the lazy way and just have God make a joke about “billions and billions”?

  43. Dylan Stafne says

    Oh, and if anyone was interested in an actual textbook critique site, is an entertaining afternoon read. It critiques both the ultra-sensitive multi-culturalist pandering along with “alternative medicine” claptrap and religious dogma shown as fact, as well as just incompetent textbooks. (No, I don’t work for them.)

  44. MAJeff says

    Well, these hucksters and Falwell and now Tammy Baker. We only have a few hundred more to go! Wanna play “Closest to the Pin” on whos the next to take a dirt nap?

    I am throwing a huge-ass party when Jesse Helms kicks it.

  45. tony says


    I am throwing a huge-ass party when Jesse Helms kicks it.

    I would have thought a *tight* ass party would be more appropriate! (That’s how *I* prefer my asses to be ;)

  46. says

    lol, tony–now we can call it even for making the other spit liquids onto the keyboard :)

    and of course, you’ve heard about Dr. Laura’s new exercise video? “15 Days to A Tighter Ass”