Airtightnoodle–conspiracy theorist extraordinaire!

Recently I’ve been accused of being a conspiracy theorist and a member of some sort of special interest group.  I’m not really sure what group that would be, but nevertheless, Michael from “New Discoveries and Comments About Creationism” affirms it.  I hope Michael can let me know what group that is, because I probably owe them some membership dues…

Basically, Michael seems to feel that I am picking on Don McLeroy, chair of the Texas state board of education, for no good reason.  So…to find out why I am concerned over the state board…read on!

The first part of Michael’s post (linked to above)  relates to Eugenie Scott, Glenn Branch, the NCSE, and Bobby Jindal.  Of Eugenie Scott, Michael states:

Eugenie Scott is the same woman who appeared in a movie where she advocates ruining careers if anyone dares to question Darwinism. She makes up stories, trying to demonize creationists and intelligent design proponents.

Now, I’m going to be honest.  I don’t know much about Eugenie Scott.  I don’t even regularly track what the NCSE is doing (sorry if that disappoints some of you).  I don’t know anything about her appearing in a movie advocating ruining the careers of those that question “Darwinism”.   (By the way, is this a reference to “Expelled”?  I have yet to see it, as I didn’t want to pay money at a theater to view it.)  Somehow, though, Michael seems to feel I am a lot like her, because later in his post he takes a few stabs at me:

Also, there is no evidence whatsoever in it’s 10 year history in Texas and I have even confronted a Texas science teacher over this issue. Granted she takes her teaching seriously, and wants the best for her students. But she is wrong on a number of issues including this one, because she believes in special interests like the NCSE.

First, I do thank Michael for recognizing the fact that I truly do want the best for my students.  However, I’m not a member of the NCSE, I don’t follow the NCSE much as stated above, I strongly disagree with several well-known members of the NCSE on several issues, I’ve never donated to the NCSE, and so on. 

Next Michael stated:

Her response or lack thereof wasn’t surprising concerning because she can’t even find a notion that she believes is a real example of her concerns to even agree or disagree with, but she will write mainly about personal beliefs like the blogger whom I quoted, undermine people’s character who are creationists or ID proponents in such places like the school board and about so-called errors by creationists. To me, she is just as bad as Eugenie Scott!

Apparently Michael was miffed that I didn’t respond to a comment he had made at one of my posts, as linked to in the above paragraph.  Other than that, there isn’t a lot about this paragraph of his that makes much sense to me.  As I told Michael at his own blog, I simply didn’t think there was anything in his post that required a response.  In fact, I even agreed with some of what he said.  I asked Michael at his own blog to please tell me what he wanted me to respond to.  There were a few posts back and forth between Michael and myself, but he clarified what he wanted me to answer, so here are my responses.

Michael stated:

Mr. Mcleroy from your home state of Texas has been a target for special interests including yourself. There has been nothing as far as solid evidence that he had pushed creationism or intelligent design in the public schools.

Though McLeroy has stated on occasion that he will not push for intelligent design to be taught in school, his actions often say otherwise.  For instance, back when McLeroy was first appointed as the chairman of the state board of education, an article from the Dallas News reported the following on McLeroy:

“One of four board members who voted against current high school biology books because of their failure to list weaknesses in the theory of evolution.”

“…in 2003, Dr. McLeroy was one of four board members who voted against proposed high school biology textbooks because he felt their coverage of evolution was “too dogmatic” and did not include possible flaws in Charles Darwin’s theory of how life on Earth evolved from lower forms.”

McLeroy has stated that he won’t push for creationism or intelligent design to be taught in schools, yet he told his home church congregation in College Station to “keep chipping away at the objective empirical evidence”.  He also seemed to encourage young people to “take on” evolutionists by stating the following: “But it’s the young people, talented young people, that be able to rise to the intellectual level it takes to take on the future talented naturalists that will be on the scene.”

Again, though he has said often that he doesn’t want intelligent design or creationism as part of the standards, the Texas Insider reported the following:

Mr. McLeroy and others say they’ll push for books to include a more thorough examination of weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

McLeroy believes there are weaknesses because he doesn’t “believe” in evolution.  He is a self-proclaimed creationist.  He can continue making the claim that this debate is about teaching “good science”, but the truth is that he is religiously motivated to have the “strengths and weaknesses” wording as part of the Texas science standards.  One only needs to look into what he has preached at his own home church and check out his own personal website to see that this is the case.

Furthermore, it is not surprising that McLeroy continues to state that he does not support teaching creationism or intelligent design.  He is following the wedge strategy and has basically even stated so (again, from the address to his church in College Station):

So what do we do about our Bible in the intelligent design movement? According to Johnson [reference to Phillip Johnson, author of “Darwin on Trial”], the first thing to do is to get the Bible out of the discussion.

Michael asked:

“Why are you concerned about the survey anyway? What has he done on the job to prompt you to track what he believes in?”

McLeroy, along with other board members, have pushed for textbooks to be adopted that are critical of evolutionary theory.  That’s a red flag that deserves “tracking”, to use Michael’s own wording.  Regardless of whether there were any evidence of McLeroy wanting creationism taught in schools, his personal beliefs DO matter.  The personal beliefs of ANY person involved in politics matter.  Isn’t this largely what we base our votes on for any position?  (By personal beliefs, I am referring to the ones that are related in some way to his job.  It’s not as if I’m interested in his personal beliefs about taking milk or honey in his tea.)  McLeroy’s beliefs do matter because they have the potential to affect how he does his job, and thus the education of the students of our great state.   

Speaking of which, the duties of the state board include the following:

  • As part of its efforts to provide the best possible education to public school students, the Board designates and mandates instruction in the knowledge and skills that are essential to a well-balanced curriculum. The Board approves and determines passing scores for the state-mandated assessment program.

And, some of the duties of the chair of the state board (for those that are curious) are as follows:

  • The chair shall preside at all meetings and perform all other duties prescribed by law, by board rule, or by board direction.
  • The Committee of the Full Board shall be composed of all members of the board, and the chair of the board shall be the chair of the Committee of the Full Board.
  • Ad hoc committees. Ad hoc committees (i.e., task forces) shall be constituted from time to time as directed by the board or by the chair to perform such duties as the board or chair may assign. The personnel and length of service of ad hoc committees shall be designated by the chair unless otherwise directed by the board. No action taken by any ad hoc committee shall be final or binding upon the board unless otherwise directed by the board.
  • Special meetings of the board may be held at times and places as ordered by the chair during a regular meeting, or special meetings may be called by the chair of the board to be held at a time and place the chair shall designate.

Michael then stated:

“Isn’t it true that what you are engaging in which I think is trivial, is all about your concern over how evolution will be taught?”

Yes, of course I’m concerned over how evolution will be taught.  I’m a science teacher.  Why should this come as a surprise?

“The 1990s was suppose to be a break through decade. Genomes from diverse organisms would be collected, sequenced and compared. Through this research up until now, this data was suppose to reveal answers to a lot of questions concerning the Phylogenetic tree. It hasn’t.”

It has, but in true scientific fashion, it has also opened the door to new questions and new roads of discovery.  That’s not a flaw of the scientific method; that’s one of the things that makes it great.

“But when teaching stuff like this, you make sound like there is so much evidence. You certainly wouldn’t teach it as a weakness in evolution, now would you?”

I’m assuming by “it” Michael is referring to genomic research, which he spoke of just prior to this question.  No, I probably would not teach it as a weakness.  I probably wouldn’t teach it as a strength.  I would just teach it (because technically, there are no such things as weaknesses in scientific theories).  Regarding strengths and weaknesses, Michael (and others) might be interested in reading my post directed to Barbara Cargill asking how one is supposed to cover “strengths and weaknesses” of theories.

“One can get an idea of what you believe in considering you have public writings on the internet and the writings of others. I thank you for your reply.”

Yes, indeed, one can learn a lot about someone through their writing.  Yet Michael’s arrogant assumption that he knows what I believe is amusing to me.  What I find hysterical, honestly, is that other than evolution, I probably have much in common with many of the people I debate over intelligent design/creationism/evolution.  My beliefs and opinions don’t categorize me very neatly into any one “box”…hmm, or maybe I’m just one very confused individual.  😉

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6 Responses to “Airtightnoodle–conspiracy theorist extraordinaire!”

  1. maybe I’m just one very confused individual.

    Maybe so. Have there been any court cases resulting from these “academic freedom” bills, (Louisiana), or in places where they previously had a “strengths and weakness” clause in the science standards, (Texas, Arkansas, etc)..?

    If not, then I’d say he’s probably right, and my experience would allow that you’re probably a paranoid antifanatic, who is likely motivated by politics and a culture war, not science, even though you might not even know that.

    If this truly is the case… that is, because that would mean that you are so blinded by righteousness that you can’t even see how foolish that it would be for anyone to try to stop the Discovery Institute from violating the constitution, since they would be wiped out once and for all if they lose again at the high court level.

    So, what about it?… I’d imagine that Louisiana must be chalk-full-o-creationism pushing teachers that are getting served subpoenas to appear in court by Barbara Forest and company…. right?

    If not, then, well, it doesn’t look good for you, and even atheists like me get a feel for these things after a while… lol

    Like saying that the fundies don’t typically deny global warming just because they aren’t part of any “special interest group”.

  2. Maybe so. Have there been any court cases resulting from these “academic freedom” bills, (Louisiana), or in places where they previously had a “strengths and weakness” clause in the science standards, (Texas, Arkansas, etc)..?

    Island, it’s difficult to reply to you since you don’t seem very up-to-date with the history of this entire issue. There has so far only been one “academic freedom” bill passed (in Louisiana, which you mentioned). It passed recently in June 2008. So far to my knowledge, there have not been any lawsuits. Texas did not “previously” have “strengths and weaknesses” in their science standards. It STILL has “strengths and weaknesses” in its standards. The current debate in Texas revolves around whether or not this clause should remain.

    If this truly is the case… that is, because that would mean that you are so blinded by righteousness that you can’t even see how foolish that it would be for anyone to try to stop the Discovery Institute from violating the constitution, since they would be wiped out once and for all if they lose again at the high court level.

    Could you clarify? Are you suggesting that the Discovery Institute should be allowed to continue drafting these bills and get them passed, and then hopefully they’ll be deemed unconstitutional, which will wipe out the DI?

  3. Island, it’s difficult to reply to you since you don’t seem very up-to-date with the history of this entire issue. There has so far only been one “academic freedom” bill passed (in Louisiana, which you mentioned). It passed recently in June 2008. So far to my knowledge, there have not been any lawsuits.

    Gee, it doesn’t look like I’m not up to date to me.

    Texas did not “previously” have “strengths and weaknesses” in their science standards. It STILL has “strengths and weaknesses” in its standards<

    Previous to the current debate, is what “previous” means, but it does not “STILL” include it, so don’t get so critical about what you don’t know about me, and quit pretending like you are the grand authority or something.

    Not that it mattered one way or the other, it doesn’t give them the right to teach creationism in school, and it never will. Personally, I’d be chomping at the bit to put ET against anything that they could legally throw at it.

    Could you clarify? Are you suggesting that the Discovery Institute should be allowed to continue drafting these bills and get them passed, and then hopefully they’ll be deemed unconstitutional, which will wipe out the DI?

    ID lost in the lower court of Dover with this could be overturned in an appeal to the supreme court, but they know that they don’t stand a chance there unless they can get “stronger arguments” past the peer review process first. If they try it again, then ID can be wiped out as a scientific theory in the high court before it ever gets anywhere. That might not kill the DI, but it would be pretty lame.

    IDists truly believe that their “idea” will soon become a valid scientific theory through the normal process, and my understanding from stuff that I got from the Florida attempt, was that this is what they are trying to set-up via “critical analysis”.

    They haven’t done a damned thing wrong yet, it doesn’t give them the right to teach creationism in school, and it never will, so you guys are just playing politics with, and at the expense of, science.

  4. Previous to the current debate, is what “previous” means, but it does not “STILL” include it, so don’t get so critical about what you don’t know about me, and quit pretending like you are the grand authority or something.

    Sigh…Island…let me repeat. Texas STILL has the “strengths and weaknesses” clause in its standards. It has been there for several years. What you are reading in the article you referenced is part of the PROPOSED new standards. The clause was struck from the newly proposed standards. These new standards are not expected to be voted on until March 2009. In fact, if you had bothered to read the article yourself, you would have seen the sentence that states (emphasis in bold mine):

    The current standards (PDF) for high school biology include a requirement that reads, “The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”

  5. Yes I agree, the final draft of the Texas Science Standard struck down the terms “strengths and weakness” but put in the term “limitations” in the new proposal. Which tells you, your red flag theory is not matching up with what you believe. “Critical thinking” textbooks in itself doesn’t mean one is teaching creationism or intelligent design. Even though your trying to assume the board members who are creationists can’t be trusted for following the law, that still in itself isn’t proof that Texas was or would teach creationism.

    One thing to note about the Dover decision, it was only for that locality, meaning it doesn’t affect other states.

    Louisiana’s “critical thinking” bill doesn’t violate any law, in fact if it did, you can bet the ACLU would be in the thick of things if they thought the law was unconstitutional. It’s the same with the “strengths and weakness” terms.

    Unlike creationism, ID does embrace macro-evolution, old earth, humans coming from originally one cell. So it’s quite possible for certain elements of ID to be taught in the public schools.

    The funny part in all this, where I come from parents from all walks of life want to see their kids in a private school or homeschooling rather than a public school. One of the reason is, they feel and rightfully so, the education is better.

    I’m not sure if you ever brought this it up, but a survey was done last May, where teachers all over the United States were asked if they taught creationism or ID in the public school. And there was a good number of them (not an overwhelming number) who did it even though it was against the law. They spent a few hours during the school year according to the survey, teaching strengths of ID or Creationism in a positive way, then trying to disprove it. So students got a dose of all three arguments. Now that is intellectual freedom!

  6. Michael,

    Many people have stated that the purpose of using “strengths and weaknesses” and “academic freedom” language is a way to sneak in ideas like intelligent design and creationism. This isn’t just coming from those opposed to such ideas, but from some of the very proponents.

    Yet you are correct that this does not mean that Texas will teach creationism. The standards don’t say that, after all…neither the current ones nor the proposed revisions.

    The most basic point is that regardless of whether some teachers or groups like the Discovery Institute use it to try to sneak in intelligent design and/or creationism, that language does not belong in science standards. The very idea of “strengths and weaknesses” in relation to scientific theories gives a false understanding of the nature of science itself.

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