Victory in Texas for Science? Not quite…
Earlier this week the Texas state board of education agreed to strike the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” from the current science standards. This move was cheered and celebrated by many scientists and teachers all over the state.
However, on Friday, January 23, the state board looked at the issue again and decided that students should have to evaluate a variety of fossil types and assess the arguments against universal common descent.
On one hand, I feel like saying…ok! Send me some fossils so I can teach that (hey, I’d love to have more fossils for free in my class). But of course, it wouldn’t work like that if this proposal gets passed.
This proposal is completely unscientific and is in the same spirit as the “strengths and weaknesses” clause that was struck down. What is even more amazing to me, personally, is that at least before this creationists/intelligent designer proponents could make the argument that they weren’t singling out evolution–they wanted to teach the strengths and weaknesses of ALL theories (which of course for the most part wasn’t true, but they could still make that argument). This new proposal is blatantly singling out evolution.
Not surprisingly, chairman Don McLeroy, a self-proclaimed creationist, also added the following:
Also added to the proposed standards by board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, is an amendment that directs science teachers and students to “describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.”
Board member Barbara Cargill had a lot to say as well. Recall that I recently contacted Ms. Cargill asking her to explain some of her recent comments in an editorial from a Texas newspaper. She has never responded.
One board member who pushed for the change said that fossil records create scientific evidence against universal common descent — and students should be allowed to study the possibility.
“There are many, many gaps that don’t link species changing and evolving into another species, so we want our students to get all of the science, and we want them to have great, open discussions and learning to respect each other’s opinions,” said Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, a former science teacher.
She scoffed at claims that social conservatives on the 15-member board were just trying to find another way to expose students to creationism — the belief that life, Earth and the universe were created by a supreme being.
“This isn’t about religion. I don’t know how many times we have to say it before people accept it,” she said. “It’s about science. We want to stick to the science.”
As usual, Ms. Cargill seems to assume that teachers who WANT to teach evolution properly are trying to censor their students’ thoughts and opinions. Of course a good teacher wants students to be able to ask questions and respect others’ opinions. However, this move is certainly about religion. It’s not about science, because what these board members are proposing to teach students isn’t backed by the scientific community.
There is still hope, however. The board will not take a final vote on these newly proposed science standards until March.
You can read more about the issue here.