Pharyngula

It was short, mainly taken up with Chris Comers trying to tell her side of the story, and not getting it all in within the time allotted. The main points I got out of it were:

  • It sure sounds like this was a planned expulsion, with pressure being applied for weeks ahead of the incident that prompted it.

  • It’s not entirely clear, but this does not sound like a voluntary resignation. She was sandbagged with a letter from the Bush appointee, Lizzette Reynolds, that opened with a statement that she had committed a firing offense; she was later summoned without warning to a long meeting that grilled her over the “problem”; and she was then summoned to the Human Resources director’s office. Perhaps she signed a resignation letter, but this was not a case where she was given any choice.

  • At the last Texas Education Agency textbook approval session, McLeroy invited the whole board of the Discovery Institute to testify, as well as Eugenie Scott. Scott was scheduled last … and came up to speak at 2am. What a sneaky way to make sure the opposition is ignored!

  • The real bad guy is being exposed: Glenn Branch of the NCSE was openly credited with being the fellow who sent the email that got Comers fired. Phooey. Now everyone will know who the Secret Satan at the NCSE is.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    December 7, 2007

    Meanwhile, Disco complains that the Iowa media aren’t covering the Gonzalez “case” sufficiently, and often aren’t very favorable toward it either.

    All the while they continue to ignore Comer and her plight. Do they have an inkling of what their Logos said about hypocrisy? There’s a bizarre case of nervous blindness coupled with blindsight in them, which manages to see “suppression” of religion where there is merely science, while they flout their own religious precepts without a thought.

    The Comer case certainly deserves publicity, for it looks like the thin end of the wedge (but perhaps not The Wedge), which has been searching for any crack that it can widen.

    Of course, what would you expect from the ignorant McLeroy?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  2. #2 randy
    December 7, 2007

    When I testified in PA against a House Bill that would have supported the Dover School Boards right to require ID in the class room, the Republican run committee pulled the same sort of stunt. Let all the pro-ID folks go and get questioned, then then let me speak. This meant that no pro-science testimony was given in time for the evening news deadlines.

  3. #3 raven
    December 7, 2007

    Well at least the Texas Thought Police didn’t torture Ms. Comers into confessing. Ummm, well they didn’t, did they? A little hard questioning maybe but I’m sure she still has some fingers and toes left.

    This is something straight out of Stalin, the Taliban, or McCarthy. “Are you now or have you ever been an evolution acceptor or science supporter.” IMO, she would have an excellent chance if she sued them for religious discrimination. Not going to see such a clear cut case again until the fundies consolidate power. Or after they do so. Once they set up their theocracy, people won’t be fired, they will just “disappear”.

    100% guarantee that her replacement will be a religious fanatic with a brain the size of a walnut.

  4. #4 Rich
    December 7, 2007

    Pricesless:

    http://www.natcenscied.org/ourstaff.asp

    PS Kristine / witch / burn / etc..

  5. #5 Dustin
    December 7, 2007

    Well at least the Texas Thought Police didn’t torture Ms. Comers into confessing. Ummm, well they didn’t, did they?

    Of course they didn’t. Waterboarding isn’t torture.

  6. #6 SteveM
    December 7, 2007

    “Waterboarding isn’t torture”

    As I recall, this has never been answered. When asked “Is waterboarding torture”, the answer is always, “The US does not torture”, or “Torture is illegal”.

  7. #7 Coragyps
    December 7, 2007

    “Scott was scheduled last … and came up to speak at 2am.”

    Was this in the biology text hearings in 2003? I went, prepared to read my statement, and finally left about 1:00 AM ’cause it was a five-hour drive home. The cre-ID crowd mostly testified before suppertime – while the TV reporters were still there.

  8. #8 zer0
    December 7, 2007

    I don’t want to grow up
    I’m a church-goin kid,
    Believe in God, believe in Hell
    cause I know there is:
    No apes to planes, evolution’ry gains.
    I’m an ignorant creationist.
    I don’t want to grow up,
    cause if I did…
    I couldn’t be a church-goin kid.

  9. #9 Triphesas
    December 7, 2007

    And if you missed it, NPR’s finally uploaded the file, and you can listen to it here.

  10. #10 Ophelia Benson
    December 7, 2007

    Very annoying that it was so short and didn’t even manage to get to any substantive questions. The producers asked someone at the Center for Inquiry to be on the show too, but then called back later and said there wasn’t time. Too bad they didn’t make time. (CFI sponsored the Barbara Forrest talk that was the subject of the dreaded forwarded email message.)

  11. #11 Richard Hendricks
    December 7, 2007

    "The real bad guy is being exposed: Glenn Branch of the NCSE was openly credited with being the fellow who sent the email that got Comers fired. Phooey. Now everyone will know who the Secret Satan at the NCSE is."

    I think you’re misinterpreting, or maybe trying to place blame where it doesn’t really belong. Glenn just forwarded the notice about Barbara coming to Austin to Chris. He didn’t get her fired, that was the Bushite.

  12. #12 PZ Myers
    December 7, 2007

    I know. I was ribbing Branch.

    Too bad they didn’t make time.

    Yes. It’s something about SciFri that’s been bugging me for a while: they’ve only got one hour, but they insist on doing several stories in a half-assed way…and it’s very hit or miss. It means every week I’m guaranteed to spend at least 20 minutes acutely bored at a very poor and uninteresting story, at the expense of one that was really getting interesting.

  13. #13 Ed Darrell
    December 7, 2007

    Well, to be fair, the Disco people didn’t get up to testify much before midnight. And Dr. Scott’s testimony was multiplied by her simply being there, and having her good graces to get intervention from Texas’ Nobel (medicine) laureates with the governor, and getting Steven Weinberg to testify to SBOE.

    In short, Eugenie Scott moved mountains and oceans to save evolution in Texas last time around. Who’d a thunk standing up for good academics would require such a thing?

    On another note: Did you all see this story in the Boston Globe today? A creationist is suing Woods Hole . . .

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/12/07/biologist_fired_for_beliefs_suit_says/

  14. #14 Bill Dauphin
    December 7, 2007

    And if you missed it, NPR’s finally uploaded the file, and you can listen to it here.

    FWIW, SciFri is always available as a free podcast from iTunes (or, IIRC, direct from the NPR website).

    It’s something about SciFri that’s been bugging me for a while: they’ve only got one hour, but they insist on doing several stories in a half-assed way…and it’s very hit or miss.

    Actually, I think the show it 2 hours: The 5 segments podcast for today total over 95 minutes, which I think accounts for 2 hours of airtime once you account for news and station breaks. Then again, I’m not sure every NPR station that carries the show necessarily airs both hours (or airs them both live and consecutively, anyway).

    To your point, though, the segments do seem to generally run from roughly 10 to roughly 30 minutes. The piece on the Comer story clocks in at 12:29… but today’s show also included two other not-entirely-unrelated topics (a segment titled “Life on Earth May Have Begun In Between Rocks” and a review of a new biography of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), so the total airtime spent on stuff that would infuriate creos was about 45 minutes. Mind you, I haven’t listened to any of it yet, so I can’t really comment on its level of half-assedness.

  15. #15 Christianjb
    December 7, 2007

    Bunch of crooks and lackeys.

    Is there an organized plan in place yet to depose these nuts?

  16. #16 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    December 7, 2007

    If memory serves me Texas is the second most influential state in the selection of secondary school textbooks, so potentially the creationist political movement could influence the content of biology texts all over the country. Publishers are confronted with problems if science standards in Texas demand that creationist propaganda be included or evolutionary biology be diluted, or both.

    So this is a national issue, not just a tempest in the TEA pot. As such, it might be effective and useful to deluge the TEA itself and their political protectors with appropriate and unambiguous criticism and protest at this obvious ploy to ‘stack the deck’ in favor of their theocratic subversion.

    Every parent in the country with children in secondary school has an obligation and a right to express their dismay and opposition to this crass attempt to railroad creationist codswaddle into their science curricula.

  17. #17 Lana
    December 7, 2007

    I was struck by how she seemed like such a sweet Grandma. How could anyone be so mean to her? She seemed perplexed herself – not angry at the yahoos, but just perplexed.

  18. #18 Thadd
    December 7, 2007

    It would definitely have been nice to have it longer, but at least she got out there to say something. Maybe someone with a blog could get an interview of her, Skepchick would be good for it, but Rebbecca is apparently recording other things right now.

  19. #19 truth machine
    December 7, 2007

    I think you’re misinterpreting, or maybe trying to place blame where it doesn’t really belong. Glenn just forwarded the notice about Barbara coming to Austin to Chris. He didn’t get her fired, that was the Bushite.

    Uh, yeah, sure, PZ didn’t know that.

    Some people never stop to think that maybe it’s themselves who are misinterpreting, even when all the evidence points to that.

  20. #20 Azkyroth
    December 7, 2007

    Some people never stop to think that maybe it’s themselves who are misinterpreting, even when all the evidence points to that.

    Speaking of which…

    truth machine, sic!

  21. #21 NelC
    December 7, 2007

    And some people never stop to think that they’re being unpleasant for no very good reason. People are funny like that.

  22. #22 Keanus
    December 7, 2007

    As for Texas being the second most influential state on text books content, it may be the most influential. To sell a text book and its related supplements (lab manual, teachers edition, test, etc., etc.) one needs approval of the Texas BOE. And in any given adoption cycle for HS biology, it will approve no more than five text books. Approval becomes a license to sell–and mint money. Since Texas enrolls something approaching 10% of the public school students in the country, No major publisher willingly ignores what Texas wants. But to offer one text for Texas and another for the rest of the US doubles the fixed costs for the text (and supplements) making it prohibitively expensive. Texas know-nothings have known this since the 1950’s and exploited it to the fullest. Only in recent years has the Texas science curriculum allowed any evolution in the texts it’s adopted, a fact the McLeroy, Reynolds, and their acolytes would like to change.

    Actually I think McLeroy has potential working for Vladimir Putin. He’s displayed all the right skills so far–intimidation, thuggery, ignorance, the belief in fiction–so his future in Moscow could be assured.

  23. #23 Bobby
    December 7, 2007
    “Waterboarding isn’t torture”

    As I recall, this has never been answered.

    According to what I’ve read (but can’t personally vouch for), waterboarding was the reason a number of Japanese were put on trial for war crimes after WWII, and much more recently a Texas law enforcement officer got sent to prison for 10 years for using it.

  24. #24 Azkyroth
    December 7, 2007

    And some people never stop to think that they’re being unpleasant for no very good reason. People are funny like that.

    Actually, for some people the comment above that quoted is inordinately civil.

  25. #25 Robert
    December 7, 2007

    Does Chris Comer have any legal options? I really hope that she is able to take some legal action agains’t these bozos, as they deserve to get their hat handed to them. This is outrageous. I live in Texas, and it is very sad to see this as a reflection of our state, but then has been the trend here for some time.

  26. #26 Richard Hendricks
    December 8, 2007

    PZ, sorry about misinterpreting your tongue-in-cheek comments. I was getting the impression that some had gone off on a crusade against Glenn, and wanted to forestall it. I swear, just like TV adds 10 pounds, the Internet takes off 20 IQ points. :)

    For those of us who are Texans, there are things you can do. Donate money to:

    National Center for Science Education (Joined as a Lifetime member earlier this year)
    Texas Citizens for Science
    Texas Freedom Network
    And other Seperation of Church/State organizations such as ACLU, Americans United for Seperation of Church/State, etc.

    If you can’t donate, at least sign up for the mailing lists, and be ready to offer support if needed!

  27. #27 Scott Hatfield, OM
    December 8, 2007

    Phooey. Now everyone will know who the Secret Satan at the NCSE is.

    Being Satan is like holding the ball. Even PZ Mwahaha can’t be Satan all the time.+

  28. #28 SEF
    December 8, 2007

    NB Secret Satan = Secret Santa
    There can be lots of them, simultaneously.

  29. #29 Marion Delgado
    December 8, 2007

    The blindness comment above reminded me of this.

    It used to annoy me that the very dumbest (invariably) trolls would accuse me and others (on science forums and blogs) of “know-it-all-ness” but I didn’t really grasp what was going on. Especially since I would have just been thinking that exact thing about them “what, are they blind?”

    First, to them, you add up all your “data” – including blatant mistakes and lies that have been passed on to you – and that’s the sum total of your knowledge. To me, you subtract all that from what you really know. A person who knows 1 fact and believes 1 falsehood to me knows less than a person who only knows the same 1 fact.

    Second, going against the grain of the sum total of human knowledge, constantly, as various deniers do, is a tremendous handicap, and logically entails the corruption of a lot of things you’d otherwise understand.

    Third, you’re dealing with people who think they’re very well-versed, indeed, because the balloon of knowledge that constantly impinges on the expertise of others and makes them aware of ever greater areas of ignorance, is very small for them, they’re sort of master of all they survey.

    Fourth is the self-imposed blindness, aka denial, and you are threatening that.

    So I would find myself saying, no, you obviously don’t know (net) anything about that … or that … or that .. or that … and the truth wasn’t that I was an expert on everything, but that anyone with even a modicum of genuine scientific training would see the same ignorance of basic stuff – the atmosphere mixes; you can’t apply the 2nd law of thermodynamics unless you discuss the whole affected system; immunization is not a fraud; transitional fossils have been found all the time. And they’d think who is this jerk, my knowledge of phlogiston is the envy of my pub-mates.

    So you have to convey the “unknown unknowns to them, not based on your own understanding, necessarily, but because you’ve followed the trail of information and understanding to enormous areas of uncertainty. Compared to that, the things they call uncertain seem very solid, so you have to also convey that the unknowns known to the masses get a little less unknown every year. I think this is why people who use the f word w/r/t communicating about science are counseling patience.

  30. #30 Brandon
    December 8, 2007

    Apparently, we here in Florida can’t stand by and let Texas hog the spotlight. A Florida Dept. of Education official was reprimanded for using her position to promote a personal message raving against evolution. Gotta love it!
    http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=339

  31. #31 Texas
    December 8, 2007

    Comer did resign in lieu of termination; the official HR code for exactly that case was used in the paperwork. Interestingly enough, another person in her curriculum section also left at the same time with the same code used.

    But they would never use the word “putsch” — that’s a furriner word.

  32. #32 SEF
    December 8, 2007

    Interestingly enough, another person in her curriculum section also left at the same time with the same code used.

    Who was that? This is sounding like quite a serious purge of anyone who has the remotest clue about science (ie those dangerous intellectuals) so that the religious nutters can take over and destroy the science standards unopposed.

  33. #33 Mold
    December 8, 2007

    Hi,

    This is actually ongoing within the civil service of many state governments. Terminate the employees with resumes that don’t list crap colleges, Dale Carnegie courses as academic, and might have a career not based on the spoils system.

    One super used to brag that they graduated from StateU. Another super mentioned that so did 15,000 other people. Guess which on is the Christianist.

  34. #34 raven
    December 8, 2007

    Comer did resign in lieu of termination; the official HR code for exactly that case was used in the paperwork.

    This is one of the clearest cases of religious discrimination anyone will ever see. A court case would be an easy victory IMO.

    Only 2 purged? I’m sure the creos are just getting started. Before comrade McLeroy is through, there will be enough to staff a Gulag camp somewhere in Siberia.

  35. #35 Steven Levery
    December 8, 2007

    “I’m sure the creos are just getting started.”

    Comer’s forced resignation demonstrates clearly that anti-Evolution advocates can dress up their arguments with all the superficial trappings of scientific inquiry, but in reality they have no faith at all they can ever prevail in a rational scientific debate. Early indoctrination of children, and hardball political tactics like getting competent people fired from influential posts, are the only weapons they have, and they know it.

    Unfortunately, by now we know we can’t just sit back and expect that evidence and common sense will naturally prevail against idiocy–not without a fight it won’t….

  36. #36 raven
    December 8, 2007

    but in reality they have no faith at all they can ever prevail in a rational scientific debate.

    They will eventually lose, just like the flat earthers did. No matter how many smart people you fire, no matter how many get sent to Siberia, no matter how many lies you tell, reality is what it is.

    The only question is whether this occurs before or after they have destroyed the USA. Toynbee pointed out that 18 of 22 civilizations decayed from within. The American empire will fall someday, the clowns holding the knife might just be religious bigots with a brain the size of a walnut and the personality of a cobra.

  37. #37 MPW
    December 9, 2007

    “Comer did resign in lieu of termination; the official HR code for exactly that case was used in the paperwork. Interestingly enough, another person in her curriculum section also left at the same time with the same code used.”

    Texas, where are you getting this info? And where can we find confirmation/additional info?

  38. #38 Michael Bo
    December 12, 2007

    I guess the US will have to get acquainted with the term “berufsverbot”. Only in your case it will be on religious grounds, not political ones. Although I am not too sure that is a distinction in the US. They seem to melt together rather eerily.

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