Pharyngula

The battle rages on in Texas

The Texas State Board of Education is holding hearings right now on their science standards, and by all reports it is an embarrassment to the state: on the one side, we have the educated teachers and scientists, and on the other, a coterie of ignorant ideologues. Martin has been attending the meetings (it doesn’t sound like much fun), and he cuts to the heart of the creationist strategy:

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.

I suppose you could argue that “strengths and weaknesses” is a smart slogan to deploy when the evolution side has all the strengths, and the creationist side has nothing but weaknesses. It’s a way to pretend that they’ve earned a place in the curriculum, because the bad science is currently underrepresented…if you think the role of science education is to toss every failed idea in history at students.

Comments

  1. #1 Richard Wolford
    November 20, 2008

    I wonder if they are also going to point out that this opens the door to point out the weaknesses in Calculus? I mean, certainly a group of high school kids can discuss all of the problems with the Theory of Limits, unlike those snooty, elite mathematicians and their unrelenting dogmatic worship of Newton.

    /snark

  2. #2 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 20, 2008

    Teach the strengths and weaknesses of Germ theory and Sin causes your illness.

  3. #3 Michael
    November 20, 2008

    I still have to chuckle at the new watchword, “academic freedom.” It says something so dismissive and obtuse just in the wording. What I hear is a student saying “teacher, it is my academic freedom to dismiss the theory of evolution and to refuse to answer the questions on this test pertaining to that subject.” The teacher in this case has the ‘academic freedom’ to fail that student’s test based on their non-answers. As a student you don’t get the choice of accepting or dismissing certain concepts simply because you don’t agree with them or understand them. If you are learning genetics, you can’t just decide that you want to put it into context of the existence of unicorns, simply because you feel you think you have the freedom to do so.

  4. #4 Djudge
    November 20, 2008

    By the way, Martin is still caught up in the lawsuit, as mentioned earlier on this blog. You can help him out by chipping in.
    http://thisisjustinsane.blogspot.com/
    Thanks

  5. #5 Tulse
    November 20, 2008

    Teach the strengths and weaknesses of Germ theory and Sin causes your illness.

    There are, of course, various Christian sects that would argue precisely that, and presumably would welcome such curriculum change in Texas.

  6. #6 Les Lane
    November 20, 2008

    Nebraska Citizens for Science maintains a collection of annotated “Texas articles” (reverse chronological order) along with pages on the more outrageous board members:

    http://www.nebscience.org/texas2.html

  7. #7 Sigmund
    November 20, 2008

    I suspect that when you have a situation where about 25% of teachers currently teach creationism (according to the Berkman paper) the actual standards themselves are not the major issue. The best standards in the world are not going to improve things unless you address the underlying problem of incompetent teachers.

  8. #8 Godless Woman
    November 20, 2008

    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.

    And the religious side is thinking “bulls@!t that is our job!”

  9. #9 Nerd of Redhead
    November 20, 2008

    I think if they want to show evidence against evolution, they also ought to show evidence against god. Fair is fair.

  10. #10 Tophe
    November 20, 2008

    If the IDiots get anywhere with this tactic then perhaps the pro-science side should fight fire with fire and use “academic freedom” to point out all the errors and inconsistencies in the buy-bull.

  11. #11 ED
    November 20, 2008

    If any creation story is taught in a classroom, other religions with different creation stories should file a petition to have their creation story included in the classroom. Being required to teach ten different creation stories, should convince any child in the classroom that they are all bovine excrement.

  12. #12 Sundar
    November 20, 2008

    PZ, I am not sure if you have already discussed Stu Haufmann on your blog. Any comments on his latest interview on Salon?
    http://www.salon.com/env/atoms_eden/2008/11/19/stuart_kauffman/

  13. #13 woody
    November 20, 2008

    Was it Arthur C. Clarke who famously said that, in a sufficiently technologically advanced society, it was impossible to distinguish between technology and magic?

    Both science and religion come to an apoeria, finally: where did it all begin? The difference between science and magic is that science says: well, we don’t really know but there are some pretty strong suggestionsm, and we’re looking for more answers, and there’s more data, but it’s not all that clear, yet, so we continue looking.

    The magicians say “God.”

    And to a crowd of ‘ignorant peasants’–that is, anyone without an advanced degree in one of the component parts of the technological culture, or at least training in some critical disciplinary thinking–bemused by the incredible splendor of it all, and their own insignificance in it, “God” is the answer they’ll ALWAYS gravitate toward, cuz they don’t have to think about it…

  14. #14 Peter Hearty
    November 20, 2008

    Surely the counter to this academic freedom argument, is that academic freedom is intended to protect those involved in scholarly debate and scientific research who may be exploring unpopular or contentious points of view? In science, academic freedom is expressed via the peer review process. That is where the scientific debate takes place – in journals and at conferences, and that is where creationists should be presenting their “research” if they have any.

    Far from being an attempt to uphold academic freedom, what they are currently doing is subverting the scientific process. They’re trying to bypass academic debate by taking their case, not to a scientific peer community, but to schoolchildren.

    This is not academic freedom. It is academic fraud.

  15. #15 Richard Wolford
    November 20, 2008

    As just another of my random thoughts, I realized that I forgot when it was mandated that science classes become classes in debate. I must have missed the bus when school boards changed science from “conclusions based on evidence” to “arguments from loudmouths”. Not that some scientists aren’t loudmouths, but at least they shout evidence and not ideology.

  16. #16 BobC
    November 20, 2008

    Would it be correct to say evolution has zero weaknesses? Biologists will never know every single detail about the history of life, and I assume biologists disagree about some of the minor details of evolution. Are these weaknesses? I don’t think so. I think it’s very dishonest to call research opportunities and disagreements “weaknesses”.

    It’s too bad about Texas. Even if the scientists and science teachers win this battle, I bet most of the students in that state are too brainwashed to accept reality, no matter how good their biology teacher is.

  17. #17 Christie
    November 20, 2008

    Creation belongs in philosophy discussions, not science ones. I can’t believe they won’t listen to – what was it, 98%, 99% of Texas biology teachers – who said that evolution is right? I mean, really? 49% of Californian’s didn’t want to ban gay marriage, but 1% of the texas bio professionals get to decide what happens with science? Seriously? Academic freedom my ass. If you want ‘academic freedom’ provide a high-school level comparative religion course that includes ID or whatnot as well as other religious perspectives on the origins of life.

  18. #18 Janothar
    November 20, 2008

    BobC, I think it’s a bad idea to write off the students. The problem is that education standards in this country have fallen apart. My view is that high school, though a necessary battle, isn’t the one where we can win this fight. What we need to focus on is elementary school curriculum: tighten it up and introduce more hands-on science and critical/logical thinking tasks. The religionists talk about getting them while they’re young, we need to think that way too.

  19. #19 Rev. BigDumbChimp, Kot, OM
    November 20, 2008

    It’s ridiculous. And this is a repeat of what’s been said a thousand times before but….

    High School science classes are (almost always) not the place where science questions are sussed out and new info is added to the scientific consensus. Science class is about teaching the current scientific consensus to the students. Teaching the best science available to prepare them for moving forward to college or whatever.

    ID and Creationism are not only not the best science available, they are not science. It has no place in the classroom. If the ID people want it to be then they should start publishing and providing the research for it to take the place as the scientific consensus.

    It’s so blatantly fucking obvious that even to the ID people it isn’t about the science, it’s about the theology. Sneaking it in under the costume of science is just a ploy.

    /headdesk
    /headdesk
    /headdesk
    /headdesk
    /headdesk
    /hammer to skull
    /headdesk
    /hammer to skull
    /headdesk
    /headdesk

  20. #20 Sastra
    November 20, 2008

    The creationists think they are being clever, and using the liberal’s own tactics against them, like in judo. You’re in favor of critical thinking? We’ll redefine the Argument from Ignorance as critical thinking. You’re in favor of democracy and the peer review process? We’ll reframe the concept of scientific peers into “we the people,” and act as if science is determined by popular vote. You believe that Christian fundamentalism is narrow and dogmatic? We’ll promote creationism as its own world view and “way of knowing” — one which deserves just as much respect as other world views.

    This is nothing new to them. How else can they insist that believing in God is a matter of “accepting that there are things out there you don’t know” and deciding to believe something because you want it to be true is a way of “telling yourself that you’re not the center of the universe.” They’ve been living in Opposite Land for a while.

  21. #21 abb3w
    November 20, 2008

    COUNTERMEME:

    Academic Freedom demands Professional Responsibility.

  22. #22 Glen Davidson
    November 20, 2008

    Why not just teach all of the weaknesses of science, its assumptions and inability to get to some “certain truth”?

    After all, those are about the only “weaknesses” in evolutionary theory–but it’s true of all science, and hell, we wouldn’t want to actually teach science when we can discuss abstract objections to it.

    Following up on others, it’s not clear that evolutionary theory has “weaknesses” in the context of scientific theory. There is much yet to be explained, as is true of stellar dynamics, but what “weaknesses” in physics are behind any of the remaining research projects in stellar dynamics? Likewise, while we would like to know more about the evolution of flagella, does anyone know of any actual weaknesses behind the remaining lacunae?

    As far as I can tell, the inherent lack of total knowledge in humans is what is being called “weaknesses” in evolutionary theory. That’s bullshit, if not unexpected from those constant liars.

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

  23. #23 BobC
    November 20, 2008

    The religionists talk about getting them while they’re young, we need to think that way too.

    I totally agree. I would be in favor of teaching evolution in First Grade, or even earlier if a parent could do it. When I was in First Grade (Catholic school) I was taught people were magically created in the image of Mr. God. I wish I was taught instead that we developed from other animals. Imagine learning the truth at a very young age instead of a bunch of lies.

  24. #24 Tim H
    November 20, 2008

    I don’t understand why Texas has so much clout in the texbook market. (Which is the main reason the rest of the nation is sweating this, of course.)
    Yes, Texas is the second-most populus state, but California is #1 and NY is #3. Let’s go by # of congressmen:

    CA 53
    TX 32
    NY 29
    FL 25
    PA 19
    IL 19
    OH 18
    (This is from memory of electoral vote maps, subtracting the 2 senators from each. If I screwed up, feel free to correct me.)

    Just going from the last couple elections, I see 32 wingnut votes, 62 tossup, and 101 liberal. If CA, NY, and IL would get together, Texas wouldn’t have any clout. There’s a solution for you.

  25. #25 Janothar
    November 20, 2008

    I would be in favor of teaching evolution in First Grade, or even earlier if a parent could do it.

    Exactly. Or even if not the specific theory, teaching kids to be skeptics. There’s NOTHING that young children seem to like better than being able to prove an adult wrong. (In my limited experience, at least.) Do something like teaching critical thought by making up assignments for them that involve showing that something that you (the teacher) tell them is wrong. Also gives them a nice healthy distrust of authority figures…perhaps it can be rolled into a civics class?

  26. #26 E.V.
    November 20, 2008

    So Haufmann’s take on spirituality is determining long term consequences from a Secular Humanist point of view?
    Determining self purpose and ascribing value= God?
    How is this new thought?

    For our Creationist friends, Secular Humanism = Atheism= evil.
    Getting the godists to let go of a supernatural anthropomorphic god for a touchy feely “we all matter because we’re part of the cosmos so therefore the universe has meaning and that, in effect, is God” is sublimely naive as it underestimates the malevolence and credulity of those who will always cling to a wish-granting and vengeful personal god who promises a conscious life beyond this very difficult material existence (even though their concept of an afterlife is is predicated on a perpetual material existence without messes, disease, conflict, pests and unwanted body functions).

  27. #27 E.V.
    November 20, 2008

    #26 was in response to #12 clickback

  28. #28 abb3w
    November 20, 2008

    BobC: Would it be correct to say evolution has zero weaknesses?

    “Strengths and Weaknesses” for a hypothesis can only be taken in reference to an alternative hypothesis. Science uses the null hypothesis as the default alternative, but I don’t think this is the alternative S&W proponents have in mind.

  29. #29 Vidar
    November 20, 2008

    Maybe a few pastafarians will dispatch a representative of their faith in order to protect their academic freedom to teach the FSM-centric view of the universe. Pastafarians have charts, and their creation story is more coherent then anything the IDiots came up with.

  30. #30 abb3w
    November 20, 2008

    Glen Davidson: Why not just teach all of the weaknesses of science, its assumptions and inability to get to some “certain truth”?

    Because the bulk of the assumptions are mathematical (minimally, Wolfram’s and the ZF axioms), and the math associated is not part of the current curriculum. I think it should be; it’s very useful for the foundations of computer science. However, I’m a kook, so my opinion doesn’t count for much.

    The only assumption necessary and sufficient for science which is not purely mathematical is “Reality and Experience (IE, evidence) are relateable by some rules allowing inference”.

  31. #31 Matt Heath
    November 20, 2008

    High School science classes are (almost always) not the place where science questions are sussed out and new info is added to the scientific consensus. Science class is about teaching the current scientific consensus to the students

    This is a point that needs sticking on. There are plenty of legitimate scientific controversies but I can’t think of one of them that ought to be taught at secondary school. If professional scientists don’t have a clear, agreed picture of something it’s just too hard for secondary pupils. “Teach the controversy/strengths and weaknesses” wouldn’t make sense even for an unfucktarded idea.

    Actually, maybe it’s worth pretending there is a real controversy. Claim that any role that magical beings have in the variety of life is an advanced topic like the nature of dark matter, and that you need to dumb down the curriculum, so kids can understand, by just teaching the natural parts of natural science. ;)

  32. #32 Chris Davis
    November 20, 2008

    This is really just the recurrent cry for more ‘open mindedness’ from those whose minds have already opened so far as to allow their brains to fall out.

  33. #33 StirThePot
    November 20, 2008

    Your all just upset because you don’t want kids to know that there is no scientific consensus about evolution and that kids may realize that god did have a role in our creation.

    Your Atheist agenda will not pass in Texas!

  34. #34 Jello
    November 20, 2008

    I.D has no place in education anywhere, with the exception of discussions on pre-Darwinian philosophy. The modern incarnation does not even qualify as a worldview, it is a Political PR campaign envisioned by a religiously motivated lobbying group in their endless war against “liberals”. It should be barred from public schools on the mere grounds that it would potentially politicize the public education system between those teachers that support sound science and those who don’t. If we could explain to parents that this kind of divisive conflict is what is at stake given what it did to the federal government I think support for Pro-ID candidates would fall significantly.

  35. #35 Rev. BigDumbChimp, Kot, OM
    November 20, 2008

    Your all just upset because you don’t want kids to know that there is no scientific consensus about evolution and that kids may realize that god did have a role in our creation.

    Your Atheist agenda will not pass in Texas!

    rile

  36. #36 abb3w
    November 20, 2008

    Rev. BigDumbChimp, Kot, OM: Science class is about teaching the current scientific consensus to the students.

    Not 100% correct. Science class is both about teaching the formal Methodology of science (gathering evidence, form conjectures about relationships in evidence, form hypothesis using conjecture to describe evidence, competitively test hypotheses to determine the best, which then gets called “theory”), as well as the current results of that methodology.

    StirThePot Your all just upset because you don’t want kids to know that there is no scientific consensus about evolution

    Perhaps you missed the 98% consensus in the 45% self-selected response poll mentioned a few days back? Self-selected polls are most likely to pick up extreme views very easily, which tends to exaggerate the level of controversy; so, Evolution is probably less controversial than that.

    StirThePot kids may realize that god did have a role in our creation

    This proposition is less probable as inference from present evidence than its refutation.

    StirThePot Your Atheist agenda will not pass in Texas!

    Troll rating: 0.3/10; you’re not even trying.

    Jello I.D has no place in education anywhere, with the exception of discussions on pre-Darwinian philosophy.

    I dunno; it might have a place in a discussion of engineering. Of course, this requires a good understanding of how design operates, which ID proponents generally lack. Technological design is itself a process of competitive selection of variations — which is to say, evolutionary; see historian George Basalla’s book “The Evolution of Technology” for elucidation. The fundamental difference between blind evolution and deliberate design is the latter has a specific element of purpose (or “agency” in philosophy jargon). ID does not have any explicit evidence to support a claim of purpose, or even at present explicit purpose to claim. Until it does: no evidence, no purpose, no point, no theory, no Science, NO COOKIE!

  37. #37 Shamar
    November 20, 2008

    I’m in Texas (I’m currently a student at Texas A&M University), and this is just embarrassing! I hate it every time I see religious nutjobs trying to put non-science in a science classroom. It really pisses me off!

  38. #38 SteveM
    November 20, 2008

    Was it Arthur C. Clarke who famously said that, in a sufficiently technologically advanced society, it was impossible to distinguish between technology and magic?

    Not quite. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. I would expect that a “sufficiently advanced society” should be able to tell the difference. That is, the society that produces the advanced technology would know that it is technology. It would only appear to be magic to a less advanced society.

  39. #39 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 20, 2008

    Not 100% correct. Science class is both about teaching the formal Methodology of science (gathering evidence, form conjectures about relationships in evidence, form hypothesis using conjecture to describe evidence, competitively test hypotheses to determine the best, which then gets called “theory”), as well as the current results of that methodology.

    Yes of course, I didn’t say it wasn’t.

  40. #40 TomS
    November 20, 2008

    If you really want to get a reaction against “strengths and weaknesses” or “academic freedom”, I’d suggest applying that to … not to fancy-shmancy stuff like calculus …

    Let’s have freedom for alternative football in the schools.

    All too long have the dogmatists about football insisted that the team with the highest score is the winner.

  41. #41 Steve
    November 20, 2008

    I wonder if they are also going to point out that this opens the door to point out the weaknesses in Calculus? I mean, certainly a group of high school kids can discuss all of the problems with the Theory of Limits, unlike those snooty, elite mathematicians and their unrelenting dogmatic worship of Newton.

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz you apostate.

  42. #42 J-Dog
    November 20, 2008

    Davey Crockett didn’t die in the damn Alamo, just so’s Teh Stoopids could take over teachin’ down there in Texas.

    Stand Up For Texas – throw the DI elitist bums out.

  43. #43 Allen N
    November 20, 2008

    I believe in Texas, the state sets the curriculum and text selection. If that is the case, then any publisher would lose a huge amount of sales if they did not bow to the demands of the creotards.

    As a long time educator, it always amazes me to see people who don’t know Jack Shit ( or his sister, Pisa) about education making decisions the have profound effects on it. It mirrors an underlying belief that (a) anyone can teach and (b) anyone who might be classified as an “intellectual” is not to be trusted – they are not like us “real” folks.

  44. #44 CJO
    November 20, 2008

    Your all just upset because you don’t want kids to know that there is no scientific consensus about evolution and that kids may realize that god did have a role in our creation.

    Do all you insipid godbotherers have to be fucking illiterate too? It’s “you’re.” You. Are.

    And the tortured syntax! The goggles, they do nothing! I guess you’re right though: we don’t want kids to know that kids may realize that god did have a role. Or something.

    I suppose this is an example of the fine work they’re doing in Texas schools. Thanks for the object lesson in the crap we’re up against.

  45. #45 tresmal
    November 20, 2008

    How’s this for a compromise? The creationists provide a list of all the “weaknesses” They want taught. That list is then vetted by a qualified scientific panel (does anybody want bad science taught in our schools?) Any “weakness” that passed this review as scientifically valid could be added to the curriculum of any school district that wanted to do so. For the sake of transparency and accountability for each rejected item there would be a simple easy to understand explanation for the rejection. And to further help keep things on the up and up, this list of explanations would be sent to every household in Texas, so everybody feels like they’re in the loop. Call me a starry eyed idealist, if you must, but I’m all for building bridges instead of walls.

  46. #46 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 20, 2008

    I’m looking for a linguist who can help me with translation–
    For it seems two different languages are used within this nation;
    Much more tricky than Bulgarian, more difficult than Greek
    Is the twisted form of English that Creationists now speak.

    [...]
    When “academic freedom” means that teachers have to lie
    And “scientific evidence” comes straight from God on high,
    “Intelligent”, “complexity” and most egregious, “theory”
    Are transmogrified to such degree it makes my brain grow weary,
    I know there must be something I can do to ease my pain
    So I’m looking for a linguist, so that I can start to train.
    [...]

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2008/03/translating-from-creationist-to-english.html

    a re-run, but appropriate.

  47. #47 Richard Wolford
    November 20, 2008

    @Steve #41

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz you apostate.

    FATWAH!

  48. #48 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 20, 2008

    I’m pretty sure that StirThePot is intentional poe bent on Rilage.

    the name sort of gives it away.

  49. #49 H.H.
    November 20, 2008

    The easiest way to expose someone calling for the teaching of evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses” as a dishonest ideologue is to simple ask them what those strengths are. Oh, they have a laundry list of discredited creationist “weaknesses,” but they stammer and stutter and generally reveal themselves to be complete ignoramuses when asked to provide the strong evidence that has managed to convince 99.9% of working scientists of the validity of the theory of evolution. They can’t do it. And even if they could, they won’t, because it would totally undermine the idea that a legitimate controversy exists.

  50. #50 Brett
    November 20, 2008

    I attended the SBOE meeting, and I was struck by how well the board listened to experts. They readily took the advice of real estate and finance experts in one agenda item. In another agenda item, they reviewed and approved mathematics standards clearly drafted by knowlegeable practitioners.

    YET, when it came to the science agenda, members of the board refused expert opinion time and again. It was unbelievable. As the night wore on, it became increasingly obvious that this issue was never about science.

  51. #51 toucantoad
    November 20, 2008

    I just returned from testifying at the SBOE meeting, as I did in 2003 on the textbook issue. I followed by a few from Dr. Schafersman (Tex. Citizens for Sci) and the young Houston Independent School District teacher. The young teacher was beaned by Austin SBOE member Mercer with the Piltdown hoax and Haeckle’s embryos. I though briefly about discarding my prepared remarks and jumping Mercer about his apparent implication that school students might have exposed the Piltdown hoax instead of the scientists practicing science who did expose it. And, of course, there are a thousand other things dishonest about that subject coming up in these hearings, but no one ever acused creationist board members of integrity on this subject.
    I elected not to abandon my notes, and that is my point in this comment. Many of us (faculty, as in my case, and others) are not always good in fast-time debate. By fourteen hours after leaving the hearing I had imagined a wonderful set of responses to Mercer, but I probably would not have been nearly as effective in real time.
    More younger people, firebrands like we see commenting on Pharyngula, and fewer graybeards like me might have scored better at the hearings.

  52. #52 raven
    November 20, 2008

    This is a done deal, a kangaroo hearing. What is the point of being a christofascist if one can’t persecute someone or something? The creobos will ram through whatever they want and forget reality, science, and the law.

    Speaking of which, we all know that teaching xian cult mythology in public schools is illegal and there are court cases stretching back decades.

    Might just as well start gearing up for the inevitable Dover II court case. They can mob up sometimes and screw up one thing or another in the name of their cults. In a court of law, they invariably come across looking like what they are, brain dead religious fanatics and fascists.

  53. #53 Moses
    November 20, 2008

    Posted by: StirThePot | November 20, 2008 11:40 AM

    Your all just upset because you don’t want kids to know that there is no scientific consensus about evolution and that kids may realize that god did have a role in our creation.

    Your Atheist agenda will not pass in Texas!

    When I used to be in the military, I read a little rhyme on the wall of the latrine:

    Here I sit
    My buns a’ flexin
    Just gave birth
    To another Texan…

    I think it was in response to the overwhelming, and unearned, arrogance we found in so many Texas recruits and soldiers. It wasn’t all of them, mostly the rural ones. But, as a sub-population, they were the biggest assholes in the military. Bar none. Even the southern “the South will Rise Again!” rednecks took a distant second.

    So, for me, every-time Texas educational politics comes to the forefront, that rhyme pops back into my head. Because I see that dynamic of Texas-sized arrogance coupled with Texas-sized stupidity playing itself out with these ignorant, education-destroying creationists. Again. And again. And again.

    Thank god I actually know Texans who aren’t like that. Thank god I see they are embarrassed by, if not out-right hate, those caricature Texans and show embarrassment over their intellectually-barren and socially-regressive activities.

  54. #54 gazza
    November 20, 2008

    I’m thousands of miles from this in the UK. But how does the press nationally in the US and in Texas play this? And the TV news reports?

  55. #55 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    November 20, 2008

    I’m thousands of miles from this in the UK. But how does the press nationally in the US and in Texas play this? And the TV news reports?

    I’m not in Texas but it’s not a main story by any means. I’ll occasionally see something on it outside of science / religion websites.

  56. #57 Glen Davidson
    November 20, 2008

    I’m thousands of miles from this in the UK. But how does the press nationally in the US and in Texas play this? And the TV news reports?

    Nationally, it plays little in the media. In Texas? I don’t know, little articles and editorials from Texas show up on internet news sources, but as a non-Texan I’d say that it doesn’t appear to be a huge story there either. Someone from Texas would know rather better, though.

    The fact is that this isn’t all that important even in the world of ID vs. evolution. I believe that the fight is whether or not to keep the “teach the weaknesses” language that previously existed–but which was not implemented very often. Of course the “teach the weaknesses” BS should go, yet it’s no Dover.

    I mean, I don’t wish to minimize the fact that it’s presumably unconstitutional and an attempt to teach ID (since ID only knows how to cavil about evolution), still it apparently hasn’t affected teaching in Texas all that much. The real problem in Texas is far more widespread throughout the US, which is that many teachers simply leave evolution out of their instruction.

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

  57. #58 Kel
    November 20, 2008

    that whole “strengths and weaknesses” is a good publicity tactic tbh. Of course there are strengths and weaknesses associated with all science, and evolution is no exception. But it’s a great tactic to get people to think that evolution isn’t “factual” by highlighting it’s flaws, and let them think that their idiot creation story is better.

  58. #59 Wendee Holtcamp
    November 20, 2008

    I was there and testified. I posted my testimony and my observations at my blog. I changed my planned testimony at the hearing because I got so FED UP with their absolute lies and I called them out on them. It riled Chair McLeroy enough that he literally stopped me, and told me I could not use the word lies. I was taken aback and asked, are you serious?! Someone else pointed out that may be a violation of my free speech. My testimony was given as a Christian with evolution bioloigy advanced degrees and it was absoilutely refreshing to see about 95% of the people there pro-science, including several clergy members. This contrasted to the 2003 textbook hearings which was much more mixed creationist vs pro-science. This was the paragraph I added:

    Despite what the creationist members of the Board say – Ms Lowe, Ms Leo, Ms Cargill, Ms Dunbar, Mr Mercer, Dr McLeroy and others – everybody in the nation knows that this is absolutely a religious battle, that your dislike of evolution and naturalism and any changes to the TEKs that are supported by the Discovery Institute are religiously motivated. Kitzmiller vs Dover clearly showed that ID and these issues are religious in nature. For you to sit there and tell everyone it is not smacks of arrogance and deliberate willful deception.

  59. #60 god retardent
    November 20, 2008

    I think the School Board have a valid point,science teachers should point out the gaps in evolution.
    In return, would the board members give me a list of the churches they attend.That way I can visit their Sunday School classes and point out all the flaws,mistakes,and down right lies in the bible.I’m sure they would all agree.
    After all,academic freedom is so vitally important to them.

  60. #61 BobC
    November 20, 2008

    Wendee Holtcamp, I thought your story about the liar McLeroy sounded familiar. I checked and found your name in this Texas news article: Evolution proponents descend on state education panel

    Wendee Holtcamp, a freelance writer, drew a sharp reprimand from McLeroy when she accused the board of lying. “Are you willing to play dice with our children’s education as our nation’s science lead deteriorates?” Holtcamp asserted.

  61. #62 Emmet Caulfield
    November 20, 2008

    god retardent,

    A variation of the You don’t preach in my school and I won’t think in your church. Deal? bumper sticker.

  62. #63 BobC
    November 20, 2008

    Kel, I have never in my life heard of a biologist talking about weaknesses or flaws in evolution. I’m just wondering what flaws and weaknesses are you talking about. Did you think points for future understanding are weaknesses?

  63. #64 Josh
    November 20, 2008

    I think the School Board have a valid point,science teachers should point out the gaps in evolution.

    That would take one second. There aren’t gaps. I’m not even sure what the hell a “gap” in a theory is. There are areas we don’t understand particularly well, but there aren’t gaps.

  64. #65 Kel
    November 20, 2008

    Kel, I have never in my life heard of a biologist talking about weaknesses or flaws in evolution. I’m just wondering what flaws and weaknesses are you talking about. Did you think points for future understanding are weaknesses?

    In a sense, yes. What we don’t understand can technically be described as a weakness. Of course this doesn’t change the truth of evolutionary theory, but as a tactic it works well to undermine evolution by spending time pointing out what we don’t know in an attempt to discredit it.

    The theory evolution has more evidential basis than gravity, yet the difference in pointing out what we don’t know about evolution and what we don’t know about gravity would have two very different effects on the children. No-one would question that gravity happens, but pointing out what we don’t know about evolution (It’s “weaknesses”) would be nothing more than an effort to undermine it. I’m admiring their tactic, though it’s incredibly dishonest by order of it’s consequences.

  65. #66 Jason
    November 20, 2008

    FYI, audio recordings of the Texas State Board of Education hearings (4) are available here:

    http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/audio_archived.html

    (or click my name)

    Haven’t quite figured out how to properly download them instead of stream them yet, though …

  66. #67 James F
    November 20, 2008

    #60 Quoting the article:

    One of the few voices from the other side came from Paul Kramer, a Carrollton engineer, who said that more than 700 eminent scientists welcome the teaching of pros and cons about evolution. Not allowing debate over untested and unproven theories “seems out of place in a free society” and is reminiscent of book-burning in Nazi Germany, he said.

    First, *facepalm* at another creationist engineer.

    Second, “eminent scientists?” Only if you consider Stephen Meyer and Jonathan Wells eminent scientists. You want eminent scientists, go to Project Steve: two Nobel Prize winners (in fact the only two eligible Steves, Chu and Weinberg), 18 members of the National Academy of Sciences and counting, and hundreds of faculty members at top universities.

    Third, Godwin.

  67. #68 Ted Stevens
    November 20, 2008

    Just listened to this online as an interested outsider from across the pond. How the hell do you folks in the US end up with folks like Terri Leo on school education boards? She actually used the phrase ‘militant Darwinists’, it’s unbelievable. Then some other guy gets up to ramble on about the supposed 700 ‘scientists’ who ‘dissent from Darwinism’. What a farce.

  68. #69 BobC
    November 20, 2008

    What we don’t understand can technically be described as a weakness.

    I think that’s misusing the word “weakness”. For example, let’s say I don’t know how a carburetor works. Does that mean carburetors have weaknesses?

    I suggest biology teachers should most definitely talk about future research opportunities. That’s what makes science so interesting. But calling these points for future understanding “weaknesses” is extremely dishonest. There is nothing weak about evolution. It works. It’s been working for more than 3 billion years on this planet, and perhaps even longer elsewhere in the universe. Natural processes like evolution do not have weaknesses.

    Creationists will read your “What we don’t understand can technically be described as a weakness.” and use that as an excuse to invoke their magic fairy.

  69. #70 Kel
    November 20, 2008

    I think that’s misusing the word “weakness”.

    That’s the whole point of the tactic, they are using the word weakness to cast doubt on the concept. They are misrepresenting evolution as a theory by using the word as a negative instead of as the unknown. That’s why I think the tactic will be somewhat effective towards the ignorant and the politicians – it sounds reasonable even though it isn’t.

  70. #71 Jerome von Haagen-Dazs
    November 20, 2008

    Since it was such a farce as it was already, someone should have just handed out business cards with contact information for one of the various secularist groups (or perhaps all of them) on one side, and a randomized Logical Fallacy Bingo card on the other side, and have the rational people in the group yell “BINGO!” every time they win.

    Perhaps even have them be raffle cards, with most proceeds going to support the sponsoring organization?

    Making a mockery of the farce sounds like it would have been more productive.

  71. #72 Desert Son
    November 20, 2008

    A variant on Nerd of Redhead’s suggestion at #9 would be:

    If the creationists want to teach creationism in science class, then scientists should be allowed to teach evolution in church, especially since the creationists keep equivocating about “freedom of inquiry” and “teach the controversy” and “equal time” and other such rhetorical dishonesty.

    No kings,

    Robert

  72. #73 Desert Son
    November 20, 2008

    Ah, I see god retardant got there at #59. I’m late to the discussion, sorry about the reiteration of an idea already on the table. Well said, god retardant!

    No kings,

    Robert

  73. #74 Ted Stevens
    November 20, 2008

    Terry Maxwell and Steven Schafersman were good. Why don’t the board pay more attention to guys like these and ignore the pseudoscientific clowns they brought down from Seattle.

  74. #75 Fatboy
    November 20, 2008

    BobC:

    I think that’s misusing the word “weakness”. For example, let’s say I don’t know how a carburetor works. Does that mean carburetors have weaknesses?

    No, carburetors work just fine, but your theory of how they work definitely has a glaring weakness.

    Ignoring the creationists, I don’t think it’s much of a problem to say that current theories as to how evolution work have weaknesses. There are things we just don’t know, future research opportunities as you say (there’s a current article in Nature News all about group selection vs. kin selection). To me, ignorance is a weakness.

    Now, considering what the creationists think are the weaknesses of evolutionary theory, I’d hate to see my daughter get taught that drivel. Fortunately, she’s enough of a skeptic that she’d probably call the teacher on it.

  75. #76 Ted Stevens
    November 20, 2008

    WOW, Andrew Ellington destroyed the Discovery Institute and the ID buffons.

  76. #77 Monado, FCD
    November 20, 2008

    It’s time for a look back at Atheist Eve’s cartoon, “Evolution.”

  77. #78 toucantoad
    November 20, 2008

    Ted Stevens,
    How do yokels like these in Texas end up on school boards? Easy, two explanations.
    (1) Very few good candidates (e.g. pro-evolution and sound science) will run for the board because 99% of what one does on the board has absolutely nothing to do with science but does have everything to do with funds, building projects, athletics, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.
    (2) Hardly any sane people pay attention to state school board elections – HARDLY anyone. But one group does – in spades: social conservatives. They turn out 100% for anti-evolution, pro-evangelical candidates. No one else knows any school board candidate’s position on any issue but vote strictly on party lines and here in Texas that means conservative Republican.
    And there you go – a state school board that contains one member who went public (briefly) with claims that Obama may well be a terrorist.

  78. #79 Ian Thomas
    November 20, 2008

    What’s this about Baleen whales and polystrate fossils that one of the board members keeps talking about?

  79. #80 Henry Adams
    November 20, 2008

    Terri Leo essentially implies at one stage that it takes as much ‘faith’ to ‘believe’ in macroevolution as it does to believe that a magic man created the world 6000 years ago over 6 days.

  80. #81 Peter Jones
    November 20, 2008

    Another board member thinks macroevolution refers to the origin of life. These really people don’t have a clue, it’s embarrassing.

  81. #82 tresmal
    November 20, 2008

    Ian Thomas @78: I believe they are referring to a whale fossil that was found at a 45 degree angle to vertical. The idea being that such a fossil would be in several strata (polystrate). This of course would be used to argue against the whole ancient fossil thing. What is not mentioned is that the strata themselves are also, due to geologic processes, at a 45 degree angle, therefore the fossil is in one and only one stratum. Others here can correct me or provide more details.

  82. #83 ndt
    November 20, 2008

    I predict they will ignore all this testimony and pass the standards they wanted anyway.

  83. #84 abb3w
    November 20, 2008

    Fatboy: I don’t think it’s much of a problem to say that current theories as to how evolution work have weaknesses. There are things we just don’t know

    When you express the idea formally, we can’t assert that “There are things we just don’t know” with respect to reality. More exactly, it’s that “there are areas of evidence where inference better describing the inter-relationships may be possible”… which is slightly different.

    The mere possibility of improvement is not a weakness; it’s a asset, because further evolution remains possible.

  84. #85 Simon Patterson
    November 20, 2008

    Some old guy near the end says 95% of Darwinian evolution should be thrown out. “There’s no evidence a bacteria evolved into a horse”. Oh dear!

  85. #86 Ian Arason
    November 20, 2008

    Somebody real needs to explain to the board that people who signed the ‘Dissent from Darwinism’ list do not necessarily reject biological evolution.

  86. #87 Keanus
    November 20, 2008

    The power of Texas in the textbook market is entirely a function of how Texas schools buy textbooks. As Allen N(#43) notes “Texas… sets the curriculum and text selection” for all the schools in the state but that’s only half the story.

    The state provides the dollars to the school districts for purchasing new text books, but only those text books that have been adopted–i.e., approved–for purchase. Every five years for any particular course, biology in this case, the state adoption committee chooses four to six books that are approved for purchase. If a district or teacher doesn’t like those choices, they are free to spend their own money. But, as you might imagine, few districts have any discretionary money to use. So they buy what the state approves. And guess who picks the state adoption committee and its advisors? The SBOE. The result is that, if a publisher gets a book adopted in Texas and is the favorite book, they sell a bundle of them, and all in one year. So every published shoots to land the Texas adoption. NY, California and other states are afterthoughts.

    California and New York do also put out state curriculum guidelines, but neither state “adopts” or approves only a narrow subset of books that the schools can buy with state money. Both states provide money to supplement funds raised locally, but the schools are free to buy whatever books they want. And each district buys on its own cycle, as to buying when every other district in the state it buying on a rigid five year cycle.

    The system for getting textbooks into the Texas schools is an anachronism dating to the late 19th century, when school teachers had little education (read, were not competent to choose texts), books were expensive to ship from printers in NYC, Boston, Cleveland, etc., and outsiders were mistrusted. Only the latter point is still true. But the system has given the Texas SBOE, and any self appointed vocal lobbying group who wants to mount a soap box, inordinate power over curriculum. They will not relinquish it easily.

    If modern day Democrats ever regain control of the state legislature while a Democrat is governor, the prospect for reforming the state Department of Education and the SBOE would be promising. But so long as Texas Republicans control the legislature and the governors are like Dubya and Governor Goodhair, the prospects are nil.

  87. #89 kakarri8
    November 21, 2008

    It’s really quite sad that this board, armed with the Discovery Institute’s list of scientists, clearly think there is genuine debate going on among scientists about whether evolution has occurred. Terri Leo keeps mentioning this Werner Arber whose work apparently casts doubt on macroevolution. Does anyone know anything about this?

  88. #90 spurge
    November 21, 2008

    I think you give them too much credit kakarri8.

    I think they are quite aware that there is no debate.

    They just lie about it for Jesus.

  89. #91 kakarri8
    November 21, 2008

    Spurge I think you should listen to the audio, Terri Leo is clearly stating, as are various other board members, that she believes scientists are divided on the issue. She keeps talking about Werner Arber who is also mentioned by creationists here, http://www.icr.org/article/4095/. I really think he should be contacted to find out if he really agrees with these statements that are being made about him. I’m sure he wouldn’t but these creationists are presenting him as a Nobel laureate who doesn’t accept the scientific concensus on evolution. I can only find this interview with him, http://www.vega.org.uk/video/programme/128, in which he certainly doesn’t seem to suggest that he would support the statements that are being made about him.

  90. #92 spurge
    November 21, 2008

    @kakarri8

    You may very well be right in this case. I find it very hard to believe people are that ignorant.

    Too many creationists are blatant liars but it is hard to tell which ones are the liars and which are just repeating lies they have taken as gospel from creationist authority.

    Arber would not be the first Nobel laureate to turn into a crank so it is possible.

  91. #93 Fatboy
    November 21, 2008

    BobC,

    I read the article you linked to, and I tend to agree with the comments made by AfricanGenesis. The guy that wrote that article has defined theory in such a way that theories can’t be wrong. As he puts it, “Scientific theories don’t have weaknesses because they are constructed only of corroborated hypotheses, those hypotheses that have been tested and not falsified.” What happens once a new test shows that your theory wasn’t as good as you thought it was? Does it get demoted back to being a mere hypothesis?

    Still, I’m not going to comment on this more because we’re mostly quibbling over semantics. It’s very clear that when most posters here talk about weaknesses in theories such as evolution, they’re not referring to the same canards that creationists use, and we recognize that the Texas BoE members are using that language merely to try to smuggle creationism into the classroom.

  92. #94 abb3w
    November 21, 2008

    Fatboy What happens once a new test shows that your theory wasn’t as good as you thought it was? Does it get demoted back to being a mere hypothesis?

    New test involve the production of new evidence. “Theory” is the title held by whichever hypothesis describes the present evidence best. So, just as with a new boxing match (or a new contender) moving a title belt from Holyfield to Lewis, the title belt of “Theory” can move from one hypothesis to another. It’s not that the previous holder was weak, it’s just that a stronger contender came along.

    However, we can be reasonably confident that Chagaev’s current Heavyweight Boxing Title Belt is relatively secure from challenges by Representative Jim Langevin or Steven Hawking, and similarly confident in the relative standings of Evolution against Intelligent Design and Young-Earth Creationism.

    So in short: “Yes, but that doesn’t help opponents much.”

  93. #95 Josh
    November 21, 2008

    What happens once a new test shows that your theory wasn’t as good as you thought it was? Does it get demoted back to being a mere hypothesis?

    The theory gets adjusted to accomodate the new data if that can happen (e.g., what has happened to atomic theory from time to time), or it gets thrown out (e.g., the pre-tectonic view that now sunken land bridges once connected all? of the major continents). As far as I know, hypotheses “evolve” into laws more often than they “evolve” into theories, but if you find observations that falsify your theory, that’s bad news for the theory. Unless you can find a way to adjust it, it doesn’t get demoted, it gets spanked.

  94. #96 Miss Elaine
    November 21, 2008

    I attended this hearing pretty much in its entirety, from 12:30pm to 10:00pm, and sadly, I have to report that even though all the misconceptions were countered successfully by many testifiers, over and over and over again, those pro-ID folks on the board seemed unable to compute these conflicting facts and continued to bring them up as if they hadn’t been addressed yet. These misconceptions were things like: equating evolution to ambiogenesis, the existence of polystrate fossils debunking evolution, the credibility of the ID proponents selected for the review, the idea that the false embryo illustrations and Piltdown man would never have been discovered without “academic freedom” (as if a 17 year old in high school, who doesn’t even know the basics of science yet, would be able to determine that the drawings were fake).

    It was depressing. It was no surprise that there were no scientists testifying for the weaknesses of evolution, but they would just attribute that to intimidation from all of the militant Darwinists (yes, they said that).

    All in all, there were only 4-5 people out of about 77 that testified against evolution. Hopefully they will make the right decision.

  95. #97 Josh
    November 21, 2008

    #95. Jesus–it sounds like the only possible avenue is to simply rudely interrupt them and call them on their lies every single time, which I’m sure is going to go over like a lead balloon.

  96. #98 Glen Davidson
    November 21, 2008

    Generally, theories are more comprehensive than hypotheses. Science typically works with hypotheses within theoretical frameworks.

    I would not deny that one may have a hypothesis that turns into a theory. Arguably, Darwin wrote up a hypothesis, or a hypothetical theory, in Origin. Yet he himself was calling it a theory in the beginning, although not a “theory of evolution” (he shied away from the term “evolution” due to worries that it might be confused with “Hegelian evolution” and other unscientific notions). Similarly with Einstein’s theories, they were comprehensive frameworks, and arguably were not hypotheses as such. Had they failed, they might simply be called “failed theories,” a term sanctioned via usage.

    And I believe that theories may properly be said to “have weaknesses.” String theory’s main (and grave) “weakness” today is that, in practical terms, it cannot be properly tested. Yet one reason it has been proposed is that, so physicists say, relativity theory and quantum mechanics have “weaknesses” in the area of gravity.

    Various ideas within evolutionary theory do have “weaknesses.” For instance, natural selection may not explain some of the basic fundamental pathways, at least not in the traditionally-understood manner of gradually accumulating and selecting favorable mutations. That was one of the issues discussed at Altenberg.

    So we might have to bring up demarcation to decide if “evolutionary theory has weaknesses.” So, is evolutionary theory the general notion that natural selection, founder effects, bottlenecks, and the some other processes, have produced the forms we see in life? In that sense, though evolutionary theory may have weaknesses, I do not think that we know about them, and cannot teach them.

    If evolutionary theory is the totality of the specific ideas that we have about how evolution works, no doubt is is at the least incomplete in those specifics, and in that case we could say that evolutionary theory has weaknesses.

    But I think that the more usual, and meaningful, conceptions of theory is the earlier one, that we have a broad theoretical conception in which hypotheses that have strengths and weaknesses are proposed, tested, discussed, and either kept (with or without modification) or discarded. Evolution understood as the process of common inheritance (it would not have to be that all life on earth has one common inheritance–and future life may not–what matters is that many organisms share a common inheritance) and modifications which are selected seems to be the main theoretical framework, and as such it does not seem to have any identifiable weaknesses.

    Within that robust framework, there are ideas with strengths and weaknesses.

    Demarcations are tricky, and I will not say that one could never claim that evolutionary theory has weaknesses. I just believe that we do better to consider as theory the aspects which are virtually undeniable and highly unlikely to be falsified (unless the theoretical framework has inherent weaknesses, as the standard model of physics is believed to have), that is, the guiding theoretical understanding within which hypotheses arise and are understood.

    We have to define what we’re talking about when “evolutionary theory” is said to have “weaknesses,” but I think that the more common, and useful, idea of theory is that it is (where possible) composed of strengths, not weaknesses. The unresolved aspects would thus not be a part of evolutionary theory at present, for they are not basic to understanding life evolving through shared inheritance and modification via natural selection.

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

  97. #99 Jake
    November 22, 2008

    It sickens me to the very core of my being that anyone with an agenda so obviously wrong can be taken seriously.

    Some people have asked me why I’ve given up on humanity.

    This here is as good a reason as any.

  98. #100 miss Elaine
    November 22, 2008

    In response to Glen’s comment: I agree with what you are saying, however, these weaknesses are not applicable at the high school level. In my testimony I mentioned that there were differing opinions, but these were on the mechanisms of evolution, not on evolution itself. Things like punctuated equilibrium and bottlenecks are much too complicated to talk about in high school, and unnecessary at that level. Those are topics for upper level college courses, where the kids already know the basics. A perfect example of this was a first year pre-med girl who explained that she was forbidden by her high school teacher to ask questions on the topic of evolution. She felt that her learning was stymied because she could not ask “the evolutionist” (as she referred to the teacher) about the Urey-Miller experiment and was left wanting for a good explanation.
    Apparently, her education suffered because of this. The board ate her up, they just loved her. So, when I got to testify, I pointed out that this girl, with her great Texas science education, had no idea what evolution was. She interchangeably used the term evolution with the origin of life and then preceded to complain about the Urey-Miller experiment. a sound experiment which is even better now as they have isolated even more amino acids from his original experiment. Even if it was a bad experiment, EVOLUTION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! God, it was frustrating. This girl had obviously been coached on what to say as she was sitting with a lawyer for Focus on the Family that testified later. I guess the Discovery Institute still uses the Urey-Miller as an example to disprove evolution, even though one of the testifiers, Andy Ellington, pointed out that he had published papers a few years ago disputing this and the Disc. Inst. to this day refuses to retract their statement.

    Also, apparently a lot of what the board said ran exactly in line with most of Expelled. I haven’t seen it so I didn’t catch it at the time. Thanks a lot, Ben Stein.

  99. #101 chris
    November 22, 2008

    Given the cultural context of the US I think we may have to turn this attack around by adding Intelligent Design to the curriculum. Scientific theories have to both explain and predict – and usually it’s the ability to predict that is more telling than the explanation.

    For every theory we have, from quantum chromodynamics, through evolution to cosmology, the explanatory aspect has holes. There are inevitably many things that a not well explained by these theories in their current form. However, the ability to predict new observations, with quantitative accuracy, builds confidence in the theory.

    These are powerful ideas that a student in Grade 9 should be able to understand. It shouldn’t be difficult to devise lesson plans and activities that compare the explanatory and predictive capabilities of Evolution with Intelligent Design. For example, Neil Shubin’s discovery of the fossil remains of the proto-amphibian Tiktaalik on a remote Arctic Island is a great example of prediction. By comparison, Intelligent Design should predict furry warm-blooded creatures with four legs for running and two arms for grappling – after all these would be a great design – but we simply don’t find any. In fact, the limited number of body plans on Earth is a real problem for Intelligent Design – something that should be easy to convey in the classroom.

    The resulting curriculum Unit, properly designed, would not only bolster the student’s appreciation of Evolution, it would also encourage a healthy scepticism about all manner of religious or political theories that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

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