Terra Sigillata

I was looking through more links tonight after posting earlier on the Polk County school board’s intention to introduce intelligent design into the science curriculum.

I saw this post, An Open Letter to the Polk County, Florida School Board from The Austringer, Dr Wesley Elsberry. Turns out that Elsberry is a product of [a] public schools [and two parochial schools] in Lakeland, the largest city in Polk Country.

From his compelling open letter:

I was born in Lakeland, Florida, and lived for eighteen years there. My parents still live there. I still care about what happens in my home town.

To those on the Polk County school board: You’ve been conned. “Intelligent design” is a legal sham, a con game, one whose sole purpose is to insert a narrow sectarian doctrine into public school classrooms. It is not a “paradigm shift”; it’s advocates are not “top scientists”; it generates no hypotheses and stays far, far away from even trying to test any of its claims. It is not science. The latest date that it even could have been considered scientific would be sometime in the 19th century, as our understanding of science developed a cognizance that reliance on untestable mechanisms (or non-mechanistic “explanations”) was unproductive. It is not a slur on you that you have fallen for this; it is the property of a well-crafted con that it should be made believable to the mark. But continuing to believe in the con after it has been explained would be a serious lapse of good judgment.

For my readers who may not know who Elsberry is, check out his Wikipedia entry: he is a wildlife biologist who has been involved in combatting antievolution chicanery for over 20 years. Note his following commitment to opposing the introduction of intelligent design in his hometown school system:

Now, if you do choose to follow the same path that the Dover Area School District did, please rest assured that I will be doing my best to make sure that you fail as spectacularly as they did. I will offer to assist any legal challenge that is made to any policy you adopt that advocates “intelligent design” with the weight of the public educational system behind it. (Among other things, I helped prepare materials used by Kitzmiller v. DASD expert witness Barbara Forrest, as acknowledged in her supplemental expert report filed in the case.)

What is most interesting to me is that anti-science activities that used to arise in isolated, rural communities are now open to the world thanks to the internet, blogs, and webpages of local newspapers. While school board members may feel that they can railroad their religious beliefs into the publicly-funded school system, they must also begin to realize that committed people around the country and around the world care about what is happening in those little communities. Leaders and scholars like Elsberry come from these kinds of communities. To be sure, Elsberry is not anti-religion; in fact, he points to The Clergy Letter Project where over 11,000 Christian have signed a document of support for the teaching of evolutionary science.

Everybody is from somewhere. You just never know when one of your local heroes will be willing to come back and get involved in local issues again.

If I were a Polk County school board member, I’d carefully consider the scientific and societal content of Dr Elsberry’s well-constructed letter.

Comments

  1. #1 Wesley R. Elsberry
    November 21, 2007

    Well, a public school (Carlton Palmore Elementary on Cleveland Heights Boulevard) and two private schools (Evangel Christian School for middle school and Santa Fe Catholic High School). We used the BSCS textbook in biology at Santa Fe.

  2. #2 Chuck Welch
    November 22, 2007

    I don’t know any of the school board members, but the comments of the majority don’t lead me to believe they put “carefully consider” and “scientific” in the same sentence.

    I have a daughter in a Lakeland public school. I’d be happy to see Dr. Elsberry come home for a visit, or a school board meeting.

  3. #3 Abel Pharmboy
    November 22, 2007

    Thanks for the correction, Dr Elsberry. I was also lucky to have some pretty progressive science teachers in my Catholic high school.

    By the way, I am a huge fan of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS).

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