I imagine Casey Luskin and Anika Smith sitting in a dark room together. The mirror ball spins as these Disco. titans take the floor for a podcast about the Texas science standards (aka TEKS: Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). You’ll recall that I tripped up some of Disco.’s fancy footwork last Friday, but these two sashay right past the evidence.
At issue is a Disco.-inspired standard in the older TEKS which requires teachers to have students “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information” (my emphasis). Disco. and their allies had hoped to use that language about “strengths and weaknesses” to push their brand of creationism into classrooms, and Casey explains that his hope is that the new revisions would actually narrow that broad standard down to apply only to evolution. He never explains why evolution should get such special scrutiny. He does explain that the newest Disco.-authored ID textbook, Explore Evolution, “would be very well-suited to be used in this kind of a standard.”
And this is where things get tricky. The expert writing committees for the various subjects dropped the “strengths and weaknesses” language (with some exceptions), replacing it with instructions that students “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing.” This is vastly better language on its face, plus it boxes out the Disco. hustle.
Creationists on the Texas Board of Education (there are 7, with several swing votes) looked for a way around that, and decided that the solution was to name another panel of experts which would review the work of the first panels. Then the Board could cherry-pick from the second panel’s criticisms as they edited the first panel’s work. That second panel was chosen by having each of the 15 members submit a name, and any name with two sponsors would be put on the panel. Several members couldn’t agree, thus making the selection of a seventh reviewer impossible. The creationists selected two authors of Explore Evolution, plus a creationist from Baylor. The science supporters chose an expert in science pedagogy, a biologist, and an anthropologist. All of the science supporters are from Texas, while only one of the creationists is home-grown.
Once the TEKS are done, the board will use them as the basis for textbook approval. Approved textbooks can be bought with state funds, but unapproved books must be bought using local tax dollars, making the Board’s decisions very important. If the new TEKS include “strengths and weaknesses,” then the Disco. book might be approved, while if the language isn’t there, its relevance is much diminished.
Thus, the two authors of EE have a clear conflict of interest. By recommending changes that favor their book, they stand to boost their own income.
Casey doesn’t care for this argument:
Their argument is entirely hypocritical and self-serving. When you want to have people who are experts on the very topic of education that you’re dealing with, who better to invite than someone who has been involved with authoring textbooks that might actually be relevant to the curricular debate that you’re having. In this case, Explore Evolution is very relevant, and they happen to be co-authors on that textbook.
The proble with this argument is that, if there were a real scientific consensus behind this claim, it ought to be possible to find lots of well-credentialled people who could advocate that position, including at least three who aren’t authors of textbooks whose sales revenue will benefit from the very advice that they are offering. There are lots of creationists in Texas, after all. The ICR just moved to Dallas, Dembski lives in the area, and there’s always Carl Baugh with his Paluxy tracks. Surely Disco. could’ve scrounged up someone else without such a conflict of interest.
Casey doesn’t deny the conflict of interest, merely insisting that everyone is tainted:
The reason why this complaint is entirely self-serving and hypocritical is because the other side, sort of the pro-Darwin-only side, actually has scientists who are textbook authors, including one of which, David Hillis coauthored a textbook Life: The Science of Biology, that is currently approved for use in Texas, and the new edition, which Hillis co-authored might actually be slated for another textbook that could be used in Texas as, especially for the AP level, as a textbook that might be selected for implementing the various Texas science standards.
As I pointed out almost a week ago, though, Hillis has no conflict of interest. The TEKS aren’t used to judge books for AP courses because AP courses are standardized by the College Board, not by state standards. Hillis’s recommendations thus would not impact the approval or disapproval of his textbook, leaving him no financial stake in this process. Casey’s attempted tu quoque fails, and he knew it would since I know he reads TfK now and then.
Casey goes on to complain that:
What we really see at work here is a fallacious objection, where they’re trying to imply a double standard to one side, not applying it to their own side, you know, and any reasons they’d distinguish Dr. Hillis and Dr. Meyer and Dr. Seelke would really come down to nitpicking irrelevancies.
Except that Hillis has no financial stake in this process, while Meyer and Seelke (the EE authors) do. That’s not nitpicking, it’s basic public integrity.
And so, having made a giant stink an alleging all sorts of nonexistent double standards, and insulting the integrity of everyone who dares point out the basic dishonesty of his boss (Meyer is a VP at the Discovery Institute, and runs the CRSC where Casey works), Casey then proceeds to decry such behavior:
But the bottom line is, let’s leave all these nitpicking, self-serving double standards aside, ?, and let’s stop the mud-slinging and just let it go.
At which point he proceeds to sling more mud:
What really we see here, is it’s really clear in Texas, from the arguments we’re seeing that they’re willing to use just about any argument to prevent students from learning about any of the weaknesses of evolution, no matter how bad that argument may be. ? These are the outlandish conspiracy theories, and there’s the purely dogmatic assertions that are being made to shut down the ability of students and censor for them the ability to learn any scientific weaknesses of evolution.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Disco. ‘Tute.
Anika then asks Casey what happens next, and he trips over his own feet some more.
My understanding of the situation is that over the next few weeks, the various experts ? are going to be ? looking at the overall new proposed science standards and what they would support and what they would change and what they would have implemented into how Texas students learn about science.
That’s basically right. But then he says:
And keep in mind that this is dealing with many different scientific subjects, not just including evolution. So the question that is going to be at the heart of this debate is “will students learn about the pro-Darwin-only strengths of evolution,” ?, but will they also learn about the weaknesses of evolution?.
The process does indeed involve many different subjects, including biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, aquatic science, environmental systems, earth and space science, and engineering design and problem solving. But as far as Casey cares, that all boils down to a contrived spat over whether creationists get to beat up on evolution in public schools. Therein lies the fundamental dishonesty at the core of this whole fight. There’s no recognition of the importance of science education per se, only an interest in his own petty culture war.
After predicting the slings and arrows he and his allies will face, Casey makes a funny:
All that stuff aside, all that rhetoric aside, when these experts actually do file their reports, we’re going to see a very very critical analysis of these standards and what are the quote-unquote “strengths and weaknesses” (heh) of the proposed standards themselves.
Funny, funny, man. If only he invested a fraction of the effort that crappy pun required in actually verifying the nonsense he spews, things would be much more interesting.
I look forward to sharing a stage with Casey next Wednesday.