On keeping one’s story straight

John West is gloating about the new Texas science standards, and in doing so, he’s lost track of the truth:

Evolutionists typically cast themselves as the champions of secular reason against superstition, but in Texas they tried to inject religion into the debate at every turn.

Indeed, this past week it seemed that they couldn’t stop talking about religion. They boasted about their credentials as Sunday School teachers and church elders. They quoted the Bible and appealed to theology. And, of course, they attacked the religious beliefs of their opponents, branding them religious fundamentalists.

By contrast, supporters of teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution focused mostly on science, not religion. They even had a procession of Ph.D. biologists and science teachers testify before the Board of Education about their scientific skepticism of key parts of modern evolutionary theory.

Hrmm. In my testimony to the Board, I never mentioned religion, and cited statements and letters from 60 scientific societies, all gathered in a matter of days, calling on the Board to reject the bogus creationist language. And it worked. Strengths and weaknesses stayed out in early votes, and 8 members voted on Friday to remove key creationist amendments. The Board immediately took a break, and when they came back, reintroduced the language in slightly modified form.

Indeed, to seal the deal and keep his amendments in the TEKS, Chairman McLeroy had to invoke religion, insisting (this is from memory, and may not be a perfect transcript, I welcome corrections) that “evolution isn’t essential to modern biology, genetics is essential to modern biology. Genetics was discovered by a Christian monk based on careful observations, while evolution was created by an English naturalist to justify his philosophy.” He’s clearly less interested in accurate history of science than in contrasting the work of a Christian monk with the supposedly atheistic evolutionary theory.

West is also ignoring the bogus claims advanced by Board member Ken Mercer. During debate on an amendment asserting that the fossil record shows “sudden appearance, stasis, and the sequential nature of groups,” Mercer never mentioned anything other than the importance of teaching kids about “sudden appearance.” I doubt he knows that geologists regard a few million years as pretty sudden; he thinks this will require teaching that animals poofed into existence.

That he sees this as fight over religion is also clear from a recent issue of the conservative Eagle Forum’s newsletter comments on the “radical liberals, Darwinists, atheists and secular humanists attending from around the country,” and closes by claiming

my favorite memory was a remark from one of the California atheists who sat behind my desk on the floor of the SBOE. After we passed one historic amendment after another, this atheist cried out: “Oh my God!”

Now, I’m a Californian, and I was sitting behind his desk so he must mean me. But I only recall saying “Oh my god!” when the Board voted to remove a creationist amendment.

Plus, I’m not an atheist. The only reason why this man, who only knows me from Adam because I greeted him in a break after my testimony and had what I thought was a civil discussion, would pretend to know my religion is if he thought it would advance the claim that this is a religious fight.

So he made up facts to fit his narrative, just as John West is imagining a campaign of religious rhetoric to fit his preferred narrative.

Given that West’s allies clearly have no compunction about launching (what they judge to be) attacks on people’s religious beliefs, it’s hardly surprising that Board members and members of the public would mention their religious credentials when testifying in favor of accurate science education.

But then Mercer might’ve called me a “California Jew,” and I don’t know if that would’ve been any more pleasant.

Nonetheless, if John West and Casey Luskin want to lecture people on how to converse on this subject, I hope they’ll start by sorting out their side, before telling other people what to do.

Comments

  1. #1 Pierce R. Butler
    March 30, 2009

    After we passed one historic amendment after another…

    “We”? West considers himself a member of the Texas Board of Education now?

  2. #2 thebob.bob
    March 30, 2009

    Go get ‘em Josh. It’s appalling that we have to waste time arguing with these ‘throw-backs’. Any threat to their own extreme religious fantasies must zealously attacked. All of Texas will pay for their failure to educate their children.

  3. #3 Joe Lapp
    March 30, 2009

    Josh, you must be confused. Evolution isn’t “change in allele frequencies over time.” That’s just expert nonsense. Evolution is actually a synonym for atheism. If you accept evolution, you’re an atheist, even if you believe in God. You need some Texas schooling.

  4. #4 Involved1
    March 31, 2009

    Well, talking about West, let’s see: Can, or can’t, a person be an example of either side of the debate?

    If Creationism is correct, then the Creator must have been half asleep when he/she created West and programmed him to be a spokesperson.

    If Evolution is correct, then West is proof that, while evolution moves exceedingly slowly over gazillions of years, in isolated cases it can come to a complete stop.

  5. #5 Cheryl Shepherd-Adams
    March 31, 2009

    West may be a subspecies of Felis Schrodingerensis, where his mind simultaneously exists in a state of truth-telling and non-truth-telling.

    Okay, sure, it’s only supposed to be valid for really, really small objects spinning really, really fast, but . . .

    Oh.

  6. #6 Joe Lapp
    March 31, 2009

    Cheryl (#5), that was hilarious! Thanks, I needed that.

  7. #7 Jeremy Mohn
    April 1, 2009

    Cheryl wrote:

    West may be a subspecies of Felis Schrodingerensis, where his mind simultaneously exists in a state of truth-telling and non-truth-telling.

    I like the joke, but the delivery left a little to be desired. The specific name (“Schrodingerensis“) should not be capitalized.

    I’ll cut you some slack, though. Biology is just stamp collecting anyway, right?

  8. #8 Cheryl Shepherd-Adams
    April 2, 2009

    Urgh.

  9. #9 Cheryl Shepherd-Adams
    April 2, 2009

    . . . at least I don’t have a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Rice, which apparently allows one to make even more ridiculous statements in public.