I’ve already spoken to a reporter in Texas about this, but via Jamie Vernon we have video of Rick Perry telling a 4th grader in New Hampshire that he doesn’t know the age of the earth, that


Student: How old do you think the earth is?

Perry: How old do I think the earth is? You know what? I don’t have any idea. I know it’s pretty old, so it goes back a long, long way. I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long, how old the earth is. I hear your mom was asking about evolution. You know, it’s a theory that’s out there. It’s got some gaps in it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figured you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.

In the background, we can hear the mother saying, “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.” MSNBC reports additionally:

On global warming to a local science teacher, he said, “We teach the straight out facts in Texas in our schools. You’ll have to pick those up in our classbooks.”

Indeed, the Texas standards for earth and space science have detailed coverage of climate change, including the fact that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing significant global warming. The biology standards also cover evolution in detail, with no overt references to creationism.

If Perry is claiming that Texas schools are required to give equal time to creationism, he’s not just wrong, but advocating a policy struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 24 years ago. Indeed, any requirement to teach creationism in public schools, would be an unconstitutional imposition of religious ideology on students. I don’t doubt that some teacher in Texas is teaching creationism, but to claim it as a statewide policy is simply false, and Perry’s been involved in Texas politics long enough to know better.

Indeed, before 1984, Texas did have a policy like what Perry describes. At a 1983 board meeting, for instance, rules were passed stating:

(a) All adopted textbooks shall meet the following content requirements and limitations: …

(5) Textbooks that treat the theory of evolution shall identify it as only one of several explanations of the origins of humankind and avoid limiting young people in their search for meanings of their human existence.

(A) Textbooks presented for adoption which treat the subject of evolution substantively in explaining the historical origins of man shall be edited, if necessary, to clarify that the treatment is theoretical rather than factually verifiable. Furthermore, each textbook must carry a statement on an introductory page that any material on evolution included in the book is clearly presented as theory rather than verified.

(B) Textbooks presented for adoption which do not treat evolution substantively as an instructional topic, but make reference to evolution indirectly or by implication, must be modified, if necessary, to ensure that the reference is clearly to a theory and not to a verified fact. These books will not need to carry a statement on the introductory page.

(C) The presentation of the theory of evolution shall be done in a manner which is not detrimental to other theories of origin.

In 1984, the Texas Attorney General reviewed those rules and issued an advisory opinion that:

The rules of the State Board of Education, concerning the subject of evolution, fail to demonstrate a secular purpose and are therefore in contravention of the first and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution.

He added: “Teachers of science in the public schools should not be expected to avoid the discussion of every scientific issue on which some religion claims expertise.” He added: “the board, in its desire not to offend any religious group, has injected religious considerations into an area which must be, at least in the public school context, strictly the province of science.”

Perry’s creationist ideas were as wrong and inappropriate for science classes 27 years ago as they are today.


  1. #1 dean
    August 18, 2011

    The problem with someone like perry is this: with his record, we can’t tell whether he believes creationism (didn’t he get the memo that it’s supposed to be called intelligent design?) is taught in the schools or whether he’s simply lying about it to get street cred with his right wing loony friends. the possibilities are equally likely – and equally scary in terms of what they say about his agenda.

  2. #2 Cuttlefish
    August 18, 2011

    “I figured you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.” … so why on earth would you intentionally teach the wrong one?

  3. #3 Ribi
    August 18, 2011

    @dean Determining the true depth of Perry’s Christianity is somewhat irrelevant. He’s shown himself on multiple occasions to be willing to subvert the Constitution to promote his religious views, and properly, that ought to be enough to disqualify him from office. Pondering the beliefs that reside in his innermost thoughts doesn’t achieve very much, in any case.

    @Cuttlefish Rick Perry seems to think evolution is the “wrong one”, but he doesn’t have the clout to remove evolution from the curriculum outright. Most likely, he would strike evolution from the curriculum if he had the clout to spare.

  4. #4 Cuttlefish
    August 19, 2011

    @Ribi– It seems pretty clear that Perry’s answer was aimed not at the kid’s mom (or, frankly, anyone else in that particular crowd); he’s never had their votes and doesn’t care about losing them. It was a dodge and a dog-whistle for his base. If he can spout creationism to an innocent child in a crowd full of liberal elites, he must be on the side of the angels.


  5. #5 Evil Lution
    August 27, 2011

    Perry’s comments reflect the fact that he’s attempting to load the Texas State Board of Education with appointees that reflect his religious views of biology education. Social conservatives were attempting to allow creationist supplemental materials (e-versions) into TX public schools in an attempt to allow TX biology teachers to explore the “..weak parts of evolutionary theory.” (i.e, teach creationism/ID). However, a large outcry resulted in the board voting unanimously to uphold the 2009 current standards and dispense alternative views. Perry is not trusting of science concepts and his ideas mostly reflect his predecessor, Pres./Gov. George Bush.