Standing up for evolution education in Texas

“I understand the National Academy of Science’s [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution,” one reviewer wrote. “At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.”

“While I understand the theory of evolution and its wide acceptance, there should be inclusion of the ‘creation model’ based on the Biblical view of history.”

“Text neglects to tell students that no transitional fossils have been discovered. The fossil record can be interpreted in other ways than evolutionary with equal justification. Text should ask students to analyze and compare alternative theories.”

These statements were made by so-called “experts” whose opinions on science textbooks were solicited by the Texas Board of Education as part of their textbook adoption process. You can read more about this here, here , and here.

I may be testifying in favor of the adoption of the proposed science K-12 textbooks (which are all quite good) at the Texas Board of Education public hearing next Tuesday, and I will certainly be attending the
Texas Freedom Network’s “Stand up for science” rally.

I’ll be posting a transcript of my testimony (if it happens) and a report on hearing next week. In the meantime, if you’re a science-loving Texan, I encourage you to come participate. For everyone else, please spread awareness of this issue, and feel free to share your thoughts and what YOU would like to say to the Board of Education in the comments below!

23 thoughts on “Standing up for evolution education in Texas

  1. Scott Nelson September 12, 2013 / 3:10 pm

    I think its pretty simple. Can you refute the hypothesis-is it deniable? if you can’t prove it wrong, then its not science. If anybody can think of a logical way to deny “God wants it that way”, I’d love to hear it. Please define God and his desires.

  2. mychannellogos September 12, 2013 / 3:15 pm

    It’s quite simple. Science is the study of principles of physics and nature around us that is created through the systematic testing of hypotheses, coming up with the principle that most closely matches the data. Science is never absolute.

    But something that is written in the bible has never been scientifically verified. Because almost every piece of evidence points towards Evolution, not creationism. Creationism is not science. It is a religious belief. If a segment of society gives enough credence to the bible that they think its true, that does not mean it has undergone scientific verification.

    Is evolution still considered a ‘theory’? Yes, because its something that we cannot absolutely prove. But every piece of evidence points towards it. And just because it is a theory, does not suddenly make creationism any more scientific.

    “But wait!”, says the creationism believer. “Didn’t you see that footprint and dinosaur print side by side? That PROVES creationism is right!” Well, to that I say, “ok, there is your one piece of circumstantial evidence which I could easily explain away. Now here are my thousands of pieces of evidence that point to the other conclusion.”

  3. EricaK September 12, 2013 / 5:13 pm

    I use this debate to introduce students to critical scientific reasoning and it never fails to raise hackles. To dissuade digression from the point in my class (I teach psychology), I start with the difference between belief-based thinking and empirically based thinking. I close the discussion by stating that science classes – no matter the topic – are about empirically based thinking, NOT belief based thinking and that’s why creationism doesn’t belong there. Its not that creationism shouldn’t be included in the curriculum per se, but that it shouldn’t be included in the SCIENCE curriculum. Talk about it all you want in a Humanities class, but it’s just not science, in the observational-hypothetical-deductive-reasoning framework. Science isn’t a set of facts, rather science is a way of thinking, a process that enables certain questions to be answered with appropriate evidence. Not all questions lend themselves to the process of science though, and really, what’s the harm in acknowledging that? When I frame the discussion like this, students “get it” and generally leave happy, no matter their religious background. I do still fail to understand why ideologues try to claim creationism as something it’s not though, but that’s a different issue.

    • Lynn Gates (@lynng_westlake) September 12, 2013 / 6:17 pm

      Erika, I love your approach. You nicely separate religious beliefs from scientific research and fact.As a Canadian, I am just amazed that religious fanatics have been allowed to hijack so many American education systems. Given such a highly educated citizenry, it is truely bizarre.

      • Jennifer Raff September 13, 2013 / 8:34 am

        I like that approach, too! Growing up in the American school system was interesting. I was explicitly taught evolution in Catholic grade school in Missouri, but in an Indiana public high school (during an A.P. Biology class, no less!) the teacher mentioned that there were ‘other theories’. Naturally, I got into an argument with him 🙂

    • Swarn Gill September 14, 2013 / 8:35 am

      Well stated. It is very much my philosophy too, that science is a way of thinking. 🙂

  4. Ben Fulton September 12, 2013 / 6:53 pm

    The ones who are suggesting a Biblical view of history need to get with the program. Current thinking is to rename Creationism to Intelligent Design, and remove direct religious references, in order to get around First Amendment restrictions.

    • Jennifer Raff September 13, 2013 / 8:35 am

      Very true, Ben. Did you see the Discovery Institute’s defensive article about one of my blog posts?

  5. notanazi2005 September 12, 2013 / 8:45 pm

    The past #64 medical textbooks, that I have purchased from Science/Technical bookstores from places all over the world have had some mistakes. At BC High in 1969, the Jesuits issued me bogus textbooks so that I would fail, and these school records exits. When I transferred to EBHS, I excelled in academics, music, and sports.

  6. Mollie September 12, 2013 / 11:58 pm

    What is your most definitive proof of evolution?

    • Jennifer Raff September 13, 2013 / 8:46 am

      We don’t speak in terms of ‘definitive proof’ in science, but the theory of evolution is supported by evidence from many different fields of science, including biology, geology, chemistry, anthropology, and paleontology. Evidence includes: 1) comparative anatomy showing that animals hypothesized to have a common ancestor have similar anatomical features, 2) the fossil record, showing clear patterns of evolutionary change (including the transitions from ancient ancestors to today’s modern species) over about 3.4 billion years, 3) ancient and modern genomes, which not only support predictions made from the fossil/skeletal record about the relationships between species, they also show the ‘nuts and bolts’ of evolutionary change: evolutionary forces affect our genomes and their effects can be modeled (this is actually what I do for a living), 4) laboratory experimentation showing evolution in action (on organisms with very short generation times).

      • Swarn Gill September 14, 2013 / 8:40 am

        I think it’s also important to note that Darwin’s Origin of the Species doesn’t start with Galapagos Turtles but begins with unnatural selection. It looks at how through our own actions as a species have caused evolution to happen in many plant species. Many of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy today are an example of how the selection process works. Doing it as a conscious choice allows for the change to happen much more quickly, for natural selection we need much more time. Thankfully the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. 🙂

  7. Mark Rupright September 13, 2013 / 8:06 am

    What I would want to say to them would be counter-productive. I would point out that willful ignorance is among the most egregious forms of arrogance; that lying in the name of their religion diminishes their faith; and that while trying to insert religion into science class is illegal, trying to insert politics into science class (because Creationism and ID are political movements more than religious) is the surest way to destroy a free society.

  8. Chelsey September 13, 2013 / 8:22 am

    I feel like their arguments have been refuted so many times that if they don’t understand it by now, they’ll never understand it. (Especially the “theory” argument. It doesn’t mean what you think it means, dude.) They don’t WANT to have a discussion, they just want everyone to accept their views on it and shut up. Which I think is what pisses me off the most.

    • Jennifer Raff September 13, 2013 / 8:49 am

      You’re right, they don’t. I don’t particularly enjoy getting into arguments with creationists/ID’ers because for them it’s not so much about discussing the evidence as it is about ‘scoring points’ with their rhetoric. They’re more focused on the argument itself, and its perceived effects, rather than evaluating the evidence.

      • Jerry A. September 13, 2013 / 2:39 pm

        You are not their (ID’ers) audience. You’ve got an education. They want to “score points” by convincing or at least confusing people who did not get a full science-based education. The more doubt they sow, the more they convince the general public that there is a “controversy”. “Teach the controversy” is their way to get their religion’s foot in the door of a science classroom.

    • Kevin September 14, 2013 / 8:23 am

      I truthfully enjoy arguing with creationists.
      I try to discuss things they don’t want to discuss.

      There morals and how there arguments against evolution violates there own morals. That knowingly repeating lies, and using hypocritical double standards is immoral.

      and how most Christians accept evolution. So they are in fact attacking other Christians…. Not atheists.

      Afterall they are doing this for good christian morals and beliefs…. right? If in the efforts to make everyone else a “good christian” are they being a good christian?

  9. Anthony September 13, 2013 / 4:27 pm

    Finding oil these days takes knowledge of geology – being able to look at rocks and tell how many millions of years old they are, what natural processes over millions of years could have created the rock formations which can trap oil and gas. Knowledge of where oil has been found contributes to our knowledge of geology, but knowledge of evolution and the fossil record, as explained by evolution, allows us to make better guesses about where we can find oil.

    People who believe that the Bible is a literal guide to our planet’s prehistory don’t find oil.

    After all, this is Texas you’re talking about.

  10. Shawn September 13, 2013 / 5:35 pm

    One of my students asked me “You say one thing, my minister says another; why should I believe you?” I told her not to. I told her not to believe her minister either. We could both be lying to her. What she should do is test this herself.

    I’m a paleoanthropologist. I *love* fossils. I’ve excavated very early primate fossils, and I’ve also held StS 5 (“Mrs. Ples”) and MH1 (“Karabo”) *in my own hands*. But the fact is I don’t need them for evidence of human evolution, and they’re not even the best evidence.

    The same methods that can be used in a court of law to prove I’m more closely related to my father than I am to the Queen of England also show I’m more closely related to the Queen than I am to a chimpanzee, more closely related to a chimpanzee than a squid, and more closely related to a squid than a sunflower- but that I’m related to all of them.

    The methods are not that complicated. I told my student she could learn them in a couple of college courses, and prove this to herself with a little lab time. Or if she were feeling lazy she could just get on a computer and do a BLAST comparison on some human and animal genomes. The point is we aren’t lacking the evidence, and the common person has access to *all* of it. Nor are we lacking access to the Old and New Testaments. “Teaching the controversy” includes testing them for scientific accuracy and logical consistency also. That, too, does not take very long.

    If you are a Literal Creationist, please try this. It’s OK. We’ll wait.

    • gewisn September 17, 2013 / 10:07 pm

      Still waiting.

  11. Baal Shem Ra September 22, 2013 / 10:11 am

    I am fine with teaching “Biblical creation science” is they teach my religion’s version of creation as well (the Universe was created by 10,000 Dog Demons). Be fair, teach the controversy!

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