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Texas Confronts the Evolutionist Threat

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Then as we linger at luncheon here,

O’er many a dainty dish,

Let us drink anew to the time when you

Were a tadpole and I was a fish.

— Longdon Smith,  Evolution

Evolution is back! And as in years gone by, it has surfaced in Texas, the state with a governor and many denizens who offer proof that not everyone evolves.   In recent years evolution has taken center stage in that state on more than one occasion.  Recall Christine Castillo Comer.

Christine was the director of science for the Texas Education Agency.  One day in 2007 she got an announcement that Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, would be giving a talk in Austin.  Her talk was sponsored by the National Center for Science Education, an organization that thinks evolution happened in the past and is continuing, people like Texas’s Governor Perry notwithstanding.  Christine sent notice of the talk to an “online community”.  When her boss found out she told Christine to retract the email even though that didn’t make the lecture disappear.  Her boss demanded the retraction because, as she explained to Christine, evolution is a “subject on which the agency must remain neutral.”  Christine was also fired because, as her boss explain, her conduct was egregious. And who can forget Don McLeroy.

Dr. McLeroy, a dentist,  was the chair of the Texas Board of Education when it was considering standards for scientific textbooks.  As the board was concluding its examination of evolution and global warming during its final meetings on March 25-27, 2009, it said that when studying evolution the students must examine “all sides of scientific evidence” including the part that says the earth is only 6000 years old, give or take a couple hundred.  The Discovery Institute that promotes “Intelligent Design” called the decision a “huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution.”  Dr. McLeroy was jubilant.  In an interview with Mariah Blake of the Washington Monthly he said in a folksy way:  “Wooey.  We won the Grand Slam, and the Super Bowl. . . .Our science standards are light years ahead of any other state when it comes to challenging evolution.”  (It is not known how long Dr. McLeroy’s light years are but that probably doesn’t matter. )  Dr. McLeroy also took delight in the addition to the text books of the requirement that students must “’analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming.”  He explained that:  “Conservatives like me think the evidence [on global warming] is a bunch of hooey.” Now evolution is with us again as Texas is completing the review of textbooks for high school students.

And the winners yet again are evolution and global warming.   Some of the members of the review panel were nominated by the state board of education, others by parents and educators and the state’s education commissioner.  People interested in serving could nominate themselves. The panel comprised 28 members  six of whom are not big fans of evolution.  Their inclusion on the panel brought joy to the hearts of those who run the  “Creation Science Hall of Fame. ”

The Creation Science Hall of Fame’s home page states that its purpose is, in part, “to build a family of Creationists on the foundation of the Bible by honoring those who honored God’s Word as literally written in Genesis.” Given that mission it is no surprise that on its home page it published a news flash that said: The Creation Science Hall of Fame recognizes the following Creationists on the Texas Panel for Biology Textbooks: Daniel Romo, David Zeiger, Ide Trotter, Raymond Bohlin, Richard White, and Walter Bradley. We here at the CSHF are proud of Creationists who are not afraid to stand up for the Truth.”  (Although these men have been recognized none of them has yet been inducted into the Creation Science Hall of Fame. If and when the honor is bestowed upon them they will join such notable inductees as Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Guglielmo Marconi, and Wernher von Braun, to name just a few of the inductees, all of whom are believed to have been inducted posthumously.)  Among those recognized, Mr.  Trotter is a retired chemical engineer who has served as a spokesperson for a creationist group.  Messrs. Bradley and Bohlin are fellows with the Discovery Institute, the home of the “intelligent design” creationism movement that greeted the work of a similar committee in 2009 with such enthusiasm.

We don’t yet know what standards will finally be approved by the State Board of Education at the only public hearing that will take place in November.  With Governor Perry at the helm of the state for another year, however, those fighting evolution will have a strong ally in that office.  As he said when running for president in response to a question about evolution: “[I]t’s a theory that’s out there and it’s got some gaps in it (referring perhaps to himself).  In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools-because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

The governor is apparently not as smart as the students since he has not yet reached a decision on this perplexing question, or, if he has reached a decision, is unable to remember what it was.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

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