April 1, 2009

Texas Poised to Overtake Tennessee

Please watch the following videos. The first is Texas State Board of Education Chairman, Don McLeroy (whom I have blogged about before) as he attempts to justify the dogged determination of the creationists on the SBOE to inject mythology into Texas science classes. This rant follows on the heels of a guest OpEd piece McLeroy wrote for the Austin American Statesman.

Taking into account that McLeroy is a dentist and is very likely not well schooled in the biological sciences, and taking into account McLeroy’s avowed creationist bent, I find his editorial to be very weak even before we dissect his “facts.” But for the sake of accuracy, let’s dissect those facts.

McLeroy either grossly misunderstands the science he quotes, or is deliberately obfuscating the science. What McLeroy does such a bad job of is understanding punctuated equilibria. This is the theory Stephen Jay Gould referred to in the paper from which McLeroy quotes. The theory states that most species experience negligible change for the largest portion of their history, which is revealed as stasis in the fossil record. But Gould goes on to state that when the kind of phenotypic evolution McLeroy admits does occur, it is geologically localized and occurring in sporadic, branching events.

The fossil record indicates that a species generally survives somewhere around 5-10 million years and that they change very little in that time period. This is Gould’s "stasis." That McLeroy so badly misunderstands. Evolution occurred in spits and spurts separated by millions of years of punctuated equilibria.

McLeroy’s rant is no threat to the theory of evolution, but his actions and those of half of the appointed (by Rick Perry, which is another story altogether) SBOE, added to the fact that the 2nd largest purchaser of textbooks in the country will now demand books supporting myth over science, and you have a situation which could possibly affect even those not in Texas. This is very troublesome.

Now follows a bit of explanation how Texas science books will become the laughing stock of the scientific world, even though the SBOE hired a board of experts to aid in writing the standards. This is biology Professor David Hillis from the University of Texas. Professor Hillis was one of the panel of experts who helped write the initial standards.

So McLeroy’s quote mining can be dismissed, as it becomes painfully apparent that his goal is not teaching our kids science, but propping up his creationist views. If this standard had been in effect when I was in school I could have aced all those science quizzes. The answer to every question would have been “God did it!”

The die may be cast, but the battle is far from over. For much more information and some interesting links, please visit the Texas Citizens for Science website.



jeg43 said...

It's hard to decide whether to laugh or run away screaming and ripping out my hair. It is sad that a SBOE can act in such a clueless manner.
The good citizens of Texas are in deep shit.

Rogue Medic said...

I guess they do not have DNA in Texas, or nobody told him.

If I'd have known I would have to debate this even more today, I would have brought all my evidence. I have the "Time Magazine" cover that says . . .

Sorry, I was giggling too much to pay attention after that part.

A true scientist.

The phylas are still with us today. Some have flittered out, but some are still here.

Those must be the butterfly phyla. Or would they have fluttered out? Maybe they flittered out maybe to get a drink and a smoke, but then they flittered back, because this is where all the cool dentists are.