GRAPEVINE, Texas — Leave it to the “experts” instead of “scientifically illiterate” elected officials to decide what constitutes legitimate science education for your kids.
That’s the message The New York Times editorial board and Darwinist advocacy groups want recorded as the moral of the story after the Texas State Board of Education last week caused the scientific establishment to smile and then frown in the course of one very influential, closely watched board meeting.
It was a net win for friends of honest scientific inquiry — albeit a tentative one that will be challenged fiercely before the final vote to ratify the new standards during meetings March 26-27.
In the meantime, however, the Texas education board ought to be applauded for its initial approval of language that requires students to “evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry” as it relates to the fossil record and to “assess the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of this fossil evidence.”
The board, in its once-a-decade review of science curricula and standards, acted after a public hearing and advice from a panel of mostly Darwinist scientists and educators to drop a 20-year-old state requirement that students evaluate the “strengths and weaknesses” of all scientific theories, which it did in a close vote.
After that vote, however, the board astounded the evolution-as-immutable-truth crowd, allowing amendments that included the “arguments for and against” language directed at key evolutionary tenets of biology.
Between now and March, activists opposed to critiquing evolution have promised to fight to remove the new amendments. Those who are committed to free academic inquiry should also join the battle by thoughtfully explaining why Darwinism deserves scrutiny as much as any other theory that involves conjecture about things that cannot be tested in a laboratory.
The Texas Freedom Network, which bills itself as “a mainstream voice to counter the religious right” but is rarely mainstream, is among those that has vowed to fight the new amendments.
The network’s president, Kathy Miller, likened the amendment to allow critique of common ancestry to a “Hail, Mary” football pass that would be called back on further review, adding that the amendment “could provide a small foothold for teaching creationist ideas and dumbing down biology instruction in Texas.”
Of course, no reasonable person — creationist or not — wants biblical creationism taught in public school science classes. In a pluralistic culture, even elective Bible classes are not without danger. Moreover, I don’t want a public school teacher explaining Genesis to my kids. You wouldn’t either.
What’s more, I want my kids, who attend Texas public schools, to know evolutionary theory backwards and forwards. I’m not afraid of them learning what is the consensus of the scientific establishment, but that same establishment is terrified of students learning that Darwinism and neo-Darwinism might not be foolproof.
Miller’s claim that criticisms of evolution are part of a Trojan horse strategy for introducing sectarian religion into public schools is the rallying cry in this fight, and it couldn’t be more absurd.
The tack of the evolution-as-immutable-truth crowd is to cry wolf about a theocratic conspiracy of Christian fundamentalists who want six-day Genesis creation crammed down the throat of every school kid — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, secular, you name it.
Related to that is the clever move of evolution proponents to equate biblical creationism — religious viewpoint — with Intelligent Design (ID) theory — a scientific investigation into the apparent design in the known universe and in living things.
ID proponents are a varied lot, from secular Jews such as philosopher David Berlinski to Roman Catholics like physicist Michael Behe and Christian evangelicals like mathematician and philosopher William Dembski of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Guillermo Gonzalez, an acclaimed astronomer whose research has been covered in respected journals such as Nature and Science.
In closing its editorial about the Texas school board, The New York Times wrote: “The lesson we draw from these shenanigans is that scientifically illiterate boards of education should leave the curriculum to educators and scientists who know what constitutes a sound education.”
When the arguments for free academic inquiry encroach on Darwinism’s place as the great meta-narrative of human history and existence, Darwin’s defenders resort to character attacks at the rate of bullets flying from an automatic rifle.
(One wonders if anyone on The Times‘ editorial board has ever bothered to read Dembski or Berlinski or Gonzalez.)
Nevertheless, these ad hominem attacks are evidence that the other side is running low on substantive arguments. That’s good news for those of us interested in a sound science education for our children. When the Texas school board meets again in March, may free scientific inquiry win the day.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)