Thursday, March 26, 2009

Young Earth Creationists Win The Day On Questioning Evolution In Texas Classrooms

Pro-evolution advocates felt like they had carried the day Thursday morning when the State Board of Education voted against adding language to the education standard requiring Texas educators to have a "critical discussion" on the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" with public school students.

However, by the end of board proceedings late Thursday afternoon it was actually young earth creationist Don McLeroy, Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, and the creation social conservative members of the board that won the day on teaching the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories" in Texas schools.

The Texas Observer:
McLeroy and the six other social conservatives on the 15-member board mostly got their way this afternoon. They passed a series of minor amendments that, with a slight word change here and there, diluted the state’s science standards and the teaching of evolutionary theory. Critics say these proposals open loopholes in the standards for the teaching of unscientific theories espoused by religious conservatives. (The same approach was tried, quite successfully, at the board’s meeting in January.}

“We’re opening the conversation and broadening it to alternative theories,” said Barbara Cargill, a socially conservative board member from The Woodlands. “We know there are a lot of questions about the fossil record.” [There is NO scientific evidence that is non-supportive of evolution. Evolution is settled science for all but ideologues who oppose it for religious reasons.]

Terri Leo, an ardent social conservative, passed an amendment requiring biology students to “analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding the formation of simple organic molecules.”

Board Chair Don McLeroy passed an amendment that will require science curriculum and textbooks to “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of the cell.”

Cargill snuck through an amendment that struck a reference to the Universe being 14 billion years old. “It clarifies this for our teachers to let students know that there are differing theories for the age of the Universe,” Cargill said, adding that she was simply trying to add a sense of “humility” to the science standards.

Pro-evolution members offered several amendments themselves, many from Lubbock’s Bob Craig, to undo the social conservatives’ victories from January. Nearly all of those amendments failed.

The change in fortunes occurred largely because of Rick Agosto of San Antonio, who voted against the social conservatives in the morning and mostly with them in the afternoon. Agosto is viewed as the key swing vote on the board. He voted against the “strengths and weaknesses” language in January and again this morning, despite fierce lobbying from religious groups in his district.

Agosto wasn’t alone. Several other pro-evolution board members voted with the social conservatives’ this afternoon.

The board will take its final vote on the science standards, which will set content of classes and textbooks for years to come, tomorrow. The board can add in or take out language up until final passage.

So one last fight is likely on Friday.

The purpose of the several amendments, as McLeroy states in the video, is to allow teachers to question the validity of the “two key parts of the great claim of evolution, which is common ancestry by unguided natural processes.”

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