The level of arrogance displayed by anti-evolution pressure groups and their activists in the war on science has been astonishing.
We have witnessed, for example, creationists openly question the faith of people who see no conflict between their religious beliefs and accepting the science of evolution. (Of course, their rhetoric gets even more heated when they attack atheists.) Now the Texas Freedom Network has obtained an e-mail to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that provides yet more evidence of this arrogance — and the contempt evolution deniers have for those of us who want Texas kids to get a 21st-century science education based on facts, not ideology.
When TFN learned in November that the Texas State Board of Education would limit testimony to just four hours at its January public hearing on proposed science standards, we protested. We asked supporters of sound science to call on the board to reverse that decision. After all, these standards will be in place for a decade and will dictate the science education of a generation of Texas kids. The least that state board members could do was listen to the concerns of fellow citizens traveling to Austin for the hearing. (And we knew that creationist groups were calling on their supporters to testify at the January hearing.)
But Charles Garner, a Baylor University chemist and evolution opponent put on a curriculum review panel by creationist state board members, wrote to the TEA and insisted that the limit on testimony remain in place. Here is the text of his e-mail from November 24:
Dear TEA: The Texas Freedom Network has requested its supporters to besiege the TEA with emails complaining that not enough public testimony time is being allowed on the new TEKS science standards. I encourage you to resist this pressure from this special interest group. What more or different things could be said than were already said in the November 20 meeting? How much time would ever be enough for these people? Clearly, they simply want to wear out the SBOE with their mantra. Scientific truth is not determined by consensus, and scientists are not the High Priests of our society. (the Lawyers are!) Enough of them have had their say, and I encourage you to hold the line. Enough is enough.
Dr. Charles M. Garner
Now, that’s real chutzpah, yes? After all, the state board had invited Garner and the other five members of the official curriculum review panel to speak at the hearing. And the panel’s two other evolution opponents included a co-founder of the Discovery Institute — a political pressure group that masquerades as a science institute. Talk about special interests.
Well, if Garner isn’t interested in hearing what fellow citizens think about efforts by evolution deniers to dumb down science education in Texas, what does he think about his colleagues at Baylor?
Statement on Evolution
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Baylor University is committed to the highest standards of scientific inquiry in the search for objective truth about the natural universe. From the time of Francis Bacon, this search for truth has been through the scientific method, in which the veracity of a hypothesis is tested by experimentation.
Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biological sciences, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence. It is fundamental to the understanding of modern biochemistry, and our faculty incorporate the principle of evolution throughout the biochemistry curriculum. We are a science department, and we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously.
Statement on Evolution
“Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biology, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. Because it is fundamental to the understanding of modern biology, the faculty in the Biology Department at Baylor University, Waco, TX, teach evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science’s statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously.”
From the Baylor University Department of Geology Web site:
Does the fossil record support the idea of biological change over time (biological evolution)?
Yes. The fossil record clearly indicates
- a progression in complexity of organisms from very simple fossil forms in the oldest rocks (>3.5 billion years old) to a broad spectrum from simple to complex forms in younger rocks,
- that some organisms that were once common are now extinct, and
- that the living organisms inhabiting our world today are similar (but generally not the same) as organisms represented as fossils in young sedimentary deposits, which in turn have evolutionary ancestors represented as fossils in yet older rocks.
Mammals, for example, are prevalent today and can be traced back in the fossil record for approximately 200 million years, but are not present as mammals in the fossil record before that; however, fossil forms that have reasonably been interpreted to be associated with the evolutionary precursors to mammals are found in older rocks.
Whether biological evolution occurs has not been a matter of scientific debate for more than a century. It is considered a proven fact. The specific mechanisms of biological change over time continue to be a topic of active research, and include mechanisms proposed by Charles Darwin as well as more recently developed ideas based on our growing knowledge of genetics and molecular biology. Using the methods of modern science, our knowledge of the fundamental mechanisms of life has grown enormously since the initial characterization of the role of DNA in reproduction, inheritance and evolution in the mid-1950s.
Of course, we’re under no illusions. We realize these strong statements from colleagues at his own university still won’t be good enough for Garner. Nothing would be — except for surrendering science education to an ideological agenda.
(Thanks to our science friends who pointed us to these passages on the Baylor Web sites.)