Arrogance

 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
TEKS Reviewer

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?

From the Baylor University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Web site:

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.

From the Baylor University Department of Biology Web site:

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.)

30 thoughts on “Arrogance

  1. Arrogance is a great name for this…at least the arrogance of the fools who believe the words of this author so blindly. Is this really what our society has been reduced to? Has everyone on this issue forgotten what actually needs to be focused on? Is the education of the children really what you’re going to sacrifice, just so you can have your way (which obviously is the most important thing in the ENTIRE world)? How about rather than blindly blasting people about subject matters that you obviously barely understand, how about everyone on here try to fix the education system?
    It’s obvious no one here is worried about education, and it shows. I doubt anyone on here can actually claim to be a “scientist” and still try to push evolution as fact, even though it’s a solid theory. I may believe evolution, and condemn religion, but I’m not even willing to blind myself with my own beliefs to keep from seeing the facts (or in this case, lack of). So long as there’s no transitional evidence, such as a fossilized record of a half bird, half lizard or something of the like, no scientist should ever treat evolution as a fact.

  2. I am wondering how you got a copy of Garner’s email to the TEA — I am not aware of the TEA publishing or releasing received emails related to the new science standards.

    The opening post says,
    –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. —

    Some Darwinists are just as bad — for example, a public commenter said at the Nov. 19 board hearing,

    Despite what the creationist members of the Board say — Ms Lowe, Ms Leo, Ms Cargill, Ms Dunbar, Mr Mercer, Dr McLeroy and others — everybody in the nation knows that this is absolutely a religious battle, that your dislike of evolution and naturalism and any changes to the TEKs that are supported by the Discovery Institute are religiously motivated. Kitzmiller vs Dover clearly showed that ID and these issues are religious in nature. For you to sit there and tell everyone it is not smacks of arrogance and deliberate willful deception. In other words, lying. I know who the Father of Lies… (at this point the commenter was interrupted by board chairman McLeroy)
    — from
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/01/incredible-darwinist-bigotry.html

    Garner’s email said,
    –What more or different things could be said than were already said in the November 20 meeting?–

    The public comments at the November hearing (Nov. 19, not Nov. 20) did have too much repetition of ideas. It was supposed to be a public hearing but Darwinists tried to turn it into a public demonstration. Still, though, I did not agree with the idea of limiting the Jan. 21 public comment period — some people might have had something new to say.

    –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. —

    When he wrote the Nov. 24 email, Garner did not know that the 6 expert panelists would be invited to a special hearing. The expert-panel hearing was announced by the Discovery Institute on Jan. 13 (I presume that the Discovery Institute was promptly informed because one of the experts, Stephen Meyer, is on the DI staff) — see
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/01/texas_board_of_education_sched.html

  3. Watch, I can play Logic’s game….Here’s how you do it….

    “I’m a Christian, but I’m really beginning to have some doubts. I mean, come on, evolution just looks so obvious. So many scientists support it. And what sort of evidence do we have for God? None, really. I’m trying to hold on to my faith, but I have to admit it’s difficult. Until there’s evidence, I’m not sure I should believe anything the Bible says.”

    That was fun.

  4. Larry said: “I am wondering how you got a copy of Garner’s email to the TEA — I am not aware of the TEA publishing or releasing received emails related to the new science standards.”

    Larry, I’m guessing they used the Freedom of Information Act.

    The rest of your post rambles a bit. Brevity is your friend.

  5. @Ben:
    As I said before, I’m far from a Christian, and in fact I even agree with evolution. However, it’s foolish to blast someone who believes something on the basis that they have very few facts supporting them, especially when you yourself have a roughly equal amount of evidence. Why does it matter that evolution gets taught in a classroom as fact or as a theory? Everyone should be far more worried about the education of children, not whether or not their beliefs are treated as fact and not theory. There’s a damn good reason that it’s called the evolutionary “theory”.

  6. Oh, when will this stop! I teach SCIENCE in an Episcopal school. Evolution is still termed a “theory” only because we learn more about it everyday, therefore we constantly refine it. Why must the creationist put God’s work in a little box? I am 60 years old and was taught evolution 50 years ago. It was not an issue. I did not grow up to be a serial killer. I am a rather prudish, highly moral, Christian woman who believes God brought about life in a fascinating way.

  7. Ben said (February 6, 2009 at 11:09 am) —
    –Larry said: “I am wondering how you got a copy of Garner’s email to the TEA — I am not aware of the TEA publishing or releasing received emails related to the new science standards.”

    Larry, I’m guessing they used the Freedom of Information Act.–

    In Texas, it’s called the Texas Public Information Act. How was TFN even aware of the email’s existence? You have to be fairly specific about the information you want — you can’t just go on a fishing expedition. Also, some restrictions may apply.

    –The rest of your post rambles a bit.–

    What? How can you say that — it is right on-topic.

    ndt said,
    –Larry, how was what you quoted “bad”? It seemed right on target to me. —

    I didn’t say the quote was bad — I said that some Darwinists are bad. Some people seem to have a hard time understanding what I say.

  8. Larry said:
    “Some people seem to have a hard time understanding what I say.”

    What do you mean by this?

  9. Six basic problems with creationism:

    1. Creationists, if I understand them correctly, are Bible literalists: they interpret every word of the Bible literally. Fine. But if one does that, one is going to run into all kinds of problems. For example, a literalist, by definition, has to accept a talking snake and a talking donkey. These Biblical talking creatures not only vocalize but have the ability to speak in a language the humans of their time can understand. The existence of such animals would be supportive of evolution since, last time I checked, snakes and donkeys today do not talk. Could that mean that snakes and donkeys have….(gulp)….evolved? Oops!

    2. Creationists don’t understand the definition of ‘theory’ when used in the scientific context. They assume (wrongly) that ‘theory’ means nothing more than a ‘hypothesis.’ They assume (again wrongly) that a theory is just something someone thought up on a whim, with no supporting evidence. By trade, I am a cytotechnologist. I analyze cells on a microscope, cells that come out of people’s bodies. I do this for the purpose of early cancer detection. My entire profession is based on “cell theory.” Oh, but wait! Cell theory is just a ‘theory,’ right? Therefore, it has no basis in fact; it’s just a crazy idea someone thought up one day while smoking dope. Wow! What a relief. Since cell theory is just a theory, we’ve nothing at all to worry about as regards the health of people’s cells. There must be no such thing, then, as MALIGNANT cells. Hooray! We’ve solved the scourge of cancer: it doesn’t exist!

    3. Creationists don’t even know what evolution is about. I can tell by the weaknesses of the arguments they raise. For example, the claim that the incompatibility of human and animal blood types proves evolution false is not a rational argument since incompatible blood types exist among humans. Creationists seem not to understand that Darwin’s book is titled On The Origin Of Species By Natural Selection. Note it says The Origin Of SPECIES. It does not say The Origin Of LIFE. Thus, evolution is the study of the DIVERSITY of life. It is not the study of the ORIGIN of life. Secondly, evolution is the study of the NATURAL world. It is not the study of the SUPERNATURAL world.

    4. Creationists equate evolution with atheism or satanism. They assume (again wrongly) that if you’re a deist or theist or Christian or whatever – that you can’t possibly be an evolutionist as well. They are ignorant of the existence of people like Dr. Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller, both evolutionists, scientists, and Christians.

    5. As regards teaching evolution, since the very idea is so upsetting to their preferred world view, they feel they have to water it down by teaching “weaknesses.” Most theories have unknowns. If they simply must teach unknowns as “weaknesses,” fine. But why single out evolution for this special “strengths and weaknesses” language? Are creationists willing to examine their OWN theory by the scientific method? Somehow, I see no evidence that creationists are willing to go there. It would be far too terrifying for them. But creation, of course, isn’t a theory at all. Creationism is a faith, not a theory. Thus, evolution vs creationism is not a question of EITHER/OR. It is the comparison of apples and oranges. Which is a futile endeavor and a waste of time.

    6. Lastly, since evolution contains unknowns, how does the existence of unknowns prove evolution wrong and creationism correct? Where is the correlation? Creationists refuse to address this.

    So, as long as the above exists, I see no end to this silliness.

  10. Ben, your posting is most definitely off-topic. What does compassion for sick children have to do with evolution or the teaching of evolution?

    For that matter, what does lack of compassion have to do with atheism?

    I take it you are Christian? If you ever studied history, you would learn that through most of its history Christianity has been particularly LACKING in compassion.

  11. Cytocop, I’m afraid you’ve misread me. I’m not a believer. Read my comments here and you’ll see that. Sorry if I confused you. I was hoping my fellow non-believers would show how compassionate we are, and the answer so far is “very.”

    Pharyngula is a blog written by a well-known “godless” biology professor.

    I mentioned that the moderator might want to delete my comment, and if he or she feels it is distracting, I understand. Just delete it and these related posts.

  12. William Says:

    –Larry seems to have little experience requesting public information as well. —

    How is that? What did I say that was wrong?

    You Darwinists are just big bags of hot air.

  13. Larry,

    You don’t have to be to scalpel-specific in what you’re seeking. You can easily ask for any and all correspondence between so-and-so and TEA, or any document referring to TFN, or, if you’re willing to pay for a lot of copies, all documents and correspondence relating to the controversy.

    Or, maybe — just maybe — they requested all documents and correspondence provided to TEA and the SBOE from the creationist review panel members.

    Also, your ad hominem attacks are rather ridiculous when you haven’t given one time to respond.

  14. William Says,
    –You don’t have to be to scalpel-specific in what you’re seeking. You can easily ask for any and all correspondence between so-and-so and TEA, or any document referring to TFN, or, if you’re willing to pay for a lot of copies, all documents and correspondence relating to the controversy. —

    OK, the so-and-so here is Charles Garner, and maybe TFN asked for his emails that mentioned TFN. But why would TFN suspect that those emails contained anything that the TFN would want to comment on? Looks like a fishing expedition to me.

    –Also, your ad hominem attacks are rather ridiculous when you haven’t given one time to respond. —

    Where did I make such an ad hominem attack?

    1. We obtained the e-mail through a standard request under the Texas Public Information Act. This isn’t rocket science.

  15. TFN Says:

    –We obtained the e-mail through a standard request under the Texas Public Information Act. This isn’t rocket science. —

    That still does not explain why you suspected Garner sent the TEA an email that you would want to comment on. Maybe not rocket science, but it does seem like clairvoyance.

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