Cargill Grilled Again

This time the Q&A for Barbara Cargill, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) chair, is administered by Texas Monthly. And just like her appearance before the Senate Nominations Committee last week (or before the Senate Education Committee the week before), I don’t think these answers are going to put to rest concern in the science community.

First off, Cargill has a hard time explaining what  it was, exactly, she and the other creationists on the SBOE intended when they crammed buzzwords favored by “intelligent design” backers (terms such as “sudden appearance” and “stasis”) into the state’s public school science curriculum standards in 2009. And while Cargill is fond of touting her own credentials as a biology teacher, she’s a little fuzzy on how she would teach these concepts:

“Now remember, it’s been about 20 years since I’ve taught. I’m not sure some of these things had even been named yet. I’m pretty sure stasis is a little bit new. Oh, good heavenly days. Well, I can’t tell you exactly how I would teach them, but I would follow the curriculum standards. I would rely also on the textbook and on online sources. But I always like my students to have their textbook right there because of the activities in the book.”

The presence of “stasis”  in the fossil record is not a new observation. However, the embrace of this term by the “intelligent design” movement IS a relatively new development (popularized in the two iconic ID books Of Pandas and People, published in 1989, and Icons of Evolution, published in 2002).

But a little later in the interview, Cargill remembers why stasis is so important:

“You know, look at the parts of the fossil record that have been filled in, look at the parts that scientists have filled in, look at the fossils that have been discovered from the Mesozoic era. Millions of years ago or whatever the time line is that they show. So let’s look at this fossil record and show what it says about evolution. Oh but look, right here, there may be a gap in time! Of course, seeing million of years is nothing in the geologic time frame, I’m sure. But what might be some scientific reasons why there were periods of time where there were no fossils, where fossils didn’t change, where they stayed mostly the same? So that’s what stasis is.”

Ah yes, the gaps. If Cargill intends these “gaps” to be an occasion for a balanced classroom discussion of evidence for and against the theory of punctuated equilibrium, then this might not be a cause for particular concern. But it seems much more likely she has the “little bit new” “intelligent design” argument in mind here, especially since she discusses it in the context of the old creationist sleight-of-hand involving micro- vs. macro-evolution:

“There are two parts to the theory of evolution. The first is microevolution, which is that all things change with time. I think we’re all in agreement with that. Macroevolution, I think, is where more of the debate comes in. That’s where the questions like ‘Where does life come from?’ and ‘What is the origin of life?’ crop up.”

(Ken Miller does a good job of dissecting this misleading and oft-repeated claim among evolution opponents.)

None of this is likely to matter in the short run. Cargill’s confirmation for another term as SBOE chair passed out of Senate Nominations Committee on Monday, and her confirmation is now pending before the full Senate. There does not seem to be a great swell of opposition in the Senate to her confirmation, perhaps because there are even more ominous possibilities for whom Gov. Rick Perry might choose to appoint in her place.

But with a once-a-decade adoption of new science textbooks looming at the SBOE this summer, the warning signs are there that Cargill is not inclined to allow evolution to go unchallenged on her watch.

11 thoughts on “Cargill Grilled Again

  1. I read this interview over the weekend and I’m afraid nothing surprised me. Barbara has no understanding of the evolutionary and paleontological terms she is throwing around so mindlessly. She repeats several nonsensical Creationist beliefs, such as stating that macroevolution is “where more of the debate comes in,” then she misdefines that term. She should leave biology and Earth science instructional material content to the experts and not try to align it to her religious beliefs. I hope to have the time to write a longer response later.

  2. What an IDIOT……………..
    She has education degrees(BSEd, MSEd), not an M.S. or apparently a B.S. Her CV is therefore intentionally deceptive, like any other creationist.
    Thats important. No way should she even be on the board. The DI terminology she introduced is so fraudulent and deceitful I think she is a total disgrace to science and the scientiifc method.
    “Oh goodness I think I’ll just start including magic in science class”
    Make no mistake, she is not telling the truth about her intentions, and she is a creationist with all the deceit and fraud that goes with it. Period.
    No way she should be the chair. Bring on Bradley.
    I want to see him taken apart soon. “I ain’t no kin to no monkey Bradley” . What an intellectual giant. Boy howdy.

  3. GAPS IN TIME IN THE GEOLOGIC RECORD ARE CAUSED BY NATURAL EVENTS NOT MAGIC> DROPS IN SEA LEVEL by the eustatic curve are well documented related to plate tectonics, and variations in the earths ice budget.
    FIRE HER. She is repeating failed creationist trash long since discreditted.

  4. The sea level drops result in no deposition in updip portions of layers of rock . Therefore missing time due to non deposition OR later erosion. Pitiful display of ignorance and the belief that attacks on science w/o an alternative except magic somehow invalidates the best answers we have. Ridiculous creationist ignorance and fraud. Horrible.

  5. Cargill and “God of the Gaps” Stasis does not equal magic does it Barbara?
    HAve you looked up stasis in a real science journal and not in a creationist tract?
    You should. Seriously.
    Stasis is ONLY discussed in creationist tracts.APparentkly there is NO DESCRIPTION of STASIS in any ACCREDITTED SCIENCE JIOURNAL I CAN FIND.
    Creationism, dressed in a lab coat. She’s a creationist and is brazen enough to discuss creationism “stasis” a discreditted concept by paleontologists in front of the board as if it is science. A liar. God of the Gaps all the way. Including the supernatural in science all the way with ZERO science or research to back it up. Idiotic trash.

  6. “Stasis (biology), a period of little or no evolutionary change in a species, in the punctuated equilibrium model of evolutionary biology”
    Did Barbara say stasis in evolutionary biology? Did she say stasis in the punctuated equilibriium model. Nope. She used it as an argument for magic in science. Creationist attempt to legitimize creationism.

  7. There are multiple perfectly acceptable descriptions of wht stasis occurs in biology and evolution. creationists have only one reason, magic. Which is Barbara’s context.
    You don’t need a law for critical thinking in scince. Thats what science is. You need a law to teach creationism. And Barbara’s focus on gaps and stasis are just two more examples of why she is not a scientist. She has no plausible theory. She has only magic and the supernatural in an attempt to give the impression creationism is a science.

  8. Macro-micro mambo. There is no scientific debate on whether long term evolution, described by creationists as “macro evolution” is correct . Zero debate. Cargill is a creationist pure simple and completely. There is no alternate hypothesis except magic and inserting God into any area or f research. Just give her a Flat Earth Society certification and send her home.No way she should be chair.

  9. Stasis is a legitimate scientific observation in paleontology: most fossil species appear and become extinct in the fossil record and exhibit no change; that’s stasis. But many fossil species DO change, both gradually and in punctuated fashion. Cargill reads only the Creationist literature so she thinks stasis implies that no evolution occurs, since that’s what that literature claims, when in fact the mere existence of a new daughter species closely related to a parent species proves evolution. Also, she ignores fossil lineages that show gradual and punctuated change and the change exhibited by transitional fossils, which are clearer illustrations of evolution in the fossil record. That’s why textbooks often focus on those. But stasis is important, too, because of its prevalence, just not in the way that Barbara foolishly believes.

    Again, she is throwing around terms she doesn’t understand in ways that imply that something other than evolution is the cause of biodiversity, and that’s just an IDC myth.

  10. Punctuated equilibrium seems just the logistic time curve of a high-benefit mutation, on geologic time scale where the time constant from reproductive cycle time is negligible.