Cargill Science Comments at Hearing Highlight Concerns over Reappointment as Texas Ed Board Chair

We just got back from the Texas Senate Nominations Committee hearing on Barbara Cargill’s reappointment to another term as chair of the State Board of Education. We’ll have much more soon — including some alarming comments about science from both Cargill and at least one member of the Senate committee. Meanwhile, here’s the press release we just sent out.


Cargill Claims to Oppose Teaching Creationism in Science Classrooms But Favors Creationist Arguments in Textbooks

February 11, 2013

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller had this to say following today’s Senate Nominations Committee hearing on the reappointment of Barbara Cargill to another term as chair of the State Board of Education:

“The issue before the Senate is not Ms. Cargill’s religion. It’s whether the state board will be headed by someone who puts her own personal beliefs ahead of giving Texas children a 21st-century education. We simply can’t support the confirmation of a board chair who claims that she opposes teaching creationism in science classrooms but then insists, as she did again today, that textbooks include anti-evolution arguments that only creationists make and that scientists have repeatedly debunked.”

The Texas Senate hasn’t confirmed a chair of the State Board of Education since 2005. The tenures of the two most recent chairs, Don McLeroy and Gail Lowe, were so controversial that they failed to earn Senate confirmation.

This year the State Board of Education will consider the adoption of new textbooks for science, traditionally one of the board’s most controversial topics. Those new textbooks could be in public school classrooms for nearly a decade beginning in 2014. The board will consider new social studies textbooks next year.

A briefing paper on Cargill’s record is available at


The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan public education and religious liberties watchdog based in Austin.

5 thoughts on “Cargill Science Comments at Hearing Highlight Concerns over Reappointment as Texas Ed Board Chair

  1. Has anyone every seen a creationist argument that wasn’t simply an argument against evolution. If so send it to me something that rare should be treasured. Like a truly unique coprolite.

  2. There are no positive creationist arguments and there are no data supporting any aspect of creationism. The whole point of creationism is to raise doubt about science which leads to climate change deniers, the very dangerous (to all of us) anti-vaxers, and people opposed to medical research out of fear and superstition.

    As for scary talk I put my bets on Campbell or Nelson.

  3. I listened to Barbara Cargill’s entire confirmation hearing as best I could considering the webcast transmission was terrible. I missed entire sentences every thirty seconds. Videos are webcast live and archived on the Texas Senate site. Just google “texas state senate news” and the links are in the upper left corner.

    Barbara was wonderfully duplicitous as usual. After eight years of repeated attempts to push her Fundamentalist Christian faith beliefs into Texas education policy, curricula, and instructional materials, often successfully, she promised to the five extremely right-wing Republican senators that she wouldn’t do it anymore. But then she said that in ways that clearly indicated that she would really keep doing it.

    She apologized for recent comments at a Senate Education Committee CSCOPE hearing during which she said, “Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations. . . . I couldn’t see anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution. Every link, every lesson, everything, you know, was taught as ‘this is how the origin of life happened, this is what the fossil record proves,’ and all that’s fine, but that’s only one side.” (Thanks to TFN for publicizing this testimony.) Then today she told the Senate Nominations Committee that she meant to say what the curriculum standards really require, “in all fields of science . . . examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations.” So, in very convoluted and incoherent language, Cargill told the senators that she really didn’t mean to suggest that alternatives to evolution should be taught, but only that students should learn about “all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations,” just as required by the Texas science curriculum standards.

    Needless to say, this is really slippery and slimy. First, there is no “other side” of origins explanations, as Cargill implicitly admitted, nor is there an “other side” to scientific evidence of those scientific explanations. Cargill’s personal faith belief–Creationism–has no scientific evidence supporting it; nor is it science, nor is it an explanation: it is a dogmatic claim, completely unsupported by science. Second, the quoted curriculum requirement is a “scientific process” requirement, not a “science content” requirement. Students are not required to actually be exposed “in all fields of science” to “all sides of scientific evidence,” as a content requirement would ask–a task that is obviously impossible as I have frequently stated–but to learn the knowledge skills to be able to examine “all sides of scientific evidence” when the occassion arises, a process requirement. This is a huge difference that Cargill obviously doesn’t understand. She actually believes, quite incorrectly, that the Texas science standards require that students be exposed to “all sides of scientific evidence” for scientific explanations. Third, while the standard quite correctly says “all fields of science” since the required knowledge skills should be taught in all the high school science courses, Cargill only wishes to apply this requirement to the topic of evolution. This is a considerable giveaway of the sectarian nature of Cargill’s obsession, and one that is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    Cargill made other statements today during her confirmation hearing in response to the excellent questioning of the only Democratic senator on the Nominations Committee, Senator Kirk Edwards. He came across as the only senator who actually cared about the citizens of Texas as he tried, sometimes repeatedly when she tried to slip away using her trademarked fast talking, to make Cargill commit to ethical behavior if confirmed; the other Republicans just kept saying how much they liked Barbara, thanked her for her service, and wished her the best. What a pile of crap. But that’s Texas governance: As Molly Ivins used to say, Texas is the poster child for bad state government.

    There is much more to this story as both TFN and I will relate in the coming weeks. Barbara Cargill has a sordid and unethical track record throughout her time on the SBOE. I intend to publicize this record. Only eleven Democratic votes are needed to deny Cargill confirmation. Contact ALL the Texas senators to express your views. Maybe Gov. Perry will appoint Thomas Ratliff as her successor.

    Steven Schafersman