Don McLeroy Responds

Don McLeroy, the arch-creationist former chairman of the State Board of Education, is displeased over how some folks have interpreted his public hearing testimony last week about proposed new biology textbooks for Texas high schools. Here’s how the San Antonio Current describes his testimony in a story published online today:

While McLeroy described some of the evolution instruction in the unedited books as “unsubstantiated” and “dogmatic” (pot, kettle?) he, unlike other creationist proponents, oddly considers the statements weak enough to support overall. Within the pages lie, “hidden gems just waiting to be mined by inquisitive students that could destroy evolution,” he said, referring to a supposed open door to evolution denial he slipped into the books as Board chair. But those loopholes don’t seem to actually exist—researchers with the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University found the books to affirm evolution as, “factual, well-established, mainstream science.”

The fight over evolution v. creationism is sadly nothing novel in the Texas textbook wars, but the former Board chair’s overt admission may be. In the end, McLeroy, clawing at his last shot to wield influence and now untethered to the careful religious boundaries one can’t overstep in public office, only helps put to rest any questions about his intention to inject creationism and religious dogma into textbooks during his infamous tenure on the SBOE.

In a line of questioning from the seat he once occupied, McLeroy gave further indication of his motives, with a nod to his more moderate successor “I’m just hoping a young creationist—a young Thomas Ratliff that’s a creationist—will sit there and say, ‘look, is this all the evidence they have? Well, maybe God didn’t use evolution to do it.’”

McLeroy posted a reply to the story on the Current’s website:

Two comments–First I do hold to dogma (opinion that I believe is fact), however, unlike the evolutionists, I do not wish to insert it into the textbooks.

Second, how can you say I am injecting “creationism and religious dogma into the textbooks” when I am for supporting teaching evolution as the evolutionists themselves present it? You are essentially arguing that evolutionists wish to insert my religious dogma into the textbooks!

We should say here that McLeroy has every right to “hold to dogma” on his rejection of evolution. But he has no right to expect others to agree with it or public schools to teach it in their science classrooms.

McLeroy dogmatically asserts that scientific evidence supporting evolution is weak. Scientists (and McLeroy isn’t one) disagree.

Science scholars also say the proposed biology textbooks do a fine job covering evolution. McLeroy, on the other hand, believes the textbooks will fail to persuade students that overwhelming scientific evidence supports evolution. But he thinks there’s no way textbooks could have provided that evidence anyway — he dogmatically asserts that such evidence doesn’t exist.

Regardless, the purpose of a high school biology textbook isn’t necessarily to persuade students by laying out all of the scientific evidence supporting evolution. No high school textbook couldn’t possibly include a recounting of all that evidence in a couple of chapters. A biology textbook’s job is simply to teach students what mainstream scientific research and evidence tell us about evolution.

Some students might choose to pursue scientific research after high school. If their work successfully challenges established science on evolution, surely a Nobel awaits them. Meanwhile, let’s teach high school students what scientists know right now and leave what McLeroy calls dogma to families and religious congregations.

23 thoughts on “Don McLeroy Responds

  1. He’s not insane. Delusional, maybe, but not insane. It would be much easier to dismiss him if he were insane, but the truth is much worse than that. That’s the thing about him: he knows how to work the system and twist it just enough so that his religious sympathizers think he’s making a valid argument. I wish he were insane. Instead he’s just very dangerous.

  2. Dan: You miss the point of my comments. MY DOGMA is not in the books; yours is.

    And, you seem to ignore the most important point I make. To argue, as Mary Tuma does, that I want to inject my religious dogma into the books is to argue that the evolutionists–like you–want to inject MY RELIGIOUS DOGMA in the textbooks!

    We find ourselves on the same side–Adopt the books!

    Don McLeroy

    1. Don,
      You are correct that your “dogma is not in the books,” and we’re glad to have played a role in helping to keep it out. But you have argued for years that the biology textbooks should include what are essentially dogmatic anti-evolution arguments that are unsupported by modern mainstream science. Indeed, about the only people who make those arguments are creationists (of one variety or another). Having failed to get those dogmatic and debunked arguments into the textbooks (so far), you seem to satisfy yourself by suggesting that the new textbooks have provided insufficient evidence to support evolution. You’re wrong, as even your creationist friends who testified at the board hearing made clear. But we welcome your call to adopt the textbooks.

      Dan

      1. Here are some examples of “unsubstantiated evolutionary dogma” from your July 2013 report.

        “Key Findings

        The proposed instructional materials affirm evolution as factual, well-established,
        mainstream science……

        These passages from the Pearson/Prentice Hall textbook are similarly clear:

        Page 465:
        (E)very scientific test has supported Darwin’s basic ideas about evolution.

        Page 467
        All historical records are incomplete, and the history of life is no exception. The evidence we do have,
        however, tells an unmistakable story of evolutionary change.

        Page 473
        Advances in many fields of biology, along with other sciences, have confirmed and expanded most of
        Darwin’s hypotheses. Today, evolutionary theory – which includes natural selection – offers insights that are
        vital to all branches of biology, from research on infectious diseases to ecology. That’s why evolution is often
        called the grand unifying theory of the life sciences…..

        Publishers refused to lend credence to evolution deniers who argue that organisms are too complex to have evolved
        without the guidance of an “intelligent designer.” Instructional materials include clear, detailed and substantive
        discussions about the evolution of cells and cellular structures beginning billions of years ago.”

        Read the proposed texts and you will not find “clear detailed and substantive discussions about the evolution of cells….”

        Don cLeroy

        1. Don,
          The discussions may not seem clear and substantive to you because they don’t include the pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo promoted by folks at the Discovery Institute and by other “intelligent design”/creationism proponents. And the textbooks don’t include those arguments because scientists have (repeatedly) debunked them. To continue to suggest otherwise, in the face of overwhelming evidence, is truly dogmatic.

          Dan

          1. Though pedantically, his obstinacy seems to effectively demonstrate a counterexample to the evolutionary account being “unmistakable”. He’s mistaken; ergo, it is not unmistakable.

        2. DonnyMac wrote:

          “Publishers refused to lend credence to evolution deniers who argue that organisms are too complex to have evolved
          without the guidance of an “intelligent designer.””

          And good for them, too! Yes, publishers have refused to publish creationist anti-science rubbish. They also didn’t include Stork Theory, Bogeyman Theory, Bigfoot Sightings and Crop Circles, all of which Don considers sound science.

          The only thing Don got right in that statement was putting “intelligent designer” in quotes where it belongs: superstitious nonsense.

          Go away Don. The voters of Texas and the State Legislature has made it clear you are not wanted. Peddle your babble somewhere else.

  3. Don, you know as well as anyone posting here (I hope) that the term “dogma” refers to an incontrovertible truth. No alternative meaning here. Science–as you should know from reading it so voraciously–never addresses its “truths” as “incontrovertible”, but rather as “contingent”. Religion by definition makes dogmatic claims in this (scientific) domain. Let’s not mix the two. Cheers!

  4. Dan says “let’s teach high school students what scientists know right now”

    I agree Dan, great idea! That’s what I’ve been encouraging the board to do since 2011! Put the natural history stuff in a history or philosophy class, and teach about scientifically testable mechanisms of inheritance, natural selection being one of about 15+ different mechanisms. Teach “what scientists know right now,” including how the ENCODE project revealed the majority of DNA is functional, and the results of that project which have improved our understanding of the epigenome. Teach students how changing your diet can effect epigenetic information, and that information can be transferred to offspring, without changing DNA. With problems like cancer, diabetes and obesity that we have in America, it would be a shame for an entire generation of students to NOT be educated about how epigenetics relates to such things. What a terrible disservice to Texans that would be!

    1. Shormann, you’re abject lack of scientific veracity is shocking and a disgrace to TAMU. You should be ashamed to babble such rubbish in public. Creationists like you do the disservice, sir.

      No, the ENCODE project did not reveal anything whatsoever about the functionality of DNA. The 80% number you quote is the upper end of a 20-80% range of potential activity that has no relation to functionality. Why not represent the ENCODE project results honestly, David?

      1. Sorry Bill, no disservice going on here. No dishonesty either, unless Nature Publishing Group is being dishonest too, and somehow “Doc Bill” is the only one we can trust to give us honest science facts: “ENCODE, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, is a project funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute to identify all regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification in the human genome sequence. Thanks to the identification of these functional elements, 80% of the components of the human genome now have at least one biochemical function associated with them. This expansive resource of functional annotations is already providing new insights into the organization and regulation of our genes and genome.” http://www.nature.com/encode/#/threads

        Instead of ad hominem attacks, why not Stand Up 4 Science and help get 21st Century Science into the textbooks? Why not try to find something we can agree on?

        1. Please, David, learn what an ad hominem attack is. I didn’t say that your analysis was wrong because you were an ideological creationist, although that is true, I said your analysis was wrong and it is.

          ENCODE has nothing to do with function. That’s the fact.

          Yes, I will stand up for science and work to ensure that your anti-science creationism is exposed for what it is.

          1. Ummm, sorry Doc Bill, but ENCODE shows “80% of the components of the human genome now have at least one biochemical FUNCTION associated with them.”

            That’s the current fact regarding the ENCODE results.

  5. It is sad when people, meaning anyone can deny obvious truth in denying evolution. It is clear that anyone who denies evolution and proposes ID/creationism as a seemingly viable alternative has mistaken fairy tales, myths and legends as truth.

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