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.