Live Blogging the SBOE Hearing on Science II

9:50 a.m. – Board member Ken Mercer: “Will learning ‘weaknesses’ of evolution make someone a lesser doctor?”

9:53 – Board member David Bradley says teachers have also been intimidated when they want to teach about “weaknesses” of evolution. He says he wanted to bring Ben Stein (from the movie “Expelled”) to speak about that at the hearing. Too bad Stein didn’t come. We could have used the laugh.

10:01 – Ah. The truth made clear. A creationist testifier demands that the board force publishers to teach “weaknesses” of evolution in their textbooks. That is, of course, what the battle about the standards is all about — whether the next set of classroom textbooks will teach pseudoscience or real science.

10:08 – Arturo DeLozanne, a professor of cell biology at the University of Texas at Austin, notes President Barack Obama’s challenge from yesterday: “We need to restore science to its rightful place.” Indeed.

10:10 – Prof. DeLozanne makes it clear: removing “strengths and weaknesses” does nothing to stifle the ability of students to ask questions. There are no prohibitions against asking questions in the proposed standards. Asking questions is how science works. But: “Pseudoscience doesn’t have a place in the science curriculum.” Teaching pseudoscience in public schools, he says, will cause Texas students to fall behind their peers across the nation.

10:18 – Prof. DeLozanne points out that keeping “strengths and weaknesses” in the standards will open the door to the Discovery Institute getting its textbooks Explore Evolution adopted in Texas public schools. That textbook is full of pseudoscientific arguments against evolution. Interestingly, one of that textbook’s authors, Stephen Meyer, is co-founder of the Discovery Institute and a member of the curriculum review panel appointed by state board members. Mr. Meyer will speak to the board this afternoon. He, of course, wants to keep “strengths and weaknesses” in the standards.

10:45 – An evolution opponent argues that science advances when scientists don’t conform, when they seek new answers and explanations. No one disagrees with that, of course. The issue is whether evolution deniers have done the research necessary to provide truly scientific arguments countering evolution. They haven’t, but they want science instruction in Texas public schools to be decided based on personal and political beliefs. That hardly advances science or science education.

10:53 – Eric Hennenhoefer, an Austin engineer and entrepreneur, explains the importance of language and marketing to business. They’re important in this debate as well, he says. Adopting standards that challenge evolution (“strengths and weaknesses”) will focus attention on Texas as a state that teaches pseudoscience. These attacks on evolution are the product of a “slick PR effort,” with millions of dollars from anti-evolution groups like the Discovery Institute.

11:07 – Genie Scott of the National Center for Science Education knocks it out of the ballpark. Dr. Scott notes that board member Cynthia Dunbar mischaracterized the research of a Nobel laureate back in November, when she argued that the scientist was an evolution skeptic. Scott explains that Dunbar got that piece of misinformation from the Institute for Creation Research’s Web site. She adds: “The high school classroom is no place to fight the culture wars.”

11:17 – Dr. Scott makes a key point: publishers will create textbooks challenging evolution if the state board adopts standards that require them to do so. That means Texas students will be handicapped with an education in pseudoscience. “Don’t balance this culture war on the backs of science students.”

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