Live Blogging the SBOE Hearing on Science

8:30 a.m. – The Texas State Board of Education board room near the Capitol in Austin is packed this morning, with folks from around the state waiting to testify on proposed new public school science curriculum standards — and the pressure groups pushing creationism are out in force. The Discovery Institute in Seattle and Texans for Better Science Education have set up tables to distribute anti-evolution propaganda in the building lobby. More on that later…

8:38 – First couple of folks testifying are calling on the state board to adopt the standards draft proposed by teacher writing teams. That draft strikes “strengths and weaknesses,” phrasing that creationists have used to attack evolution in biology textbooks.

8:42 – Board member Ken Mercer once again makes the disingenuous argument that opponents of “strengths and weaknesses” don’t want students to ask questions. More on “academic freedom” and “freedom of speech.”

8:47 – It’s likely that the board’s creationists are going to ask repeatedly whether “strengths and weaknesses” in the current standards has caused any problems. What they conveniently ignore is that four sitting board members tried in 2003 to use the “strengths and weaknesses” argument to force publishers to dumb down their textbooks in sections discussing evolution. Those four creationists lost in 2003 but think they’ll have enough votes to prevail in 2011.

8:54 – A private school student testifies that knowing “weaknesses” of evolution would be a good thing and help students prepare for college. One wonders if he would say the same thing about learning arguments that the sun and rest of the universe may actually revolve around the earth after all. Those arguments are out there, after all.

8:57 – Ken Mercer now makes the distinction between “macro” and “micro” evolution. The creationists know they sound absurd arguing that evolution isn’t happening all the time. But Mercer questions what he calls “macro” evolution — or, as he puts it, evolution leads to new species.

9:18 – We’re in a stretch of testifiers speaking about issues other than evolution and “strengths and weaknesses.” Other courses aren’t nearly as controversial as biology. Why? Creationists have used the “strengths and weaknesses” requirement almost exclusively to attack instruction on evolution.

9:22 – It’s now standing-room-only in the conference room, and the news media are out in full force.

9:32 – And now we get to testimony from folks arguing in favor of “intelligent design.” This is only the first parting of the curtain that’s been shrouding the real goal of creationists supporting “strengths and weaknesses” – undermining instruction on evolution and pushing creationism as an alternative in science classrooms.

9:34 – Again from Mercer on “macro” and “micro” evolution. Jiminy Cricket. And the other creationists on the board are chiming in. Member Terri Leo: “Strengths and weaknesses” encourages critical thinking.

9:38 – Supporters of a 21st-century science education are “dogmatic evolutionists.” A “Darwin industry” has been established in education. What’s that all about?

9:40 – Board member Barbara Cargill suggests that “gaps in the fossil record” is a “weakness” of evolution. They’re not, of course, even if it’s long been one of the main creationist arguments.

9:44 – Now we hear that high school biology teachers (more evil “dogmatic Darwinists,” we suppose) are intimidating opponents of evolution and refusing to teach “weaknesses” of the theory in their classrooms. We’re certain those teachers also aren’t teaching arguments that the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun.

9:48 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar asks whether removing “strengths and weaknesses” from the curriculum standards will lead to further censorship and intimidation by biology teachers.

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