Live Blogging the Texas Science Debate III

1:43 – Sometimes the hypocrisy is really astounding. The anti-evolution Discovery Institute is harshly criticizing State Board of Education member Rick Agosto for asking that creationists remove their anti-evolution signs from the board room. Says the Disco:

Apparently Texas Board of Education member Rick Agosto isn’t just content to censor science by removing any criticisms of evolution from the science curriculum. The San Antonio Democrat even wants to prevent citizens from expressing their disagreement with that censorship. This morning Agosto demanded that some citizens quietly holding signs stating “Don’t Censor Science” at the Board meeting take down their signs. He even called on security personnel to forcibly remove the signs, but Board chair Don McElroy intervened to stop that abuse of power. 

We saw no effort to have security personnel remove anybody from the board room. Mr. Agosto was simply asking Chairman McLeroy to enforce the rule that McLeroy decreed after pro-science citizens brought signs with them to the November hearing.

Does the Discovery Institute think rules are only for people who support sound science?

1:47 – Terri Leo offers a bad amendment to the biology standards:

Analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding formation of simple organic molecules and their organization into long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.

Mr. Agosto says he will vote for it but then discuss it with science experts later with an eye toward moving to strike it tomorrow if necessary. That’s just a bad parliamentary strategy. It’s harder to remove an amendment than to defeat it outright.

The amendment passes 8-6, with Agosto and Craig voting for it.

1:50 – Mavis Knight moves to strip out the January amendment from Don McLeroy questioning common ancestry.

1:57 – Chairman McLeroy argues against Knight’s amendment and criticizes those who say his January arguments for the original amendment were “dishonest” and “deceitful.”

1:59 – Knight’s amendment fails 7-6, with Agosto abstaining.

2:01 – McLeroy moves the following amendment to the biology standards:

Analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of the cell.

Let the pseudoscientific babble and distortions begin…

2:03 – McLeroy acknowledges that his January amendment was intended to attack what he describes as the first important principle of evolution, common ancestry. He says now he’s going after the second, natural selection. He wants schools to be “honest” with the kids.

2:04 – McLeroy defends his new amendment by reading passages from the work of Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences. We don’t have Alberts’ work available here, but we highly (HIGHLY) doubt that he would be pleased to see McLeroy interpret his work as proof of a “weakness” of evolution.

2:16 – Wow. Now McLeroy wants to amend his amendment to read the “sufficiency or insufficiency of unguided natural processes to explain the complexity of the cell.”

That’s creationism, pure and simple. McLeroy has just called on the standards to pit science against God.

2:18 – McLeroy withdraws the amendment to his amendment. He goes back to his original proposal attacking natural selection. It passes 9-5, with Agosto and Nunez voting yes.

2:21 – The board moves on to amendments for chemistry.

2:22 – What we’re seeing is a combination of things. Some board members seem to be seeking some political cover. On the other hand, some may genuinely not be aware that they’re putting creationist nonsense in the science standards.

2:32 – Nothing big on chemistry. On to Earth and Space Science. Bob Craig offers five amendments. One would change a problematic amendment passed in January that suggested there are differing scientific theories about the origin of the universe. Another changes language in a January amendment attacking common descent.

2:39 – We’re hearing news from the Capitol that the House Public Education Committee has approved legislation that would put the State Board of Education under sunset review. Will provide more details when we get them.

2:43 – Mr. Craig’s amendment about the origins of the universe fails 6-8, with Agosto voting no.

2:45 – Update: We hear that the House Public Education Committee vote to put the state board under sunset review was unanimous.

2:48 – Mr. Craig’s amendments, by the way, have come from a majority of members of the Earth and Space Science curriculum writing team. Creationist board members, sometimes joined by one or two other members, are opposing them (even if the have absolutely nothing to do with evolution, origins or common descent.) None can pass anyway on a 7-7 tie.

2:54 – Mr. Craig’s amendment to change language in the January amendment challenging common descent fails 6-8, with Agosto voting no.

46 thoughts on “Live Blogging the Texas Science Debate III

  1. Agosto and Craig seem to be operating under the assumption that the creationist board members are working in good faith. This is a big mistake.

  2. For clarity, will the final, binding votes on these amendments take place tomorrow?

  3. Now I’m completely convinced that the SBOE is a joke.

    They don’t understand what they’re voting for or against.

    Why not just skip the discussion, role the dice, and go home early?

  4. yeah, it’s unfortunate. The people on the side of truth need to realize what snakes in the grass the IDers are.

  5. “Analyze and evaluate the evidence regarding formation of simple organic molecules and their organization into long complex molecules having information such as the DNA molecule for self-replicating life.”


    “Natural selection for least action”, Kaila and Annila (doi:10.1098/rspa.2008.0178).
    “Minimal self-replicating systems”, Robertson et al (doi:10.1039/a803602k)
    “Prevolutionary dynamics and the origin of evolution”, Nowak and Ohtsuki (doi:10.1073/pnas.0806714105)
    “Self-Sustained Replication of an RNA Enzyme”, Lincoln and Joyce (doi:10.1126/science.1167856)
    “A hierarchical model for evolution of 23S ribosomal RNA”, Bokov and Steinberg (doi:10.1038/nature07749)

    The first is probably over the heads of high-schoolers, but the rest don’t seem too bad…

  6. The pro-science side wants to be sure they understand the science. The anti-science side doesn’t understand it and doesn’t care.

    Even the Dissent from Darwin signers generally accept common descent and that natural selection occurs (even Ken Ham says natural selection occurs). So these amendments are just insane.

  7. Almost half the SBOE is a complete and utter joke filled with creationist religious zombies. And it does appear that a couple of members are being duped by the creationist board members. These nutbars need to be voted off the board at every opportunity. Unfortunately, the general public has no knowledge of who they’re voting for other than the (D) or (R) after the name. Several of these religious right SBOE members went completely unchallenged in the last election – that will not do.

  8. Was I hearing things, or did it sound like in the background someone whispered about pushing McLeroy’s amendment to his amendment during the final vote tomorrow? (I don’t even know if that’s possible, let alone whether that’s what I heard someone saying.)

  9. Joe Lapp Says:

    March 26, 2009 at 2:21 pm
    Help me! I’ve gone completely pessimistic.

    Then you have taken the first step on the road to true enlightenment.

  10. “Complexity of the cell”? Sorry, but until they amend the math standards to insure introductory formal automata theory and the Chomsky hierarchy of formal grammars are covered BEFORE high school biology, students won’t have the framework to understand the rigorous sense of the word “complex” required for discussing “cell complexity” in a formal scientific context.

    Mind you, I’d have the highest respect for Texas if they could successfully implement such changes to math instruction….

  11. There is only one way to fix this: a vote tomorrow to use the January 5, 2009, proposal, completely unamended.

    Agosto is the only person who may not support it, and we’d need all 8 non-creationists to make it happen.

  12. ndt is exactly correct. Agosto and Craig are assuming that everyone is honest, when clearly the creationists are not.

    These are not simply attempts to make sure students get the best education, but rather transparent deceptions to sneak in sectarian mythology under the radar of the radar and circumvent the 1987 Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard that has already ruled that creationism is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

    “Intelligent Design” is nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo, and “strengths and weaknesses” is nothing more than an overcoat.

    Google cdesign proponentsists

  13. > ndt says:
    > Then you have taken the first step on the road to true enlightenment.

    Thank you! That did help. A little, anyway.

  14. I just rolled back in the stream. It sounded like someone whispered, just as they were heading to the vote after McLeroy rescinded his “sufficiency or insufficiency of unguided natural processes to explain the complexity of the cell” amendment to his amendment, “we’ll have to do it in tomorrow’s vote” to which someone whispered “yes”. Am I the only one that heard that?

  15. In a way, I’m glad the “unguided” business passed. Now religion is unquestionably in the standards. “Unguided” is synonymous with “without the hand of God.” This will go to court, and we will win.

    1. McLeroy withdrew his “unguided processes” suggestion and went back to his original amendment language, which passed.

  16. Lou: “Intelligent Design” is a LITTLE more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo; it also has a pair of Groucho Marx glasses on.

  17. The lege is stepping in? Is that what the “Sunset” review HB means? Thank the monkey-god for Donna Howard.

  18. There was a state school board in Texas
    Who had no idea what the true facts is
    Their thoughts on evolution
    Amount to religious pollution
    And lying for Jesus is just show Biz

    1. Most state agencies are subject to periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. Essentially, they must make the case for continuing to exist. The state board is a constitutionally created body, but it’s possible that the board’s statutory powers could be removed.

  19. these creationist people are dangerous. they should be rounded up and put into isolation. if we allow them to challenge our belief in evolution, who knows what’s next?! will children one day not understand that we come from animals?! what we need to do is take our children on a weekly museum trip to keep them informed about evolution. we waste all this time teaching them geography when they need to be learning where they come from, not where they live.

  20. Thanks. Who would set curriculum standards if there was no TBOE? Perhaps committees of experts and teachers? Nah, that would be far too logical.

  21. i don’t know about y’all, but these crazy creationists are totally polluting our schools. why would anyone question the simple fact that we have evolved from amoebas. i mean, how hard is that to understand?!?! i mean, come on!!!! there’s a reason i love the water and it’s not because i’m a pisces. we are all related in this universe, some of us were just more fortunate to evolve into the human that we are today. although, i think i would much rather be my cousin, the dog, than the human i am with the way this economy is collapsing around us.

  22. Please let your supporters know what they can do to help this “sunset” happen.

    Today’s spectacle defies rationality. I hope the nation protests hugely.

  23. Someone please give me some hope. I am stunned by these decisions, and I feel like my career is in jeopardy because I don’t think I could ever bring myself to teach ideas that these standards will demand.

  24. Mikey,

    On the bright side, there is no scientific evidence refuting common descent, natural selection, or the cosmological age of the Earth and universe, so as an honest person you won’t have any nonsense to teach. The problem is not you, but people who would use these unconstitutional amendments to justify teaching non-scientific, creationist arguments in class. You can shield your students from this just by being a responsible teacher.

  25. I just sent an email to Bruce Alberts:
    Subject: Texas anti-evolutionists using your statements to back weaknesses
    To: (redacted)
    Mr. Alberts,
    I thought you should see this:

    “2:04 – McLeroy defends his new amendment by reading passages from the work of Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences. We don’t have Alberts’ work available here, but we highly (HIGHLY) doubt that he would be pleased to see McLeroy interpret his work as proof of a “weakness” of evolution.”

    Please feel free to comment in the blog.

    “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object of which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” –Charles Darwin

  26. Great job TFN. Could you summarize what happened today? I’m having a little trouble following just how bad the passed amendments were. And are they ALL subject to final vote tomorrow?

  27. Also, I think you have a troll problem. Fish Gal strikes me as a Christian trying to use her shoddy interpretation of evolution to parody it.

  28. Is there a place where the final list of all amendments up for approval tomorrow can be found?

  29. The Creationists have nothing to lose. They will push through all the nonsense they can muster up, because it will be ten years(I believe) until this is revisited. The damage will be done and text books rewritten

  30. What a bunch of wimps you TFNers are: “If we allow them to challenge our belief in evolution, who knows what’s next?!” Thank you Evolution Lover for your quote and for validating my point. Texans, parents, kids — please don’t let TFN fool you. That is exactly what everyone should be doing (challenging all theories)!!! If someone smarter than TFN and it’s supporters never challenges a theory, where will we be in 100 years. It won’t be where you would want us to be. There agenda is something more like “Return to the dark ages” or “Return to Communism” or “Return to 3rd World Country Status”. So speak out against TFN: Dangerous for our kids, Dangerous for our State, Dangerous for our Nation!

  31. I think Fish Gal’s points are great!! She obviously knows more than TFN and it’s other supporters about evolution. Thank you fish gal. I appreciate your humor in all this!!

  32. Can anyone with half a brain buy into ScienceMinded’s tripe?

    Actually, yes.

    Let’s see….McLeroy, Leo, Dunbar, etc., all with half a brain.

  33. Except that Evolution has been challenged for 150 years… and have emerged victorious each time.
    This challenge is and should be done within the academic field, between people that know what they have been studying the subject for all their life and know what they are talking about rather than people whose closest exposure to science is ‘Dexter lab’.
    Surprisingly enough (or not), virtually all of these knowledgeable specialists accept and use the theory of evolution.

    You are not challenging Evolution, you are just denying the Scientific method and its results because you disagree with its results.
    Your personal pet denialism is about the theory of evolution, but you are on no firmer grounds and are no more logical have no more legitimity than a flat earther, a vaccine denialist or a geocentrist.
    If you abandon the tools of the scientific method for this particular subject that you are uncomfortable for, what good reason do you have to apply it elsewhere?

  34. To Ben: I guess half a brain is better than no brain at all — like TFN and most all you avid extreme left-wing TFN supporters so eagerly demonstrate with your utterly thoughtless comments!

    To Simon: Actually Simon, I’m not advocating anything about evolution — at least I’m not intending to. Although, all you TFNers somehow think that is my main focus. I’m really about advocating a good scientific process for discovery, creativity, and innovation. It’s what our kids need. It’s what Texas needs. It’s also what the U. S. desperately needs. And, it’s what science needs!!! Not the narrow-focused evolution agenda being pushed by all you TFNers. Another fine day for science — and the right-wing SBOE!!!

    Yours TRULY, ScienceMinded

  35. Joe Lapp Says (March 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm) —
    –There is only one way to fix this: a vote tomorrow to use the January 5, 2009, proposal, completely unamended. —

    They can’t do that — that would nullify the votes on the amendments that passed. If they could do that, then, say, an 8-7 vote to use the 01-05-09 proposal could nullify a 15-0 vote that passed an amendment. Each amendment must be individually voted upon.