Don McLeroy vs. National Academy of Sciences

I’m not sure what the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) did to get on Don McLeroy’s bad side, but the deposed chair of the Texas State Board of Education has renewed his assault on the most prestigious science academy in the world. Only this time, he’s trying to insert his grievance in the state’s social studies curriculum.

Several groups of “writing teams” — made up primarily of Texas classroom teachers — were appointed by the state board earlier this year to draft revisions to Texas’ social studies curriculum standards. These groups met in Austin last week, continuing their work on a new draft of the standards, which the state board will vote on next spring. When these teachers arrived to begin their work last Thursday, they were given a hand-scribbled memo with some instructions from Dr. McLeroy. He had this surprising piece of  advice for the team working on the “United States Government” standards:


“Science     The importance of the National Academy of Science [sic] in scientific research — pros and cons!”

Didn’t see that one coming. The state board finished its revision to science standards more than six months ago, but it appears McLeroy just can’t let go of his beef with mainstream science.

Exactly what “cons” of the National Academy of Sciences does McLeroy want students to study? We put the question to Dr. David Hillis, who teaches in the Section of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin and is a member of the NAS. Dr. Hillis speculates:

“Despite the fact that the U.S. NAS is the most highly regarded and prestigious science academy in the world, some members of the Texas SBOE think that they know more about science (because they read articles on the Internet) than do members of this scientific body, which results in a weaker science curriculum for Texas students.”

Dr. Hillis is no doubt correct in his characterization, but careful readers of TFN Insider will remember that this is not McLeroy’s first run-in with the NAS.  Back in March of this year, McLeroy raised eyebrows around the state when he penned a positive recommendation of an obscure book by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. entitled Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences’ Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They’re Descended from Reptiles . In his review, McLeroy gushed:

In critiquing the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) missionary evolution tract—Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, [Johnson] identifies their theft of true science by their intentional neglect of other valid scientific possibilities. Then, using NAS’s own statements, he demonstrates that the great “process” of evolution—natural selection—is nothing more than a figure of speech. These chapters alone are worth the reading of this book.

As a reminder, this book doesn’t just claim that the NAS is “sacrificing our children to their atheism, and at the same time, destroying our children’s faith in God.”  As TFN Insider reported back in March, the book also portrays parents who want their children to learn about evolution as “monsters” and pastors who accept the science of evolution as “morons.” And yet McLeroy told reporters that he stood by his opinion that the the book

“shows how the NAS attempts to seduce the unwitting reader by providing scanty empirical evidence but presented with great intellectual bullying—both secular and religious.”

In any case, McLeroy now carries his misguided anti-science campaign into social studies classrooms. It’s not enough, apparently, that the national and international science community is still laughing at Texas because of the flawed science standards the board passed under McLeroy’s leadership this spring. Now he can’t even spare us his amateur science lessons in the social studies curriculum. Sigh.

Here’s hoping that the social studies teachers follow the lead of their science colleagues and listen to the real experts, not the fringe opinions of board members who apparently won’t be satisfied until their anti-science ideology is jammed into every subject area in the Texas curriculum.

(By the way, there is plenty of other head-scratching advice in McLeroy’s handwritten memo to curriculum writers. TFN Insider will be exploring his sage wisdom in the days ahead. More crazy to come…)

30 thoughts on “Don McLeroy vs. National Academy of Sciences

  1. My 8-year-old son would be pleased to know that he is descended from reptiles. He loves reptiles, but I like ceramic tiles, especially those with a Mexican flair.

    McLeroy claims that evolution creates atheists. However, I encountered two strangers over the past several days, one a former Christian fundamentalist minister’s wife. Both were very intelligent and self-reflective people who had been active, born again church members. They made it quite clear to me that Christian Neo-Fundamentalism (itself) had turned them into atheists. They made no bones about it. Yep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. The lobes in Dr. McLeroy’s brain have been damaged, and he is not responsible for anything he says. In the business world when a nut is found on the payroll, they fire him and then they fire the man who hired him. Who put this man on the Texas School Board in the first place. That is the person who needs to be fired. Amen. -Wendell Franklin Wentz

  3. It’s not science who is creating an atheist in me; it’s people like Don McLeroy. The more obnoxious the RR get, the more agnostic I am becoming.

  4. Welcome Wendell. It was a nice idea but a little off base. In my experience, and I have been around for nearly 57 years, the “nut” and the “self-absorbed sadist” on the payroll in the business world get promoted to increasingly higher levels on the management ladder.

  5. Yep Cytocop. It’s hard for me to believe that a loving God would create someone like Don McLeroy, but it is not so hard for me to believe that his parents did it.

  6. McLeroy: NAS
    a) nut: nutcracker
    b) toothache: Amer. Dental Assoc.
    c) loon: Ducks Unlimited
    d) embarrassment : TEA

  7. McLeroy had better be a better dentist that he is a TEA technician. Uh-oh, maybe he’s the kind of dentist that pulls teeth to cure any and all dental ailments; they used to do that, you know.

  8. These people were elected. They claim they have a mandate by the majority of their respective electorates. Who are we to exepct and require ethical and rationale behavior from our elected politicians. If they wish to have “Holy Roller” services instead of Biology I and or American History, then so be it. They were elected by people who deserve no better. I live in Lampasas. I read the drivel expoused by “Madame President” in her cmpaign last fall, there were enough “code words” to indicate that this was an evil and sinister candidate. I voted against her, however, I was on a minority of 85% to 15%. If we allow these people to go un challenged then we deserve them. These people intend to become the “American Taliban” and take their version od their faith into every facet, crak, and crevise of our society. They may be fundamentaly Christian. but they are fundamentaly un-American.

  9. I agree with your sentiments Country Tom, but I think the problem is that the SBOE should be at least a majority of people with some actual Education background before they could run for the seat. Certainly a “civilian” or two is appropriate, but not every whackadoodle fundie with loads of time on their hands, and lots of dogma to insert into our children should be allowed to run.

  10. Nobody makes a fool of themselves like this unless their is something very wrong with them.

    He needs years of therapy, but is probably a lost cause.

    McLeroy just proves that you can be really smart (he’s a dentist) and still have no sense at all.

  11. Right PHarvey. I know lots of really smart people with college degrees who really have trouble with basic common sense (i.e., Should take my bleeding child to the ER or swing by the market for a gallon of milk first?). It’s the most bizarre thing I have ever seen.

  12. Don probably thinks that attacking the NAS will get him a job on FOX.
    He could be right.
    Dr Phil is from Texas. I think he could help and I am sure it would not take years of therapy.

  13. So, what is it about dentists and engineers that causes so many to not only be creationists, but vocal opponents of reason itself?

  14. That’s easy trog (City Tom). I have noticed this same phenomenon and would quickly add “business majors” (accounting, finance, real estate, banking, etc.) to your short list. The reason is fairly simple. These majors are profession-focused, which means that the students who major in these subjects do not get the educational “well-roundedness” that a social sciences, liberal arts, or even science major gets. In one of these majors, you can get a heavy dose of “equations with three variables” and never even have a close brush with Franklin, Goethe, Kant, Heine, or Jesus. This means that one of these guys can design, build, market, and “ka-ching” the cash register for a new kitchen range—or fill a tooth. However, they are lost babes when it comes to sorting through tough issues like teen pregnancy, evolution, and the First Amendment. In short, they have trouble grasping and manipulating ideas and abstractions in a thoughtful and reflective manner because they have not had enough time in enough contexts to allow them to learn how.

  15. trog69 aka City Tom. DDS; that is funny! The saddest part of this whole Texas Education story is that such a huge proportion of the population is similarly ignorant or apathetic. It matters not whether they are dentists, engineers or lawyers. I would love to see a survey of the people who administer our schools, the district superintendents. I would bet that most fall into the McLeroy camp. Fortunately we still have some good teachers who don’t cater to such BS and are smart enough give kids the education they deserve. Unfortunately the powers that be are making many more prospective good teachers question the sanity of following a teaching career.

  16. In simple terms, McLeroy has a persecution complex. The more he is harangued, berated, called out, ask to account for his manipulation and maneuverings, the more he will feel vindicated in his self-absorbed “Prophetic” role. Unlike most who suffer from such a complex, he has many stealthy outsiders who egg him on for their own selfish, statist gains. Also, the McLeroy Complex ties into well-worn Christian persecution themes–all who visit here get it, no need to elaborate. The more you suffer, the more you must be right.

    To aid his megalomania, I think he likes being a dentist because he can get people in the chair and they can’t talk back. Poor people with real dental needs!

    Do no harm, Mr. McLeroy, do no harm (Hippocrates and Jesus).

  17. Bill Rubink, when I read your list, I keep wanting to add

    Duck season: Rabbit season

    Yes, I’m completely unhinged.

  18. Actually I meant it as a typical analogies question, like they used to use in the SAT and GRE. But there’s lots of room for amplification. I’m less concerned with TEA than with what is happening in many science classrooms. My wife teaches middle school science. The other day a kid stole a book of matches from her desk, ran off with them, and lighted one in the gym. He got 2 weeks suspension and she a reprimand for having matches in the science classroom. Now I learn that they have Bunsen burners and strikers, but for safety sake the gas supply is permanently disconnected. So let’s just watch the Terminator go up in flames as an example of combustion and heat production. For heavens’ sake, don’t let the kiddies see the real thing!

  19. And very good suggestions they were, Bill. I exercise my right to insert Warner Bros. cartoon images into any reality situation I choose, however. 🙂

    What a shame about the nanny state overstretches. And I say that as a liberal, left of left of center. There really needs to be a Common Sense officer/ombudsman(person?) at the district level, at least. Someone with the authority/legal know-how to be able to say “whoa-a kid wearing a finger-splint and a couple of ibuprofen in his pocket is not a federal crime; Please return the aspirins and send him back to class.”

  20. He wants an examination of NAS in the standards for a one semester Government course? Complete and utter nonsense.

  21. I was a Texas science teacher. However, when I got a stern talking to from the principles at two different schools about teaching evolution, I had to explain to them that evolution was in the science TEKS.

    I really wish these people would stick with Sunday School and leave education to the people who know what they are doing.

  22. Don McLeroy is a brainwashed delusional Fundamentalist. There is nothing we can do but support a strong candidate to run against him. You can never change the mind of someone who thinks like him. Very sad that our SBOE is being sabotaged by these nutjob extremists.

  23. Why don’t we forgo the negativity and SBOE McLeroy issue for a day and speak out about SBOE members who are up to snuff and working on solutions to Texas’ education problems? Maybe if we ignore the idiots and praise the others, something positive will get done. Where can we read the minutes to the SBOE board meetings to pick out some praiseworthy individual(s)?

  24. For those who may not know who and what the NAS is, I suggest you look at the website of their journal, the Proceedings of the NAS ( and scan the titles of the published research papers. If we are going to discuss the role NAS plays in our lives, then let’s read and understand what NAS members have to say. You will quickly realize that the papers are highly technical, written primarily for other scientists. As a retired biological scientist, I can honestly say I don’t understand many of the papers. I can assure you that most non-PhD types will understand very little of the import of the PNAS papers. How can high school science teachers and their students pronounce judgments on them, or on the NAS? Impossible.

  25. To what Bill says, I will also add the fact (and it is a fact even within my own field) that a lot of scientists WITH Ph. D.’s will not understand many of the articles and reports—even in their own field. The spectrum and depth of science even within a particular field of study are often so wide and deep that one specilaized area of study within that field is often “Greek” to a person specialized in a sister area of study within the same field.

    The Bible says that “Jesus” is the name that is above every name. A perusal of a good scientific journal in a university library will make you aware that its contents are the contents that are above the SBOE, the SBOE members, public school science teachers, science students, the student’s parents, and the news media.

  26. Charles you are absolutely right. Science has become highly specialized, extremely broad, and unbelievably complex. There are no more generalists as there were in the past century. Ashley Montague was one of the last of the so called “generalists.” A single person can neither learn all we now know, or keep up with all that is being done. But we can now answer questions that in the past were unanswerable except via religious faith. And we can pose more questions than can ever be answered; each answer brings up new questions. There is a nice essay about scientists that might help a lot of people, everyone, understand what science is at a very personal level. Here is a link to the PDF. The article is entitled “The importance of stupidity in scientific research.”

  27. Thanks Bill, for a very enlightening piece. ( I did mentally insert “ignorance” where it said stupidity.) That’s a paper that can only be written by a scientist who’s done research, and thus knows whereof they speak. Reading papers submitted by organizations whose agenda you already agree with, is not research, no matter how fervently the religious right board members believe otherwise.

    Charles, according to the Koran… hehehe.

  28. trog69: Actually the part that hit home with me (as a scientist) was the part about feeling good about feeling stupid. Actually it’s the terror of not knowing that feels so good when it’s over and you think you know.

  29. I didn’t like it, because it reinforces my acceptance that I’d never have made it as a scientist, even though I envy the work and love learning.