More on International Databases

by Jose Medina

We’re learning a little bit more about International Databases, the previously unknown outfit from New Mexico that a few weeks ago submitted science instructional materials to the Texas Education Agency that are clearly laced with the junk science of intelligent design/creationism.

The State Board of Education may (as early as this summer) consider submissions by International Databases and other publishers for possible use in Texas public school classrooms.

In a story published Saturday, the International Business Times reports International Databases is, in fact, a one-man operation. That man, Stephen Sample, says he has a degree in evolutionary biology and has “taught at the high school and junior college levels for 15 years.”

Though not quoted in the story, Sample defends the argument developed in his materials that posits intelligent design as the default position, or “null hypothesis.”  Sample believes that means the burden of proof lies with contemporary biological science to prove there is not an intelligence behind the creation of life.

From the article:

Sample says it isn’t stealth creationism – he says the intelligent agency might just as well be aliens. But he emphasizes that he wants students to learn to think critically, and that unlike the physical sciences, there aren’t any experiments you can do to demonstrate evolutionary theory.

Nick Matzke, the former public information director at the National Center for Science Education, responded this way:

He [Matzke] notes that there has been a lot of work in recent years on molecules that catalyze their own formation, and increase their concentrations in solutions. The molecules don’t replicate themselves in quite the same way that DNA does. But they do offer insight into how life might have started. “The thing is, scientists are limited by a single lab experiment,” he said. “When you have a million experiments like that going on all over, in every tide pool, then you can get many results.”

Aside from the scientific arguments, there’s another BIG problem with submissions like this: the U.S. Constitution.

A federal district court in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case has already ruled creationism/intelligent design is not science, but is instead a religious doctrine that is unconstitutional when taught in public schools.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it was an action taken by the SBOE that opened the door in Texas for this whole discussion. Two years ago the board’s far-right bloc made an ideological decision to approve a science curriculum that called into question the already settled science of evolution.

We’ll be watching the SBOE when it takes up the science materials later this year.