More on International Databases

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.

10 thoughts on “More on International Databases

  1. Fear not, as Bill 911 was past by the House as part of the Screw the Little Guy Legislation Bill. The law, also called the American Law for American Courts has brought a boon in disguise … the Bible is Foreign Law. Biblical adherents often collude to bring about a “Kingdom” in the US which the Constitution prohibits titles of nobility.

  2. Playing devil’s advocate (though I am not a Lawyer), it should be noted that coming from a non-appellate court and from a different federal circuit to boot, Kitzmiller v. Dover is not binding legal precedent in Texas. That said, it’s certainly advisory; the reasoning about intelligent design from KvD holds in Texas just as much as in Pennsylvania.

  3. He’s wrong in claiming that there aren’t any experiments you can do to demonstrate evolutionary theory. There have been numerous experiments both in the lab and in the wild showing evolution. One wonders what he’s been teaching for the last 15 years if he’s this unaware of what’s going on in evolutionary science.

  4. What is at stake here is the continued existence of the American public school system. In some states, the public school system is worthless while those with enough money go to private schools. The use of vouchers will speed up the process of the destruction of the public school system.

    That’s a vey big part of American life (outside of New England) that is at risk. For good or bad, this mainstay is getting wobbly.

    A ful blown voucher doman would allow lower income paents to move thier kids to more competitive schools. To the disappointment of the Religiou, these quality schools may not be religiously oriented. There may be a new breed of private schools run like the private schools in New England and Hawaii where first rate academic standards are maintained. Those schools will have to pay competitive salaries.

    Given a choice between a public dumping school, a creationist school, and a qualifty secular school, the religious won’t regain control of the youth in the manner they expet.

    Woe it is to the kids in the dumping school.

  5. I alerted the Freedom From Religion Foundation to the International Databases curriculum submission a couple of weeks ago.
    I received a positive response from them.
    It’s a bit of a ‘wait and see’ approach at this point, but the moment these materials are approved by the SBOE, there will be a lawsuit. I will post more information here should things move in that direction. There is just no way I (or any of us) can stand by and watch this happen without taking some action.

  6. Well, laugh all you want, but intelligent design is where it’s at. I put some spoiled meat out and prayed for maggots. A bit later, lo and behold, maggots! Creation at work!

  7. Well, if the public school system does go under to vouchers, one could theoretically take those vouchers to any private school. That means the answer is to establish affordable nonsectarian private schools and nonfundamentalist religious schools for those who want them. In the end, all that really matters is to prevent the fundamentalist religious schools from taking over the whole education system in the United States under the guise of free enterprise. Of course, I would not give those fundamentalist schools odds on a long life. Here is the way it will start:

    “Ah-m-m-m-m-m!!!! You’re a really bad daddy for drinking that Pabst Blue Ribbon while watching the college game on TV. Teacher says alcoholic beverages are sinful and only bad people drink them. You’re a bad people daddy. Really bad. Shame on you!!!”

    Repeat that a few million times in every redneck corner of every red and blue state, and you’ll see fast what happens to a nationwide system of private Christian fundamentalist schools—not to mention the news media crawling all over their butts every night on the national and local news.”

  8. There aren’t any experiments you can do to demonstrate evolutionary theory? I’ll bet Sean Carroll would take exception to that statement.

  9. Over at PZ’s site, Pharyngula, some enterprising commenters have “cracked” the password scheme on the “instructional material,” and I use those terms lightly. PZ’s analysis is full-blown anti-science creationism. Yep, no stealth there.