The anti-evolution Discovery Institute is crowing about next week’s scheduled science smackdown at the Texas State Board of Education. On Wednesday afternoon, the board will hear from a panel of six individuals appointed to review proposed new science curriculum standards for public schools.
Three of the reviewers — nominated by far-right board members — are creationists who want the curriculum standards to require that students learn so-called “weaknesses” of evolution. One of them — Stephen Meyer — is a co-founder of the Discovery Institute. (Surprise!) The panel’s other three reviewers — all science faculty members at Texas universities — support the overwhelming scientific consensus behind evolution.
The Discovery Institute has issued a press release that celebrates the board’s decision to hear from the evenly split panel. That should surprise no one. Evolution deniers have been trying for years to manufacture such a “show trial.”
In 2005, creationists on the Kansas State Board of Education attempted to attack evolution in a similar stunt, but scientists refused to participate in the charade. The Texas panel, however, is part of the formal curriculum revision process. As a result, the Discovery Institute will finally get the public “debate” it has tried so hard to bring about elsewhere.
We have a question: when will elected officials in Texas start taking science education seriously?
In 2007, state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, distributed to his colleagues in the Texas House of Representatives a memo that, in addition to attacking evolution, referred readers to a Web site promoting the notion that the sun and rest of the universe revolve around a stationary Earth. Really. (Click here to see the memo.)
The notion of an Earth-centric universe is ridiculous, of course. Likewise, it’s absurd when dentists, insurance salesmen, attorneys and political activists on the State Board of Education argue that the thousands of scientists who have found overwhelming evidence for evolution through more than a century of scientific, peer-reviewed research are all just wrong. Moreover, to use a curriculum revision process to stage a “show trial” in an attempt to “prove” that evolution is a fraud is little more than a stunt designed to perpetuate a lie. Even worse, that lie is aimed at undermining the science education of the next generation of Texas schoolchildren.
The Discovery Institute and its friends on the State Board of Education are hoping the news media will cover the panel discussion next week as if the two sides in the debate were somehow on equal footing. Yet evolution deniers have failed to produce a shred of scientific evidence that supports “intelligent design”/creationism and that truly calls into question the overwhelming scientific consensus supporting evolution. In truth, next week’s panel discussion will not represent a debate between equal scientific points of view. The discussion will represent, instead, what happens when ideologues decide that science can be determined by politics and public relations gimmicks, not by scientific research and evidence.