SBOE Chairman: Dentist, Science Guy

It’s bad enough that anti-science extremists are now calling the shots on the Texas State Board of Education. It’s true parody, however, when the state board’s chairman — a dentist — pretends to be an evolutionary biologist. Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, whom Gov. Rick Perry named as state board chairman last year, has written an opinion piece in which he argues that science should include supernatural explanations. By this, of course, McLeroy — a creationist — means that science should include the study of how God created life.

If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth — not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.

He continues:

Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.

One hardly knows where to begin.

Simply put, supernatural explanations are not testable, as Genie Scott of the National Center for Science Eduaction points out. If one believes in an omnipotent God, then the results of any test of supernatural phenomena can be explained simply as, “Well, God did it.” Scott writes:

Where would this get me? How can I establish general explanatory principles … if I can explain away my results by invoking a capricious Creator? If I am to understand the natural world, I have to conduct my science as if only natural forces affected my subject.

This is not to say that we must believe everything is the result of natural forces. Moreover, scientists will be the first to admit they don’t have all the answers. Science, however, is limited to natural phenomena and natural causes that can be proved or disproved by testing and observation. Supernatural phenomena cannot be tested. That means supernautral explanations are not science. They’re faith.

To point this out is not an attack on faith. Many people of faith see no conflict between their belief in God and accepting that science is one way to learn about our natural world. Yet, in essence, McLeroy would have public schools teach students that science should include matters of faith. When that happens, public schools would have to decide something they should not: whose religious beliefs to teach in science classrooms. Is that what we really want our public schools doing — especially as countries like China and India move ahead by ensuring that their young people get a 21st-century science education?

12 thoughts on “SBOE Chairman: Dentist, Science Guy

  1. The above statement by Chairman McLeroy is breathtaking. He would, if successful in his pursuit of religious indoctrination via sectarian education, completely destroy science education in public schools. The chaos that would ensue would be revolutionary. I have taught most of my adult life and I have heard little children say in answer to the question: How do we get rain? “God makes it rain.” That sums up all answers when you do not know the answer. Thus a politician can say that hurricanes and earthquakes are acts of God in punishment for sin. Climate change is a sign of the End Times and so on. This attack on science is as subversive a movement as any that has threatened American life and culture in its history.

  2. not sure where i come down on this issue, but you might want to add a little humility to your arsenal. i’m guessing — and i won’t be the only one to make this leap; — that as a dentist, he’s taken a wee bit more science than your staff

  3. TSBE chair Don McLeroy is not only an embarrassment to the Lone Star State but a threat to the education of countless children and to the state’s economic future. McLeroy evidently wants to stir up a conflict between religion and science that no one wants. Teachers, parents and the science community should strongly urge Gov. Perry to replace McLeroy before he can cause more damage.

    Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty

  4. Not only that, but science is necessarily empirical and concerned only with appearances. Any claim as to the metaphysical status of an event is non-empirical and cannot be investigated scientifically.

  5. Kay rightly assumes that someone with a medical background would surely have completed significant amounts of science coursework and yet, lo and behold, the good “doctor” seems to only have a dubious grasp of even the most basic of scientific theories. It seems to me that the scientific community — academia in particular — may have left evolution by the wayside generations ago in favor of teaching theorems that are new, challenging in their own right and provide far more stimulation and conjecture. Evolution is known. It is proven. To challenge it in any regard would be as preposterous as Newton claiming the apple fell to the ground by sheer act of will.

  6. Hypocrisy: insisting on emphasizing ideologically perceived weaknesses in a specific scientific theory, whose accurate predictions are responsible for lifesaving breakthroughs like genetically-engineered drugs, while not breathing a word about discussing any of the thousands of contradictions, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, fallacies and absurdities of the Bible in Bible-based classes.

  7. Regarding the writer “Kay” above, apparently Kay perceives logic to be not “humble” enough. (Apparently, to be humble in her opinion, one must turn off one’s critical thinking skills). She also assumes the writer of this article is not as scientifically knowledgeable as a dentist, that dentists are superior scientists to the writer. I wonder how she knows the qualifications of the writer. This is the kind of hostile attitude science in Texas is up against.

    I’m curious which flavor of religion does she and her hero, Don McLeroy, want taught in science class instead of science. Would Wicca do? Why not Satanism? I see no logical reason not to not include all religions if religion is to be taught. Why settle for one when you can have many – for the price of one?

    Furthermore, I wonder what other school subjects she and Mr. McLeroy would like to have omitted in favor of religion. If science is to be abandoned for religion, why not abandon math for religion, English for religion, etc. In fact, why not just teach religion?

    Sarcastically yours,

  8. As to a dentist “knowing”, my children’s father is a dentist ,genius IQ, and supernatural EGO, and yes, had science background of course, but certainly not of a reseracher qualified to speak on scientific testable explanations – apples and oranges. McElroy was doing okay for a minute there, on allowing for the mystery, the unknown, but totally lost credibility when tried to connect the dots to “testable explanations of natural phenomena” – that would be an oxymoron, like supernatural and empirical evidence = pigs fly.

  9. As a scientist who has actually done research, even on the cutting edge, and lived the art of science, let me propose a controlled experiment on natural phenomenon that we all can observe empirically, and that goes well beyond the empirical feedback created by the occasional clinical application of science in the disease care industry. First, lets not get completely lost in a fog of rhetorical relativism regarding the supernatural and the ineffable, but rather do what science can do. There are over seven million practicing Muslims in the United States today, a bunch in Texas. And, we all know they are blood thirsty suicidal psychotic serial killers, every last one of them. The Hagee whore tells us so, channeling for (his) God. And, the Hagee whore and his followers expect specific respect for their Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of belief. So, as a scientific empirical test of natural behavior, I propose that we formally propose to the SBOE that copies of the Koran be supplied to every public school student in Texas, and that Islam based creationism be taught in public school science classes, along side natural biologically based evolutionary theory. In fact, we could add an amendment to this proposal to the SBOE that having already purchased the Koran for 4.6 million public school students, that its English and/or Spanish translation be used as a basis for teaching reading in Texas public schools. This amendment or addendum would be a way to empirically and scientifically test “bang for the buck” theories in Texas textbook educational spending, or at least be a pilot study for further research on this issue. I think this would be a great empirical scientific test of natural phenomenon. Its contained, structured, and doable. It would lead to interpretable empirical data and outcomes about specific natural phenomenon.

  10. Sam Lowry said: “as preposterous as Newton claiming the apple fell to the ground by sheer act of will.”

    Right you are. Any educated person knows that the apple was pushed! Gravity? Hmmph! Just a theory.

  11. It is almost laughable that Cynthia Dunbar brings up the holocost as she seems almost facist in her style of thinking. She should be immediately removed from any public office to which she has been appointed. If elected somone should start a recall.