On Tuesday a remarkable coalition of scientists from Texas colleges, university and private industry announced their support for new public school science standards that would provide a 21st-century education for Texas students. Media coverage of the 21st-Century Science Coalition press conference at the Texas Education Agency in Austin was heavy. The press conference came the week after work groups made up of teachers and academics appointed by theTexas State Board of Education proposed new science standards that support teaching about evolution and oppose teaching about “supernatural” explanations in public schools.
Coalition spokespeople announced that more than 800 Texas scientists had already signed a pro-science petition at http://www.TexasScientists.org/. A sampling of comments from the press conference:
From the San Antonio Express-News
“We are here to support and promote strong, clear, modern science education in Texas schools,” said David Hillis, professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin. “Texas public schools should be preparing our kids to succeed in the 21st century, not promoting political and ideological agendas that are hostile to a sound science education.”
“We should teach students 21st-century science — not some watered-down version with phony arguments that nonscientists disingenuously call ‘weaknesses,’” said Sahotra Sarkar, another professor of integrative biology at the UT-Austin. “Calling ‘intelligent design’ arguments a weakness of evolution is like calling alchemy a weakness of chemistry, or astrology a weakness of astronomy.”
From the Associated Press
Even at Baylor University in Waco, the world’s largest Baptist university, professors don’t teach creationism because it’s not based on science, said Richard Duhrkopf, an associate professor of biology.
“We shouldn’t be teaching the supernatural in science classrooms,” Duhrkopf said. “It’s time to keep religion and faith in the Sunday schools and not in the public schools.”
From the Austin American-Statesman
“Not a single one (of the articles in these journals) gives us reason to believe evolution did not occur,” said Dan Bolnick, an assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas, pointing to stacks of the scientific journal Evolution. “So where are the weaknesses? Simple: They don’t exist. They are not based on scientific research or data and have been refuted countless times.”
From the Texas Observer
The speakers made the usual — but necessary — statements that evolution is undisputed among the vast majority of scientists. To illustrate the point to a media that sometimes sacrifices accuracy for balance (”on one hand… but on the other”), the organizers piled up 10 years’ worth of the journal Evolution. Altogether, there are some 100,000 peer-reviewed articles supporting evolution published in this journal and others, said Dr. Dan Bolnick, an assistant professor at UT-Austin. “Not a single one shows that evolution has not occurred,” Bolnick said.
The creationist chairman of the State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, repeated his denials that any board members want to promote their religious beliefs over science in Texas public schools. But then, as the San Antonio Express-News reports, the esteemed dentist betrayed himself by once again arguing that “natural” and “supernatural” explanations are both “testable” and, thus, appropriate for science classes.
“The naturalists and the supernaturalists are both free to make testable explanations for science,” he said. “If there were supernatural explanations, science could never find it. Science would always be wrong, so you have to have testable explanations.”
As we have pointed out, that’s complete nonsense. “Supernatural”/religious explanations for phenomena are simply not testable. Why? The results of any such tests could simply be explained away as, “Well, God did it.” That’s not science. That’s faith.
Nothing that scientists said Tuesday or teacher work groups proposed last week threatens the right of families and congregations to pass on their own religious beliefs to their children. In fact, scientists and teachers are protecting religious freedom by saying that public schools have no business deciding whose religious beliefs to teach in science classes.
The issue boils down to this:
Should Texas public schools give our kids a 21st-century science education that prepares them for college and the jobs of the future? Or should public schools handicap our kids with a 19th-century education by teaching phony arguments from state board members who want to promote their own religious beliefs over everyone else’s?