Stealth Creationist Meets Open Creationist: Texas SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill and State Sen. Donna Campbell

At today’s Senate confirmation hearing on Barbara Cargill’s reappointment as State Board of Education chair, Texans got a chance to see two of their elected leaders vandalizing the concept of science education in public schools.

Speaking at a meeting of Senate Education Committee just two weeks ago, Cargill said she wants publishers to “soften” their language and “teach another side” on evolution in new science textbooks they submit to the state this year. As State Board of Education chair, she would oversee the approval of those textbooks. Then at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Nominations Committee today, Cargill said critics had taken her comments out of context. (More on that in an upcoming post.) She then assured the Nominations Committee that she does not support teaching creationism in public schools.

Cargill’s comments on evolution brought about a revealing exchange between her and state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels. Campbell, a Tea Party firebrand first elected to her seat last November, seemed stunned by the idea that public school science classes can’t teach creationism alongside evolution. Cargill, on the other hand, knows the courts would not permit that and fell back on the typical pseudo-scientific arguments we often hear creationists make against evolution — claims about so-called gaps in the fossil record, “stasis,” and the like. She calls those claims “weaknesses” of evolution, even though scientists long ago debunked such arguments as nonsense.

Excerpts from the exchange between Campbell and Cargill:

Sen. Campbell:“Are we saying with this conversation here, which I’m kind of coming in here – that there is opposition, because we do not have the scientific facts to teach creation – that God did create world and man – I mean, are we trying to eliminate that? Or are we just saying we want to include evolution, or where are we there?”

Ms. Cargill: “So what we want teachers to do is to be sure and teach the parts of the fossil record in that, if you look at what has been discovered so far, that science might show that there are links between different species. So that would be one part of the science; what I would consider a strength to the theory of evolution. But then let’s look at some more science. What about stasis, which are periods of time where no new fossils appeared. Or let’s talk about transitional fossils and how some of those are missing from the fossil record, and how less than 1% of all fossils have been discovered. So it’s still all science that they’re discussing….”

Sen. Campbell, talking about teaching creationism in public schools: “But we don’t want to eliminate those things that you still do have to go on faith that are out there. I mean we—you know, science is—there are some things I you know would venture to say we’re not gonna know until we, you know, go on to eternity. Obviously I’m a Christian. I do believe in God as the creator of life, so I’m trying to make, I’m just trying to see and I don’t know if it’s your purview or if I need to check with the TEA, where that falls in line. To make sure we’re not just teaching that evolution is our only—because we can measure. To me, obviously I if I was creating anything and I had a good model like DNA, I’d use it and just tweak it a bit and have a monkey here or fish here or whatever.”

Cargill assured the committee that she wants the state board to avoid “unnecessary” controversies during her tenure as chair of the state board. With the board about to take up consideration of science textbooks, we’re not encouraged.

Stay tuned. We’ll have lots more from the Cargill hearing.

26 thoughts on “Stealth Creationist Meets Open Creationist: Texas SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill and State Sen. Donna Campbell

  1. That Donna Campbell won the election and then that she was appointed to the education committee–scary indeed! I heard her speak when she ran against Lloyd Doggett for U.S. Representative. Huge sighs of relief that she lost that one. Of all her positions, opinions or whatever you may term them, her views on education concerned me the most. And now–we’ve got “Dr. Donna” on the education committee. Yes, TFN, it’s going to be a more than challenging session!

  2. What schools do Donna Campbell and Don McLeroy attend that allow such confused people to become doctors and dentists? I would truly be afraid to have to use the Emergency Room where she supposedly practices medicine.

  3. Dr. Donna Campbell is emergency department medical director for Columbus Community Hospital, emergency department medical director for Christus Jasper Memorial Hospital, and a physician with Gulf Coast Medical Center.

    Texas Tech University
    Doctorate, Medicine

    Texas Woman’s University
    Masters, Nursing

    After her B.S. in Nursing from Central State University, she moved from Oklahoma to Texas. She completed a Masters in Nursing Degree from TWU at Dallas and then worked for over a decade as a full time nurse in critical and intensive care facilities.


  4. The end of this video is thoroughly baffling. Tweak, tweak here, tweak, tweak there. Here a fish, there a monkey, everywhere a teabagger. Donna Campell’s got to go. E I E I O.

  5. I listened to Barbara Cargill’s entire confirmation hearing as best I could considering the webcast transmission was terrible. I was amazed by the truly incoherent and ignorant comments of Senator Donna Campbell. She belongs in the Eighteenth Century. Barbara obviously doesn’t understand anything about paleontology or evolution (she misdefines stasis and mischaracterizes transitional fossils) even though she appears to speak confidently about those topics. But look at her audience: five extremely ultra-religious right-wing Republican senators who certainly know less than her. Thanks to TFN (Dan) for transcribing part of the archived video of this nominations hearing.

    Barbara was wonderfully duplicitous as usual. After eight years of repeated attempts to push her Fundamentalist Christian faith beliefs into Texas education policy, curricula, and instructional materials, often successfully, she promised the five extremely right-wing Republican senators that she wouldn’t do it anymore. But then she made further statements in ways that clearly indicated that she really intends to keep doing it.

    She apologized for recent comments at a Senate Education Committee hearing during which she said, “Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations. . . . I couldn’t see anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution. Every link, every lesson, everything, you know, was taught as ‘this is how the origin of life happened, this is what the fossil record proves,’ and all that’s fine, but that’s only one side.” (Thanks to TFN for publicizing this testimony.) Then today she told the Senate Nominations Committee that she meant to say what the curriculum standards really require, “in all fields of science . . . examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations.” So, in very convoluted and incoherent language, Cargill told the senators that she really didn’t mean to suggest that alternatives to evolution should be taught, but only that students should learn about “all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations,” just as required by the Texas science curriculum standards.

    What’s wrong with this? First, there is no “other side” of origins explanations, as Cargill implicitly admitted, nor is there an “other side” to scientific evidence of those scientific explanations. Cargill’s personal faith belief–Creationism–has no scientific evidence supporting it; nor is it science, nor is it an explanation: it is a dogmatic claim, completely unsupported by science. Second, the quoted curriculum requirement is a “scientific process” requirement, not a “science content” requirement. Students are not required to actually be exposed “in all fields of science” to “all sides of scientific evidence,” as a content requirement would ask–a task that is obviously impossible as I have frequently stated–but to learn the knowledge skills to be able to examine “all sides of scientific evidence” when the occasion arises, a process requirement. This is a huge difference that Cargill obviously doesn’t understand. She actually believes, quite incorrectly, that the Texas science standards require that students be exposed to “all sides of scientific evidence” for scientific explanations. Third, while the standard properly says “all fields of science” since the required knowledge skills should be taught in all the high school science courses, Cargill only wishes to apply this requirement to the topic of evolution. This provides considerable evidence of the sectarian nature of Cargill’s obsession and identifies it as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    Cargill made other statements today during her confirmation hearing in response to the excellent questioning of the only Democratic senator on the Nominations Committee, Senator Kirk Edwards. He came across as the only senator who actually cared about the citizens of Texas as he tried, sometimes repeatedly when she tried to slip away using her trademarked fast talking, to make Cargill commit to ethical behavior if confirmed; the other Republicans just kept saying how much they liked Barbara, thanked her for her service, and wished her the best. What a pile of crap. But that’s Texas governance: As Molly Ivins used to say, Texas is the poster child for bad state government.

  6. The theory of evolution does not have gaps, in fact it is the bedrock of scientific theories. Those that want to claim otherwise…well they’re nothing but trailer park trash.

    1. It also is consistent with nuclear physics, quantum physics, astrophysics and geology. The more we know, the more the hard sciences reinforce one another, and the more nearly perfect our understanding.

  7. Sadly Donna Campbell represents part of Austin ISD, one if the larger school districts….good thing at least some of the biology teachers are ignoring these loons as my current 9th grader has learned only evolutionary process of change AND learned about creationism as a bible view (not science) in English. Don’t tell Donna.

    1. abb3w. Good point. However, a scientist developing the next flu vaccine will ignore evolution at her peril. Donna and Barbara’s fast talking and disjointed sentence structure reminded me of a certain ex-governor from Alaska. The Saturday Night Live spoof wasn’t much different from the “real thing.”

  8. Much like an ordinary computer technician does not need any great understanding of Turing’s model of computation, an ordinary GP or ER doctor does not need any great understanding of evolutionary biology.

    Always kind of sad running into one that doesn’t, however….

  9. Donna Campbell has to go, EIEIO. Her to the door we soon will show, EIEIO. With an ‘out now’ here and an ‘out now’ there, here an out, there an out everywhere an ‘out out.’ Donna Campbell has to go, EIEIO.

  10. Creationism is in no way science. it is totally religion, taught thoroughly in churches. Parents who want their children to be exposed to the concept of creationism have a very wide selection of churches to which they can send their children.
    If public schools must teach creationism, then let’s require churches to teach evolution.

  11. Medical doctors are not scientists, unless they conduct research in a clinical setting. They do not have to accept or understand the validity of evolution to practice medicine. It should surprise no one that medical professionals are found among evolution-deniers.

    1. Beverly Kurtin: You nailed it! Totally! I couldn’t have expressed it any better that you just did. We immigrated here from Pac NW years ago — from the land of Douglas firs, tall cedars & lots of rain. There are lots of things to love about Austin, but the politics in TX is the only thing that will drive me out of this state. The question to which I want clear answers is — What are they really trying to do? Many others have suspected for years that they’re all about (1) protecting Christian religion — there’s a lot of money & real estate involved. (2) having a large, desperately poor labor pool (something like what China used to be until recently.) Their attitudes regarding sex-ed & woman’s reproductive health reflect that. There, I’ve said it. Enough outa me fro awhile!

  12. DAMMIT! Why, WHY do unprofessional, uneducated, ignorant bible thumpers get the nod to determine what our children learn?

    They are so ignorant that they do not know or CARE to understand that there is a difference between a “theory” and a scientific theory.

    GRAVITY is a scientific theory. I dare any of those ignorant people to climb to the top of the Capitol Building in Austin and step off to see if the theory of Gravity is “just a theory!”

    Has nobody ever explained that a scientific theory is one that is PROVEN as best as can be proven? It starts with a hypothesis: “What happens if I do this?” Then, after YEARS of tests and trials facts begin to appear. Then, after years of proving their hypothesis, and ONLY then is a hypothesis is proven to be a scientific theory.

    The unschooled, ignorant people who think that the bible is a text book of science need to be eliminated from having ANY effect on what our school children learn.

    My granddaughters are taught how to pass tests, not how to study and one of their teachers keeps trying to yank out her bible to “prove” things.

    I am not a Christian, I believe that the first parts of Genesis are a nice story that people a few thousand years ago needed to hear to try to understand where we came from. But we ALL began in Africa, not in the Middle East as the bible posits. Yet, those people think it is FACT.

    Soon, I plan on leaving Texas and move to a state where the bible is not thought of as a science book.

    1. Well, there is the theory of intelligent falling created to challenge the godless theory of gravity.
      Originally this seems to have been an ONION type satire but it has since been taken up by at least some on the creationist side. Some even want G#d in math class. Which in turn reminds me that an observer of the Galilei trial proposed (one could even say demanded) the burning of all mathematicians at the stake since ‘mathematics is the root of ALL heresy’)

  13. obviously neither woman has heard of the landmark case, Kitzmiller vs. the Dover School Board. In 2004 the parents of students in the Dover schools in PA sued the school board for apply evolution disclaimer stickers in the biology books. The case went before federal Judge John Jones who was appointed by george w bush. Jones ruled that intelligent design was not science, but veiled creationism and teaching it in public schools violated the establishment clause of the first amendment. If Cargill is a biologist and touts intelligent design she is one of .01% of scientists.