Texas State Board of Education members are beginning debate on new public school science curriculum standards. The board will likely take a preliminary vote (or votes) today on whether to amend the draft standards submitted by teacher writing teams and then post them for public comment. A formal vote on posting the standards comes on Friday, but we’ll get the main debate today. The final vote to adopt the standards will come in March. We’ll keep you updated over the next couple of hours on the action here.

1:17 p.m. – Board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, moves to put “strengths and weaknesses” back in the standards. She argues that “strengths and weaknesses” hasn’t been challenged in two decades (we assume she means in the courts).

1:21 – Board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, opposes the motion: “Longevity is not an indication of the quality of something.”

1:23 – Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, also speaks in opposition, arguing that the board should approve what the writings teams — made up of teachers and academics appointed by the board — have drafted over the past year. “Some (here) think they know better how to teach than the teachers.” “‘Strengths and weaknesses’ has… Read More

5:49 p.m. – We’re entering the home stretch (maybe). Charles Garner, a creationist chemist from Baylor, is up. “There is an effort to redefine theories and how they distinguish from hypotheses” that’s not accepted by everyone in science. We certainly agree that there has been an effort to redefine scientific theories, but that effort has been primarily from the creationist side.

5:51 – Garner is offering a PowerPoint presentation showing some of his research. This involves “stereoelectivity in peptide bond formation.” Now, do we know anything about this topic? Of course not. Do any of these board members? We’ll say (safely) no. This is a common tactic by evolution opponents: dazzle nonscientists with scientific jargon as if they can really understand it. Then use that to justify their arguments against evolution. Seelke tried this tactic earlier (and was shot down later by Wetherington).

6:10 – Garner: “I’m not in favor of bringing creationism or ‘intelligent design’ into public schools.” Oh, no. Perish the thought. He just wants to bring into the classroom the arguments that creationists and ID supporters use to attack evolution.

6:13 – Garner: “Anything you don’t allow to be questioned is … religion. You don’t want to… Read More

4:04: Ralph Seelke is up, introducing himself as the grandson of a Texas cotton farmer and holding a doctorate in microbial genetics. Seelke has been a common face for the Discovery Institute in testifying against evolution in various locales. Seelke says he wants students to challenge what they learn, to ask: “How do they know that?” We agree. That’s how they learn. But we could ask the same of creationists: How do you know that evolution is a fraud? How do you know God created the universe in six days? They can’t know because they have no scientific evidence, but they can certainly believe. Faith, however, is not science. There is nothing inherently wrong with that faith — unless you want to determine what students learn based on your faith.

4:12 – Seelke asks: Why include “strengths and weaknesses” in the standards? His answers: “It’s good common sense.” “It makes for good stories, and students remember stories.” Good heavens. Is that really the standard he wants for deciding what to teach in science classes? There are lots of good stories about space monsters, ghosts, psychics and the like, but do we want to teach those stories in science class, too?… Read More

3 p.m. – Texas State Board of Education members are gathering for the second part of today’s hearing — the evolution “show trial” the folks at the Discovery Institute have been salivating over. The board will hear from a panel of six “expert” reviewers, three of whom are creationists who want Texas public school science classes to challenge evolution. Among those three is Stephen Meyer, co-founder of the anti-evolution pressure group Discovery Institute. The other panelists —

Supporters of teaching evolution: David Hillis, professor of integrative biology and director of the Center of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at theUniversity of Texas at Austin; Ronald K. Wetherington, professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence; and Gerald Skoog, professor and dean emeritus of the College ofEducation at Texas Tech and co-director of the Center for Integration of Science Education and Research.

Opponents: Meyer from the Discovery Institute; Ralph Seelke, a professor of the department of biology and earth sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Superior; Charles Garner, a professor of chemistry at Baylor University in Waco.

Click here to read more about the lead-up to today’s science smackdown.

3:11 – It’s hard to relate all the details here, but it appears the board is deeply split over how committee… Read More

11:30 a.m. – Another entrepreneur warns of the consequences of giving Texas a reputation as being hostile to sound science education.

11:44 – A creationist testifier: “Why are we supporting such a theory (evolution) that has no evidence supporting it?” Really? That’s the kind of stunning ignorance on display before the state board today.

11:53 – Josh Rosenau at his Thoughts from Kansas blog explains what state board member Cynthia Dunbar said in November about a Nobel laureate actually being skeptical of evolution. He nails it, explaining very clearly how evolution deniers are distorting facts in support of an ideological agenda.

12:03 – Ide Trotter, associated with the creationist group Texans for Better Science Education, is up. He argues that modern scientific theories make evolutionary theory “more difficult to believe,” but evolutionists are trying to censor those counter arguments.

12:06 – Ryan Valentine, deputy director of the Texas Freedom Network, is up now. Ryan reminds the board that four creationist members tried to reject proposed biology textbooks in 2003 because those books didn’t include phony “weaknesses” of evolution. He calls on the board not to ignore the teachers, academics, scientists and other experts who oppose requiring that students… Read More