Told You So: Texas Ed Board Chair Wants Science Textbooks to Teach 'Another Side' on Evolution

We told you this would happen.

In 2009, when the Texas State Board of Education adopted new science curriculum standards, we warned that creationists had inserted language they would later try to exploit to pressure publishers into including junk-science arguments against evolution in new textbooks. Barbara Cargill, the Republican state board chair from The Woodlands near Houston, showed last Thursday that we were right. Speaking at a Senate Education Committee hearing in Austin about CSCOPE, a curriculum management tool developed by Education Service Centers around the state and used by many school districts, Cargill said she thinks CSCOPE doesn’t conform to the science standards because it doesn’t teach “all sides” about evolution:

“Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations…. But when I went on [to the CSCOPE website] last night, 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.”

Cargill went on to say she wants CSCOPE and publishers to “soften” their language on evolution in new science textbooks the state board will consider for adoption this year. Those textbooks will go into Texas classrooms in 2014.

Far-right activists have been absurdly attacking CSCOPE for somehow promoting “humanistic,” Marxist and pro-Islamic propaganda. Some critics, having completely surrendered to unhinged paranoia, compare the program to Nazi and communist “mind control” techniques. It’s truly bizarre. In November we credited Cargill for trying, during a state board committee hearing, to separate perhaps legitimate concerns about transparency from the fringe-right’s fever-swamp scare fantasies. Well, so much for that.

You might recall that Cargill and other creationists in 2009 wanted the new science standards to require that students learn about “weaknesses” of evolution. When they couldn’t get that requirement, they settled on  requiring students to examine “all sides of scientific evidence.” Because creationists have repeatedly distorted the scientific evidence, we have been warning that they would insist that textbooks and other instructional materials include creationist arguments against evolution, which scientists debunked long ago.

The Texas Freedom Network sent out the following press release this morning:


Comments Raise Questions about Cargill’s Re-nomination as Education Board Chair

New comments by Barbara Cargill about evolution raise serious questions about her re-nomination for another term as Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) chair and the board’s coming adoption of new science textbooks. Gov. Rick Perry re-nominated Cargill, R-The Woodlands, for another term as board chair on Friday.

“These comments should serve as a big red flag about rubber-stamping her reappointment,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today. “Senators must ask hard questions about whether she will pressure publishers into writing textbooks to conform to her personal beliefs instead of sound science and once again put the culture wars ahead of our children’s education.”

Cargill’s comments came last Thursday at a Senate Education Committee hearing on CSCOPE, a curriculum management system used in many school districts. Cargill suggested that CSCOPE’s materials do not conform to all of the controversial science curriculum standards the SBOE adopted in 2009:

“Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations…. But when I went on [to the CSCOPE website] last night, 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.”

Cargill went on to say she wants CSCOPE and textbook publishers to “soften” their language on evolution. Curriculum standards adopted in 2009 require students to examine “all sides of scientific evidence” of scientific explanations, such as evolution. This year the SBOE is scheduled to adopt new science textbooks based on those standards. Schools will begin using the textbooks in 2014.

Cargill’s comments suggest that the SBOE is about to embark on a rehashing of the culture war battles over evolution and other topics that kept the last two Perry-appointed SBOE chairs, Don McLeroy and Gail Lowe, from being confirmed by the Texas Senate, Miller said. Cargill’s first appointment as chair came after the 2011 legislative session. The Senate has not confirmed one of Gov. Perry’s nominees for SBOE chair since 2005.

Miller pointed out that the science standards refer to “all sides of scientific evidence,” not simply “all sides.”

“State board members in 2009 heard Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists patiently explain that no valid scientific evidence contradicts the consensus on evolution,” Miller said. “So if Ms. Cargill wants textbooks to include ‘another side,’ then she’s insisting that our schools teach something that isn’t science and that will undermine our children’s education.”

Cargill’s comments echo creationist arguments about so-called “weaknesses” of evolution even though scientists have pointed out that such objections were debunked long ago. In 2009 the state board approved Cargill’s recommendation to remove a reference to the scientific consensus on the age of the universe – about 14 billion years old – from the high school curriculum standards.

After the adoption of science textbooks this year, the state board is scheduled to consider social studies textbooks in 2014. Those textbooks must be based on curriculum standards that Cargill and other board members adopted in 2010. The social studies standards are so controversial that they have drawn sharp criticism from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which has called the American history portions a “political distortion” filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.”

36 thoughts on “Told You So: Texas Ed Board Chair Wants Science Textbooks to Teach 'Another Side' on Evolution

  1. I’m really starting to lose all patience w/ these people. I’m not a violent person …. BUT should I be in a blind alley w/ them, it would be all I could do to keep from putting my large hands around someone’s neck and exclaiming “….You may teach “creationism” in Sunday school, if you wish, but NOT w/ my tax dollars in public school, thankyouverymuch….”

  2. I am certain that there has been, and will always be, some “serious money” in the dark shadows backing “creationist teaching.” I would like to see it revealed in clear language — what, exactly, is their agenda? As was stated so well in an earlier TFN post — Texas is a land of contradictions. Some of the most advanced technology is being developed here but in schools they’re trying to teach biblical stories, written during a time when humans thought the sky was a dome, the sun revolved around the earth and on and on…. They’re doing it for a reason. I want the “serious money” to spell out their agenda.

  3. Cargill,
    what can you say.
    A brain made from a block of cement.
    She’ll never get canned by Conroe voters, and if she we’ll get Mercer or Bradley
    because ole tricky rick is a deep thinker as well.two of the best and most entertaining of the creationist bloc.
    bwah hahahahah

  4. If Texas has an anti fraud department(and they do, Google it) that can prosecute, shouldn’t Cargill and Perry be reported for conspiring to defraud by directing state representatives to steal taxpayer money to support the teaching of an illegal(US Supreme Court 1987, Kitzmiller vs Dover 2005), religiously non mainstream Christian(NCSE website church statements) (and again a violation of the Constitution on religious freedom grounds)and scientifically fraudulent topic(all major universities Texas and worldwide, all science departments at public universities) and all major science organizations; creationism and intelligent design creaationism coursework, in public classrooms? Thats certainly conspiracy to defraud and engage in illegal activities. These cretins need to go.

  5. I think we need to have Cargill explain what the other “side” is.

    Come on, Babs, enlighten us!

  6. Rather than attack her or debase her, I pose this to her: “What credible, publicly verifiable proofs can she offer that any other theory on the origin of life is being considered by the scientific community? The very community with which all members have degrees in it’s study. One last question Ms. Cargill, what is your degree in?

    1. Already wrong question and thus playing into their hands. They love to confuse evolution and origin of life. Evolution is uncontroversial in any sane company, the origin of life isn’t. There are lots of interesting hypotheses about how the first RNA/DNA came into being and how it could work before the formation of the first cell but nothing is yet solid enough to be teached in schools. The creationists always try to taint the rock solid evolution with the as of yet shaky ground about the starting point. In the case of evolution it is really Laplacian (“I did not need that [god] hypothesis”), in the case of primal origin there at least remains a potential foothold for religion because science has not YET shown that life can originate from random processes.

      1. Good point. Antis are happy to conflate evolution and origins (and bring in astrophysics and the Big Bang theory for good measure). In the same way, Antis bastardize the concept of (scientific) theory. They shouldn’t be allowed to redefine terms or the issue itself.

  7. Cargill may be as ignorant and uninformed (concerning science) as other readers suggest — but she is Perry’s pick to be the chair of the SBOE.

    My hope is that remainder of the board will repudiate Perry and Cargill as did the State Forensic committee when they passed a report that, in effect, repudiated Perry and Bradley, Perry’s hand-picked chair of that committee.

  8. “Are we perhaps expecting a rational nomination for SBOE chair from a guy who says this?:

    “Freedom is the best ‘anecdote’ (sic) to poverty”.
    -Rick Perry, State of the State address, 1-29-13

    Perhaps he meant that poverty provides freedom from health care, freedom from good nutrition, freedom from affordable housing, and freedom from a sound science education.

    Let’s hope that if Rick Perry is ever bitten by a rattlesnake, that:
    1.) the snake survives, and
    2.) Rick’s doctor has the correct anecdote

  9. Dude, Cargill runs a summer science camp in Conroe for the kiddies.
    Get it? A large part of our population is very hazy about where natural laws and the scientific method end and religious faith begins. People like Cargill live on that boundary, dumbing down children because they
    can’t tell the difference between creationist fraud and actual science. Its gross but it keeps going and the conroe area keeps re-electing her(okay, a strong challenge was launched this year but she escaped again). Its very very creepy what she and her asteroid friends have been doing.
    For someone incapable of logical thought, the ability to sneak creationism into children’s classrooms through political means is the same as proving their ideas scientifically. They know they will never do the latter, so they just go around that problem and so they go with the former.Anything to confirm their religious beliefs and impose them on others.
    Its actually an incredible commentary on the scientific literacy of Texans and the Conroein particular that she is still at SBOE. Did she make the 2 year list of candidates? it would be awesome to finally dump her. ..Ughh..

  10. It seems like we should be concentrating every ounce of energy into promoting the idea that SBOE members should not be listed as either Democrat or Republican, so straight-ticket voting won’t continue sweeping a bunch of right-wing nutcases into office. Doesn’t that seem like a worthwhile approach? Or has that already been tried and defeated?

    1. Ben: We have supported this in the last several legislative sessions. Partisan elections simply help politicize the State Board of Education even more.

  11. Why can’t these people just adapt their beliefs to accommodate evolution. Why must reality be distorted?! It isn’t as if religious people haven’t already adapted, otherwise they’d be screaming to legalize slavery too. (But I guess they’d have to actually read the bible to know slavery is considered a good thing.)

  12. Not only did Gov. Perry initiate and lead the fight in 2011 to cut $5.4B from our public school system budget in Texas, he has the audacity to appoint creationists to the SBOE. Why? It’s very simple. His hidden agenda is to dismantle public schools by gradually defunding them and simultaneously indoctrinate our children with false science and fabricated history lessons. How can these students ever hope to compete in a global economy with a woefully inadequate education? Could it be Perry’s ulterior motive is political? Teachers and higher education academia traditionally vote Democratic while the less educated lower income strata in our culture tend to vote Republican. So what is the real republican agenda? Broaden the party’s voting base by exploiting their voter’s religious beliefs and agitate their cultural fears. And, at the same time, weaken your opposition’s voting base by destroying their jobs and income.

  13. Honestly I think that if some people are convinced that text books need the other sides of evolution then that is fair. Science is about differing theories that either are upheld with new discovery or disproved. Creationism is another theory along side evolution. So I say let them teach it so long as its unbiased. As I see it, to remain unbiased the teachers much teach the topic with dispassion. Also the textbook should be sure to include not only the Christian theory of creationism but also the Islamic, the Hindu, the Jewish, the Shinto, and the Pagan way to name a few. That way they can give the students the option to choose what is right.

    1. Creationism is only a theory in the colloquial sense, not the scientific. The education standards over in Florida have a couple excellently phrased points related to that.

      Florida Benchmark SC.3.N.3.1: Recognize that words in science can have different or more specific meanings than their use in everyday language; for example, energy, cell, heat/cold, and evidence.
      Florida Benchmark SC.6.N.3.1: Recognize and explain that a scientific theory is a well-supported and widely accepted explanation of nature and is not simply a claim posed by an individual. Thus, the use of the term theory in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life.
      Florida Benchmark SC.912.N.3.1: Explain that a scientific theory is the culmination of many scientific investigations drawing together all the current evidence concerning a substantial range of phenomena; thus, a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer.

    2. Daniel,
      I hope you take these responses to your comment to heart, because you need to be better prepared to argue that Creationism should be taught as a theory in a science class. As a concept not even rising to the level of a hypothesis? No, not even. “Intelligent Design” doesn’t rise to the level of a theory, either.

    3. Daniel. Thanks for your opinion. The Supreme and Federal Courts(Aguilard vs La 1987, Kitzmiller vs Dover 2005), most Christian denominations(NCSE website) and all of credible science
      organizations and universities(reality) don’t agree.
      HOWEVER, IF you have scientific evidence supporting the idea that you can prove the existence of God, any miraculous events that can be repeated and explained by natural means, or ANY theory that represents a serious challenge of ANY kind to evolution and geology,physics and astronomy, you TOTALLY need to write that down, send it to an accreditted science journal for review and publication, and collect your Nobel Prize.
      Kapish yet? Try taking some science courses instead of getting your “science” from fundamantalists who aren’t scientists.
      Seriously. NO MAGIC IN SCIENCE..

  14. “Creationism is another theory”

    Untrue, unless you are not using the scientific definition of “theory.”

    Did you come here to troll, or do you really not understand the difference?

  15. here is a little info on Barbara cargill’s M.S. from TWU in Science Education.
    You will notice that no M.S. in Science Education is offered, rather an M.A.
    Although they do offer an M.S. in biology, Cargill does not have an M.S. in biology but rather a masters in science education.
    Flash forward to her SBOE CV .
    She lists herself as having an M.S. in Science Education. She in fact has a Masters of Arts in Science Education.
    Besides falsifying her CV, she further attempts to legitimize her efforts to redefine science to include creationism by claiming she possesses a scioence degree when she in fact possesses tow Arts degrees, one from Baylor and one from TWU.
    Please pass this on to kathy miller, Cargills degree claims are falsehoods.
    Why am I not surprised.
    1. The TWU Biology Department offers an Master of Science (MS) degree in Biology. Students may select a thesis or non-thesis (professional paper) path. Students with a primary interest in a career in teaching may select the professional paper route. This degree does not include teacher certification for Texas public schools.
    2. The College of Professional Education offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree with certification for teaching science in Texas public schools.
    3. The College of Professional Education also offers a Teaching Learning and Curriculum Master of Education (TLC M Ed) degree with specialization in content areas, such as biology. This degree is for certified teachers in Texas who wish to enhance their professional development.

  16. The TWU degree info above is a direct quote from the TWU department chair. I concluded that cargill has an M.A., not an M.s.
    She should be asked to produce her M.S. degree for the public to examine.

    1. Coragyps: Long form birth certificate?? That might pose a problem. It would have to be sent from her home planet … in a galaxy far, far away….

    1. I believe that would be Texas Woman’s University. Campuses in Denton, Dallas and Houston.

      PS. Always thought it was Texas Women’s University, but the official web site says “Woman’s”.