Want to Know Why Texas Is STILL Arguing about Evolution?

Many have been mystified that, even in the 21st century, Texas remains embroiled in a heated debate over evolution. In 2008 and 2009, for example, creationists on and off the State Board of Education insisted that new science curriculum standards for Texas public schools include requirements that would open classroom doors to anti-evolution junk science. The state board is set to adopt new science textbooks and other instructional materials based on those standards this year.

But the argument over evolution in Texas really isn’t much of a surprise. That’s because creationists have proudly rejected out of hand the overwhelming scientific evidence behind evolution. They have reveled, as former state board chairman Don McLeroy infamously said, in “standing up to experts.”

In fact, McLeroy — a self-described “young Earth creationist” who lost his re-election bid in 2010 — continues to do so. Last month he agreed to be interviewed by Steven Novella, who is president of the New England Skeptical Society (NESS). You can find the posts about that interview on the NESS blog, NeuroLogicalBlog. But if you don’t have time to check out those posts, just look at one to understand that it’s pointless to engage McLeroy in debate here. It’s pointless because, for people like McLeroy, “evidence” is an almost meaningless word. The sources and strength of evidence are irrelevant if they don’t align with their particular ideological point of view. McLeroy writes (to Novella) about their discussion:

“I admit that I do not have the time to read all the technical articles and read all the links you have referred to, but I do not admit that I am unable to judge the adequacy of the evidence evolutionists have presented for evolution. I have read the popular literature of highly acclaimed evolutionists; I have thought about how much evidence is required to demonstrate evolution. And, I have found it unconvincing.”

So McLeroy says the evidence he doesn’t have time to read and learn about is unpersuasive in any case. That’s a neat trick, yes? He does, however, claim to have read “the popular literature of highly acclaimed evolutionists” — as if that is a sufficient substitute for the “technical articles and all the other links” that explore the evidence behind evolution.

This isn’t just an admission of ignorance by McLeroy. It’s a defiant declaration of independence from the demands of rational thought.

McLeroy goes on:

“Of course our major disagreement is that I am a theist and you are an atheist. I wonder how much that ‘colors’ our view of the sufficiency of the evidence for evolution.”

We’re not surprised that McLeroy sees the issue in such a way. But the primary source of disagreement here isn’t really defined by the division between people of faith and atheists. Many people who accept the science of evolution are atheists, of course. But many — including prominent scientists — are devout Christians or followers of other religious faiths.

Take, for example, Kenneth Miller, a Roman Catholic professor of biology at Brown University and author of one of the nation’s leading high school textbooks. His biology textbook is among those the Texas state board is considering for adoption this year. Or consider Francis S. Collins, an evangelical Christian and head of the Human Genome Project. From a Time magazine piece about Collins in 2009:

“Science can’t be put together with a literalist interpretation of Genesis,” he continues. “For one thing, there are two different versions of the creation story” — in Genesis 1 and 2 — “so right from the start, you’re already in trouble.” Christians should think of Genesis “not as a book about science but about the nature of God and the nature of humans,” Collins believes. “Evolution gives us the ‘how,’ but we need the Bible to understand the ‘why’ of our creation.”

One obviously doesn’t have to agree with Collins’ (or Miller’s) religious views to support or understand the science of evolution. But for a rigid, dogmatic theist like McLeroy, one either rejects evolution (and, by extension, science) or rejects God. That’s why he finds the overwhelming evidence in support of evolution — evidence he admits not to have read — “unconvincing.”

Of course, McLeroy has every right to his beliefs and opinions. But when it comes to science, he and others like him offer people of faith a false choice. And it’s one that threatens the education of millions of schoolchildren and the future of Texas.

35 thoughts on “Want to Know Why Texas Is STILL Arguing about Evolution?

  1. Most Texans of voting age went to school when our schools were the worst in the nation. One unusual thing about Texans is that they are proud of their ignorance.

  2. This is all Texans need to understand:

    1) Many millions of Christians here in the United States and around the world understand that evolution is settled scientific fact. Many of the scientists who study evolution and related scientific matters in depth are Christians.

    2) The people who are opposed to evolution (the fact deniers) are a member of a minority, backwater sect of religious rhubarbs who believe that they, and only they, are “true” Christians. Everyone else who claims to be a Christian and disagrees with them on religious issues is a pretend Christian. If you are a United Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Northern Baptist,Catholic, Cooperative Fellowship Baptist, or a long list of other Christian denominations, they believe that you are in the grip of Satan and headed for Hell—and they really do not want anything to do with you socially. Do you really want people who hate you this much to be dictating what your children learn in Texas public schools?

    3) Do you really want to have what your children learn dictated by religious fanatics that do not even have the gumption to read and learn about the evolutionary science that they are so bitterly opposed to? Most of them have never even read or studied any of the scientific literature on evolution. That is like saying you hate baseball and want to destroy it when you have never read anything about it and have never attended a game. Does that make any sense to you?

    4) Christian fundamentalists despise Catholics. I know because I have sat in their pews and listened to their preachers spew hatred about Catholics. They dismiss biologist Dr. Kenneth Miller out of hand simply because he is Catholic. And of course, the reason Ken understands and accepts evolution is because he is a God-forsaken, Catholic hater of God. So, naturally he is an evolutionist. This is precisely what one would expect of an apostate Catholic. In their eyes, the scientific content of his lectures on evolution makes no difference because he is a vile Catholic. They do not need to listen to it or understand it. All they see is his Catholicism.

    I ask again. Do Texans really want people like these dictating what their children hear and read in science class?

  3. Don McLeroy represents a particular rigid kind of ‘thinking,’ dismissive of all other points of view outside a narrow interpretation, that I term ‘militant ignorance.’ He is aggressively against anything that looks like free inquiry or the scientific method. We need to understand that this is not merely a literalistic view of the Bible, but a literalistic interpretation of everything. For such people, there is nothing whatsoever outside of dogma. The process of discovery and refinement of theory is proof not merely of its uncertainly but its total invalidity as applied to all facets of life.

    We must recognize that these people have no use for science, for education, or for most of secular life. They also have absolutely no tolerance for resistance and they absolutely do not compromise. They only pretend to be reasonable until you concede them power, and then they push you back.

    Such people are not just vexations to the spirit, but are direct enemies of democracy and of freedom. They are more comfortable with tyranny and dictatorship, preferably on Deuteronomical lines. They need to be treated for what they are: Dangerously unbalanced cranks with no love for anything in your world at all. Expel them with force. Great force.

    1. I agree, and if we said to them if you want to live in a world that has no science, are you willing to go without your light bulbs and electricity and internal combustion engines your telephone your packaged foods free from bacteria etc….and all the things science have given you. The answer will be no cause they are hypacrites, palin ans simple.

  4. I gonna reject Gawd – cause it’s more likely that I’ll set fire to something if I’s don;t know about combustion..the other option is a too vague fo me to get…

  5. Do I want to know why Texas is still arguing about evolution? NO. Wesley, our schools are still one of the worst in the nation. Thanks Rick Perry for under funding education in Texas. Proud of ignorance? Speak for yourself.

  6. I strongly suspect this goes much deeper than “pride of ignorance.” There is some “serious money” funding wack-o-doodle politicians & SBOE candidates & members. The “serious money” people are not necessarily stupid or ignorant — BUT they do have a very dark agenda, & it ain’t pretty….

  7. I must be an anomaly. I’d guess you could call me a Christian if you mean one that attempts to follow the philosophy of Jesus. In another way I’m a lot like Jefferson in that I require empirical evidence in place of the supernatural.
    As a matter of fact, let us go with Galileo Galilei and say that “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended for us to forgo their use”
    I spent 26 years in the military service of this country to guard the citizens right to worship as they wished. I did NOT spend that time to allow a pack of fools to force their dogma on others.

  8. The Constitution prohibits the teaching of religious dogma in public schools. We should not forget that fact. Also, this guy does not just hate science. He also hates Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims, not because he’s a bad guy, but, because he is a Bible fundamentalist. All the sects, whether from Isaac or Ishmael, believe theirs is the one true God and that they shall receive the Promise and all others are infidels destined for Hell.

  9. Someone should remind Texas school boards that the human brain can be used for a lot more than just a belief in god, watching cheerleaders an masturbation.

  10. I’m a man of faith myself and also a Chemist and I accept evolution. I don’t understand how people can ignore scientific facts yet accept things that are just down right crazy without any evidence. I believe science points towards the existence of an intelligence designer if anything and don’t understand why the idea of evolution is so hard to imagine in the presence of a creator.

  11. I am new to this site, so I need to get busy making enemies as quickly as possible. I’ll begin by disagreeing with most of the comments so far. The blame for the rather sad decision of the of the Texas school board is NOT caused only by the young earth creationists. A good deal of the blame rests on the over zealous promotion engaged in by many of those advocating evolution. More then a third of the American public doesn’t believe in evolution at all. Why is this? As has been pointed out they don’t know much science. Their knowledge of evolutionary theory is limited or nonexistent. What’s more few of them are planning to spend a few months learning more. So how do they form their opinions? They are somewhat like a jury. A group of mostly average people with not a lot of education. They must come to a decision in spite of perhaps having to listen to experts dealing with the frequently intricate details of a trial. They like the creationists are not equipped to make cogent technical decisions. So what most jurors do is try to figure out whose lying. Once they think a lawyer or her client is lying or wildly exaggerating they now have a reason to ignore everything they say. Too many of the most vocal advocates of evolution make the horrible mistake. The exaggerate and lie. I’ll mention a couple that you might recognize. “Evolution is as well established as any science.” We know evolution is true as well as well as we know gravity. Really? Quantum mechanics has been verified repeatedly to 12 unforgiving decimal points. We don’t hear many physicists or astronomers claiming that gravitation is just as well established as evolution. Getting around this by equivocating using the word “evolution” is too obvious a ploy. It can mean change over time, or humans descended from apelike ancestors, or all life was produced from a single cell, or all life was produced with only natural material and No planning. Many of evolution’s defenders attach that to atheism. It’s not require,but that’s what they do. Richard Dawkins is an egregious example. In his book The God Delusion he claims that science and atheism are connected at the hip, and uses his own credentials as a scientist for a backdrop. He frequently claims that anyone who believes in God is deluded as well as stupid. When I applied his criteria to name a few to: Copernicus, Descartes, Pascal, Galileo, Kepler, Leibnitz, Hardy,Kant Faraday, Maxwell, Linnaeus, Kelvin, Pasteur, and Planck, I was astounded by the result. Poor delusional Newton did more writing on theology then physics.

    1. You understand, of course, that you’re arguing not just from ignorance, but from a well-known fundamentalist script that no one takes seriously. No one over the age of ten, at least.

      1. And which fundamentalist script may you be referring too, Christian, Muslim or Jew? There are many others!

      2. I seem to have run into some members of the Special Olympics Debate Team. Try reading what I actually said, even if your lips get tired. Maybe if you could get a few more to pile on your side it would be an even match. The banana technique. As Napoleon once said, “dishonesty is not only wrong, but worse it’s a blunder”

        1. We know what you actually said. You admitted those who refuse to accept evolution as a scientifically proven fact are not educate about science and react emotionally by applying their own belief system when faced with their ignorance of reality. Then you blame those who have struggled to answer life’s mysteries through science for belittling the intelligence of religious folk who refuse to educate themselves to the realities of life. The Richard Dawkins Foundation was instituted to bring science and enlightenment to the global human psyche. Humanity deserves more like him in the world.

          1. No. I said that they are hurting science by making the elementary mistake of wild exaggeration. Even the fundamentalists can see how ludicrous their exaggerations are. This gives anyone not familiar with the evidence of the more modest and non inflammatory statements of Stephen Gould, Michael Ruse, Ken Miller etc. an excuse for ignoring all. Like it or not losing a large portion has and will continue to hurt.

          2. So, your not disagreeing with what Dawkins and other scientists agree to be the fact of biological evolution, you just don’t like the way they are saying it?! To what wild accusations do you refer? Atheism is a lack of faith in all religion. Atheists accept the proven discoveries of science. That is the very reason they do not believe in gods and such bullshit doctrines. Fact is fact, unless you’re delusional.

    2. I understand where your coming from Carlg, you felt it was incumbent on you to step up and prove Richard Dawkins Right about the intelligence of religious doctrine. Kudos!!

  12. Not sure anyone expects intelligent thinking in Texas.. why not just move and let stupid be happy.

    1. Stupid isn’t happy until everybody else is unhappy. Witness Al Qaeda. Witness the Taliban. For that matter, witness BP. No, far better in the long run, and cheaper, to intervene now.

  13. Texans may still be arguing about evolution, but there is no reason for that
    argument to spill over into the science textbook adoption process, at least
    as far as the State Review Panel is concerned. The standards that panel
    members must use to judge the suitability of textbooks (taken from the Texas
    Essential Knowledge and Skills [TEKS]), are as follows:

    Science concepts. The student knows evolutionary theory is a scientific
    explanation for the unity and diversity of life. The student is expected to:
    (A) analyze and evaluate how evidence of common ancestry among groups is
    provided by the fossil record, biogeography, and homologies, including
    anatomical, molecular, and developmental;
    (B) analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of
    sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil
    (C) analyze and evaluate how natural selection produces change in
    populations, not individuals;
    (D) analyze and evaluate how the elements of natural selection, including
    inherited variation, the potential of a population to produce more offspring
    than can survive, and a finite supply of environmental resources, result in
    differential reproductive success;
    (E) analyze and evaluate the relationship of natural selection to adaptation
    and to the development of diversity in and among species;
    (F) analyze and evaluate the effects of other evolutionary mechanisms,
    including genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, and recombination; and
    (G) analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity
    of the cell.

    This is taken from the Proclamation 2014 available on the Texas Education Association website. However, I suppose the following knowledge standard, which appears in almost every grade and subject starting with 3rd grade, could open the door to junk
    science, like “intelligent design” theory: “in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

    The main problem I see arising is
    when Texas citizens get the opportunity to “file lists of alleged factual errors in instructional materials under consideration for adoption” or to appear at the public hearing before the State Board of Education. I suppose they could try to list what they see are the errors in evolutionary theory,
    but to do so, they would have to call into question the TEKS standards themselves, which have already been adopted.

    I do think it’s important for us Texas residents who accept evolution as
    scientific fact to review the materials under consideration and make our voices
    heard to the SBOE.

  14. Why? My guess is that they’re not content with showing they’re stupid at science: they also want to prove they’re stupid at religion.