Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Texas marches backwards yet again

By Nancy Jane Moore

A few years ago, I was working on a novel in which a biologist testified against "intelligent" design before a hostile committee of the Texas Legislature. But then Federal Judge John Jones issued his ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (PDF file), thoroughly discrediting the anti-evolution forces. Things even began to change in Kansas, as thoroughly documented here on In This Moment. So I put the novel aside.

Obviously I gave up too soon. The Texas Education Agency just fired its director of science for forwarding an email announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest, one of the witnesses who helped defeat the creationist forces in the Dover case. According to The New York Times, Christine Castillo Comer was fired in part for siding against creationism. Apparently she was also fired for insubordination.

While Comer, who spent 27 years teaching science before taking up her job at the TEA, certainly accepts the scientific theory of evolution and rejects creationism -- that's obvious in her interview on Talk of the Nation Science Friday -- all she did was forward an email about a speech. While dealing with idiots who are apparently committed to ensuring that Texas students are ill-prepared in biology must have been frustrating, I assume Comer figured she would be more effective working to combat the anti-evolution forces on the inside. Besides, she probably needed her job.

This would be laughable if it wasn't so important. Given global warming and the high tech nature of our economy, solid grounding in the sciences is not just an educational perk, it's a necessity. The Times reports that the Texas State Board of Education is about to review the standards for teaching evolution beginning in February.

In Texas, state education money can only be used to buy books approved by the Education board, so if they approve books that are even wishy-washy about evolution -- much less books touting "intelligent" design -- those books will be used by most schools. Texas is a huge textbook market, so publishers will make revisions to their books to get them approved for the state.

I'm in the process of moving back to Texas after many years in Washington, D.C., so I'm watching this struggle with a combination of amusement and horror. I can't deny that it's fun to watch this sort of thing -- here's a piece I just stumbled on in The Times from back in February about a Texas state legislator who managed to offend most of the Jews in the state by sending out a memo claiming evolution comes from the Kabbalah. (You can't make this stuff up.)

But the stakes are just too high to let these foolish people promote their agenda for our amusement. We need to educate our children, not indoctrinate them.


Anonymous said...

But the stakes are just too high to let these foolish people promote their agenda for our amusement.
Okay. Assuming that that's true, the question then becomes, How far are you willing to go to stop them? How far should KCTV5 be willing to go? How far is too far?
And if it was a really good novel, wouldn't it have been worth writing (or reading, for that matter), regardless of today's headlines?

Dan Beyer said...

What if the scientific evidence does point to intelligent design? Would that mean then that it would not be allowed to be called science because it points to a higher power? I don't understand why those who believe in (macro)evolution won't look at the facts of intelligent design as well as the many fatal flaws of Darwin's unproven theory of 1859. A good judge (no pun intended) looks at ALL the information on BOTH sides of an issue. As a former believer in (macro)evolution I had to take look at what the "other side" was talking about so that I was sure what the truth was. What I've seen so far has absolutely blown me away. Darwin's incomplete and premature supposition that was made before the discovery of DNA, doesn't hold water in light of the discoveries over the years that make up modern science. If the evidence points to intelligent design, and it does, then how come it's not supposed to be called science?

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I don't know anything about KCTV 5, Uncle Pavian, but I think the rest of us should put a great deal of energy into making sure our schools teach science and not half-baked religious theory. It's not just a First Amendment issue -- though that's important -- it's a matter of making sure our children are well educated.

As to the novel: It's science fiction, so having an outdated key plot element won't work. However, alas, given Dan's comment, I fear the plot element isn't all that outdated.

Dan, if real science pointed to intelligent design, that would be interesting. But it doesn't. All the efforts to show that some aspects of human beings are "too complex" for evolution have been thoroughly discredited. The so-called intelligent design movement is creationism given a science gloss, and its theories do not hold up under scientific investigation.

What I don't understand is why people are more willing to believe in a God who individually designs each intricate system, instead of in a God who set a universe in motion to create itself. Both attribute life to a higher power -- a matter of faith, of course. Personally, I think a God who set up a system that began with the Big Bang and ended up with life as we know it is a lot more interesting than a God who sits in a workshop making each piece.

Of course, in matters of
faith, we are each entitled to our views. In matters of science, though, we must pay attention to facts.