Texas Education Board chair McLeroy on creationism in schools

Evolution education in Texas
Image by Colin Purrington via Flickr

Dentist Don McLeroy is the chair of the Texas Board of Education, and is actively seeking to ensure that religious creationist claptrap is included in the state’s science curriculum. Actually, to be precise, the creationism he espouses will be Christian creationism rather than the myriad of creation myths devised by primitive cultures over the aeons.

He’s now published an opinion piece (McLeroy: Enlisting in the culture war), which I think illustrates his peculiar flat-Earth world-view.  McLeroy concocts a bizarre scenario in which he says the greatest threat to establishing high standards in education is a culture war over evolution.  What’s even more dumbfounding is that he constructs a bizarre conspiracy theory in which he claims a “cultural war” between science and faith is generated and stoked by “the rejection of the empirical demonstration of science by academia’s far-left and the secular elite opinionmakers”.  This is such an astounding inversion of reality that it almost defies belief.

The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom. Even Texas’ 20-year-old requirement to teach the scientific strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses and theories has come under attack. Words that were uncontroversial and perfectly acceptable for nearly two decades are now considered “code words” for intelligent design and are deemed unscientific. The elite fear that “unscientific” weaknesses of evolution will be inserted into the textbooks, leaving students without a good science education and unprepared for the future, compelling businesses to shun “illiterate” Texas.

Actually the issue here is not that there is some shadowy far-left academic conspiracy, rather it is one of teaching science in science classes.  And the conspiracy comes from dimwits like McLeroy forcing a religious agenda where it should not be.  Will McLeroy come clean on which religious creation myths have a place in his ideal Texas science classes?  Just christian?  Or maybe the original American creation myths ought to get look in – perhaps those of the Apache?  Or maybe those of the Indian sub-continent.  But wait, why not Viking myths?  Just because they are pretty much dead doesn’t make them any less valid than those of christianity, surely?

McLeroy writes substantial quantities of rubbish.  He needs to learn some science, particularly what constitutes evidence. He has inadequate scientfic background to understand evolutionary theory (one wonders what background in education delivery he has, that someone thought fit to appoint him to chair the Education Board).  In any case, he shoots himself in the foot, when he points out that

Texas’ standards define science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomenon as well as the knowledge generated through this process.”

By that definition, creationism can not be taught in science classes: it is entirely untestable, and makes not predictions that may be evaluated by experimentation.  In contrast, Evolutionary theory makes testable predictions, and in every case scientific investigation yields supporting evidence.  Perhaps McLeroy should put down his religious texts, and read more widely – Jerry Coyne’s recent book Why Evolution is True” might be a good place to start.  But wait! McLeroy winds up his article with a bizarre claim that

If we are to train our students, engage their minds and, frankly, be honest with them, why oppose these standards? [I think he's referring to the standard of testability above] If the standards do not promote religion and they are not unscientific and they deal directly with the data, then possibly these standards are being opposed for ideological reasons. This supports the argument that this culture war exists, not because of the religious faith of creationists, but because of the rejection of the empirical demonstration of science by academia’s far-left and the secular elite opinionmakers.

An oddly lop-sided world-view indeed – his last sentence is extraordinary – and it reveals him as a bizarre conspiracy theorist for whom illogical topsy-turvy argument holds sway.  But given where he gets his ideas from (Where the creationist chair of the Texas education board gets his information), perhaps we can see where he gets his bizarre conspiracies.  How did this guy get to chair the Texas Education Board?

UPDATE: There is an interesting and very informative dissection of McLeroy’s selective quote-mining at Collapse of a Texas “Quote Mine”, which presents quite damning evidence of selective quotation out of context (and in direct contradiction of the context from which the quotation was drawn), with suggestions of plagiarism.

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