The Times’ website has a profile of Don McLeroy, the Texas dotty dentist who’s been seeking to destroy education in Texas (Don McLeroy, the dentist who wants to drill pupils in Creationism – Times Online) – and, because Texas is the largest textbook market in the USA, thereby influencing education across the USA. I’ve blogged about the situation in Texas before (e.g. Confused response to Texan science education guidelines). From the article:
Don McLeroy is generally available to journalists between 12.30 and 1.30pm. The rest of the time he is either fixing the teeth of patients he considers to be direct descendents of Adam and Eve, or making space for his “Young Earth” world view in the textbooks of Texan schoolchildren. […] He describes himself as a Christian fundamentalist and believes Earth was created 10,000 years ago.
His views would matter little were he not also chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), which oversees the biggest textbook-procurement programme in the United States and for the past two years has been dominated by creationists like himself.
In a classic idiotic creationist argument, which reveals the depths of the man’s scientific illiteracy, the dotty dentist gives an example of a biological problem that he believes cannot be answered by evolutionary biology:
“Take bones,” he says, offering a brief description of the collagen and amino acids in bones as an example of biological complexity. “Intuitively people have a tough time thinking nothing guided this. Are we supposed to believe that all of a sudden, say on April 1, five million years ago, the first bone appeared? The question is, how did evolution do this, and the evolutionists have been painted into a corner. They don’t even have a clue. How did that first piece of bone get there?”
My take on this is that his foolish bronze age belief system, in which things are supposed to happen by divine fiat, and in which miracles really do happen, has influenced his meagre understanding such as to suggest this is what evolutionary biology suggests happens: it’s not just a reflection of his scientific illiteracy, but of his non-evidence-based belief.
McLeroy and his socially conservative cronies haven’t restricted themselves to demolishing science education, but have also turned their attention to rewriting American history to downplay (or indeed erase) historical figures who don’t align sufficiently with their views.
[…] in the past year they have passed more than 200 amendments to the
state’s social studies standards with the effect of emphasising the role
of conservatives in recent US history and downplaying that of liberals.
The good news is that earlier this year he lost the renomination to the Texas State Board of Education, but possibly not in time to prevent a legacy of stupidity polluting the American education system (and probably beyond). The wider issue is that when control of apparently minor administrative functions is passed over to the public by election, the tendency is that these positions will be filled by individuals with no professional expertise, and little experience, elected by a minority of motivated voters. In other words, the extreme positions will tend to wield disproportionate power.
As I wake to a catastrophic election result in the UK (suffice it to say my student years were spent under the vile Thatcher government), I feel concerned that one of the planks of the Conservative party’s policy was to push an increased level of local control to communities. I fear that we may soon see the unravelling of reason and militant single-issue groups gain control of school boards across the country. But maybe I’m just a pessimist.
But I understand my MP has been re-elected (in my constituency, a horse would be elected as long as it sported a blue rosette). This MP is profoundly stupid in matters relating to health and science (which has not prevented her from sitting on Parliamentary science committees), and is a member of the Cornerstone Group of Conservative MPs, of which more in a later article.
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