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Texas: Two Major Attacks on Science
Standards for Science Undermine
Christine Comer Case: Undermines Educators' Ability to Defend Science
Two important decisions have
just been announced in Texas, one a court case and the other setting
state standards for science education for the next 10
Both represent serious attacks on science and scientific thinking and
both are inter-related.
Standards for Science
A huge battle has been taking place centering on what standards for
teaching science would be set by the Texas State Board of
standards are meant to dictate what is taught in science classes in
elementary and secondary
schools, and also are meant to provide the material for state tests and
for the next decade. And the implications of these standards go
itself. As Texas is one of the largest markets for school science
textbooks, these Texas
could have a major effect on new textbooks used across the country.
The basic, scientific standards that apply here are clear:
evolution is true and should be taught as such;
creationism in any form is not science and should not be taught in
The current tactics of intelligent design creationists do not
currently openly call for ID to be taught. This has been ruled
illegal in court cases
including Dover, PA. What they do instead is to attempt any way
they can to raise
bogus “doubts” and “objections” to evolution, to paint it as a “theory
in crisis”, all as
a wedge to confuse people about what science is, what the scientific
and how to distinguish science from anti-science so that their
theories” (based on religious dogma) can be smuggled in.
Some accounts of the decision of the Texas Board of Education
interpreted its decisions as a “setback for the creationists”.
Language which had
been in the standards previously calling for students to be taught the
and weaknesses" of scientific theories was removed. “Strengths
weaknesses” has been a code phrase used by the creationist forces to
allow and promote
“doubts” about evolution to be pushed into science classrooms and
promote other anti-scientific “theories” like intelligent design.
So yes “strengths and weaknesses” was no longer allowed in the
standards (by a 7-7 tie vote). But creationists did push through
the requirement that
students examine "all sides of scientific evidence."
People who are not following closely what is really going on here might
wonder what is so bad about phrases like these. In the context of
unrelenting attacks on science, against evolution – arguably the most
scientific theory of all time - these phrases provide the continuing
loopholes to inject unscientific “theories” into
classroom This plays right into the creationists' strategy – and
science and science education.
These Texas standards also do not stop at attacking and weakening the
teaching of evolution. Astronomy and cosmology are also on the
radar – language was put in to weaken the Big Bang theory, saying there
estimates for the age of the universe. To be clear this is not
about 14 billion
years vs. 14.5 billion years – this language was introduced by a
committee person who
is a young-earth creationist who believes the universe was created less
6000 years ago. Other amendments were adopted that might allow
presentation of a
creationist alternative “theory” about the complexity of the cell (a
famous and scientifically discredited pseudo-argument of the ID forces
that some complex structures and chemical processes in cells are
complex” and therefore cannot be explained by evolutionary theory), and
beginning of life.
In short, these new standards weaken and undermine science.
The creationists are continuing to attack science. Anyone who is
thinking that with
the departure of Bush that “the enlightenment is back” - should take
pause and take a
serious look at what is happening in Texas. These new standards
represent a renewed attack on science and open the door to further
The Christine Comer Case
The week of Nov. 20, 2007, Christine Comer who served for 27 years as a
science teacher and 9 years as director of science for the Texas
Agency was attacked and forced to resign. Why? Because she
an email about a lecture by Dr. Barbara Forrest. Dr. Forrest is
co-author of “Inside
Creationism's Trojan Horse” (an important book that exposes the tactics
of creationists and
their attempts to inject religion into science classes) and was an
witness in the Dover, PA trial that ruled against the teaching of
in science classrooms. Dr. Forrest is also a signatory of the
statement. In the dismissal letter received by Comer, it referred
to the issue of
creationism as “a subject on which the agency must remain
neutral”. Remember this is talking about the state agency in
charge of science education.
Comer stated at the time “how could I remain neutral on something that
Comer subsequently filed a lawsuit stating that her firing by state
Commissioner Robert Scott in November 2007 was improper because she was
accused of violating an "unconstitutional" policy. The Texas Education
requires that employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism,
interpretation of the origin of humans. Her suit made clear that
firing of its Director of Science for not remaining 'neutral' on the
violates the Establishment Clause, because it employs the symbolic and
support of the State of Texas to achieve a religious purpose, and so
has the purpose
or effect of endorsing religion. By professing 'neutrality,' the Agency
creationism as a valid scientific theory.” In other words it is a
violation of the separation of church and state.
The judge ruled against Comer, specifically saying that the
“neutrality” policy is not unconstitutional. The implications of
this are chilling –
those responsible for the teaching of science must not (upon pain of
being fired) defend
science against the attacks of creationists!
As Comer also stated “I used to think it was just a radical fringe
group but it seems like now it is part of the political scene to back a
group that is
anti-science.” The linkage to the battle over science education
standards in Texas is all too clear.
for additional background on Comer's dismissal and some history of the
efforts of the ID creationists to undermine the teaching of evolution
in Texas see:
Forrest on Comer Case...
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