Texas Citizens for Science Strongly Criticizes the Texas State Board of Education
for Nominating Three Anti-Evolutionists and Intelligent Design Creationists
to the Six-Member Science Standards Review Panel
A Report and News Release by
Steven Schafersman, Ph.D.
Texas Citizens for Science
2008 October 15
Texas Citizens for Science has learned that members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) have nominated three Intelligent Design Creationist (IDC) and anti-evolution advocates to the six-member panel of professional scientists that will review the draft Texas science standards that have recently been written by workgroups of Texas science teachers and scientists. The members of this professional science standards review panel must be approved by majority vote of the State Board of Education at their November meeting in Austin, at which time the Board's members will also have the final revised standards prepared by the science workgroups.
Two of the nominated individuals, Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke, are out-of-state IDC promoters who are co-authors of the Discovery Institute's anti-evolution textbook Explore Evolution. This supplemental textbook promotes Intelligent Design Creationism by falsely misrepresenting the accuracy and reliability of modern evolutionary science. Explore Evolution was written in a way that removes any mention of Creationism or Intelligent Design to make it appear to be a secular, nonreligious evolution text, but its underlying message of antipathy to modern biology and rejection of evolutionary science is not hard to find on almost every page by individuals with scientific knowledge. Since the book was written to be used in secondary public schools as a purportedly secular textbook, it could potentially be purchased by the Texas Education Agency as a supplemental biology text when they are reviewed for adoption in 2011. This situation creates a tremendous financial conflict of interest for the two co-authors and disqualifies them to serve on any panel that will review science standards (although the two will probably claim that they will not receive royalties). The fact that two of the nominees are from out-of-state is unprecedented when Texas has hundreds of highly-qualified professional scientists who could have served on the review panel.
Stephen Meyer is Vice President of the Discovery Institute, whose Center for Science and Culture actively attacks evolutionary scientists and promotes Intelligent Design Creationism. Meyer is not a professional scientist, but a polemicist and pseudoscientific activist who specializes in writing persuasive essays that promote IDC for Discovery Institute marketing campaigns, such as "Teach the Controversy" and "Critical Analysis of Evolution." He is perhaps best known for stealthily getting a pseudoscientific and anti-evolutionist paper, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," published in a legitimate scientific journal. The anti-evolutionist editor of that journal was also implicated, and the biological society that publishes the journal later wrote a statement that criticized and disavowed the paper. Meyer journeyed to Texas in 2003 and attempted to get several biology textbooks that mention evolution changed or rejected. Meyer is unqualified to be on the professional review panel because he is a pseudoscientist, not a scientist, and has a financial conflict of interest.
Ralph Seelke is a professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and is a well-known and active Scientific Creationist. His official university website includes the disclaimer, "The contents of these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of UW-Superior and are not officially endorsed by the university." That is a good thing, because all the posted writings except for course materials are anti-evolutionist and Intelligent Design Creationist essays. Seelke's testimony to the Michigan House of Representatives published on the Discovery Institute website ostensibly promotes critical thinking but in reality denigrates evolutionary biology and promotes IDC. In this, he writes that there is "evidence that goes against the theory [of evolution]," and, among many other inaccuracies, he seriously distorts several facts about fossils in the Cambrian when he repeats a common ignorant and duplicitous Creationist argument. He and Meyer both testified in May, 2005, in favor of the anti-evolutionist science standards adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education. His paper Origin of Life is a critique of modern evolutionary biology. He actually was allowed to present a seminar course at his university on the Evidence for Design in Nature. Although a scientist and a university professor, Seelke's obvious pseudoscientific bias and financial conflict of interest disqualify him to serve on the professional review panel.
The most critical item to note here is that Meyer in Texas (2003) and Kansas (2005) and Seelke in Kansas (2005) and Michigan (2006) have both attempted to undermine accurate and reliable science standards or textbook content in those states, in neither of which are they a citizen. These two make a practice of travelling to other states to testify and agitate on behalf of the Discovery Institute's effort to damage science education in public schools. This appalling and destructive activity should be condemned, not encouraged and facilitated as some members of the Texas SBOE are doing.
The third anti-evolutionist and ID Creationist is Prof. Charles Garner of Baylor University's chemistry department. Unlike Meyer and Seelke, Garner is marginally qualified to serve on the professional panel despite his anti-evolution views. He has criticized evolution in his classroom, but he is otherwise a legitimate scientist who is not an anti-evolution or IDC activist. He has not written essays attacking or misrepresenting evolutionary science as have Meyer and Seelke. Garner's views can be found in an article in The Dallas Observer in 2001: "But Charles Garner, an organic chemistry professor at Baylor who says he prays with students when they come to him with problems and criticizes evolutionary theory in class, argues that it would be virtually impossible to get intelligent-design articles peer-reviewed fairly by a pro-evolution scientific establishment. 'Remember,' he says, 'you're going to be upsetting people's worldviews with this stuff.'" According to Baylor's student newspaper, The Lariat, Garner was also apparently the sole Baylor science faculty member who defended William Dembski's Polanyi Institute, an entity created at Baylor to attack evolution and promote IDC. With the exception of Garner, Baylor's science faculty was universally opposed to the Polanyi Institute. After a few years Baylor shut it down (as Michael Polanyi would have wished if he were alive, because he would have despised the duplicity and sophistry of the IDC zealots) and Dembski moved on to Baptist Seminaries in Louisville and Fort Worth to pursue his true callings of Christian Apologetics and Biblical Inerrancy.
It is unfortunate that some SBOE members have such a poor regard for the education of Texas science students that they must resort to pushing their own anti-evolutionist and Creationist religious ideologies into the science standards revision process. What the Texas SBOE is doing perfectly matches what the Kansas SBOE tried to do: force its anti-science ideology onto the students and teachers of our state's public school system. All Texas citizens who care about education and wish to ensure that their children receive the best science education they can get in a world that requires scientific knowledge and technological skills should be appalled by the reprehensible actions of some of our State Board of Education members.
The other three scientists and science educators nominated to the panel--Profs. David Hillis of UT-Austin, Ronald Wetherington of SMU, and Gerald Skoog of Texas Tech--are all highly qualified to serve on any professional science standards review panel. David Hillis, in particular, is a world-renown evolutionary biologist and a perfect choice for the panel.
TCS wishes to acknowledge that it learned of the nomination of the six members to the professional science standards review panel from a Texas Freedom Network press release earlier today. TCS contacted Debbie Ratcliffe, Director of TEA's Communications Division, and learned today that there has been no official or public announcement of the nomination of the six individuals.
Update: 2008 October 16
TCS has learned that the three anti-evolution Creationists were each nominated by two SBOE members. All six of these members are part of the radical religious right Republican faction on the Board. Discovery Institute Vice President Stephen Meyer was nominated by Cynthia Dunbar and David Bradley. Wisconsin science professor Ralph Seelke was nominated by Barbara Cargill and Ken Mercer. Both Meyer and Seelke are well-known Intelligent Design Creationists and anti-evolution activists, and both are co-authors of the anti-evolution supplemental textbook. Prof. Charles Garner of the Baylor University Chemistry Department was nominated by Gail Lowe and Terri Leo. SBOE Chair Don McLeroy, the seventh member of the radical religious right faction, did not nominate a panel member.
In addition, Geraldine Miller and Pat Hardy nominated Prof. Ron Wetherington of SMU, Director of SMU's Center for Teaching Excellence. I do not know who specifically nominated Profs. David Hillis of UT-Austin and Gerald Skoog of Texas Tech, but they would be SBOE members Bob Craig, Mary Helen Berlanga, Rene Nunez, and Mavis Knight. Members Lawrence Allen and Rick Agosto did not nominate a panel member, but it was reported that "State officials said a seventh panel member could be nominated," and this person would conceivably be the deciding vote for any report the panel produces. The six-person panel is now split evenly between three legitimate mainstream scientists who support evolutionary science and three anti-evolutionists and ID Creationists, so a tie-breaking seventh member might be needed. However, even if the report from the panel supports the evolution standards 4-3, the three Creationists could write a minority report that would be influential among the current seven Young Earth Creationists on the SBOE.
Texas Citizens for Science Last updated: 2008 October 16