Let's Get Ready to Rumble!*
Science v. ID Creationism Smackdown
2009 January 21, Austin
by Steven Schafersman, PhD
Texas Citizens for Science
2009 January 13
The Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown is coming soon! In this corner are three Texas university scientists and science educators who will defend the integrity and professionalism of science education in Texas. In the other corner are three Intelligent Design Creationists, one nationally-known pseudoscientist and two university science professors, who will attempt to damage Texas science education. This tag team match is for the state championship belt. At stake is the accuracy and reliability of science education in Texas for the next ten years. Who will win?
The Discovery Institute has just sent out a press release advertising the fact that three of its associates are going to be expert witnesses before the Texas State Board of Education on January 21. Needless to say, they're thrilled, because the 3 v. 3 controversy is intended to give the appearance of discussion of the scientific controversy by an evenly-balanced panel of experts, when in fact it will be a charade. I'm calling it the "Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown." It is similar to the notorious Intelligent Design Creationism "Kansas Kangaroo Court" in 2005 in which large numbers of both scientists and anti-evolutionists were invited to give give testimony and then be cross-examined in a court-like setting (also, see Kansas vs. Darwin for a DVD of the event). In that event, the scientists fortunately and correctly refused to show up, since these kangaroo events are sideshows or show trials meant to confuse the public into believing that there exists a legitimate scientific controversy, when in fact there is none. An equal number of adversaries or debaters is designed to give the impression of fairness, when in fact it would be more fair to have the three Creationists face off against 1000 scientists, since that is the true ratio in modern science.
The Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown was designed by the seven radical, religious-right Creationists on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). Six of them appointed the three Intelligent Design Creationist expert reviewers: arch-pseudoscientist and vice-president Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, Wisconsin microbiology professor and co-author of a Discovery Institute anti-evolution supplementary science textbook Ralph Seelke, and Baylor University chemistry professor Charles Garner, an anti-evolutionist who supported the Intelligent Design Creationist Polanyi Institute at Baylor led by William Dembski. These three individuals have no valid credentials to review science standards because all believe in and promote pseudoscience. I will have more to say about these three individuals in a later report.
The Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown is the brainchild of the seventh radical right SBOE member and chairman, Don McLeroy, illicitly conceived by mental coupling with "his friends" in the Discovery Institute. Only McLeroy has the power to invite the six experts to attend a SBOE hearing to give testimony and answer questions from the other State Board members, but this idea was not his alone. He was coached by his Discovery friends to set up this misleading debate, since it is designed to fit perfectly with the Discovery Institute marketing campaign to spread fear and doubt about evolution, thus promoting the currently-popular alternative that the DI markets, Intelligent Design Creationism.
As attentive readers know, the DI and other Creationist organizations have no scientific evidence to support their claims that IDC is a valid and valuable scientific alternative to biological evolution. Thus, they have to sell their ideas to decision makers and public officials using a series of clever and sophisticated marketing techniques. These include publishing pseudoscholarly papers that mimic legitimate science publications, holding "science" workshops, symposia, and conferences, "briefing" public officials, writing op-eds in major newspapers that publicize their pseudoscience and disparage mainstream scientists that have the temerity to publicly object to wild DI claims (such as the existence of "irreducible complexity" and "specified complexity"), maintaining websites, blogs, and email lists of supporters, and the best one of all, participating in public debates or hearings at which both sides can be heard.
When Creationism-evolution debates occur, it certainly gives the appearance that there are two sides to the question and that a real scientific controversy must exist (why else would a legitimate scientist appear in public to debate a Creationist?). Ordinary citizens and public officials, who are mostly scientifically uninformed, are understandably deceived into thinking there must be a genuine controversy, so you can't fault them. You must fault the public authorities that organize and present these deceptive hearings, which are designed to fool the public and are nothing more than cheap propaganda. Where did the DI get the wonderfully unethical and reprehensible idea to participate in debate spectacles with authentic scientists to have some of their legitimacy rub off onto them? From the Institute for Creation Research, of course. The debate idea has always worked so well for ICR. Stephen Meyer is the reincarnation of Duane Gish!
The three "science experts" have another function, well known in junk science circles, such as the tobacco industry and global warming/climate change denial community. For years, the tobacco industry funded questionable scientific studies to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking, even when their earliest investigations showed that smoking caused addiction and cancer. Likewise, the petroleum and coal industries have funded more than a dozen global warming denial think-tanks and advocacy organizations that generate white papers, issue briefs, and scientific studies that first cast doubt on climate change by global warming and then, when the denial of global warming could no longer be sustained, on the reality of human responsibility for global warming--anthropogenic global warming.
The purpose of these bogus or incompetent "scientific" studies is to allow those who profit from continuing the deception, tobacco companies and fossil fuel companies in these cases, to claim that science is on their side or, at least, legitimate doubt or a controversy exists within scientific community that makes a final determination of existing hazards premature, so let us continue to make money by selling our product. The three "science experts" appointed by the SBOE have the same purpose. They are being used, quite willingly, by the Intelligent Design Creationism industry (who profit by keeping worshippers in Fundamentalist and Literalist religions, since if science can disprove just one passage in the Bible--"In the beginning, God created..."--why should anyone believe the rest) to cast doubt on the reality of evolution and create the fantasy of a "scientific" controversy, where "critical analysis" will expose the "weaknesses" of evolution, reveal the strong likelihood of the existence of the supernatural, and thus hasten the death of materialism--all according to plan.
In reality, there is no scientific controversy; evolution is fully accepted by scientists and Intelligent Design is considered to be a form of modern Creationism, not science. The true controversy is a cultural one: the scientific and realist worldview of logic, empiricism, and skepticism opposed by the Creationist ideology of sophistry, mendacity, and willful ignorance. I hope the three science participants in this kangaroo debate--Professors David Hillis, Gerald Skoog, and Ron Wetherington--distinguish the two controversies, one fake and the other real, and forcefully inform the audience about this. A similar hearing was held in Ohio around 2004 when two distinguished science professors and defenders of evolution, Ken Miller and Larry Krauss, were pitted against two Discovery Institute speakers (if memory serves, one of them was Stephen Meyer), and one of the two scientists made exactly this point from the podium, saying to the audience, "If you look here at the stage, you will get a very misleading impression about the degree of acceptance of evolution among scientists. There is no even balance, such as the two v. two you see here, but overwhelming support for evolution among scientists."
Intelligent Design Creationism, forcing bogus "weaknesses" about evolution into high school biology textbooks--as was attempted in Texas by the Discovery Institute in 2003, and forcing state science standards to discuss the non-existent "weaknesses" of scientific theories such as evolutionary theory--the current effort--are not valid scientific propositions. All three are nonsense and present a false view of scientific inquiry. Students will be unable to correctly evaluate scientific arguments if they are confused and misled by Creationist propaganda and sophistry. Creationists' attempt to force phony weaknesses into science standards is the present example of their duplicity. What Creationists and other anti-evolutionists are promoting is not science education, but indoctrination.
I will be live blogging the entire State Board of Education meeting, including the expert reviewer Great Texas Kangaroo Smackdown. Details are at the TCS website.
[* "Let's get ready to rumble!" is trademarked!]
Texas Board of Education Schedules Special Expert Hearing on Strengths and Weaknesses of Evolution
Tue Jan 13, 2009
To: FAMILY EDITORS
Contact: Anika Smith of Discovery Institute, +1-206-292-0401 x155, email@example.com
AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has scheduled a hearing of scientific experts, including three scientists who are recommending that students should learn about scientific evidence that challenges Darwin's theory of evolution.
On Wednesday, January 21st, six experts selected by the SBOE to review a proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science will give testimony to the board. Three of the scientists will recommend that the board retain long-standing language in the TEKS calling on students to examine the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories in order to strengthen students critical thinking skills. The other experts are on record supporting repeal of the language.
"We're very pleased that in this Darwin bicentennial year Texas has invited scientists on both sides of the evolution debate to testify about the scientific status of Darwin's theory," said Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institutes Center for Science & Culture.
According to one of the experts, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, examining the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories is a core part of the scientific process, and abandoning such critical analysis merely to satisfy ideological demands of Darwinists harms students by giving them a false view of scientific inquiry.
Science education that does not encourage students to evaluate competing scientific arguments is not teaching students about the way science actually operates, emphasized Dr. Meyer in his written report. Meyer, a Cambridge-trained philosopher of science, directs the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute.
Meyer will be joined in recommending the preservation of the strengths and weaknesses language in the TEKS by Baylor University chemistry professor Dr. Charles Garner and University of Wisconsin-Superior biology professor Ralph W. Seelke, whose laboratory research investigates the ability of natural selection to produce new functions in bacteria.
Previously, these scientists have advised the SBOE that good science education should encourage students to learn the scientific facts and engage in more critical thinking than they would under the currently proposed TEKS.
SOURCE Discovery Institute
Texas Citizens for Science Last updated: 2009 January 13