Thursday, December 6, 2007

is Texas stepping backwards?

Texas has fired their Science Curriculum Director for ostensibly supporting Evolution of all things.

It's been reported in numerous places, Wired for one, that Chris Comer, Texas State Science Curriculum director, was forced to resign because she forwarded an email about a presentation by Barbara Forrest, co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design and an expert witness in Kitzmiller v. Dover. Why was this a crime? Apparently the State Board of Education wants to remain neutral in the controversial issue of Intelligent Design/Creationism vs. Evolution. Does anyone else see this as transparent?

I have a few questions:

  • How can a director of science curriculum perform her duties if she is not permitted to transmit an email about a presentation on an obviously scientific subject?
  • How can any School Board call themselves a school board if they think ignoring something is the same thing as being neutral?
  • Why did this happen shortly before Texas starts a review of science curriculum?
  • Why does an obvious creationist want to stifle mention of evolution when the battle cry (at least the cry since losing several court cases) has been to "teach the controversy.
First of all I can understand not dragging a state into a highly politicized debate, look what happened in Dover PA. But being neutral should not mean remaining ignorant. She didn't create an endorsement, she just forward an email about a presentation by Ms. Forrest. I believe the School Board is doing themselves, and the students whose welfare is supposed to be their only concern, a disservice. Who is going to get appointed in her place? Someone who advocates Intelligent Design under the guise of neutrality? Will that person also be fired when they send out an email about a presentation by William Dembski or Michael Behe?

Again I question the timing. Does the person who whined about the email (Lizzette Reynolds, a former legislative adviser to President Bush during his Texas governorship) going to replace her? That would make this not only transparent but self serving. Actually since the whining Ms. Reynolds is neither a teacher nor has any science background except for a degree in political science -- at which she obviously excels. Hopefully the appointee is someone familiar with science and without a preplanned agenda of their very own.

Ms. Reynolds wrote: "This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities. This is something that the State Board, the Governor’s Office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports.”

I take great exception to Ms. Reynolds assertion that the Texas State Board doesn't support Evolution. She needs to look at the current state school standards and read the section on Biology. "Biology: In the Biology course students study a variety of topics that include: structures and functions of cells and viruses; growth and development of organisms; cells, tissues, and organs; nucleic acids and genetics; biological evolution; taxonomy; metabolism and energy transfers in living organisms; living systems; homeostasis; ecosystems; and plants and the environment. Students learn how nucleic acids are involved in the formation of an organism and the inheritance of traits. Students learn to use Punnett squares and probability to find possible genotypes and phenotypes. Students understand the relationship between ecology, evolution and genetic principles. They understand differences between bacteria and viruses. Food webs and the cycling of nutrients in ecosystems are learned as well as the significance of structures and adaptations of both animals and plants."

It sounds like they support Evolution to me. Her assertion makes it sound like the School Board, the Governor's Office, and the Legislature have joined her in complete and total ignorance of science and the standards in place in the Great State of Texas.

I believe she is using the "Ignorance" card to achieve some false idea that it keep you out of the politics. This is a tactic to gain tacit acceptance for Intelligent Design ever since the Dover trial ended and Conservative Judge Jones could find no scientific merit in it. The cry has become a back alley way of trying to gain acceptance because the legal challenge failed so miserably.

One last point before I close. I mentioned above about the tactic "Teach the Controversy". That has been the rallying cry for the past several years. Aside from the fact the controversy isn't real but the creation of intelligent design/creationist support groups in an effort to convince us equating science and pseudo-science is protected by free speech. I guess we can now define "Teach the Controversy" as teach intelligent design/creationism and only mention evolution when it can't be avoided.

So in closing this post I want anyone reading it to understand several things. First I believe forcing a curriculum director to quit over sending an email about a presentation of material currently taught in Texas science classrooms is WRONG! I hope Ms. Comer avails herself of any and all recourse to regain her position and I hope she is able to hold Ms. Reynolds personally responsible for her acts of ignorance and irresponsibility. I also want anyone who reads this to realize that Evolution is science and Intelligent Design, by the admission of it's own supporters, has not yet reached a level where it can be considered science (Ask Michael Behe).

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