State Board of Education Meeting Recap
Overall, the State Board of Education (SBOE) Meeting September 10th was long and as expected, contentious, lasting around 12 hours or so. Over 150 speakers were signed up, though some were 'no-shows' as the night dragged on.
The first fireworks (though cordial) were when the Texas SBOE spent several minutes debating whether or not they would hear the 'out of state' speakers, including such authorities as Dr. Michael Behe and Dr. Jonathan Wells, (7 total additional to the 150 Texans). It appeared that some SBOE members were determined to censor the science as presented by the Discovery Institute (DI) PhD's. This was unconscionable, as these DI Fellows' work was being criticized by other speakers. A simple (and commonly done) agreement by the board was all that was necessary to suspend normal rules and hear the speakers. 10 of 13 SBOE members present voted against hearing them, (Leo, Lowe, and McLeroy were the 3), but offered the consolation of hearing them 'unofficially' after the meeting was over. Open debate, diversity, and academic freedom lost. The out-of-state scientists didn't get to testify until after midnight, and several of the SBOE members who voted to hear them 'at the end' had left the meeting by then.
Fortunately, we also had numerous Texas scientists who had volunteered to testify, including Dr. William Dembski, Dr. Walter Bradley, Dr. Patton, and several medical doctors, teachers, engineers, and parents. Our side dominated the early time slots, which was good. Our speakers were very well prepared, mannered, on time, and talked about science issues. Science specifics. Weaknesses of the theory. The other side mostly had a mantra or two largely originating from the California based Darwinian thought police, NCSE (Dr. Eugenie Scott, et. al.), such as "don't remove evolution" or "don't water down evolution" or "don't insert religion or creation science". (none of which we were advocating). They presented almost no 'science' and almost all rhetoric. Their testifiers included several members of the Austin Atheist Community.
The Discovery Institute, even while suffering a decidedly inhospitable situation, were extremely well prepared, professional in all ways, and well spoken. This is in spite of the late and unofficial testifying time. Dr. Wells and others were criticized from the podium while some opposition board members were unwilling to challenge those criticisms. Dr. Wells and others were unable to respond until the very end when over half of the SBOE had left the meeting.
You probably heard, but the Zogby organization conducted a Texas-only poll that showed strong support...a breathtaking 82% agreed with what we are trying to do.
Senator Rick Santorum (R, Pa.) and the two heads of the Congressional conference committee delegations signed and sent a letter clearly spelling out the intent of the 'Santorum Language' of the No Child Left Behind Conference Report. This letter strongly supports our position in no uncertain terms, and clears up obfuscations by the Darwinists as to what the U.S. Congress really intended regarding the teaching of weaknesses of and alternatives to evolutionary theory.
These and other testimony will be posted on the website as soon as we can get to it. Check out late breaking postings at www.strengthsandweaknesses.org/news.htm .
I was in London when the Focus on the Family broadcast aired, so I have not heard it. I did hear from others that it was, of course, excellent. We saw a large jump in petition signups on our online site, www.strengthsandweaknesses.org . Please continue to tell your friends and family about this online petition, as the next several weeks are critical, since the SBOE actually votes in November.
Board members will be gauging public reactions, possibly actually reading evidence, etc. before the final vote in November. Your participation has been outstanding. We need to let our SBOE members know that we support both strengths AND weaknesses in our textbooks, and politely ask for their support by only voting to approve biology books that meet those requirements.
Sorry this is so long, and a little unstructured...as Sam Clements said, "If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter."
God bless you and your efforts. Please stay in touch as you have time. Forward us copies of articles you may see in local newspapers, either in print or better, via email. If you have an audio file/cd of the program Focus did, (around Sept 2 or 3rd I think) I'd appreciate hearing it.
Please feel free to forward this recap to your friends.
TBSE volunteers, www.strengthsandweaknesses.org
PS: Below is an article sent to the Houston Chronicle, but they did not apparently print.
In your editorial "Distortions" yesterday (Sept 10) there were several significant incorrect assumptions. You say we are a "...well organized, well-funded movement to replace the science of evolution in public school classrooms with Christian beliefs about creation." Our group, who had several Texas based speakers at the State Board of Education meeting in Austin on Wednesday, has no budget; zero. If you dislike 'well organized and well funded', please examine the full time paid staff of groups like the NCSE, NSTA and locally, TFN. On the contrary, we are all volunteers, and by the nature of the group, you flatter us to call us well organized. It is more of a spontaneous amalgamation of people with very diverse scientific views on origins, united only that the biology books, as proposed, are woefully inadequate in their teaching of evolutionary theory. Significant well known scientific weaknesses in the theory exist (even most evolutionists agree here), and significant well known scientific errors exist in the proposed textbooks.
No one who was advocating improvements in the textbook treatment of evolution at the textbook hearing yesterday in Austin asked the board to remove any teaching of evolution. No one asked that the Bible or their personal "Christian beliefs" be put into the books. No one asked that creation science be put in. No one asked that intelligent design be added. Ironically, it was only the defenders of Darwin who brought up faith issues! Please check the record.
Our testifiers presented scientific evidence and cited peer reviewed articles in various journals and publications such as Nature and Science. Topics ranging from peppered moths, to embryos, to Miller-Urey, to origin of life chemistry (not wishful thinking, but the real chemistry involved), to the true nature of mutational genetics were presented by our side. The other side largely had the California based NCSE mantra of "keep evolution in our textbooks", with no particular supporting points or evidence.
The public clearly sees what is going on. Though evolution has been taught nearly exclusively for several decades now, a just completed Zogby poll of Texas residents across all geographic regions and all walks of life found that a breathtaking 82% of those randomly surveyed agreed that both strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory, as required by TEKS, should be taught.
We are asking only that both sides of one of the most enduring controversies in the history of mankind, that of origins, be taught freely to students. More, not less evolution theory should be taught. Scientific strengths AND weaknesses. And then let the fittest theory survive.
More information is available from numerous sources, including our website at www.strengthsandweaknesses.org . (partial 'press kit' available there).
Please help us stop this scientific bigotry and censorship.
Very truly yours,
Texans for Better Science Education
(Sept 10 SBOE meeting testifier)
Below are a few articles from around the state, if they are still online...
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/metropolitan/education/2093105 (numerous errors the Chronicle has agreed to correct in some way, but at this writing has not followed through)
http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/editorial/outlook/2094154 (Baylor professor against us)