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Relax: Creationists Aren't Taking Over Our Schools

Theocracy panic dies hard, and a recent NYT article on the Texas textbooks shows that it’s still alive and well at the Grey Lady. The article covers recent appointments to Texas’ textbook review panel and expresses alarm that the creationist members of the panel could compromise science nationwide:

As Texas gears up to select biology textbooks for use by high school students over the next decade, the panel responsible for reviewing submissions from publishers has stirred controversy because a number of its members do not accept evolution and climate change as scientific truth […]

Some Texans worry that ideologically driven review panel members and state school board members are slowly eroding science education in the state […]

Historically, given the state’s size, Texas’ textbook selections have had an outsize impact on what ended up in classrooms throughout the country […]

Parents are worried that their children will not be able to compete for jobs that require scientific backgrounds.

These worries, however, gloss over a crucial fact: while the article initially states that “a number” of panel members reject evolution, that number later turns out to be only six of out of twenty-eight total members. This is hardly a majority. Moreover, a lot of the power over classroom content lies on the district and teacher level, so even if the state board was dominated by creationists (which it isn’t), that along wouldn’t tell us very much about what students will eventually get taught.

Rather than pointing to a “slowly eroding science education,” these appointments expose a dirty but commonplace part of politics: appeasing one’s base with toothless symbolic gestures. By putting six creationists on the panel, the state’s educational commissioner gets to throw the religious right a bone even while ensuring they will do no actual damage to the state’s schools. These kind of symbolic gestures are something both parties do all the time.

In other words, this is a non-story. The only reason to cover it is if you so are fearful that powerful Christianist forces still lurk behind the scenes, ready to grab power and turn America into a theocracy, that you will grasp at the slightest event as evidence. But in the real world, Christianists have been losing nearly every major battle they’ve chosen to fight, and creationist textbooks are no different. The NYT is going to have to find something else to write about.

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  • Pete

    Rabid secularists at the New York Times and elsewhere show their arrogance & ignorance when they deliberately confound creation science with Intelligent Design (ID). The two are not the same.

    Perhaps the science behind ID is too advance for the secularists to comprehend … or perhaps they are too invested in their materialistic philosophy to care.

    • Andrew Allison

      With the very greatest respect, both creation science and intelligent design are religious, not scientific, views which deny overwhelming evidence for the age of Earth and evolution (e.g., the “intelligent design” of drug-resistant bacteria and mosquitoes). Neither qualifies as science because they lack empirical support, supply no tentative hypotheses, and attempt to describe natural history in terms of scientifically untestable supernatural causes.

      We are all entitled to our beliefs, and many scientist are comfortable with religious beliefs which don’t require belief in literal interpretation; the question is whether beliefs should be taught as science.

      When I was growing up, the two were taught separately, and the difference was perfectly clear. The fact that a 2012 Gallup poll reported that an astonishing 46% of Americans believe in creationism despite the scientific evidence to the contrary is truly scary.

      • Pete

        T put it mildly, you are ignorant of ID to think it is religious based. It is based on science — much more so than neo-Darwinism.

        I suggest yo tread ID literature and not rely on what others say about it.

        • Andrew Allison

          I’ve trodden (;<)} )the ID literature and stand by what I wrote, namely, that while I respect your beliefs, they are manifestly not science-based.
          The scientific method, may I remind you, consists of developing a hypothesis, designing an experiment to test it, and determine whether or not the results confirm the hypothesis. ID on the other hand, like climate "science", attempts to explain the past. The evidence for evolution is simply overwhelming to an open mind.
          Parenthetically, it's telling that, like climate alarmists, you choose to attack the messenger rather than the message.

      • Matthew Schultz

        The fact that a 2012 Gallup poll reported that an astonishing 46% of Americans believe in creationism despite the scientific evidence to the contrary is truly scary.

        I’m not a creationist–at least not in the traditional sense–but this is not really all that surprising (or scary–why would it be scary?) when you consider the philosophical assumptions that drive the various parties in these debates (assumptions that are almost never discussed in a meaningful way, and certainly not by a press that thrives on simple conflict narratives).

        As you know, there are a wide variety of perspectives on origins. For a Christian, it matters not so much how it was done, but that God orchestrated the whole affair. Of course, if God exists, then miraculous creation events are quite possible, and so it might very well be the case that not everything arose from a continuous line of natural processes. Evolution is a decent (but imperfect) naturalistic explanation, but it is only overwhelmingly true if we assume naturalism from the get-go.

        • Andrew Allison

          Scary because of the other myths in which somebody incapable of acknowledging overwhelming evidence to the contrary might believe.
          Just to be clear, I’m not arguing against the existence of “God”, simply against creationism and it’s cousin, ID.

  • mc

    Next up at the Times is their expose of what Muslim administrators working for NYC schools believe as articles of faith. Or the beliefs of Orthodox Jews.

  • Bruce

    This is just another attempt by this biased newspaper to try to paint Texas as reactionary. After all, Texas has rebuffed the “blue model” up to this point and has economic growth to show for it. That needs to be attacked and feared.

    • Andrew Allison

      Hi Bruce! I’d say that “After all, Texas has rebuffed the “blue model” up to this point and has economic growth to show for it.” is pretty reactionary, especially in light of the appalling results of two decades of Democrat control of the late great State of California.

      • Bruce

        Andrew – these Neanderthals down here just aren’t as enlightened as your compassionate, caring state government is in CA. We’ve got some jobs and we’ve got some economic growth, but our motives aren’t as pure as the CA libbies who “care so much.” The impure motives negate the good according to liberal dogma. Intentions before results.

    • USNK2

      The NYT has had an ongoing special spot for the Texas Tribune reports since 2008 in order to turn Texas ‘blue’.
      It is an official war against Texas.
      That said, Texas textbooks do have an outsize impact on which textbooks get published for other states.

  • wigwag

    Professor Mead is right, the Christianists (as he calls them) have been defeated in battle after battle; for the most part they are a spent force, at least for the time being. Gay Americans have whipped the Christianists so thoroughly on gay marraige that the victory of the supporters of homosexual marraige was almost miraculous. Secular Americans have whipped the Christianists on almost everything else from abortion to prayer in schools.

    What’s interesting is not the defeat of the Chridtianists; that’s old news. The more fascinating question is why so-called progressive Americans are repulsed by the values of their Christian neighbors while making excuse after excuse after excuse for the horrendously retrograde values of Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

    At least the Christianists hold their values dear and are unashamed by them. The willingness of leftist Americans to tolerate values when held by Muslims that would offend them if Christians held them tells you everything about hypocrisy that you need to know.

    • Anthony

      WigWag, is it hypocrisy per se or cultural familiarity; that is, when contrasted are we witnessing behavior colored by cachet cosmopolitanism from a distance without proximate correlation for either discomfiture or disassociation. The ascribed behavior may be more automatic than reflective.

    • ljgude

      It’s Christophobia folks. Right there at the NY Times.

      • Anthony

        What actually is Christophobia and how is it specifically implicated in reporting by NYT?

    • f1b0nacc1

      The muslims are useful political allies, the Christianists are not. This explains the hypocrisy quite neatly.

  • Boritz

    I remember a few years ago reading a NYT article by Nicholas Kristof in which he interpreted the meaning of Bible verses. I can’t think of anyone more qualified or a more ardent student of scripture.

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