Texas Ed chairman responds: Don’t limit science classes to evolution

I hope he doesn’t mean it.

Maybe he had a staffer draft it for him, and he is really not familiar with the issue (though he’s been on the Texas State Board of Education for several years, through at least two rounds of biology textbook selections) — but it’s difficult for me not to see a declaration of war on evolution in science classes in the letter to the editor Texas State Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy sent to the Dallas Morning News:

Science education has to have an open mind

Re: “Teaching of evolution to go under microscope – With science director out, sides set to fight over state’s curriculum,” Thursday news story.

Don McLeroy, chair of Texas SBOE; photo from EdWeek

What do you teach in science class? You teach science. What do you teach in Sunday school class? You teach your faith.

Thus, in your story it is important to remember that some of my quoted comments were made in a 2005 Sunday school class. The story does accurately represent that I am a Christian and that my faith in God is something that I take very seriously. My Christian convictions are shared by many people.

Given these religious convictions, I would like to clarify any impression one may make from the article about my motivation for questioning evolution. My focus is on the empirical evidence and the scientific interpretations of that evidence. In science class, there is no place for dogma and “sacred cows;” no subject should be “untouchable” as to its scientific merits or shortcomings. My motivation is good science and a well-trained, scientifically literate student.

What can stop science is an irrefutable preconception. Anytime you attempt to limit possible explanations in science, it is then that you get your science stopper. In science class, it is important to remember that the consensus of a conviction does not determine whether it is true or false. In science class, you teach science.

Don McLeroy, chair, State Board of Education, College Station
(Letter printed in the Dallas Morning News, December 21, 2007, page 24A; photo, Associated Press file photo, 2004)

My concerns, below.

These are the encouraging parts of Chairman McLeroy’s letter: “What do you teach in science class? You teach science.” And this closing sentence: “In science class, you teach science.”

Most of the three paragraphs in between those sentences is laced with the code language of creationism and intelligent design partisans who aim to strike evolution from schools by watering down the curriculum and preventing students from learning the power and majesty of the science theory derived from observing creation, by limiting time to teach evolution as state standards require so that it cannot be taught adequately, and by raising false claims against evolution such as alleged weaknesses in the theory.

No, we don’t teach dogma in science classes. Dogma, of course, is a reference to religious material. “Dogma” is what the Discovery Institute calls evolution theory.

Evolution is one of the great ideas of western civilization. It unites disparate parts of science related to biology, such as botany, zoology, mycology, nuclear physics, chemistry, geology, paleontology and archeology, into a larger framework that helps scientists understand nature. This knowledge in this framework can then be applied to serious matters such as increasing crop yields and the “green revolution” of Norman Borlaug, in order to feed humanity (a task we still have yet to achieve), or to figuring out the causes and treatments, and perhaps cures for diabetes.

In Texas, we use evolution to fight the cotton boll weevil and imported fire ants, to make the Rio Grande Valley productive with citrus fruit, and to treat and cure cancer and other diseases. We use corroborating sciences, such as geology, to find and extract coal, petroleum and natural gas.

Am I being dogmatic when I say Texas kids need to know that? None of that science rests solely on a proclamation by any religious sect. All of that science is based on observations of nature and experiments in laboratories. Evolution theory is based on extensive observations in nature and millions of experimental procedures, not one of which has succeeded in finding any of the alleged weaknesses in the theory.

If Chairman McLeroy would stipulate that he is not referring to evolution when he says public school science classes are “no place for dogma,” this letter is good news.

But I’ve listened to the chairman too many times, in too many forums, to think he has changed his position.

So his letter should be taken, I believe, as a declaration of war against science in Texas school science classrooms.

I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, Chairman McLeroy, but you’ll need to catch up on the science and modify those views expressed in the paper today to start persuading.

An olive branch: Dr. McLeroy, I will be pleased to sit down with you and other commissioners to explain how and why evolution is important to know especially for people who do not “believe” in it. I would be happy to explain why I and other educators, like former Education Sec. Bill Bennett, believe we have a duty to teach evolution and teach it well, and why that is consistent with a faith-respecting view of education. Even better, I would be pleased to arrange visits for you with some of Texas’s leading “evolutionists” so you can become familiar with their work, and why evolution is important to the economy and future of Texas.

Update:  Welcome readers from Thoughts in a Haystack, and from Pharyngula.  Please feel free to leave a comment, and nose around to see what else is here on evolution and Texas education.


90 Responses to Texas Ed chairman responds: Don’t limit science classes to evolution

  1. knives from ceramic…

    […]Texas Ed chairman responds: Don’t limit science classes to evolution « Millard Fillmore's Bathtub[…]…


  2. TO quote:
    What difference would it make were I a Bircher or Moonie or Nobelist for that matter?

    You mean besides the fact that the Birchers are lunatics and the Moonies are insane?


  3. […] Don’t “limit” science classes to evolution […]


  4. hughvic says:

    My Dear Edicacaran. My statements stand on their own, and I stand by them. My affiliations, or lack thereof, are no blogger’s business, and nor will I play into a reporter’s process of elimination. What difference would it make were I a Bircher or Moonie or Nobelist for that matter? If my stuff’s junk, it’s junk. I gave you my answer to that ridiculous question, and it was a sentence long, not 3000 words. And the next time you enquire as to someone’s standing to blog here, try to avoid doing it in the context of a thoughtless ad hominem attack. I draw your attention to your introductory sentence, which set the stage for the remarkably disingenuous wheedling that followed.

    Nuff said.


  5. Ediacaran says:

    I asked Hughvic a simple “yes” or “no” question: “Hughvic, are you a member of the Discovery Institute?”

    Somewhere in his diatribe, Hughvic replied: “And Ediacaran, as to your knee-jerk question, are you a member of Mensa?”


    See how easy it is to answer a simple question? I’m sure you could learn to be concise with a little practice.

    Glenn, if you meant that as a rhetorical affirmation (“Is the pope Catholic?”), then how long have you been with the Discovery Institute?

    No need to get your panties in a wad. No need to write a 3000-word non-answer, either.


  6. mpb says:

    Anthropology as a profession has, over the course of the past 25 years, made itself irrelevant in this country. Once the defender of science and the premier discoverer and elucidater of modern evolution (the recent news stories about on-going human evolution are actually old news to anthropologists/human biologists) is now ethnocentric and self-gratifying.

    The most interesting tend not to hang out in groups of anthropologists but take our rubber duckies to other tubs.

    Anthropology in a climate of change, war, and internecine environments 1 & 2


  7. hughvic says:

    Thank you, Lord, for sending me a colleague onto this string.

    mpb, I’m not ashamed of our field, only of its misuse. I bolted from Sociology years ago because I couldn’t stand having to teach so much BS. With Anthro I’m a part of something to be proud of. How do you feel, and what can we do about the wider misuse?



  8. mpb says:

    While anthropologists dither,

    Yes, many of us are more interested in talking about rather than doing and many more prefer strutting on campus than taking on the abuse of anthropology in the broader world.

    But, some of us have been at it since Barry Fell (and late date Genesis Man). Genie Scott is a very good anthropologist and founder and executive director National Center for Science Education


  9. hughvic says:

    I said a feigned plea “in the guise of”; I should have said “disguising”.


  10. hughvic says:

    It’s really not obfuscation, Ed. I’m a stone cold democrat, totally averse to rhetoric that undertakes democratic work in undemocratic terms. It really was my authentic inability to make myself understood. The more I tried, the more I dug myself deeper by trying to achieve some precision in the interest of clarity. It only begat overwrought, and overlong, prose.

    Let me say forthwith, because I certainly want no further misunderstanding on this particular score, that I did not mean to say — as I don’t believe — that Charles Darwin was a plagiarist, per se, but that his handling of the entire Wallace affair, which lasted until and immediately following the death of Charles, was plagiaristic and deeply shameful. Darwin stole the priority he should have shared. It does not make him any the less a great scientist, nor his discoveries any less monumental. That’s what I believe happened. What say you?

    I see now, I think, the reason for your own severity and occasional (as I’ve observed in recent months) displays of pique. You’re a child-saver. Good. Me too. And you’re right of course: some of them are after our children. (Others, their children.) This too is something that I and others study very closely. I myself have done so since 1982, when my then-employer John Holt alerted me to the likely emergence, years later, of a statistically significant group of Evangelical homeschoolers. His timeline and even his demographics were detailed, and spot on. (I miss that man.)

    Please, please don’t place me in the dock with IDist four-flushers. My cites are not proprietary to me, and they cite stuff not even having to do with Biology, but with “Biologists Run Wild”, boob shots and all. It bears on what they sometimes try to say, but not on their core message, which you have so rightly nailed as a feigned plea to join the club in the guise of an actual intent to displace science. This dynamic is part of why I wax Medieval with you in the context of the bloody great importance of the fight over the sould of the University. I have Tiananmen ever on my mind, as people from time to time doubt the seriousness of the threat to the university ideal posed equally by your dragons on the right and by other people’s dragons on the left (relativism, which the founders of the University called the essence of Paganism).

    I do of course excuse you guys for not having the proper magic spectacles to read my golden tomes, but I hope you’ll excuse me for trying so lamely to shout my denials when first I was misapprehended. Even were I in the ID camp, I don’t see why you all, in a blog setting for Heaven’s sake, have to nip every perceived ID visitor in the bud as though the blogger were a diseased plant. It’s rude. But then so am I.

    If you’re still concerned that I’m a sub rosa IDer, then just point to which of my stuff you find fishy — er, Lungfishy — and I’ll try to dispell. It’s really all about the phenomenology with me, not the science.

    I’m fascinated to hear finally your description of what it felt like to be on the receiving end of that assault. You’re heroic, Ed. I meant what I said.


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    I would take your thesis better that biologists overreact were you not in the same breath to slam Darwin as a plagiarist. The claim is unnecessary, and false.

    If you’re not an IDist, Hugo, drop the Dembskian obfuscation and talk.

    While anthropologists dither, creationists/IDists are after our children, wittingly or unwittingly trying to set them up for religious abuse instead of their getting necessary science. As an anthropologist you know that societies that do not stop threats to the children do not last as societies. Despite your claims, it’s not overreaction to get the crap out of science classes and teach science as required.

    We’ve been waiting for the citations from IDists for more than 20 years, and from the rest of the creationists for more than 30 years prior to that. When we get them into court, under oath, under penalty of perjury, it turns out they don’t have any citations. Regardless the merit of your refusal to give citations, you’ve adopted creationist/IDist behavior. Your post waddles, quacks and looks like an ID defense. Excuse us for lacking the lenses to see it differently.


  12. hughvic says:

    Ed, it is just impossible to get understood on this string unless one has some weird secret blend of science and pseudoscience, intellectualism and pseudo-intellectualism.

    I am not in fact an ID defender. As I’ve said time and again, I am a critic of those scientists who overreact to ID — and/or are too impressed with the majesty of Darwinian Theory (you seem to deny that such overreactions are even possible) — in such a manner as to take their science into places beyond the physically known or scientifically deduced realms. ID is what coaxes this extremism out in some biological scientists, and the incidents of extremism signify deeper meaning: they signify a postmodern cosmology aborning. The phenomenon, running off the scientific reservation so as to overrun mystics who were never on the reservation in the first place, has nothing at all to do with refuting scientific theory. If others I respect wish to do that, then that is not what I respect them for and they are not, in any event, in my line of work.

    Do you get this, Ed? Who I am, I mean? Is this so strange? I’m not interested — never have been interested — in trying to straighten out Biology or biologists! Were I to wish to do so I’d have to go back to Grade 14, by which I’d minored in Marine Bio, take a turn away from the Humanities and the Social Sciences, and start over. I’m perfectly content to let the field ITSELF be policed by such as you, who know much more about it than I. You seem not to understand that there are Cultural Anthropologists (I do Historical Anthropology) and Sociologists of the Phenomenological School watching and studying the behaviors of biologists. The historical community, for example, has been at this since the 1950s. Is it so hard to understand? Is it something to be defensive about?

    You here have behaved in very telling, and mostly haughtily defensive, ways, at times assuming that I hail from the factions (Biblical Creationism or else ID) that so get your collective goat. Your grasping, insistent, dictatorial, almost desperate pigeonholing is the most extreme I’ve ever seen, in 25 years in Higher Ed and 21 years of teaching, and is the most extreme of all the cases of which I happen to be aware. (Only some of them concerning biologists as the ideologues unawares.) The pompous apprentice was only an exteme, and extraordinarily dishonest, grotesque of what you contortionists will do to shoehorn any phenomenological observer of you all into a Columbia Sophomore’s caricature of a Mencken caricature of a toothless Scopes juror equal, in her greasy sun dress, to a day’s washing followed by a bout with obstetrics. This hovering pixilated insult, Ediacaran, is yet another example of know-it-all callowness attempting to reduce someone to a stereotype so unwarranted as to make the sophomoric accuser, and not the accused, unintentionally answer to stereotypical description. Exemplary also in the rush to tell someone what he is, rather than to ask him.

    You all are full of self-contradiction, and sociologists especially thrive on self-contradictory subgroups. They turn self-contradictions like yours into dissertations and tenure every semester, every quarter, of every academic year. Are you folks defenders of Evolutionary Biology, or does it, as you imply, in fact require no defending? Is Biological Science rigorous enough to delimit itself to its own fields of analysis, or does it in fact take the position, as you do time and again, that there is no extraparadigmatic calculus by which the veracity or even the rigor of Biological Science can be judged, such that it can be judged only in its own terms? Do you not see these as contradictions? Are you indeed open to seeing them? Am I being too unclear? Too alliterative for your taste?

    Again, this has nothing to do with weighing the veracity of the latest claims or findings of leading biologists; rather, it’s to do with evaluating whether they are staying on their reservation, and whether they willingly subject themselves (not their theories or breakthroughs, etc., but themselves) to external evaluation or instead bristle at the very prospect. If the latter, then as I have said, the field and the University qua University will eventually part. (It’s in this context that I alluded to President Bollinger’s professional suicide earlier this week, his ahistoric arrogation of the privilege of speaking for “the University” over against his own faculty, who are the actual University.) The simple question from my fuzzy side of the quad is: Are those Biology hotshots becoming a law unto themselves in an exclusive preserve of their own making, or are they still with the universitas?

    To put it a bit archly, it naturally follows from this question that such as I will be despatched to scope (as it were) you all out ethnologically; and that, in a nutshell, is what some of us were purpose-built to do, by dint of highly specialized degree training in, for example, jurisprudence and science policy; the scientific study of civil religious phenomena in postindustrial societies; the history of modern science in the context of secularization; or the phenomenological study of contemporary ideologies in academic settings. (For some years I’ve jokingly referred to our field as “Hubristics”. No Googling, please; it’s beneath you.) I suspect you’d be surprised — and I know that these apprentice sorcerers would be surprised — to learn how many of us there are running around making a living off the strange behavior of overly defensive biologists who simultaneously dismiss their sectarian critics and go berserk whenever in the presence — or, as in my case, even the erroneously perceived presence — of one.

    From our perspective it does not matter whether some appointed or elected education potentate in Texas copulates with vipers and thinks that the Earth was made on a certain Tuesday after lunch: if the wingnut ALSO says that there’s an ideological hitch in the biological giddy-up, then we’re on it like flies. And Ed, we’re on it whether you know it or not. When I was sent to study with Johnson, it was to study HIM. Difference between Johnson and others is that he knew it and welcomed it. Don’t you see? It’s actually rather important and necessary work — if not also downright good, clean, fairly remunerative fun. (Don’t worry; I’m not making a dime off you.)

    Now admittedly I’m an ailing and foul-tempered misanthrope these days, and admittedly several of my colleagues are far more learned and astute than I at our specialized little game, but when I poke around the Net to see what goes with the recent resurgence of the same old damned debate, and I try to hold you all on point with respect to McLeroy’s charge of ideological interloping and dogmatism, and all I get is a bunch of half-lettered punks trying to impress Teacher (you) with the vigor and not the rigor of their combat against a figment foe (me), then, well, I find myself thinking I’VE HIT THE JACKPOT!

    Presumably you are aware that in the past quarter century in the U.S. the social sciences purchased with positivism the prestige and patronage [egads, four “P” words already] they perceived as prerequisite to their position in the academic taxonomy. [Embrace your Inner Alliterator, Ed! And your Assonantal You-Know-What, too!] The result of this festival of positivism was an abandonment of synthetic theory. In trying to become more like you folks, we became less so. We remembered our No. 2 pencils, but forgot our eyeglasses. You will have noted by now that we former Young Turks are bringing back theory as well as interdisciplinary sythesis. We’re learning anew what to do with our data other than to collect them.

    I recount this because of your obliviously particularistic interpretation of what constitutes a datum and of where and when data are to take pride of place. In Sociology and Cultural Anthropology, and increasingly in historiography (yet again), the “data” are found not only only in quantifiable values and discrete findings, but also largely in “texts”. This blog, for example, is to us a text. You, in fact, are a text. The McLeroy letter is an obvious text, and you even seek to make of McLeroy himself a (less obvious) text. The gargoylettes who here call their elders trolls are texts also, but they are texts only in that they are the commonest doggerel signifying not much more than an already well known social commerce in doggerel. They of course don’t realize it, but they are playing according to script. Now, were one of them to take the actual, express challenge laid down by McLeroy via you, rather than to set up a Creationist manikin upon which to practice in the safety of the master’s ring for that far off day when one meets a real, adult Creationist, then that counter-challenger, and not one of these here, would be a very valuable text indeed, regardless of the outcome of the challenge. Another jackpot, so to speak.

    Ediacaran, while I always appreciate earnest literary critique, I don’t happen to see the need for the neologism “self-pompous” nor for the allusion to orality, as in the term “verbosity”, where literary prolixity is concerned.

    Why do I consider Darwin a hero of mine? I don’t. He is a hero of mine. He is so because I say that he is so. Why do you presume to relegate this fact to a figment of something I merely “consider” to be the case? Is Darwin yours, Ediacaran? If he is, may I please borrow him awhile? If you tried and failed to ask, why do I count Darwin among my heroes, I’ll answer — to that question and not to your actual one — that I admire him greatly for the obvious reasons: for his originality; for his mighty powers of synthesis, by which I mean, in his case, his astonishing genius for lending coherence and meaning to diverse and ostensibly unrelated data; for his pure intellectual courage, which to be fully appreciated must be understood in the context of his and his family’s religious devotion; and for his clearsighted prophecy. I admire him because he was a lonely man ahead of his time; I admire all such types of whom I happen to become aware, no matter whether they be scientists or saxophonists. (An aside: I admire Darwin’s courage in spite of his protracted and multiform cowardice so belatedly overcome; and his originality, in spite of his plagiaristic usurpation of Wallace, which monstrous malfeasance and cruel mistreatment he so belatedly and inadequately rectified.) It is not for his enormous impact, per se, that I admire him, then, for I admire equally Wallace, who had no such impact.

    And Ediacaran, as to your knee-jerk question, are you a member of Mensa?

    Finally, Ed, it’s rather illogical of you to presume that I deduced that my post was unread because it was criticized. You might as well have assumed — as you’d have been assuming correctly — that I deduced that it was unread because it was not only agreed with, but reiterated and exemplified also.

    I’d be happy to give you citations for extravagant and scientistic metaphysical claims on the part of the three biggies I mentioned, but will not do so here, for the reasons stated. As you too are an educator, I expect you to understand this: our tuition does not go where it is not wanted, or else we betray a vital heritage and mock persons and things far more important than we.

    Aside from that consideration, my only hesitancy in providing the cites to you — as I trust you to do with the information whatever you please — stems from my aprehension that you’ll think I’m trying to pull the beards of those three esteemed scientists by attempting to diminish their accomplishments, when in fact I would never presume to second-guess the substance of their important contributions outside my own fields.

    An analog: perhaps you’ve noticed Dr. Watson’s propensity for assuming that because he knows a great deal about something very important, therefore he importantly knows a great deal about just the damnedest things. So were I to take note of his one-man revival of Social Biology and place his vile nostalgia in its historical context, am I thereby kicking his early genetic discoveries in the shins? Would the local blogomores then rush sycophantically to serve as fledgling shin guards?


  13. Ediacaran says:

    I see the thread attracted a troll with a grasp of history on par with David Barton and the same self-pompous verbosity as the ID Creationist Berlinski.

    Hughvic, are you a member of the Discovery Institute?

    Why do you consider Darwin a hero of yours?


  14. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m not sure that criticism of a piece should be interpreted to mean the person didn’t read it.

    On the other hand, the irony of an ID defender claiming scientists are unfamiliar with science and philosophy, when the hallmark of intelligent design literature is denial of much of science, history and philosophy, would produce laughter if it didn’t take one’s breath away first.

    IDists repeat the same old canards, generally. Allieration is not the cure for aliteracy.


  15. hughvic says:

    My God. You’re aliterate. Too vain even to be able to read.


  16. Bad says:

    No, I’m afraid I really do mean an ethic: a commitment to accuracy and a valuing of evidence. You mention humility, which is indeed a big part of that ethic. And with every further sentence of rambling ranting, you careen farther and farther from it.


  17. hughvic says:

    You also have no idea that you have no idea about a lot of things. And that’s just the problem. You cheat. Ed cheats also. You cheat by seeking to control the definition of “information”; he, by seeking to control the definition of “data”. It neither occurs to you that you’ve been provided quite generously with a great deal of information, nor to him that I am myself an important datum, as are my opinions significant data. It is not necessary to consider them important in any enobling way, to see that by their historicity and mine, they are signifiers of our times, and as such are more useful than the half-baked banalities rehearsed here as in a hundred other sites like this one.

    To a logician, you declare any point of information you find incompatible with your Fisher-Price templates non-information or non-data. You are equally ridiculous in this way. And both deceptive and self-deceptive.

    You imitate Ed’s preposterously Olympian stance as the Giver of All Science, the Faunt of the Only Truth. That too is ridiculous, as the rules of science are easily learned by any 13 year-old, even as biological knowledge is as accessible and easy to read as the historiography you don’t bother to consume. You both are, in other words, peckerwood obscurantists, and the most unlikely of elitists.

    You however, Bad, are in no position to know what this means: “Knowledge is not merely a corpus of facts; it is an ethic.” [I took liberties with the semicolon.] The reason you are in no position to know what it means is that you think it means something, whereas in fact it means nothing. And the reason it means nothing is that knowledge is not moral, and therefore cannot pertain to applied morality. You mean to refer to education, erudition or higher learning, and the idea that these are bound up with moral meaning and obligation is an ancient Greek one, though the Greeks had no notion of education (a late medieval notion derived from the Latin educatio, or wet-nursing) or of higher learning, but only of canonical mastery, which concept they borrowed from the rabbinate, and of paideia, or culture. In modern terms we might say, then, that for the Greeks to be educated was to be cultured, to be cultured was to be educated.

    In the early 12th Century, when the university and the trivium and quadrivium were invented, along with the Gothic Cathedral and the modern book (chaptering, headings and subheadings, tables of contents, indices, appendices, pagination, illuminations, typography, footnotes and endnotes, forewords and epilogues), education was strongly identified with ethical obligation both civic and religious. (It had been so identified seven centuries earlier, by Augustine, but he knew that he was a lone radical in embracing an ethic of literacy and learning that was based on equally radical Platonic insights of eight centuries before.) Certain branches of learning were withheld from bachelors, and were reserved to masters and doctors. A master’s degree meant a license to work as a master, a teacher. It was granted in the form of a charge to teach, to share and not to hoard the learning entrusted to the master-in-training. (Something like this still obtains among the sensei of the various Asian martial arts disciplines.) Obscurantism, in this context, was considered a sin, plain and simple.

    To the scholastics, the principal prerequisite for learning, and especially for the higher scholarship, was humility, and at the commencement of every term of study, whether pedagogical or andragogical, a special mass was said to beseech God for the divine gift of humility. In this invocation a special Scholar’s Prayer was said, the Prayer of Humility.

    Your utter ignorance of this ethic of learning, Bad, should be condemned in far more strenuous and ugly terms than I have used in this string, for you are a representative of what has become an entire generational cohort of preening anti-scholars who play across the ruins of the ancient university. Some of you even wear robes, and work with such as me. That your teachers have not heretofore condemned your arrogance, which is a repudiation of everything that makes their careers possible, is in turn to be condemned.

    I sincerely pray for you the Scholar’s Prayer of Hugh of St. Victor.


  18. Bad says:

    Do you really suppose that you could teach me about him?

    I could probably teach you about anything, so deep seems your hostility to evidence and reason. Knowledge is not merely a corpus of facts: its an ethic.

    The burden is on you, idiot, to show that those three eminent biologists have not indulged, through biological theory, in cocksure metaphysics.

    No, I’m afraid that’s not how it works. You made the accusation that they say and believe it, so you need to provide the evidence. Dawkins outlines his conception of science in nearly every book he writes, as does Gould. All of the evidence is pretty plain to see, really. If you took my challenging you on your claims to mean that you could simply repeat them now with some names attached but still without providing any evidence other than “I insist that it’s so, it’s obvious!”, I’m sorry you were misled.

    And do you really think that being an historian is so damned impressive or mysterious or something that someone would wish to lie about being one?

    I have no idea why you would, but I’ve worked with and known lots of historians. And while they are often extremely harsh and critical, I can’t think of one who calls people idiots every other word or who, come to think of it, would ever dream of making accusations about people’s views when they’ve clearly never bothered to do even a cursory read of their writing.


  19. hughvic says:

    No, Ed. In 21 years I’ve never encountered an undergrad so insulting and insolent, and that idiot needs to learn a lesson. Indulging them is how the university came to churn out so many half-lettered fools. (Speaking of which, have you seen that Bollinger today disowned his own faculty in the name of “the university”? Egads. Almost as ahistoric as this confused twit.)

    I know that you are a man of honor, Ed, but how is it that you are unaware of their forays into naturalistic theism? Oh, well. Anon.

    Look, I’ve had it with this string and its Cubist rulemaking in the treble clef. I’ll get you a gloss on Kitzmiller via backchannel. (Maybe we could use the old “pipe”, as you an I and the Nobelist are alike veterans of those innocent days before sophomores gummed it up.) I’ve been laid up with a paralytic ailment and will have plenty of time to examine it afresh. Keep fighting the wingnuts, Ed, for Science and for Faith. It’s terribly worthwhile, what you’re doing, and you’re a good sport to put up with the hurly-burly of this chattering agora of idiot savants. Sorry I’ve simply lost my temper, and will have to take refuge behind my blog alias to save my reputation. But aside from the pique I stand by everything I’ve posted, as I don’t see any fun in posting except in earnest, as you do.


  20. Ed Darrell says:

    Hugo, more with the data, less with the rhetorical flair tending to insult, yes?


  21. Ed Darrell says:

    But I don’t know any “excesses” to which Darwinian theory has been put these past 30 years. Got an example?


  22. hughvic says:

    Funny you should mention Arendt, numbskull, as I’d just paraphrased her. Betcha don’t know where, do you? Glad to see that you could spell Heidegger sufficiently to Google the last great philospher, though. Do you really suppose that you could teach me about him? And do you really think that being an historian is so damned impressive or mysterious or something that someone would wish to lie about being one? If you’re an American perhaps you’ve noticed that we are held in exceedingly low regard in this country. (And in my opinion, somewhat deservedly so: most of us are godawful teachers.) You really are a callow thing, and I shan’t waste any more time providing free tuition to a determined fool. Once again you change the goalposts, as you are a compulsive liar. You ask me to demonstrate one thing; I do so. You mischaracterize my answer and insist that it’s a dodge and not an answer, meanwhile making all manner of false and digressive truth claims. I clear those out of the way and address your challenge, and you both accuse me again of changing the subject and then wave away my response to your challenge as if with a wand of your willful, wishful intellect. The burden is on you, idiot, to show that those three eminent biologists have not indulged, through biological theory, in cocksure metaphysics. The burden does not rest with me to show that they have so indulged, because you asked only that I nominate a single exemplar. I named three. If you knew about Darwinian theory and the excesses to which it has been put these past 30 years, you’d know that each of these evolutionary biologists is notorious for such conduct even within the scientific community that also lauds, as I do, their estimable scientific accomplishments. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your last post to colleagues, who enjoy your quaint notion that historians should fit a social script or type. I’ll give you this: you may be a pompous fool, but you are somewhat charming.


  23. Bad says:

    It most certainly does constitute an argument, because you were the one making claims about science as an idol and so forth. My response is that you’d better provide some real examples that demonstrate your point.

    You’ve actually failed to do so, because Dawkins and Gould and Arthur Peacocke don’t, in fact, fit that description. Neither would agree with empiricism as an idol. All have written extensively about methodological naturalism as distinct from supposed materialistic metaphysics. That you would cite them only goes to show how little you know about them and their arguments, as well as the people in general whom you are arguing against.

    Now Bad, I myself am a trained, working historian devoted to the standards of my guild, including preeminently the principle of fidelity to the record.

    I’ve met many historians, and frankly, I have every reason to doubt this claim. You don’t act or think like a historian as far as I’ve seen.

    As for Professor Martin Heidegger and others along that line, you continue to quite miss the point. None of these people were applying a descriptive science, or even particularly good scientists in their own right. Normative views are not the same thing as evidential accuracy, and whether bad people used evolutionary ideas to support bad things is really quite irrelevant to the evidential matter of whether the science holds up.

    And an actual historian, for instance, might know a bit more about Heidegger than simply that he was an initial Nazi sympathizer: like how his views developed as the party became more and more violent, that his most celebrated love interest and later friend was Hannah Arendt, who was Jewish, and so on.


  24. hughvic says:


    Those are very good and helpful questions; helpful in the sense that they invite the kind of distinction-making needed to further the debate, possibly even to its resolution. I believe that Ed could answer your questions with genuine authority, as could others here do. If you don’t get a reply, I’ll give it a shot, though I am only a lover of biology and not a practitioner, and so would have to give you a legalistic answer limited to the things that some courts happened to have said on the subject of distinguishing ID from Biblical Creationism.


  25. meson says:

    So, how is creationism different from ID. Can anyone explain how the two differs in terms of ideology?

    Does separating these two term will give different insight and point upon which evolution may be attacked?

    I agree that there is plenty of example of scientist extrapolating science to the metaphyscial including Newton. Science however is not a discussion of philosophy even though it traditionally originates from it.

    Science however can be called as practical philosophy. This means that the philosophy can be observed, proved and verified. If you can conjure up an application for it, we call them technology.

    It was ok to call creationism or ID as a philosophy but it definitely would be a gross mistake to identify them as science due to its lack of practicality. Even worse if we are to call it a technology since there is no application for it.

    For creationism or ID to be called science it must graduate from mere philosphy and be observed, proven and verified (which it cannot, due to the fundamental nature of the philosophy itself). Evolution certainly has done so, and are now even making strides in technology. Thus evolution has shown that it deserved to be in the textbooks.


  26. hughvic says:

    Bad, dat SO yo bad. Love the way you keep moving the goalposts and then say that it is I who “have lost track of the discussion”. You said that the Nazis and Stalinists and others were not sophisticated enough to be scientific materialists. When I pointed out to you that they were professed scientific materialists, you conveniently accused me of changing the subject. Yet another lie. You lord your presumed mastery over them as though they were all rubes, and yet the mid-century Germans were the most highly educated polity in history.

    “The Nazis…were not exactly deep thinkers applying lots of rationalism to their thuggery”, Bad? Are you kidding? That’s EXACTLY what they were doing, the deep thinkers among them. You say that “it’s pretty hard” for you “to see them as serious philosophical students of anything in particular” in your pursuit of “accurate history”, though Dr. Goebbels collected such people, provided their genetics were politically correct. Now Bad, I myself am a trained, working historian devoted to the standards of my guild, including preeminently the principle of fidelity to the record. Were you either an historian or a “serious philosophical student”, rather than a prime example of one who supposes that to know about evolutionary biology is to know a lot about everything including metaphysics, you’d know that Professor Martin Heidegger, a serious student of philosophy given to applying lots of rationalism to Herr Hitler’s thuggery, was a Nazi who declared himself Fuhrer of Freiburg University and expunged its professoriat of all Jewish scholars. And yes, Bad, all in the name of scientific materialism. Of eugenics, in fact.

    And were you a “sophisticate” in matters philosophical, rather than one learned in what biology does not teach us about metaphysics, you’d know that naturalism IS materialism, such that “sophisticated” readers are unlikely to fall for your faux erudition. More lies.

    Another of your fraudulent habits is that of exaggeration by pluralization, a special form of hyperbole, which in turn is a minor form of deception. In your triumphalist mode you convert a single, humble argument of yours into a battery of “arguments”, and a single argument of mine into what you perceive as a countervailing battery of “arguments” overcome. Such pettiness is exceedingly annoying, and distracting for the reader.

    You ask me to name a single biologist, by which I take it you mean a biologist of the dominant scientific naturalist school, who extrapolates biological science into grand metaphysics. That challenge, by the way, does not constitute an argument, let alone “arguments”, but I accept the challenge nonetheless. Would more than one name be permissible? Would it be OK if the names were those of eminent biologists. amd not just of the token ID proponent on the tenure track in the biology department of West Doublefork State? Stephen Jay Gould in the extended period of the full flowering of that celebrated ego. Richard Dawkins, obviously. And Arthur Peacocke is a favorite representative of a two- to three-foot shelf of authors of book-length treatments of what has been accurately called both “naturalistic theism” and “theistic naturalism”.

    Presumably you’re more familiar than I with the work of these men, and therefore with their metaphysical conceits and indulgences in the honored name of Science.


  27. Bad says:

    Bad, what in hell are you arguing

    I actually make myself and my arguments pretty clear, I think.

    other than that someone can’t be a scientific materialist unless he’s a “sophisticate”

    Well yes: the Nazis and Stalinists were not exactly deep thinkers applying lots of rationalism to their thuggery.

    scientific materialists when they called their Marxism “scientific materialism”, as Marx did, and also said that it was their religion?

    You seem to have lost track of the discussion. What I said was that I’m not a scientific materialist, and the people you list that did bad things, it’s pretty hard to see them as serious philosophical students of anything in particular whatever they called themselves. What I defend is accurate history, actually, not anyone’s particular “team.”

    Calling someone a liar is not a cheap dodge. And if it’s true, it isn’t name-calling; it’s naming.

    If you just call someone a liar, but then fail to back up the accusation, and then use that as an excuse to not actually address their arguments, then yeah, it’s cheap dodge.

    What I originally said was that I doubt you could “name a single biologist who claims that evolution is an “all purpose explanation” for everything. I bet you can’t name a single one who regards materialism as an actual fundamentally true metaphysic, rather than a practical methodology.”

    Your response?

    “Bad, you’re a bad liar. And also a lazy one. Scientific materialism is what you yourself profess, ad nauseum. It is also what was professed by the Stalinists, Nazis and Maoists.”

    How is this anything but an attempt to change the subject? You made a bunch of claims, but apparently you can’t back them up with any examples.


  28. hughvic says:

    Bad, what in hell are you arguing, other than that someone can’t be a scientific materialist unless he’s a “sophisticate”, or that the Stalinists, for example, were not scientific materialists when they called their Marxism “scientific materialism”, as Marx did, and also said that it was their religion? Since you do not yourself identify with scientific materialism, why then do you defend it from association with the most wicked leaders in history? And why do you not explain how you are not a scientific materialist, rather than calling yourself a hefalump or a mugwump instead? That’s a cheap dodge. Calling someone a liar is not a cheap dodge. And if it’s true, it isn’t name-calling; it’s naming.


  29. Bad says:

    Calling me names isn’t the same thing as actually dealing with my arguments, let alone admitting to your own mistakes, which I documented flat out.

    Scientific materialism is what you yourself profess, ad nauseum. It is also what was professed by the Stalinists, Nazis and Maoists.

    No, scientific materialism is not what I profess, nor were any of the people you note actual sophisticates of ANY particular view. But I suspect that you just don’t know what scientific materialism is yourself, nor can you tell the difference between it and methodological naturalism.

    You say that I “will have to” do this or that. As a matter of fact, I don’t have to do anything. Especially not a single thing to please you.

    Unfortunate for us all then, but convenient for yourself, that what would please me would be if you’d actually address arguments instead of changing the subject or finding excuses to avoid straight out contradictions between what you say and well documented facts.


  30. hughvic says:

    I’m still on it, Ed. After I meet a noon deadline of longstanding I’ll track you down and spill the beans on Kitzmiller as candidly as possible.


  31. hughvic says:

    Incidentally, there’s really no such thing as “flouting the law” by litigating a civil suit. If he or you want to argue for a break from stare decisis, then it’s almost a duty to do so, as the system of course depends upon broad review and challenge. Where we lose, we are in the tradition of a parliamentary “loyal opposition”; where we win, someone else damn well better take up that role. Per Danelski, stare decisis has a 20-year lifespan in the Petrie dish of the U.S. Supreme Court before precedent, usually in the form of the apposite legal test in question, is superseded, most often in a form derived from prior minority opinion.


  32. hughvic says:

    Ed, Kitzmiller was not on my radar at the time. Phillip handled it. I can try to find out with what result, if you like. As I’m sure you know, in law you have to choose your fights very judiciously, as generally only one punch determines the outcome. That one wasn’t to my taste, but Johnson swings at anything that flashes in the noonday sun.


  33. Ed Darrell says:

    Hugo, which amicus were you on in the Kitzmiller case?


  34. hughvic says:

    I’m afraid the ramifications are even higher than you suggest, as the academic fate of both science and faith hang in the balance, and hence our culture is at stake at precisely the moment when Western Civilization is under worse attack than ever. It seems to me that however melodramatic this scenario, it is not an exaggeration to say that our task as patriots is to delineate anew the distinctions, the better to cultivate both science and religion, but in their proper places. (That’s probably a good entry point for cultural historians, incidentally.)

    I’ll assure you one final time that Johnson is PREEMINENTLY interested in orthodoxy, and is at pains to avoid junk science and especially pseudoscience warranted only by faith or revealed scripture. That’s been his project, in a nutshell, for almost 20 years. As his purpose is not to argue science for the sake of arguing, much less of doing, science, if he makes a mistake on the findings of biology and the perceived, multiple self-contradictions of eminent biologists, then he makes a mistake. He should correct it and move on to the next example until he exhausts your field altogether, at which point he should scrutinize another. It’s important; just as it’s important, for reasons dear to both of us I’m sure, Ed, that younger people take up this project, preferably with greater rigor.

    Personally I’d have taken on the anthropoids, or else would have covered the waterfront at Prof. Ravitch does. Or actually, come to think of it those aren’t really the ways I’d frame it; rather, I’d do what I did do: examine mass, compulsory public schooling as a ritual expression of civil religion, and turn the high beams onto the academy later. The American academy is once again the inside lane of the fastest track in the world. Not only does the future belong largely to bioscience, but judging from the past the universities will determine the fate of our culture far more definitively than al-Qaueda ever could do. The governments of France, Czechoslovakia and Mexico were nearly toppled by students and faculty in May-June of 1968, and the government of China in 1989. Iran fell to professors and students, including Professor Ruhollah Komeini and the engineering student Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 1977. In a sense the entire West was transformed by the dangerous ideas of graduate students and their faculty, in particular one Professor Martin Luther.

    The university, then, is a unique engine of human culture, and if academic biologists or legal or business scholars or anyone else seeks in earnest to shunt the university’s vital cultural enterprise, then those fields should be expunged from the university altogether and remanded to the care and feeding of the private sector. Fortunately such a lurid turn of events is, at least ostensibly, not in prospect, but the point remains. And far stranger things have happened to the academy and to the West’s cultural assumptions in the past 800 years.

    I am looking at McLeroy’s letter as a stand-alone text, a discrete datum worthy of the analysis you have urged. It is not useful for me at this point to place it in its historical context, nor in the context of Mr. McLeroy’s biography. Applying a close reading to the text as text, while bracketing all else, he is not calling for inclusion of Creationism, but rather for a prophylactic over against perceived excess or zealotry in the teaching of science beyond the bounds of science. McLeroy may be a Satanist for all I know, but that letter’s petition is as ancient as the first monastic schools. In that sense it doesn’t matter whether the plea be made by the Mad Hatter; it matters only that the matter be vetted. You have vetted it, and have found it spurious and worse. You asked for others to vet it also. I took that as an invitation to vet it from my perspective, and not from yours, his or someone else’s.

    I promised you that I would re-read Kitzmiller and offer my analysis in as unobtrusive a manner as possible. I will do so.


  35. Ed Darrell says:

    What McLeroy is arguing for could be analogized to Semmelweis’s boss demanding that the doctors stop washing their hands. There’s no science behind the idea, there’s nothing but tradition, and real science goes exactly the other way.

    And people will die.

    Please try a thought experiment, Ed. It may sound gamey of me or even deceitful, but I mean it neither way. Try taking the biology and paleontology out of Johnson’s arguments. He could as easily be talking about the collegiate anthro departments, you see, with regard to their incubation of the bacillus of relativism. And there are other examples of dogma in drag as orthodoxy in drag as science in drag as Truth.

    Johnson is talking “truth,” the truthiness that is revealed from the pulpit, as opposed to what can be observed in nature. There’s a difference. I’m with Franklin on this one. If nature chooses to give up its secrets, I won’t gainsay it because a book says nature is incorrect. As Franklin wryly observed, God is supposed to be in charge of nature, so if it contradicts a book some religionist is holding, one might fairly assume the voice of God to be on the side of nature, God being in charge and all.

    It’s not an argument about orthodoxy. Johnson wishes it were, in which case his silver-tongued deviltry could triumph. The question is, what do the facts say. In this case, we have the fossil transitionals despite Johnson’s denial of them, and we have the genes. Johnson has his claim that it’s “orthodox” and wrong to follow the facts.

    There’s nothing wrong with your being right about biology and Johnson’s being wrong, but he’s right about orthodoxy, and that’s my point and his. It’s also Mr. McLeroy’s point, and it is such an important flag and in a democracy one so commanding of attention (nothing more, nothing less) that it isn’t wise to ignore that alledgedly scientistic forest for the scientific trees.

    McLeroy and Johnson are arguing for an unorthodox position in religion — creationism is a minority view among Christian sects, not being the view of even Mr. Johnson’s sect — and while railing against orthodoxy has some appeal to rebellious people, when coupled with crank science, it’s dangerous.

    There are real things at stake here. Diabetics live with treatments that are grounded in evolutionary medicine, and that the treatments work corroborates the facts that build evolutionary theory. Evolution offers the promise of treatments and cures for a vast range of human ailments, including asthma, cystic fibrosis, and cancers. Is it orthodox to work for those cures? Then the orthodoxy is virtuous, and Johnson’s assault on it is rightfully, and righteously, rejected.


  36. hughvic says:


    First, I’m glad you didn’t take my remarks on defamation as a threat, as I didn’t mean them in that bitter spirit, but rather as a genuine caution. I may be caustic, but cautious also. And if you’re to wind up in court, it should be as advocate for science over magic—which category, I’m sure you’ll agree, covers both pseudoscience and irreligion—and not as defendant of your own honor. In any case, as Lincoln said, generally speaking truth is the best vindication against such charges, so you’re on the right track in arguing to the man’s points and not to the man.

    Hats off on your recommendation of Ravitch’s book. She’s a colleague. I used to disparage her as tendentious. I was wrong.

    As your coreligionist, I’d appreciate your pointing out to bobcu also that “In a world without religions” there’d be no science, no schools, colleges or universities. Once again the failure to distinguish, if not the deliberate blurring of distinctions in an already blurry debate. Johnson’s church, which is mine also, cannot take an official line on Darwin-ISM, as that is the responsibility of each presbytery. As far as I know, the only thing out of bounds with PCUSA these days is literalism. But I’m a mere sheep and not a sheepdog, and so wouldn’t know authoritatively. I doubt that Princeton Seminary has any problems with Johnson’s work, which is far more academically important than you seem to think.

    Please try a thought experiment, Ed. It may sound gamey of me or even deceitful, but I mean it neither way. Try taking the biology and paleontology out of Johnson’s arguments. He could as easily be talking about the collegiate anthro departments, you see, with regard to their incubation of the bacillus of relativism. And there are other examples of dogma in drag as orthodoxy in drag as science in drag as Truth.

    There’s nothing wrong with your being right about biology and Johnson’s being wrong, but he’s right about orthodoxy, and that’s my point and his. It’s also Mr. McLeroy’s point, and it is such an important flag and in a democracy one so commanding of attention (nothing more, nothing less) that it isn’t wise to ignore that alledgedly scientistic forest for the scientific trees.

    I myself don’t hesitate to cannibalize Johnson, and I don’t think he’d even mind my doing so, though my language is disrespectful here. Here are two examples, one minor and one, anything but. In several writings he tells the true story of Scopes, thereby helping us to reclaim it for the historical record. In our guild that’s a service in itself, and it matters not to us that the contribution was made by an amateur historian. But mostly I am indebted to him for showing me the extent to which the modern academy does have a jealous metaphyic, secular materialism, before which thou shalt have no other metaphysic whilst playing the scholar. (Dr. Ravitch has said the same thing in ways more akin to mine.)

    By the way, Johnson remains active on campus, and joined the Emeriti in large part to pursue his interest in making the nation safe for ID. (Not my bag.)

    I’ve been pondering your various points clustered around the notion that ID is a loser’s line that can’t be valid because the courts don’t want it in schools, etc. Ed., whether the courts do our bidding or not, still they remain the mob in robes. Everyone in American jurisprudence since Holmes is well aware of that. So, best to sequester the opinions themselves, as we rightly exploit these cases for their hermeneutic value, and focus on the argumentation and on, as you say, the evidence. And the evidentiary issues before the various courts have extended far beyond scientific categories, just as authentic scientists have occasionally strayed in their work far beyond true science.

    I belabor that point to suggest that it’s difficult to disaggregate the issues, but disaggregate them we must if this longrunning mess is to be resolved once and for all. Proclaiming its resolution does not make it resolved, any more than Gore’s proclaiming the anthropogenic debate resolved resolves the anthropogenic debate. You may be aware that one of Lincoln’s favorite riddles was: “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Five? No, four. Calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.” (And consummate politician that he was, he variously straightened or fractured the grammar to suit his audience.)

    Calling this fight don’t end the fight. So please, We the People, fight it to the end, so that the crowd and the refs can go to bed. Believe it or not, I got no money on this one.


  37. Ed Darrell says:

    There is enough blame to pass around, if we look around the curricula. You may want to check your local library for a copy of Diane Ravitch’s book, The Language Police. Biology isn’t the only subject, religious objections are not the only objections.


  38. bobcu says:

    Has anyone noticed this war against science was started by religious people? In a world without religions, there would be no brainless McLeroy trying to destroy science education. It seems to me the best way to end this war is to attack religions relentlessly, just like the religions are attacking science. God is the root of the problem. The world needs to get rid of god, and the sooner the better.


  39. bobcu says:

    I don’t understand how this stupid horrible McLeroy can be on a board of education. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave Texas an F grade for their Science Standards, and McLeroy wants to make science education in Texas even worse. What can be done to get rid of this person? He should be deported from America, but I would be satisfied if he was just fired.


  40. Ed Darrell says:

    . . .caution you against defaming Professor Johnson as one who deliberately inflicts misinformation upon small children. Not least because he makes his living as an educator, your repetition of this libel will indeed constitute an actionable tort.

    Then he should stop arguing to inflict misinformation on small children. As you know, in every jurisdiction in the U.S. since Utah amended its law in the 1970s, truth is a defense.

    Here in Texas, you’d have a tough time establishing that it’s defamatory.

    Besides, Johnson’s retired, has emeritus status — it’s not as if he’s going to get ID into a classroom soon.

    Were you guys to win a case, there would still be this pedagogical problem: From what research papers could one draw the science for a lesson plan?

    Judge Overton’s implicit instructions were clear: To get creationism into science classes, do the research and write it up. That was 1982. 25 years later, where’s any research?


  41. Ed Darrell says:

    As to his religious position, he is a rather devout if unassuming Scots Presbyterian.

    Then his presumptuousness at claiming ID/creationism as the “Christian” view is doubly puzzling — he takes the view contrary to the statements of his own church.

    Johnson’s error is simply in his assumption that there is science behind ID, an assumption that then blinds him to any reason on the issue anywhere else. ID is the great Oakland of biology — there is no “there” there.


  42. Ed Darrell says:

    I have no idea why you suppose that the legal erudition of that latter distinguished professor and former Clerk of the Chief Justice is limited to criminal procedure.

    Simply because he’s so deucedly wrong about the constitutional issues relating to teaching evolution. Intelligent design is religiously based, as Johnson has written so often over the years. Consequently, we may not teach it in public schools, until there is some science to back it.

    Rather than look for the science to back it, Prof. Johnson has embarked on a political campaign to flout the law. Only he claims he’s not flouting the law.

    You might be right, I may not understand the law on the point — but my misunderstanding is shared by every federal district court that has looked at the issue, the Supreme Court, and five or six state courts. It’s the view James Madison had. I think I’m in good company with my misunderstanding — good enough company that I have been misled to think it’s not a misunderstanding at all.


  43. hughvic says:

    No, Ed, it’s your unreality that really disappoints me. I was not looking for information. To use someone for “information” is, to me, a profound degradation of human dignity. I was looking to have a conversation. Unfortunately you never are asking, you are only telling.

    The reality, since you’re so quaintly into reality, is that you haven’t enough lifespan left in you to learn what Phillip Johnson knows about the law, especially about Constitutional Law; and of that, especially about First Amendment Law; and of that, especially about church/state conflict. A dozen years ago, when I sought jurisprudential advice pursuant to my dissertation research from the co-author of one of my first First Amendment casebooks, Dean Jesse Choper of Boalt Hall, the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Dean Choper generously offered me a directed reading on church/state issues, but recommended above himself two particular scholars from among the entire American professoriat: Martin Shapiro and Phillip Johnson. (I was at that time a Fellow at a private university reciprocally related to UCB, and was free to travel for my research.)

    I have no idea why you suppose that the legal erudition of that latter distinguished professor and former Clerk of the Chief Justice is limited to criminal procedure. I guess you’re over-reliant on course catalogs or syllabi or some other source that convinces you that you can pigeonhole him in this way. After all, he does teach courses in courtroom argumentation. And he is indeed a master logician and a rhetorician specializing in disputation; moreover, if you’ve ever heard him debate on behalf of ID (not Creationism as we know it), you will have noticed that he’s unbeatable. But while his specializations have been procedural and constitutional, his principal scholarly interests of longstanding are church/state conflict–which specialization he and I share, and hence the dean’s referral–and orthodoxy and dogmatism in the context of contemporary academic ideology.

    As to his religious position, he is a rather devout if unassuming Scots Presbyterian. I believe that anyone who has worked with him for any length of time would understand that his faith does not determine his position with regard to the failure of science professionals to delimit application of Darwinian theory within the boundaries of rigorous scientific warrant. He simply finds it jurisprudentially compelling and important when scholars run off the reservation, and he’s ideally trained to find out how and why they do so. He’s quite respectful of academic protocol, and makes clear what he does and does not know of fields outside his own, when those fields come under his glass. (In the main, those fields have been Biology and both Physical and Cultural Anthropology [relativism].) He would never poach on another academic field, but of course reserves the right to comment upon and analyze the enterprises of other fields of inquiry, just as historians and sociologists and journalists, for example, do. It is a pillar of the ancient university ideal that each branch is to remain open to the inspection and, if necessary, the policing of the other branches. Precedent for this was set from the founding of the University of Paris in the first half of the 12th Century. It was not then and is not now required of a geologist that she be also an economist before she assesses or remarks upon the status of the field of economics; only that she be an economist before she professes economics.

    I would’ve been happy to comment on Kitzmiller—though I have nothing new to say about that decision—had you not revealed an utter lack of interest in anything other than your own pedantry. I say this in large part, but only in part, because it is simply ludicrous for you to condescend to Johnson on the First Amendment. (If only you’d had the opportunity to teach Dr. von Braun a thing or two about rocketry.) Since you are of the opinion that you have fresh insights on the First Amendment such that you wish to commend a pearl or two to the unenlightened Phillip Johnson, may I suggest that you simply write to him? The Johnson I know would be attentive.

    My own methodologies are limited to historiography and close textual analysis. This is one of those rare, historic debates in which there actually are two sides, and not dozens. I’ve become convinced that in posterity both sides will come in for equal abuse. Also, I must, for reasons that your legal mind will readily comprehend, caution you against defaming Professor Johnson as one who deliberately inflicts misinformation upon small children. Not least because he makes his living as an educator, your repetition of this libel will indeed constitute an actionable tort.

    Anyway, that’s the reality. Sorry if it disappoints you.


  44. Ed Darrell says:

    Hugo, you appear to be working under the misapprehension that I know who you are and am familiar with your exploits in life. I regret that I have not made any of the connections. Sorry if my answers do not contain the information you wish — I was laboring under the understanding that you were seeking information, and so have provided links.

    I suspect that I could learn a few things about criminal procedure from Johnson, and if he’d care to listen, he could learn a few things about the First Amendment from me. There is a possibility than none of us knows everything, and I find it useful to go through life trying to erase my own ignorances rather than flaunting them. Particularly for some of the bizarre amici filed in the Kitzmiller litigation, some of the authors would do well to study our nation’s laws on religion and especially the governmental role in advocacy of religion (there isn’t such a role), and many would do well — that is, save themselves and others much grief — to make a serious effort to understand evolution theory from a science viewpoint. Phillip Johnson appears to me to be chronically badly informed on biology, geology, paleontology, and other -ologies related to the biology and which offer corroboration or insight into the theory of evolution. Whether he wishes to get better information is his choice. If he chooses to try to inflict his misinformation on others, especially innocent children, I reserve the right to call his bluff.

    I regret that reality disappoints you.


  45. hughvic says:

    Ed you’re off the wall, pal. To think that Phillip Johnson, of all people, could learn from you about church/state separation or the First Amendment! I just woke the dog, man! And that we need to read a decision in which we filed amicus briefs!

    What a joke.


  46. Ed Darrell says:

    Johnson is good at criminal procedure I understand, but he appears to me really not to understand the First Amendment stuff, especially the difference between free exercise and establishment of religion.

    I’m also puzzled about why you think I distinguish between ID and creationism. There is no difference on the science or religion, and not much difference on the politics.

    Johnson is a proud creationist, as far as I know. That’s the position he took originally. There’s been some discussion about the differences between young-Earth creationists and old-Earth creationists inside the ID movement, with Johnson generally assuming the former stance, and most of the people at the Discovery Institute conceding they can’t beat the geology, and claiming old Earth stances.

    But you really should read the Kitzmiller decision. Both sides asked Judge Jones to make a determination about whether ID is science. He ruled it is not science, and the inability of ID advocates to distinguish ID from creationism in any consistent or significant fashion was an important part of the evidence and decision.

    Judge Jones said:

    The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

    Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.


    I think a reading of the evidence and testimony bears out Judge Jones decision remarkably well.


  47. hughvic says:

    I was a colleague of Phillip Johnson’s, Ed. As in Constitution effing Law. If you cannot distinguish that scholar from a Creationist, you own a private language and should secure priority immediately. See your nearest intellectual property attorney.


  48. hughvic says:

    Ed, really. I’ve had it with your presumptuousness. Lecturing me about Kitzmiller, and using it do conflate Creationism with ID. How would you like me to quote chapter and verse from your frequent DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THE TWO?

    How can you possibly cop the pose of being serious about these debates when you preen while BLURRING crucial distinctions?

    You’re simply full of it, Ed. An utter waste of time.


  49. Ed Darrell says:

    Are you making an argument that creationism can be distinguished from intelligent design in any significant, substantial way, Hugo? I can’t imagine how to do that.

    When given a chance to make that distinction, in federal trial, with a conservative Christian as a judge, with the evidence rules in full force, ID advocates failed to make their case: See the Kitzmiller decision.


  50. hughvic says:

    “Anti-science creationists” my arse. See Ed’s post regarding science professionals who subscribe to Intelligent Design Theory. If you can’t distinguish ID from Creationism, then don’t park on the dance floor please.


  51. […] the chagrin of Dr. McLeroy and all other anti-science creationists, whale evolution offers some outstanding evidence of […]


  52. Ed Darrell says:

    Hugo, feel free to drop by and comment on any string.


  53. hughvic says:

    Ah! So he WAS in thrall to Professor Johnson. Interesting. Very interesting. The materials to which you referred us open a host of additional issues, Ed. How far would you like to go with this, on this string? I don’t want to gum up the works, and I don’t especially feel like long-form journalism at the present holiday moment, though I do admire yours. I’ll finish reading the remaining references and if you’ll give me some parameters (other than to avoid fatuous prevarication!) I’ll respond in earnest if you like.


    Merry Christmas



  54. hughvic says:

    Ed, you may call me Hugo if you like. I will do as you say. Please, please understand that I am aware of, and have fought, for years, the corruption of that Gown by that zealous Town. In fact I feel that I’ve spent too much ammunition on those people, and should now look to my own skirts for the real problem. But read it I will, and with the presupposition that you’re right.


  55. Ed Darrell says:

    You jump to the conclusion that he is criticizing Darwinian Theory, but in that letter there is no evidence of such criticism. Your evidentiary superiority is letting you down.

    Hughvic, follow the links in the article, especially to Dr. McLeroy’s Sunday School presentation, especially to the Discovery Institute material — it would be a fair inference I draw, if it were only inference. Check the evidence for yourself.


  56. hughvic says:

    My, my. Aren’t you busy tonight, being ombudsman and gatekeeper at once. Pomposity like that commends you to the ivy sanctuaries of freethinking. And thanks for the creative notion of fatuity; I’ll have to mull that one. At least you are willing to identify ID and Creationism as distinct schools. You still don’t get it: it’s not about YOUR turf, because it’s not about science, but rather about non-science, the subject of Mr. McLeroy’s remarks. You jump to the conclusion that he is criticizing Darwinian Theory, but in that letter there is no evidence of such criticism. Your evidentiary superiority is letting you down.

    It’s the ghastly and constant confusion of the sciences and the humanities that’s the problem. No longer a trivium and quadrivium; today, unium. How many ways do I need to say that the dogma is NOT Darwinian Theory? Hell, I LOVE Darwinian Theory! Darwin the younger is a hero of mine, as it happens. I wish he hadn’t screwed Wallace, but then that was before the days before “fatuous nonsense”, before iconoclasts got adulation in science.

    From a phenomenological perspective it does not even matter what the CONTENT (sorry, I haven’t the tools to emphasize any other way) of a dogma is, because no dogmatism belongs in the academy. The very first academy, and sixteen hundred years later the very first university, were purpose-built as havens from dogma of any kind. Doctrine, yes; dogma, no. Latitudinarianism, yes, but with one exception: paganism. Know why? Not out of Muslim or Christian chauvinism per se, but most especially because the scholars understood that that way lay unmoored relativism run amok. They said so, in the 12th bloody century. Today that dans macabre IS the ideology of academe, from my side of the quad. I am not unaware that on your side of the quad you’re doing some of the best science ever done in history, while cranking out powerhouse grad students to boot. A lot of you are also providing the warrant for utter nonsense on my side of the quad. That’s what I’m saying.

    And when I read and reread Mr. McLeroy I think specifically that he’s been conversing with or reading Phillip Johnson, from Boalt, whose professional interest is precisely in academic dogmatism. There are likewise phenomenologists who make a special study of this, and that is why I deferred to them, as it’s not my field. Don’t you have at least a hunch of the degree to which these scholars embody contemporary intellectual courage? Most of them are expunged. I’m not talking about bloomin ID scientists in the biology departments. How would I even know? I’m talking about grad students and tenure-track faculty who catch hell if they question academia’s prevailing orthodoxy from their perches in political science, political theory, sociology, religious philosophy, history, literature, psychology, law, etc. Nonsense? Why would you ever, ever call a sincere lament nonsense? Do you want me to give you the names and billets of all the people I’ve seen ruined in this way in some of this country’s best schools? Is it possible that you actually think I’m four-flushing, for kicks?

    We need a “wall of separation” across the quadrangle. What do you think happens to historians, for example, in the elite schools when they try to explain Isaac Newton’s purpose and worldview, tenure? Or if they make the mistake of explaining Pascal’s purposes in a refereed article? Or the origin of the academic taxononomy that made the Life Sciences possible. Or the origin of the university itself. A freshly minted Ph.D., with an immaculate dissertation on the Middle Ages, housed in a department of English or History or Religious Studies, say, simply will not get a job commensurate with her training. Now why is this? It’s because what Charles Darwin dreaded, as he procrastinated and postponed and feigned illnesses and fanned the flames of those he did have, has come to pass. It’s not that man’s fault, of course; it’s ours.

    The universities in which I’ve spent my adult life (I am now middle-aged) are now engines of close-mindedness and of the narrowest structural thinking. Had the university not already existed, we’d invent universities over against today’s academy. You want evidence of a vast and universal phenomenon. How to delimit, is the problem, to be frank. (I don’t know what Ferrous means by my being creative, as I am as serious about fidelity to the record as is any other historian, and we are as serious about it as biologists are, it seems to me.) I could continue to show you the evidence before you, in this very string, though a bona fide close reading would be very lengthy indeed.

    How about this, Ed: why don’t you just pick a college or, better, an elite university, and I’ll read you the rap sheet. How’s that?


  57. Thoth says:

    Sadly, the only real point in this sort of debate is to get the creationists so worked up that they repel people who aren’t already committed to their ideas. After all, if you report observing something other than what a creationist knows to be “the truth” (and by definition “the truth” cannot be either dogma or in error) you are either (1) mistaken, (2) deceived by Satan or his minions, or (3) intentionally supporting Satan in his attempt to lure people away from God. Given that the creationists consider it easy to avoid (1) and (2) – all you have to do is accept the “truth” which they are clearly presenting and which you are obviously reading since you’re responding to them – that leaves (3).

    From a creationists point of view they’re being incredibly tactful and tolerant in simply shouting names and trying to discredit your “obvious falsehoods” instead of burning you at the stake for your admitted collaboration with Satan. They’re offering you a chance to turn away from your allegiance to the devil and save your soul, and you ought to be grateful for it.

    Fortunately, reducing creationists to spewing enough incoherent and outdated nonsense to repel people is pretty easy.


  58. Ed Darrell says:

    In the 25 years I’ve spent in academia there has been a decided increase in the destruction of the careers of graduate students and faculty members who dare question the predominant secular materialist ideology at its points of purchase, most especially in the Life Sciences and the Social Sciences. If you are unaware of this, then who am I to cure the blind?

    That’s fatuous nonsense. Even IDists of the most sparse academic achievement generally get and keep good appointments.

    Here’s the deal: You come with facts, you get respect. You claim those who do the digging to get the facts are “scientific materialists” and wrong, without providing any data yourself, you don’t get a ticket to stay at the table.

    It’s not a difficult to understand equation: If you wish to criticize a theory in science, get some data. To do that, you need to do some experiments.

    Iconoclasts get adulation in science. There is little to support holding a “party line.” The Nobels go to those who take risks and, often, those who disprove the popular or common ideas.

    But time after time, in forum after forum, creationism and ID come up empty, devoid of substance, bereft of science — and instead of going into the lab or the field to get evidence, they start hurling epithets at science and scientists.

    Careers ruined? Most likely by lack of output, not by any conspiracy to keep the truth at bay. After all, there are plenty of people who have a serious economic interest in disproving fatuousness.


  59. hughvic says:

    Bad, you’re a bad liar. And also a lazy one. Scientific materialism is what you yourself profess, ad nauseum. It is also what was professed by the Stalinists, Nazis and Maoists. You say that I “will have to” do this or that. As a matter of fact, I don’t have to do anything. Especially not a single thing to please you.

    And Ferrous Patella, I’m sorry if your knee alarms the DSA, but then the Devil is in the gaps, isn’t he? If you do not think that evolutionary biology has been the province of a very few elite princes given to publishing the most extravagantly metaphysical truth claims on the basis of their holding the magic key, then I will not be the one to provide your tuition for free. Please do not think that I mean to show you any disrespect, as I mean to show the eponymous Bad, and as you intend by calling me dogmatic simply because I explain religious categories in religious terms. Were I to do so in the context of, say, Hinduism rather than the Abrahamic traditions, would you dare call me “dogmatic”? The answer is, of course not. Bigoted, are we? You characterize me as the apologist when this string consists largely of fawning and fatuous Darwinian apologetics unwarranted by the letter at issue! In the 25 years I’ve spent in academia there has been a decided increase in the destruction of the careers of graduate students and faculty members who dare question the predominant secular materialist ideology at its points of purchase, most especially in the Life Sciences and the Social Sciences. If you are unaware of this, then who am I to cure the blind?

    Is it not enough for any one of you that a plainspoken public servant in Texas and an earnest respondent in the blogosphere suggest that if it’s dogmatism you’re after, you look at the academy? Why wouldn’t you then take a look, rather than killing the messenger and then calling HIM lazy?


  60. Bad says:

    Gary: “The lack of transitional forms in the fossil record, which Darwin thought would be found after his theory was announced, but never was.”

    By the way Gary, this claim is another misrepresentation of history. Darwin believed that certain transitional features would be observed in the fossil record, and he was right: they have been, an undeniably, and pretty much exactly as we would expect. But Darwin in fact NEVER imagined that the fossil record would be a rich and representative as it has actually turned out to be. Darwin, in fact, did not have any sense of what the “tree of life” looked like as we do today, largely because he did not have a particularly wide or representative body of fossils. If you read his work, fossils are very much NOT the central piece of evidence or argument. He uses them as evidence primarily to illustrate that past life included all sorts of different forms than what we know today, and that the vast majority of these forms died out at some point. That was pretty much as far as he got.

    Today, we have not only a far richer sampling of fossil species throughout earth’s history (so rich that we can even start to get a sense of entire past ecologies), but we have an entirely new sort of way of tracing back lineages: via genetics. And, guess what, genetic studies, using the same sorts of concepts and techniques that are used in paternity tests, turn out to paint a picture of life on earth via common descent that matches up clade for clade with the very picture fossils paint.


  61. Bad says:

    “So it is with making an idol of Darwinian Theory.”

    This probably sounds like a compelling emotionalism to you, but it’s flat out nonsense. You can prattle on all you want about dogma. It’s all just empty accusations that anyone can make about anything unless you can bring actual evidence to the table.

    And worse, it’s lazy. I bet you can’t name a single biologist who claims that evolution is an “all purpose explanation” for everything. I bet you can’t name a single one who regards materialism as an actual fundamentally true metaphysic, rather than a practical methodology.

    McLeroy doesn’t have a point. He has a grab bag of misinformed creationist arguments that rely exploiting on ignorance of how science works, and ignorance of the evidence, and knowing that he cannot win on the merits, he’s appealing to pity. The fact that such a person has a position of authority over education is simply perverse.

    Evolution is not taught, thought of, or treated as an “irrefutable preconception.” It is a conclusion based on and supported by evidence. And if you want to refute it, bring it on. But you are going to have to bring EVIDENCE, not endlessly inventive but ultimately vacuous rhetoric.


  62. Ferrous Patella says:


    I should very much like to see your evidence for said dogmatism in academic biology. Without seeing it, I suspect you are the one being dogmatic.


  63. hughvic says:

    I’m sorry, but you’re missing the point. It is Mr. McLeroy, and not the editor, who gets to make the point, since it is the McLeroy letter which is the only thing here in evidence, and the subject of McLeroy’s thesis is not evolutionary biology per se, but academic dogmatism–which is very much alive, though it be as sick as a rabid dogma.

    Dogmatism is of course the province of theologians and their critics; ideology, the province of sociologists, most especially phenomenologists. It is they who must be heard from on Chairman McLeroy’s point, which to my genuine sadness is simply not taken seriously here, any more than intelligent design theory is taken seriously by those who profess the preeminent dogma of our times. The issue is not science, it is scientism; not Darwinian Theory, but Darwinism.

    The term dogma probably evokes in most Americans the Roman Catholic Church, the Alma Mater of American Protestantism. But in theology dogmatism is an insidious form of idolatry, and the greatest expertise in the concept of idolatry, and in its ramifications and its prevention, has always been reposed within Jewish canonical and extracanonical thought. Idolatry is of course a form of sin, a word which, significantly, in both Aramaic and Greek refers to inacuracy in archery. Idolatry, in Judaism, is the elevation to the position of the Ultimate that which is very importantly penultimate. Earlier this month, a group of California rabbis petitioned believers to leave one commemorative candle unlit this Hannukah season, to signify concern over the condition of the global environment. As Jews take very seriously their Edenic stewardship of G-d’s creation, “the environment” is very important to them. But as the One who holds pride of place at Hanukkah is the Creator Himself, the exalting of His creation in His place is idolatrous.

    So it is with making an idol of Darwinian Theory. Because it is very important and powerful, but perhaps more so because it is empowering, many biologists and their students elevate the theory to the exalted position of an all-purpose explanation. They not uncommonly even cite it as a proof of the exclusive validity of a highly particularistic metaphysical speculation, of a great many competing cosmological speculations: scientific materialism, in the academic garb of a perverse “pluralism”. They regard this metaphysic, via Darwin-ism, as true a priori. (As they are neither philosophers nor theologians, it seems never to occur to them that no metaphysic can be demonstrably true a priori; they operate outside the ken of orthodox science.) This magical thinking is idolatrous. It is dogmatism par excellence. Those who question this reigning dogma from either side of the lectern are subject to academic ruination and, outside the academy, to public ridicule in a perpetually adolescent society in the grip of a preening scientific narcissism.

    Pending a review of this phenomenon by the sociologists I say, tentatively, that Mr. McLeroy is spot on.


  64. celtictexan says:

    See my comments at “Texas’ face should be creationism red”


  65. Ed Darrell says:

    Gary said:

    The lack of transitional forms in the fossil record, which Darwin thought would be found after his theory was announced, but never was.

    Like Rick about the waters of Casablanca, you’ve been misinformed. There are thousands of transitional species known — at least 15 in the human line, at least 23 in whales, more than 2,000 showing evolution of trilobites in great detail. It is simply inaccurate to claim, or to think or believe, that no fossils have been found since 1858. There is no lack of transitional forms; there is an abundance of transitional forms that clearly and firmly establish rock “snapshots” of evolution in action.

    Then there is the fact that many scientists don’t believe in it and consider it highly improbable.

    There are roughly 75,000 advance-degreed, professional biologists in the U.S. Of that total, about 700 have ever signed the Discovery Institute’s statement of skepticism of evolution, something less than 1%. Evolution does not ask belief, of course — it’s based on evidence. If a professional scientist “doesn’t believe” in evolution, it’s a statement of faith, not of science.

    I started to check the people who signed the DI’s list several years ago. By the time I’d got to 25 people on the list, I found only one who said he or she had real, serious doubts about evolution, a mathematician who said he thought the odds a bit long. None of them had any evidence to counter evolution. None of them had any idea for a replacement theory. About 80% — 20 of the 25 — expressed some surprise that their signing the statement was taken as questioning evolution at all. They thought it was simply a statement saying scientists need to be skeptical.

    So, if we take that same ratio and apply it to the 700 signers of the DI’s list, we get 28 scientists who actually doubt evolution, none of whom has ever published a thing against the theory, and none of whom have any data they think might counter the theory; and 560 who don’t really question evolution at all, but were snookered into signing the statement by the Discovery Institute’s misleading letter, which said nothing about creationism or intelligent design.

    Gary, check PubMed, the public list of research papers. You’ll find no serious literature supporting any theory counter to evolution. You’ll find few papers that could even be interpreted as suggesting any problem at all with evolution theory.

    Again, as Rick was about the waters of Casablanca, you’ve been misinformed. Science supports evolution theory overwhelmingly because it works well to predict the results of experiments, and it offers such powerful explanations that are useful in medicine and agriculture. Here in Texas, serious scientists are rising up to protest the ungrounded questioning of evolution by educators who are themselves uneducated in the theory.

    The number of scientists who question evolution is vanishingly small; most of those question evolution solely on their own faith; none has produced a scintilla of evidence that other scientists find convincing against the theory, and as urging further research.

    The writer above who claims evolution has been observed in real time makes me laugh. Show me one species in the process of evolving into another.

    Broccoli. Grapefruit. Have you read the work of Luther Burbank? Russet potatoes. Modern beef, descended with modification from the aurochs (the last one of which was poached in Poland some 800 years ago or so, alas). The rise of DDT immunity in mosquitoes. The changing colors of peppered moths on two different continents (and please, don’t trot out that old hoax claiming that the peppered moth evidence is weak — that’s a crass lie that’s been exposed soundly; no moth guy in the world disagrees that peppered moths show natural selection, and recent research confirms Kettlewell’s conclusions with even more sound research design). The sport mutation that created pink grapefruit. The rise of the American apple maggot. The rapid evolution of HIV II. Speciation of birds in the Galapagos, carefully documented by every measure possible (including DNA) in a 30+ year longitudinal study; sticklebacks in British Columbia; and so on. Check the literature, do some reading. There are lots and lots of examples. One may not eat in America without eating the fruits of evolution theory applied. Diabetics are treated as a result of applied evolution theory to determine the cause of the disease and to develop both the old insulin treatments from cows and pigs, and the new human insulin treatments. Evidence for evolution is rather overwhelming when one looks for it.

    Show me how you can recreate evolution in the lab. You can’t.

    Check the work of Dolph Schluter on 3-spined sticklebacks. Check with your favorite fly researcher (someone who does real work on drosophilia. Please don’t tell me evolution can’t be recreated in the lab when it has already been done. Don’t tell me laboratory work doesn’t count when it’s been observed in the wild. Just get current on the research — this is incredibly exciting stuff, and your sources have left you about 40 years behind, at least.

    It is a theory and one that is not proved by any means. Another writer above stated that evolution is a faith, and she is right.

    Many of the claims of evolutionists have been disproved: vestigeal organs have been found to have functions not previously understood;

    Vestigial doesn’t mean “without use,” though that is also possible. The hips and legs in those few whale species that have them are truly vestigial, though useless; most snake legs are completely useless, though at least one species appears to use them as spurs to grasp the female during mating; but having a use doesn’t make an organ not vestigial. The human appendix doesn’t do the functions other mammalian appendices do; it’s much smaller, and a vestige of earlier organs. Human wisdom teeth typically crowd the human mouth, because their presence is a vestige of a time when our ancestors’ snouts jutted out more; the human coccyx is a vestigial tail. Human Jacobsen’s organs, though they appear to play a significant role in romance and mate selection, are vestiges of the same organs in reptiles, both in their position and in their sensitivity.

    Vestiges are all over the place. That some vestiges have functions does not negate their status as vestiges. In fact, changed use rather makes the point that evolution occurs.

    . . . the alleged horse evolution in the fossil record doesn’t flow linearly from a lower animal to a higher one but happens randomly;

    A lack of “linear flow” is to be expected, and actually confirms evolution as it creates more of a bush form than a straight line of progress. Horse evolution remains some of the strongest transitional charts known. Your expectation of a linear chart is a misunderstanding of what evolution theory predicts. Your misunderstanding, of course, is not a problem of evolution theory, but a problem of the information you have available to you.

    Here is a site that should get you on the road to finding the information you’ve missed so far, the Berkeley evolution site:

    . . . and during the Cambrian explosion when many diverse and complex life forms appeared suddenly and fully formed…

    My understanding is that there is no form of life in the Cambrian for which there is not a known precursor, or at least, very few. Yes, many forms appeared in fossil form in Cambrian rocks — but that’s largely a function of their developing hard body parts that their ancestors lacked. The hard body parts fossilize better.

    Even so, Cambrian fossils are precursors for modern forms — and this is one area where the claim of no transitionals becomes ridiculous — and we can trace from the Cambrian the later rise of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, none of which existed in the Cambrian, of course — so, saying some forms appeared to rise quickly and “fully formed” is not quite a half-truth; more like a sixteenth truth. The rise of hard body parts, over 25 million to 40 million years, was “sudden” only to a geologist. Modern humans, for example, have only been around a bit over 100,000 years, maybe. 25 million years, an “explosion” to a geologist, is just good working time in evolution.

    Then there is the creation of amino acid precursors in the laboratory, but they don’t tell you that the precursors are mirror images of each other, making the production of DNA strands impossible. DNA strands depend on identical molecules to create the strands.

    You should have been to the 2003 hearings on biology textbooks in Texas. Just after Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg testified to the effect that evolution was as solid a science as is possible to get, Andy Ellington of the University of Texas delivered a lecture on exactly the issue of producing the complex amino acids of just one “handedness.” At least, that’s what I think you’re asking about (it’s a bit unclear to me; plus, molecular is even weaker than my genetics stuff — I practiced botany). In short, it’s not a problem, since lab tests show that enough aminos can arise to fill the bill. But I can’t do Dr. Ellington justice in a few minutes (and I probably got something wrong here) — go read his testimony. (Go to the TEA hearings here, and go to page 319, where Ellington’s testimony starts.)

    Evolution is deniable only if we blind ourselves to the last 100 years of biology and chemistry and geology. The issues you raise were problems in Darwin’s time. They are not problems now, but are instead parts of science with brilliant answers from researchers that we should teach to kids. It’s part of telling kids the whole truth — the whole truth is very exciting, and should not be hidden from them.


  66. palma says:

    Hannah J– If you have ever taken an antibiotic, used a pesticide to kill a roach, eaten a vegetable, or been in the company of a domesticated dog, just to name a FEW of the terribly obvious products of both artificial and natural selection around us, then you have both witnessed and participated the power of evolution first hand.
    Gary– At what “college” did you study Biology? Evolution means: Change over time. Holes in the fossil record merely add support for the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium which explains that speciation was too rapid after environmental change to leave fossils. And who cares about that when we have the overwhelming evidence of DNA which can track the emergence and transmission of mutations through lineages. Molecular Biology takes us much farther than Darwin’s comparative physiology could. We now know exactly who is related to whom and to what degree based on the number of base pair differences in the sequence of certain shared genes. I won’t even entertain your comment that “many scientists don’t believe in evolution.” I have no idea who you could be referring to and at what university they teach or do research. That sounds like something you probably made up and said so many times you think it’s true.
    As for your last comment, the mechanism that drives Natural Selection is happening all around us–antibiotic resistance, insecticide resistance, AIDS cocktail resistance, to name a few. Just last month NASA found a strain of Bacteria in their “clean” rooms, the sterile environments where spacecrafts are assembled, seen nowhere else on earth. How do you explain how it got there? Did God put it there to mess with the engineers? Probably not. More likely, some bacteria piggybacked its way in there and then under the extreme conditions of sterilization some happened to have a mutation which allowed them to survive the caustic chemicals and they flourished, passing on those beneficial genes thereby giving rise to a new strain never before seen anywhere else. It’s that simple. It’s that profound. And it happens ALL THE TIME.
    I’ll give you another example. One definition Biologists use to determine whether two organisms are in the same species or not is whether they can breed and produce fertile offspring. In 1999, it was documented that the mosquito population in the London underground were indeed a new and separate species from their above ground cousins and the speciation happened in less than 150 years. When the tubes were built in 1860, some Culex pipiens migrated below ground and took up residence there in complete isolation. Subjected to a whole new set of environmental selection pressures, only those who were capable of living in the new conditions left offspring and eventually, they became the new species Culex molestus. Without their normal food supply, birds, they switched to people. Since the environment was stable, they adapted to breed all year round (instead of normally hibernating in winter). Most importantly, when members of the two populations where brought together, no offspring were produced, indicating that their genotypes were sufficiently diverse so that viable embryos would not form. That is evidence of evolution vis a vis Natural Selection.

    And have you forgotten your basic lessons of Protein Synthesis? Information flows from DNA to mRNA to Protein. I don’t even know what you’re talking when you say: “DNA strands depend on identical molecules to create the strands.” Why would the precursors to Amino Acids have to be mirror images? Stanley Miller was demonstrating that under the right conditions (a reducing atmosphere without Oxygen gas) the mixture of elements of the early earth would have spontaneously combined to form organic molecules, amino acids and nucleic acids among them. He demonstrated it was possible after just a few weeks of running his apparatus. By the way—there are plenty of retroviruses (AIDS) that have only one strand of RNA (no double stranded DNA) and they do very nicely reproducing prolifically.

    In response to your criticism of the horse lineage (which they’ve done an excellent job of detailing at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City) I will simply say that due to several shifts of environmental conditions and changing habitat, selection shifted from large to small to large again over the course of its evolution. No one ever said that evolution had a purpose and end goal. Why should we expect a species’ lineage to form a picture perfect ascension? And you misinterpret the significance of the Cambrian Explosion. Once photosynthesis evolved and pumped the atmosphere full of oxygen gas and aerobic respiration evolved taking advantage of the new atmosphere to harvest a maximum amount of ATP from organic fuels, then a major natural selection limitation on body size/plans was removed. With the cellular mechanisms to power a larger body, multicellular body forms exploded into a ridiculous number of new niches and most failed to flourish, except for the very successful tetrapod, from which we all evolved.

    Would you still ague that we are “superficially uninformed?”

    Thank God (yes, I do believe in God) that I teach in New York where we don’t have to deal with this nonsense.


  67. Ed Darrell says:

    Brian said:

    mr darrell, what do you mean by “Actually, every mechanism in evolution has been observed working in real time. There is no part that has not been observed.”

    I mean, every mechanism necessary for evolution, every mechanism Darwin proposed, every mechanism we’ve wondered about, has been observed. If observing things in nature is “proof,” if corroborating a hypothesis rather than disproving it counts for anything, then evolution has indeed been observed.

    obviously, no scientist has observed one specie evolving into another, or develop another organ. no one observed the Big Bang.
    that is all people are referring to when they mention the “faith” that is involved in evolution.

    1. Speciation has been observed many times. We know the history of broccoli, and we know the history of radishes, and we especially know the history of Canola from poisonous rapeseed. So right there are three species we observed being formed — all of them from mustards, ironically enough. See the Parable of the Mustard Seed — that Jesus guy was pretty bright, and it appears he foretold our understanding of evolution, too.

    More seriously, the first recorded case of true speciation under observation was the rise of a new salt grass in the River Thames, Spartina townsendii, observed to arise circa 1868. It was a wholly new species of salt grass, confirmed by later chromosomal studies. To get a grasp of speciation, you should get a copy of Jonathan Weiner’s book, The Beak of the Finch, a story of evolution in our time, which details some of the speciations Peter and Rosemary Grant have observed and reported on, as well as the rest of evolution in great detail.

    Students of the Grants, in their own labs, have observed speciation in several different genera of fish, and in the wild, on at least two different continents. Some of my friends in fly research talk about the difficulty of keeping flies from speciating while they research new pesticides — a key issue, since a new species may have different susceptibility to a given pesticide. But the flies speciate quickly when a captive population is isolated from the rest.

    2. The equivalent of new organ development has been observed, especially in plants. But new functions for old organs also are recorded and provide some of the best evidence. There are two different mutations that confer immunity to DDT on mosquitoes — it makes them able to digest the poison without harm, a wholly new function. Neither of these mutations can be found in mosquitoes taken prior to 1946, as I understand it (it’s extremely rare in any case); many speciments taken today will have up to 60 copies of one of the genes.

    3. It’s irrelevant to evolution, since evolution does not depend on Big Bang, and Big Bang is a theory of cosmology and nuclear physics, not of biology — but we do have pictures of the universe shortly after the Big Bang, from the COBE projects — plus, Big Bang left a radiation “echo” predicted by George Gamow and Ralph Alpher, which can be accounted for in no other way.

    Photos plus the mathematics of nuclear physics give us the ability to see the universe just after Big Bang — two corroborations of the theory. No one observed the creation of the Niagara Gorge, nor the Grand Canyon’s first 6.9 million years, but it would take a fool of an unusual stripe to deny that the Gorge and Canyon were created, since they exist now and carry the signs of their creation.

    In short, I think you’ve been deprived of some of the best and coolest stuff in science. We know a lot more than you have been misled to believe. What we know is quite exciting, and it confirms and corroborates evolution theory.


  68. Gary says:

    Evolution is wholly deniable as it has critical errors and blanks in its theory. I am not particularly religious, don’t care a hang how God created the universe and life therein, and have no axes to grind. At one time I was a science major in college (biology) and I believed in evolution.

    I no longer believe it. I haven’t replaced it with any other theory, I just can’t believe it because it has so many weaknesses. The lack of transitional forms in the fossil record, which Darwin thought would be found after his theory was announced, but never was. Then there is the fact that many scientists don’t believe in it and consider it highly improbable. The writer above who claims evolution has been observed in real time makes me laugh. Show me one species in the process of evolving into another. Show me how you can recreate evolution in the lab. You can’t. It is a theory and one that is not proved by any means. Another writer above stated that evolution is a faith, and she is right.

    Many of the claims of evolutionists have been disproved: vestigeal organs have been found to have functions not previously understood; the alleged horse evolution in the fossil record doesn’t flow linearly from a lower animal to a higher one but happens randomly; and during the Cambrian explosion when many diverse and complex life forms appeared suddenly and fully formed…

    Then there is the creation of amino acid precursors in the laboratory, but they don’t tell you that the precursors are mirror images of each other, making the production of DNA strands impossible. DNA strands depend on identical molecules to create the strands.

    Yes, “evolution is undeniable” to the superficially informed.


  69. truth machine says:

    obviously, no scientist has observed one specie evolving into another, or develop another organ

    First, neither of those is a “mechanism” of evolution. Second, why state that as obvious when you have no clue? Speciation has been observed, as has the development of new faculities (such as the digestion of nylon).

    no one observed the Big Bang.

    That’s not evolution — are there special schools people attend where they learn to be so ignorant? And the Big Bang is an inference from a large amount of data. Even creationists depend on inference to reach numerous conclusions every day.


  70. truth machine says:


    His name is Plantinga, and he’s not a “brilliant philosopher”, he’s a Christian apologist who is skilled at sophism. “supernaturally caused” is an oxymoron, and that’s the only reason science excludes it — because there’s no way to include it. Science deals with the discernable. Give us a test for the existence of something, and we’ll carry it out, whether it is labeled “supernatural” or not. But beware — if science can discern it, it will no longer be supernatural.


  71. […] Texas Ed chairman responds: Don’t limit science classes to evolution I hope he doesn’t mean it. Maybe he had a staffer draft it for him, and he is really not familiar with the issue […] […]


  72. ambrielle says:

    @Brian: your statement is typical of creationists’ and their ignorance of evolution.
    Speciation has been observed, we know how organs such as the eye and ear developed. All of this is easily looked up. Try TalkOrigins.org. And then of course, you talk about the Big Bang, which has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution, or even abiogenesis. Can we leave those strawmen to burn please?


  73. Bob says:

    This is highly inappropriate!!! I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities!1!!


  74. Austin says:

    From the father of ID, Philip Johnson:

    ” I don’t think there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out system. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable…No product is comparable in the educational world.”


  75. Brian says:

    mr darrell, what do you mean by “Actually, every mechanism in evolution has been observed working in real time. There is no part that has not been observed.”

    obviously, no scientist has observed one specie evolving into another, or develop another organ. no one observed the Big Bang.

    that is all people are referring to when they mention the “faith” that is involved in evolution.


  76. Eric Scott says:

    I’ll just note that McElroy’s claim about limiting “possible explanations in science” shows a clear misunderstanding of how science works. Explanations have to be more than “possible”; they have to be “testable” and “falsifiable”. (Pastafarianism is “possible”, too … isn;t it?) And McElroy’s bit at the end about “consensus of a conviction” not “determin[ing] whether it is true or false” — since when is science about “truth”?! It’s about natural explanations for the natural world, period. (Alvin Plantinga and others keep referring to “truth:, too — more fool they.) McElroy wants to sound knowledgeable about, and supportive of, science … but his own words betray his ignorance of what science is and how science works. Too bad Texas students may soon have to suffer from his ignorance.


  77. brotherhank says:

    “coded language”? doesn’t sound like the man was trying to hide anything to me…

    it’s about time folks started taking brilliant philosophers like Alvin Plantiga seriously. As Plantiga once said,

    “If you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused — as most of the world’s people believe — you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically.

    Observing methodological naturalism thus hamstrings science by precluding science from reaching what would be an enormously important truth about the world. It might be that, just as a result of this constraint, even the best science in the long run will wind up with false conclusions. “


  78. mamatried says:

    Oh, I was so hoping by the title of your post that you meant that the ed chairman actually wanted evolution taught in other classes besides science classes (to dream the impossible dream I suppose).


  79. Crudely Wrott says:

    “What can stop science is an irrefutable preconception.”

    My old man can whup your old man. That’s all there is to it.


  80. Jeremy Mohn says:

    From McElroy’s letter:

    “What can stop science is an irrefutable preconception.”

    If I may be permitted to make a design inference, I think I might know where that last phrase originated. It does not show up on the web using any of the search engines I checked.

    The only person I have ever heard use that phrase was John Calvert, the managing director of the Kansas ID Network. He repeated it several times on a panel discussion that aired after the NOVA “Judgment Day” on our local PBS station.

    So it appears to me that McElroy may have had some coaching on what to say. All I can say is look out Texas, because Calvert has a history of improperly inserting himself into state level science standards proceedings.


  81. 19strikes says:

    Well said, Bad.


  82. Bad says:

    What’s really amazing is that this clown, who has no professional expertise whatsoever in the field of biology, thinks that he is in a good position to judge what is sound science and what isn’t, based apparently on the mistaken idea that science is about belief, rather than evidence.

    The “sacred cow” language is a classic creationist gambit: they know they lack any good evidence, so instead of trying to actually present science, they try to emotionalize the issue. This allows them to utterly avoid the substance of a debate they know they cannot win on the substance.


  83. 19strikes says:

    Evolution is undeniable, to us scientists at least, and is a process that is occurring daily, at a rate faster than anyone every believed due to the rise in population and environmental changes – we must adapt to our surroundings. The body of evidence as you said is significant. Skeptics need their own evolution, actually, education. I, too, am a Christian, and the reality of evolution strengthens my beliefs in a higher being. The rise of human beings is not a miracle, science can explain that, and to me it is a process that makes sense (random mutations selecting for a population that can survive in its environment for the purpose of having offspring, to continue the race) but the fact that my creator designed this, that to me is amazing, a mystery. The creation of my creator, and the initiation of life, that is mind blowing. Teach evolution to students because it is truth, at school Mon-Fri. Guide people on Sundays, in Faith, to appreciate this higher being and to believe that you are not alone in your daily struggles, that someone is watching over you.


  84. Soon, if enough of us are willing to listen, there will be no need to debate creation vs evolution. Both are correct. The first humans, called Kanarians, were created in the galaxy approximately 553 million years ago. Since that time, many offshoots have both evolved and been genetically modified or some might say ‘created over’ again. That is why there are so many different skin tones on Earth. We are also believers in Christ but know that just about every important book throughout history has been modified so that those in power could direct the masses according to their wishes. Thank you for writing a very intriguing article.


  85. Prazzie says:

    HannahJ: “Evolution is a faith too, you know. Firmly sticking to a set of facts because SOME have been proven.”

    That’s a very silly thing to say. But I’ve heard it quite often and the truth is not sinking in, so new approach: “Yes, it’s a faith! You should convert immediately! We have at least SOME evidence, by your own admission. And SOME is better than NONE, not so?”


  86. milevin says:

    You cannot falsify ID and creationism. You can falsify evolution. You must be able to falsify a theory. Without the element of falsification, I cannot prove or disprove a theory. Thus, ID and creationism are not theories. They cannot be taught along with an actual theory.

    ID is as much a theory as astrology. Only relativists and post-modernists along with know-nothings can flog ID and creationist as theory. Those of us who are pro-science see ID and creationism for what it is: an attack on science.


  87. Ed Darrell says:

    Actually, every mechanism in evolution has been observed working in real time. There is no part that has not been observed.

    Take a look at my testimony to the Texas State School Board; evolution theory is critical to our health care system, critical to agriculture, and important for pest control.

    Or, consider what more than 100 Ph.D. biologists from Texas told the State School Board:

    A massive body of scientific evidence supports evolution. All working scientists agree that publication in top peer-reviewed journals is the scoreboard of modern science. A quick database search of scientific publications since 1975 shows 29,639 peer-reviewed scientific papers on evolution in twelve leading journals alone2. To put this in perspective, if you read 5 papers a day, every day, it would take you 16 years to read this body of original research.

    Science doesn’t ask faith. Bring your skepticism. As Darwin did, modern science works to disprove hypotheses; Darwin spent 20 years working to disprove evolution before he was convinced to publish, and he only published after other researchers had independently corroborated the work.

    There is little else in science so solid as evolution theory, nor little else so important to our daily lives.


  88. HannahJ says:

    Evolution is a faith too, you know. Firmly sticking to a set of facts because SOME have been proven.


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