Tag Archives: Evolution

Texas Rejects God in the Science Classroom

I am still being surprised by my adopted state. I have had to reject my preconceived notions about Texas and recognize that, while some stereotypes do apply, when it comes to politics and sociological views, it’s as diverse as my home state of California.

Today Texas stepped firmly into the 21st century and embraced science without religion. Although it isn’t final, the fifteen member board voted to remove the “strengths and weaknesses” clause in the state’s science curriculum as it applies to evolution. The clause has previously been used to open the door to the “alternative theory” of Intelligent Design.

The article states:

The new science curriculum standards will take effect beginning with the 2010-2011 school year and last about 10 years.

[snip]

Instead of allowing teachers to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory, the proposed science curriculum standards would encourage students to apply critical thinking, scientific reasoning and problem solving “to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing.”

In other words, YES, question evolutionary theory. YES, look for gaps in reasoning and facts. But use facts to get there. The original wording of the “strengths and weaknesses clause” reads as follows:

(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and

(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.


Never mind that were science simply taught as science, there would BE no controversy, or that religion and philosophy have no place in a science classroom, or even that the US Senator who originally proposed the clause was a huge proponent of intelligent design and felt religion should be re-instituted into public schools. Just go ahead and teach the kids that not everyone “believes in” evolution because we need them to know God’s there, too. No. If you want your kids to know that God’s there, too, YOU teach them that. Let the science teachers teach science. It isn’t their job to remind them that they need to feel guilty for learning there’s more to the universe than was covered in the Bible/Torah/Qu’ran.

So I think it is an astounding and wonderful and courageous move by the Texas Board of Education that in the face of knee jerk reactionaries and politicians who are too afraid of not getting re-elected and the near omnipresent church (you can’t go three blocks without seeing a church in Texas), they agreed to let the kids learn how to apply logic and reason in their studies. Of course there are those who disagree:

Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, who voted to keep “strengths and weaknesses,” said he wouldn’t rubber stamp recommendations from the experts.

“This is a battle of academic freedom. This is a battle over freedom of speech,” Mercer said. “It’s an issue of freedom of religion.”

No, Mr. Mercer. It is not an issue of freedom of religion, because there IS no religion in our classrooms. It is an issue of teaching science in the classroom without fear of religion being inserted. It is an issue of teaching our children to be competitive in a global market. Because we owe them that. We owe our country that. The US is falling behind in scientific development, and the blame can be laid squarely on the shoulders of those superstitious uber religious fundamentalists who have been allowed to push their agenda in our schools and our government. No more.

Today I can honestly state that I am proud of my adopted state; happy to be a Texan.

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Why We (Atheists) Owe Theists and Creationists a Thank You

So the darling man and I were watching a documentary last night about trilobites and the development of the eye.

One of the evolutionary biologists being interviewed (whose name I naturally cannot recall) mentioned that, were it not for the development of the eye, the Cambrian Explosion probably would not have been nearly as huge. I hmmm’d at this.

The documentary went on to explain that humans and other land animals share DNA with many sea cretures. I mumbled (I was tired, it was quite late) “Isn’t it interesting that even with all that shared DNA, theists still scream the house down if we suggest that we all came from a common ancestor, and it ain’t Adam?” and the SO answered “Yeah….y’know, it’s amazing how much we’ve learned thanks to the church.” I lifted my head off his shoulder and looked at him in a “you have turned green and a third eye is growing in your forehead” kind of way.

“No, really,” he went on. “Religion keeps finding these gaps and moving the goal posts and demanding further explanations, and science just says ‘okay, fine’ and goes out and finds the reasons. If it weren’t for the fact that I wish they’d just shut the hell up about what science can’t prove, I’d almost be grateful.”

Huh. I hadn’t thought about that before, to be quite honest. There is no question in my mind that we would still try to find the answers to life’s mysteries. That our inherent curiosity would push us to explore as much of our world and ourselves as possible.  But I do wonder if we’d attack it with quite the same insistence. And we don’t even have to find which questions to answer, because they do it for us! And the beauty of it is…. we end up finding the answers to questions we didn’t even THINK to ask! How cool is that?

So theists & creationists… thanks. No, really. Keep asking those questions. I get frustrated and annoyed, but …you help push the process along, you really do. I very much doubt we’ll convince many of you that you’re wrong (that’s another post entirely), but your continuing contributions to the scientific community have been, if involuntary, extraordinarily helpful.