Dan McLeroy, the Texas State Board of Education chairman, a dentist and self-described creationist, led the charge to mandate teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution. After three days of high-pitched argument on both sides, the 15-member board, by a vote of 8-7, rejected the language, relieving textbook authors and publishers of the pressure to insert what opponents called "junk science" into their pages. But in a compromise that alarms and dismays many science education advocates, the board did adopt language that attempts to cast a shadow of doubt over the validity of the central evolutionary concepts of natural selection and common ancestry.This whole debate makes my head hurt. I thought intelligent design was pretty much discredited.
Proponents of the theory of intelligent design, and other brands of neo-creationism, argue that evolution is inadequate to the job of explaining the diversity and history of life on earth. If they can cast doubts about evolution's validity, they have a chance to fill the authority vacuum with the tenets of creationism. But since late 2005, when a federal judge in Dover, Pa., ruled that intelligent design was a form of creationism, and that its introduction into public high school curricula was unconstitutional, advocates of teaching neo-creationism have been forced to seek other ways into public science classrooms. Enter the "strengths and weaknesses" strategy, crafted by the Seattle-based, pro-intelligent-design think thank, Discovery Institute...
Not that science makes sense to a creationist like McLeroy. "Scientific consensus means nothing," he tells Salon. "All it takes is one fact to overthrow consensus. Evolution has a status that it simply doesn't deserve. People say it's vital to understanding biology. But it's genetics that's the foundation for biology. A biologist once said that nothing in biology makes sense without evolution. Well, that's not true. You go into the top biology labs, and it makes no difference if evolution is true or false to what they're doing and studying. It makes no difference."
It makes all the difference in the world, says Miller, who notes the irony of McLeroy quoting Dobzhansky, one of the fathers of the modern evolutionary synthesis. Adds Miller: McLeroy's "fundamental misunderstanding of the way genetics and evolution have produced a unified science of biology is nothing short of breathtaking."
Saturday, March 28, 2009