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Texas has not lost its Village Idiot December 5, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in politics.

When I first read about Texas sacking its science education official because she sent an email around about a talk that was pro-evolution, I picked up on this line:

But now Ms. Comer, 56, of Austin, is out of a job, after forwarding an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism — “a subject on which the agency must remain neutral,” according to a dismissal letter last month that accused her of various instances of “misconduct and insubordination” and of siding against creationism and the doctrine that life is the product of “intelligent design.”

My first thought was “well, yeah, for someone to make an informed decision you would want them to be unbiased.” I stared off into space for about 10 seconds, and then my brain BROKE.

This is crazy!! This neutral thing implies that you have to compare evolution and creationism. What the heck!? How can you? It’s worse than apples and oranges! Teach evolution in a science course. Teach creationism in a religion course. The two should not be mixed!

The insanity must stop!

Actually, I don’t think, as some are predicting, that Texas will become the next battle front in the evolution vs creationism. I was in Austin for 5 years for my undergraduate work. Austin is quite progressive and has become a huge tech town. Something like this is bound to get many of the large urban centers in Texas up in arms.

Seriously, I wonder if children are as confused as we worry they will be? By the time they hit 5 or 6th grade and are starting to learn some of these complex theories they are pretty smart. Further (gasp) they talk to each other. I would expect any attempt to shove something down their throat (evolution or creationism) would be met with a fair amount of resistance. And, I hope, awkward questions to the teachers – best way to learn, after all, is by doing and asking questions. But thing I do worry about is that as you erode boundaries to science you allow more and more non-science into the realm of science. We are already doing it in public health (specifically, how we deal with birth control). Where next?

P.S. The title is from a bumper sticker found in many blue states: “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing it’s idiot.” — because the idiot is currently inhabiting the White House.



1. Nate - December 5, 2007

What I find really scary about this is that she wasn’t fired for, say, requiring Texas schools to not teach creationism, but for just forwarding an e-mail about a talk on evolution vs. creation. (If I forwarded an e-mail about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s talk at Columbia, does that mean I think like him? … no…) If I were a science teacher in Texas, would the same logic imply that by commenting on a blog post about a teacher who forwarded an e-mail about an evolution vs. creation talk, I should be sacked too?

2. gordonwatts - December 6, 2007

Nate — It sounds like she didn’t try to hide how she felt about evolution or creationism — and after someone decided she needed to go this was the first “public” thing she did they decided was firm enough to fire her for. Pretty flimsy if you ask me, but I would be willing to bet they had it in for her for this anti-creationism thing for a while. Of course, there is no way to know; I’m 100% speculating here.

3. Kevin - December 6, 2007

man – maybe i should move to Canada. I saw a long documentary about the 2005 intelligent design case. It was pretty fascinating actually – it made the case pretty clearly that the Intelligent design movement was just a compromise by creationists in an attempt to get what ever they could in to the public schools. I mean – the case was pretty clear cut – their own published documents damned them by explicitly stating that this is what they wanted to do early on. It got to the point where it was laughable when an editor pointed out that they had literally done done a search and replace of the word creation with the word design – leading to some comical typos.
The problem seems to be that if you are an ardent creationist – nothing else matters. You believe it because the Bible says its so. This life isn’t important because its finite and really what is important is the afterlife where you spend eternity either in heaven in paradise or in hell. So many of these people really think that they are saving others and themselves from eternal hell fire. If thats the case – what does it matter that it doesn’t make sense or that there is no evidence for it.
some times i think we didn’t make it very far out of the middle ages…

4. gordonwatts - December 6, 2007

>The problem seems to be that if you are an ardent creationist – nothing else matters

I guess we should be happy that we have gotten to the point in our society and our wealth that we can have single issue people like this and they can survivie. Sadly, for society, people have to be a bit more pragmatic than that. Science and all, you know – after all, did the search and replace operate on faith? 😉

I guess the real problem is that the metal dosen’t hit the road for evolution the way it does for, say, condensed matter physcis or particle physics. If you wanted to do those of faith then transistors would have to stop working – and everyone would see that right away. You can argue away evolution, sweep it under the rug, whatever, and life continues on.

At any rate, middle ages… yes. At least we have our iPod’s now! Thank goodness for science!

5. physicalist - December 17, 2007

As someone who has family in Texas, I’ll remind you that Austin is quite anomalous. My Texas sibling has a “Bush Country!” mug (which they like to serve my coffee in when I visit), and Austin is the single tiny spot of blue in the sea of red. Texas as a whole isn’t making progress.

6. gordonwatts - December 17, 2007

Excellent point. I spent 5 years in Austin for undergraduate and it is a very different town than the rest of Texas. I remember going to Texarcana with my then-girlfriend – that was an experience for a New Jersey boy! [I got to ride in a combine — never done that before! And the rain hitting a tin roof they put up to protect hay from getting wet makes quite a sound!].

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