Science Will Prevail In Texas Adoption of Biology Textbooks

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The State Board of Education left us with a bit of a cliffhanger last month. Despite the concerted efforts of creationists, nearly all of the biology textbooks sailed through the adoption process. Two, however, became mired in completely unsurprising ideological objections from the appointed expert reviewers.

Pearson's Biology, one of the most widely used textbooks in the country, was recommended for rejection by reviewer Ide Trotter, a chemical engineer by training and a staunch creationist, because its discussion of evolution didn't pay lip service to repeatedly debunked weaknesses in the theory. The other was an environmental science textbook that dared to report the overwhelming, global consensus that humans are affecting the climate for the worse.

See also: Creationists' Last Stand at the State Board of Education

The books were to pass through a second battery of new experts, which was worrisome. The board has a habit of appointing experts who are either entirely agenda-driven or completely unqualified, or both. So, imagine my surprise when the experts are named, and it turns out that each is a perfectly legitimate authority in the subject matter.

Dr. Ron Wetherington, an SMU evolutionary anthropologist is one. Wetherington has for years been a defender of the integrity of science education in this state, beating back efforts by the SBOE to inject its personal religious and political peccadilloes into public education. The next is Arturo De Lozanne, associate professor of molecular, developmental and cell biology at UT Austin. And lastly, Vincent Cassone, chair of the biology department at the University of Kentucky.

The Kentucky legislature last year suffered a spasm of spiritually inspired education meddling. Cassone was a voice of reason. Oddly enough, as the Texas Freedom Network points out, he was handpicked by SBOE chair Barbara Cargill, whose religious beliefs have never been a secret. Cassone used to be at Texas A&M, so perhaps she knew him. Either way, it's both surprising and heartening.

See also: Texas Republicans in Lt. Governor Race United in Push for Creationism in Public Schools

Their job should be a quick and easy. There's no way these scientists are going to countenance the absurd critiques of two well-respected, widely used texts. The culture war isn't over, but it looks like reason won this round.

H/T TFN

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53 comments
CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

It might be prudent -- with regard to climate change -- to "teach the controversy." This, only because it is such a relatively young field of study. Regarding evolution by mutation and natural selection, there truly is no controversy worth space in a science textbook.

donoley
donoley

The sad thing is most people who don't want anything to do with religion lap up anything alarmists say as gospel. I know that our emissions have an effect on our planet, I've been to cities in China where smog is everywhere. It's strange to see scientists disregard the idea that data collected at sites like Chicago near the airport being affected by the growth in the area with the concrete around the airport having zero effect on the temperature data. over 70 years. The pollution we send into the sky has an effect, I know, but there is never an accounting on the effect of the sun's cycle or volcanoes or the ocean. Why?


ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

"the overwhelming, global consensus that humans are affecting the climate for the worse" 


Consensus has nothing to do with the scientific method.  Also keep in mind that for centuries there was an overwhelming, global consensus that the earth was flat.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

Science is too important to be left to scientists. We need more ordinary folks weighing in on the Big questions, more small-town dentists and suburban nutritionists and anonymous blog commenters if we are ever going to tap into the wisdom that is America.     

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

"Science is never wrong!" - quote from the movie Absolute Zero.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

"The board has a habit of appointing experts who are either entirely agenda-driven or completely unqualified, or both."

Same people who hire writers for the Observer??

LeroyJenkem
LeroyJenkem

Just what the hell is it about bottom-of the class chemical and electrical engineers assuming that they're scientists when they're pushing young-earth creationism? I mean, I understand WHY they keep pushing creationism: they obviously got into their fields because those fields always made sense to them, unlike human relationships. What amazes me is that, without fail, they'll stand up for pushing young-earth creationism and claim that "thousands of scientists support this," and verifying the list of names they begrudgingly give out is always full of chemical, electrical, IT, and hydrological engineers. Is it THAT hard to accept that the universe doesn't have to make sense to them?

DFWconspiracy
DFWconspiracy

Creationism is an absurd theory. As we all know, the earth was created 3 trillion years ago. About that time, a galaxy away, the evil Lord Xenu had captured the souls of trillions of aliens. He deposited their poor souls on Earth, launching them into volcanos. But, as we all know, volcanos can't kill souls and so the souls escaped and infiltrated our bodies. These confused alien souls, or thetans, are the cause of mankind's suffering. For a nominal fee, I can audit you and improve your thetan levels, providing clarity. Of course, the school book battle between creationism and evolutionism is all a smokescreen. They really just don't want you to know the truth about the miracle of scientology.

donoley
donoley

Please include a link to Huffington Post, I would like to read a webpage where a human woman writes an op/ed about learning the language of dolphins. You may want to believe something so bad, you can ignore common sense, like Saint Gore flying around the world in a jet for the cause and his attempt to rape a woman as a simple misunderstanding. If you're going to use the same denial logic, please use the hyperbole convincingly. I keep trying to tell my friends you have to use coal, iron ore and limestone to make windmill turbines as well as the metal for the transmission lines. No one believes me, because their 'god' tells them wind energy is infallible.

Daniel
Daniel

@ColonelAngus There was no such consensus among educated people. Going back at least to the Greeks, it was widely acknowledged among the intelligentsia that the earth must be round. You just couldn't say it too loud around a Catholic priest in the Middle Ages or early Renaissance. I know, I know, it's hard to comprehend from our modern perspective, but religious nuts were determined to stymie human progress, even when the consensus among those most qualified to offer their opinion was overwhelming. 

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@LeroyJenkemNotice, Leroy, there are never any astronomers or physicists on that list, almost no comparative anatomists, no geologists, no paleontologists. No scientists from precisely those fields where one might expect evidence for young-earth creation to show up. If there actually were any such evidence.   

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

Why do we keep inventing new religions when the old ones haven't been used up yet? Druidism, for example. Perfectly good religion, hardly used except by a small group of Northern Europeans who brought it out only on solstices.

 

donoley
donoley

I went and looked at the wikipedia page for glacier retreat. Antarctica is not there. My friend was in Antarctica in the early 70's with scientists monitoring ice. Why else would they be there?

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@DanielI was about to give you a "like" until I read that nonsense about Catholic priests. The difference in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was the same as among the Greeks: The intelligentsia -- Catholic and otherwise -- knew the world was round.

Please, Daniel, don't replace one kind of ignorance with another. Do a little research before you type.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@Daniel True as relates to the Greeks from the classical period forward.  Prior to that the Greeks assumed, as did everyone else, that the earth was flat. 

kduble
kduble

@ColonelAngus What you're saying is complete nonsense. Not only did the ancient Greeks know the earth was round; they calculated its circumference to a very accurate degree.


Just like when we were taught in school that dinosaurs were cold-blooded lizards, and that earthquakes were caused by the molten core of the earth gradually cooling, the Church in the time of Columbus did not teach that the Earth was flat. They believed in a Geo-syntric universe, and that would be a difficult belief system to justify if the earth were truly flat. Even the ancient Hebrews knew the earth was round. Job speaks of the sphere of the earth, and the writings of Job are based on wisdom literature believed to have predated Moses.


Rather, the controversy at the time of Columbus concerned the size of the Earth, and indeed, whether his ships could make it to the Orient before exhausting provisions. Columbus was concerned himself; he falsified the ships log to understate the distance traveled. Columbus was, in fact, wrong. Had his ships not encountered the Tera Nova, his men would have indeed died of dehydration and starvation before ever reaching the Orient.


Anyway, educated people in the time of Columbus did not believe the world was flat. This has been refuted.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus According to the empirical evidence, there has been virtually no warming in the past fifteen years.  You assert that this "proves" that human activity is causing the atmosphere to warm?  Nonsense. 


Apparently this climate scientist did not get the consensus memo:


Judith Curry, professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was even blunter.

“IPCC has thrown down the gauntlet – if the pause continues beyond 15 years, they are toast.”

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@plainsman1@RTGolden1Not really, I'm not trying to attack his story, the facts in it or to discredit his take on it.  I actually agree with the observer, and any other thinking individual, that creationism, new or old-earth, has no place in a science text.

It's not ad hominem if my criticism hits exactly who, or what, it was targeted at.

DFWconspiracy
DFWconspiracy

Well, it's a new generation. We need new, batshit crazy religions to keep up with the times. Kids have a shorter attention span these days. That's why Scientology rocks (when their not conscripting small children into hard labor in international waters). An ancient space god named Lord Xenu who dumped aliens into earth's volcanoes, and those alien souls have infected us...I'm sorry, but Druidism has nothing on that.

DFWconspiracy
DFWconspiracy

@plainsman1 I was always partial to Cthulhu. Under R'lyeh he sleeps untill the stars are right. When he returns, your souls will not be spared. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

plainsman1
plainsman1

@ColonelAngus@Daniel- the Greek philosophical concept of a spherical earth dates as early as the 6th century B.C. - by the 3rd century B.C. Hellenistic astronomy considered a spherical earth as a given.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@kduble@ColonelAngus My original post:  "Also keep in mind that for centuries there was an overwhelming, global consensus that the earth was flat."


Please note the absence of any mention of Columbus, the Greeks, the ancient Hebrews, or any particular time period.  If you wish to contend that at no time, in the history of mankind dating back hundreds of thousands of years did the majority of humans consider the earth to be flat, good for you.  It is doubtful that many on either side of the argument would agree.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@plainsman1@RTGolden1@ColonelAngusAnd you call the Colonel a 'denialist'?  So before mankind (not the Medieval period, I mean like the times of trilobytes to dinosaurs to mastadons, etc.  Got that?), you're telling me that the cycle of ice ages/warming trends were insignificant?  I'm actually eager to have you explain to me how the events that provide the models for current climate science are irrelevant to a discussion about the climate science they are informing.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus Plains, I actually like you and enjoy the debate.  But please do not use the D-word and then walk away from it as if you have no idea.  There are plenty of pejoratives that I could throw your way.  Take the high road.


Where did I ever say that oceans were not warming?  I challenge you...copy and paste my friend.  What I said was that the cause is not provable with today's technology.  One simply cannot empirically prove any particular cause.


I sympathize with your jet lag, did three trips to Europe this spring.  Going east is a lot harder than returning west.

plainsman1
plainsman1

@ColonelAngus@plainsman1- "Denial/denialist/denialism is quite common terminology for hardcore climate change skeptics http://www.skepticalscience.com/5-characteristics-consensus-denial.html

That you presume to think it is used to associate your affliction with any other event is purely your own fantasy.


You also don't seem to have absorbed the paper documenting that the majority of climate science produced in the 70's was NOT favoring global cooling, however much it may have been ballyhooed in the popular press. READ the data provided.


And yet AGAIN, you dredge up the faulty 15 years business, AGAIN is spite of the intensive empirical data provided covering ocean warming versus surface temperature warming and its implications. READ the data provided. OH, and about warming oceans, you certainly intimated that it wasn't provable - the data indicates otherwise.


As for the occasion of Friday night, I'm still recovering from a jaunt across Peru, punctuated by a return flight delayed by the time required for the tiresome pre-departure removal of a crazy lady, so I've been taking it easy the last few days.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus@RTGolden1 Again, thank you for the insults, they really move the debate forward. 


Please consider the following quote from Mencken, and apply as best you can:


The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H. L. Mencken



ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus We need some levity - your life seems as boring as mine.  Friday night and we are arguing about climate change.  :-(


Back on point: thanks so much for using the d-word to equate me with holocaust deniers.  That is a very high-level debating tactic.  Please call me a teabagger next.


Next:  NYT seemed to think that scientists were convinced of the Coming Ice Age.  You might not be old enough, but I remember.  http://ruby.fgcu.edu/courses/twimberley/EnviroPhilo/Why.pdf


"As for more recent history, the fact that current rapidly increasing warming bears the fingerprints of humans is scientifically unavoidable, as the vast majority of published peer-reviewed research confirms, and the squawking of paid-for denialists ans academic outliers won't change those results."


No warming in 15 years.  And thanks again for the holocaust reference.  It really bolsters your argument.


"or you wouldn't make the utterly absurd claim that there is no empirical evidence of warming oceans (or any other scientific evidence related to global warming for that matter)."


I never wrote this, you must be thinking of someone else.  How high are you?


Cheers, and enjoy your weekend!


plainsman1
plainsman1

@ColonelAngus@kduble- (1) your knowledge of current climate data and its assessment, which BTW, including your precious variables, is woeful.

(2) Your appeal to "logic" is equally laughable, because anyone with more than a superficial knowledge of the varied realms of scientific exploration would know that many aspects of advanced science are counterintuitive to common logic - but apparently this reality is lost on you.

plainsman1
plainsman1

@ColonelAngus@plainsman1- Oh brother, you've got the denialist cliches down, don't you?


'70's cooling? No, that wasn't scientists, that was the popular press (notably George Will), that banged that drum: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/2008BAMS2370.1


Skeptical Science? Be so kind as to provide some kind of empirical evidence that they have a "vested interest" in a particular outcome. I can, however, understand how you would abstain from a links war, considering how many denialist blogs are demonstrably funded by energy corporations (hello, ExxonMobil among others).


As for more recent history, the fact that current rapidly increasing warming bears the fingerprints of humans is scientifically unavoidable, as the vast majority of published peer-reviewed research confirms, and the squawking of paid-for denialists ans academic outliers won't change those results.


It's also clear that you seem incapable of following links to the primary literature liberally provides by sources such as Skeptical Science and Real Climate, or you wouldn't make the utterly absurd claim that there is no empirical evidence of warming oceans (or any other scientific evidence related to global warming for that matter).

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@kduble @ColonelAngus The link was posted in response to Plainsman's links asserting that 97% of scientists agreed with AGW theory. 


For argument's sake let us stipulate that we agree on all the variables you list - El Nino, Pinatubo, other volcanic activity, etc.  We agree that all of these factors influence the global climate.  Yet just a few years ago we were told by the global warming industry that the hockey stick was here, and because of industrial production the heating would continue unabated regardless of the myriad other factors affecting global climate.  This proved to be inaccurate at best.  My contention is that had temperatures continued to increase every year (they did not) it would still be impossible to prove scientifically that industrial production was the primary cause, due to the other variables we stipulated, plus solar activity and many others.  IMHO this does not seem arguable, nor even controversial.  It is simply a matter of logic.


Obviously pollution affects the environment to some degree.  But the leap to the unprovable conclusion that human activity is the sole, or even primary, driver of climate change ignores logic and the scientific method, along with the other factors you mentioned.

kduble
kduble

@ColonelAngus First of all, whenever you see science based on something as weird as 16 years, you can completely discount it. True science works with decades and centuries. You aren't allowed to set your goal posts.

Anyway, 1998 was the hottest year on record. Not only was it an El Nino event in the Pacific, but Mt Pinatubo had erupted.This flawed study doesn't factor for cyclical events, such as the El Nino/La Nina cycles, and it doesn't factor for volcanic activity. In a nutshell, the study takes the hottest year in the history of the world, 1998, and it claims the earth isn't warming because we haven't broken this record. Yet, when Eamonn Goghlan broke the record for the 4 minute mile indoors, it took 18 years before his record was broken. This doesn't mean runners weren't getting faster.

 As plainsman1 notes, the study only dealt with a cherry picked time period, and even then only with surface temperatures. Scientists recognize ocean temperatures as being less variable, and therefore, more reliable.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus The last line was completely tongue-in-cheek, I thought you would see that.


We can go tit-for-tat until the cows come home.  Mother Jones is COMPLETELY unbiased, as is Skeptical Science with absolutely no vested interest in particular outcomes.  Come on.  I tried to abstain from a link battle early in the debate for this reason. 


Bear with me for a second while I advance this theory. 


In the 1970s, scientists warned us of the coming ice age.  The global consensus among scientists was that our emissions would cause a cataclysmic decline in global temperatures.  God chuckled at our hubris, thinking that we controlled the climate, and started warming up the place.


Fast-forward to the 1980s and 1990s, when scientists decided in a global consensus that emissions were causing global warming.  God chuckled at our hubris, thinking that we controlled the climate, and stopped the warming around 1998.  There has been no warming since.


You would probably say that my theory is unprovable, at the very least.  You would be correct.  But it is no less provable than AGW's asserted warming of the oceans, under the scientific method. 

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus The last line was completely tongue-in-cheek - I thought you would see that.


We can go tit-for-tat until the cows come home.  Mother Jones is COMPLETELY unbiased, as is Skeptical Science with absolutely no vested interest in particular outcomes.  Come on.  I tried to abstain from a link battle early in the debate for this reason. 


Please bear with me for a second while I advance this theory. 


In the 1970s, scientists warned us of the coming ice age.  The global consensus among scientists was that our emissions would cause a cataclysmic decline in global temperatures.  God chuckled at our hubris, thinking that we controlled the climate, and started warming up the place.


Fast-forward to the 1980s and 1990s, when scientists decided in a global consensus that emissions were causing global warming.  God chuckled at our hubris, thinking that we controlled the climate, and stopped the warming around 1998.  There has been no warming since.


You would probably say that my theory is unprovable, at the very least.  You would be correct.  But it is no less provable than AGW's asserted warming of the oceans, under the scientific method. 



plainsman1
plainsman1

@ColonelAngus@plainsman1- Murdoch-owned Forbes as reported by the conservative Examiner? AHHahaha! Organization Studies is a journal specializing in management - not one with the remotest background in earth sciences. Additionally, I saw no correlation between the scientists surveyed and what percentage (if any) had actually authored or contributed to any published peer-reviewed climate science research studies. An excellent example of this questionable methodology style is displayed by the results of THIS study (and coincidentally how Forbes misinterpreted it): http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/12/why-some-meteorologists-still-deny-climate-science


And, as a further note on the opinions of scientists actually producing climate research (as opposed to outside observers), the Organizational Studies paper was printed a year too early to have considered this review of the pertinent primary climate literature: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article


"Settled once and for all", indeed.


RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@plainsman1@ColonelAngusI don't think the Colonel is arguing that there is "no warming", he's arguing that it is still highly debatable whether or not the current climate change is caused by human sources or natural.

After all, we have a few billion years of historic climate shifts held in the geologic record, all occuring before mankind even existed, much less was driving around in SUV's.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@plainsman1@ColonelAngus The warming of the oceans could be caused by numerous factors, or any combination thereof, not the least of which are solar and geothermal activity.  It is also possible that human activity might play a part, although it would be impossible to prove.


The consensus has changed.  64% of scientists now believe that human activity is not causing global warming.


http://www.examiner.com/article/global-warming-skepticism-grows-among-scientists


That settles it once and for all.

plainsman1
plainsman1

@ColonelAngus@plainsman1- Judith Curry is an outlier whose opinions have been frequently debunked. The "no warming" trope owes its half-truthfulness to the fact that it only includes surface temperatures, when the vast majority of global warming is currently being absorbed by the oceans.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/dec/10/global-warming-unpaused-fast-forward


http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/09/what-ocean-heating-reveals-about-global-warming/


http://www.skepticalscience.com/rose-curry-double-down-denial.html

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