Thursday, January 22, 2009


One Step Forward ... One Back

In the preliminary vote of the Texas State Board of Education held today, creationists on the board failed to reinsert the "strengths and weaknesses" language into the science standards.

However, some very damaging changes were made to the Biology and Earth and Space Science standards. Section 8(A) of the ESS standards originally read:

(8)(A) evaluate a variety of fossil types, transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and rate and diversity of evolution;

... and now reads:

8(A) evaluate a variety of fossil types, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits and assess the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of this fossil evidence;

There are, of course, no valid scientific arguments against common descent in the fossil record. This is just an opening for the misrepresentation of the Cambrian Explosion and God knows what other creationist blather.

A similar addition was made to the Biology TEKS in section 7 on evolution, which reads: "describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record."

As Steve Schafersman points out, the tempo and mode of evolution, as revealed in the fossil record, is a valid scientific subject but including "the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry" as an explanation for it is bogus:

The fact of common ancestry of all living and fossil species is not in doubt. The problem is that common ancestry does not explain stasis, sudden appearance, gradual evolution, and other tempo and modes of evolution. Common ancestry is an inference from analysis of morphological and genetic information and the fact of genetic continuity of all life (life only comes from life, not non-life, except for the origin of life early in Earth's history). The tempo and mode of evolution (i.e. sudden appearance, stasis, gradual change, transitional fossils, etc.) is explained by speciation, fossilization, fossil preservation, the completeness of stratigraphic and fossil records, and other considerations.

There were other, less significant changes made, which you can read about in Steve Schafersman's, Josh Rosenau's and the Texas Freedom Network's live blogging at the meetings.

There may still be a chance to reverse the damage done, since there will be a formal vote tomorrow and then a final vote in March. But that's a two-way street and the creationists will also have chances for further mischief.

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