[Note: I wrote up this post for Round 1 but inexplicably forgot to publish it – it is published now, relatively unaltered, but still highly relevant to the current situation]
One of the most notorious institutions for promoting denialism and illiteracy in the US has long been the Texas Board of Education (TBoE) – despite the admittedly tireless work of some pro-reality members and good organizations such as the Texas Freedom Network. Although prominent former members, such as Don McLeroy and Cynthia Dunbar – who have done measurable harm to reason – are out at present, they are still saddled with ardent fundamentalist haters or knowledge such as Ken Mercer and Barbara Cargill.
In 2011, when the Texas Education Agency released the full list of members serving on the science review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the State Board of Education, the review panel for biology predictably included individuals with histories of promoting creationism or at least the “teach the weaknesses of evolution inscience classes” gambit (i.e. advocating creationism). The identifiable creationists (courtesy of the Texas Freedom Network) were:
- Ide Trotter (appointed by Terri Leo) a “Baptist layman”, longtime herald of Texas creationism (funder and spokesperson for the creationist Taliban offshoot “Texans for Better Science Education”) and signatory to the Discovery Institute petiion A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, despite not being a scientist. Trotter testified before the board of Education in 2003 and 2009, both times advocating the inclusion of “weaknesses of evolution” that have been scientifically thoroughly discredited. He has claimed – and seems indeed to believe – that major scientific discoveries during the 20th century have made evolutionary science harder to defend: “The ball is rolling and it’s going downhill. There are not enough forces on the side of Darwinism to keep pushing it back uphill forever.” The Trotter Prize, annually awarded by the creationist hub Texas A&M College for various work including important contributions to anti-science, is apparently named for his father.
- David Shorman (appointed by Barbara Cargill), well-known and completely delusional and stupid young earth creationist (with a doctorate in limnology): “Treating Earth history as just that, history, I can find physical and written testimony that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And just as most of us have no problem believing Jesus Christ was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago, we should have no problem believing there were about 4,000 years from the Beginning to Christ’s birth.” Seriously.
- Richard White (appointed by current chair Gail Lowe), who advocates including (dishonestly) the “weaknesses of evolution” in the science standards, that there “are all well-known scientific problems with modern evolutionary theory” and that teaching evolution without these thoroughly debunked “weaknesses” amounts to indoctrinating children with a religious dogma.
Things can’t be going too badly, however. Even the Discovery Institute has expressed their displeasure with the TBoE.