Sunday, March 29, 2020

#2323: David Tate, Clint Mitchell et al.

Old news, perhaps, but still worth mentioning, insofar as creationists are still tirelessly pushing for getting creationism – or at least anti-evolution talking points – on the science syllabus in public schools. And it is, perhaps not much of a surprise that Louisiana is particularly susceptible to religiously motivated pseudoscience. In 2010, for instance, the Livingston Parish School Board decided to explore the possibility of incorporating the teaching of creationism in the public school system’s science classes, with the director of curriculum for the district, Jan Benton, (falsely) telling the board that, under the Louisiana Science Education Act, schools are allowed to present “critical thinking and creationism in science classes, to the enthusiastic response of the school board (none of whom, of course, really associate “critical thinking” with critical thinking): Member David Tate asked: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?” (i.e. someone else, a preacher or creation society member, should come in to give the lecture to ensure that there is no meddling or objections from critical teachers). Clint Mitchell, meanwhile, added that “I agree … you don’t have to be afraid to point out some of the fallacies with the theory of evolution. Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom,” and even the president of the board, Keith Martin, agreed: “Maybe it’s time that we look at this,” and proposed the formation of a committee to study the possibility – apparently dimly aware of potential legal issues, he added that “The American Civil Liberties Union and even some of our principals would not be pleased with us, but we shouldn’t worry about the ACLU. It’s more important that we do the correct thing for the children we educate.”

After receiving some attention the board did back down a little, but still asked School Board staff “to look at the issue for possible future action.” David Tate said that “we don’t want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation,” thereby of course undermining any chance of winning said litigation by revealing to everyone that the whole point of their efforts was to get religion into public schools.

Diagnosis: No, attempts to maintain that the point is to teach students critical evaluation, and that it is all about science, don’t tend to last long. We are, after all, dealing with creationists here, and you don’t have to excite them much before their attempts to mimick reason start unravelling. Now, this particular Louisiana initiative is presumably dead, but similar attempts will be made again and again. 


  1. Not familiar with the writings or thoughts of most of the so called "loons" targeted by this site but regardless, I should note that the antagonist/author of the various critiques is far more "loonish" than those they ridicule. There is no such thing as a preferred thought process or observation of the universe; the progress and development of the human species has always flourished when all viewpoints are allowed to develop, present and flourish. Civilizations stagnate and decay when a single religion is allowed, a single political party creates policy and a single thought process is tolerated. It's more than a bit simple-minded to assume that 100% of everything spoken or published by a particular person (in this site, ridiculed as a "loon") has no value to the society or culture. It requires a great deal of patience, research and open-mindedness to discover it, but it's worth the effort.

    1. There is no question being raised about preventing the loony suggestions of evangelical creationists. Science is not pleased to take them down point by point but Science does so on a regular basis. The Kool-Aid of evangelicalism does not allow for balance and insists that teaching the false belief systems is about allowing the truth. Christianity of this ilk is harmful, basically harmful. It teaches children that they are born bad and need forgiveness for simply being. It is a sickness that will one day die out as it should.

    2. The problem is not Christianity itself, but how it's been distorted, especially there in USA, creationism and all these "end times" psychosis are some of the examples.

    3. BTW, please consider the author the protagonist; your types are always assuming the pessimistic viewpoint, perhaps Darwinian in and of itself. Also, please provide an (just one) example where any one of these loons has provided anything of value to society as you state. Waiting patiently.

  2. Lysander: You are forgetting the crucial step when you say that "the progress and development of the human species has always flourished when all viewpoints are allowed to develop, present and flourish"

    Yes, all ideas should be allowed to be expressed and put on the table and developed. But the point of doing that - if the goal is progress - is to *critically evaluate them and eliminate the ones that don't work*. That's sort of the whole point of a "letting all flowers bloom" strategy. Scrutinizing, criticizing and rejecting are essential steps. Trying to hold onto and continue to push ideas that have been rejected, is not going to be helpful to progress.

    Perhaps ironically, the all flowers bloom strategy for progress is interestingly Darwinian. (You may be able to see the connection.)

    Moreover, with regard to the loons described in this entry: You have to remember what the explicit strategy for US creationists actually is here. It is not to do science, it is not to critically evaluate or assess ideas (and reject the ones that don't fit the data). It is deliberately to push it in schools and try to win the popular opinion, without having to do the work to develop the ideas or critically evaluate them: It's pushing dogma by deception, which is even by your lights contrary to what human development and flourishing needs. And the reason they want creationism in public schools is of course not to help students to be critical thinkers or able to critically evaluate material - you won't be in a position to critically evaluate contemporary biology before you actually know quite a bit about contemporary biology, and creationists are aware of that. The point is to insulate kids' minds: to make them sympathetic to creationism before they actually encounter any real biology in order to approach biology in an antagonistic manner. It's remarkable how little your mind will be changed by exposure to evidence if it is already closed.