Evolution and education with Texas State Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Texas Board of Education is in the midst of a major fight this week over a new science curriculum that's designed to challenge the principle of evolution. The Board will vote tomorrow on standards that will govern science teaching on evolution in Texas for the next ten years. Right now the Board is evenly split.

This is not a small fight and it is not just about beliefs: Texas is the 2nd largest textbook market and many publishers write to the state standards. Joining us is the Chair of the Texas State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, a "young earth creationist”, who is leading the charge to question evolution in the state's science curriculum.

Here's what some of you said after hearing the interview.
  "I love your show, but you picked the fight with your guest and didn't let him explain where he's coming from" (3/26/2009)

  "It was nice to hear someone in the media who knows what they're talking about, and you put that guy back on his heels" (3/26/2009)


Don McLeroy


Sitara Nieves

Comments [21]


David, If you are going to throw around scientific terms, please make sure you actually know the science behind them. Uniformitarianism was proposed by Hutton, a contemporary of Darwin and it has now been modified (which is how science works- new information allows theories and ideas to be modified) and it is called actualism, not gradualism. I think you are getting confused with the two proposed mechanisms of evolution: gradualism Vs. punctuated equilibrium. I am not even going to address the rest of your science references as I don't even know where to start- they make no sense at all. OK, I will address one- how do you know about all those 99.9% of species if there is no record of them? Using science jargon to support your argument only works with people that don't understand science. More SCIENCE education for our kids please!!

Mar. 30 2009 09:35 AM

In the Dover, PA case, evolutionism prevailed NOT because it's a great scientific theory, but because intelligent design was ruled a form of creationism. Because creationism is illegal to teach in public schools, the goal of "strengths and weaknesses" is to prevent dogmatic teaching of ANY scientific theory, especially evolutionism. The best solution to ending this debate is to make teaching evolutionism illegal. That would get the focus on 21st century science. Francis Bacon, the founder of the scientific method, considered dogmatic teaching a "disease of learning". Strengths and weaknesses language is a partial cure to this disease.

Mar. 27 2009 11:22 AM

Words cannot express how unutterably TIRED having this whole debate again makes me. Why is this Texas episode any different than the Dover, PA case where the creationists wanted to interject their 'science' into the school curriculum? In that case the judge correctly dismissed the claims of the creationists and sent them packing.

Is it really necessary to have to continually defend real science against the lunatic fringe? I would have hoped America and Americans would have progressed past this a long time ago.

Mar. 27 2009 08:52 AM
David too

I think an issue missing in this discussion is how this attitude would affect our teaching of the Bible in school. That is, would the Texas School Board be willing to allow teachers to approach the opening lines of Genesis as a creation MYTH? Would they be willing to let a teacher teach about all creation myths so as to get a better perspective on Genesis? Would they be willing to allow teachers to teach the myths about Horus and Dionysus - both gods were born to virgins, worshiped by Kings and put to death on a tree - and then rose again. Hmmmm - wonder where the New Testament writers got their ideas.

Mar. 27 2009 06:20 AM

Evolutionism has weaknesses. Darwin was wrong about uniformitarianism, so now it's called gradualism. He was mostly wrong about natural selection, which he based on the make-believe data of Thomas Malthus and on artificial selection. He was wrong about the Tree of Life, and 21st Century scientists want to chop it down. He was wrong about the fossil record, as 99.9% of the species ever alive are missing, except for ones like Tiktaalik which are really just smashed-down fish until the artists take over. Evolution cannot predict how things will change in the future, which is like the weatherman saying he can't tell us how the temperature is going to change. Students need less evolutionism and more genetics. That would be 21st science.

Mar. 27 2009 12:46 AM
Why do so many not understand what science actual

This is what creationists never understand - evolution doesn't speak to religion. They always present it as "attacking God" or "denying God". The theory of evolution by natural selection says nothing about God/gods. It is about SCIENCE not FAITH.

The "opponents" of evolution show their misunderstanding in their inane belief that evolution is considered some kind of religion. The fact that they can't understand that it has nothing to do with the supernatural just displays their ignorance, and the fact that they cannot speak in an informed manner on the teaching of evolution.

Teach religion in religion class - ID and creationism are untestable and not falsifiable, and therefore have no place in a science classroom.

Mar. 26 2009 07:03 PM

I agree with the very first post.
Keep these people OFF the air! Allowing them to pontificate with half-truths and deceptive arguments does a disservice to the community. At a MINIMUM, the interview should have been twice as long and included a real expert on evolution (Dawkins, Coyne, Shubin, etc...)

Mar. 26 2009 01:37 PM
Elf Sternberg


I want you to stop having anything at all to do with the theory of evolution. Really, have nothing to do with it.

To do that, though, you'd have to give up about 80% of what you eat: most of the food you eat today was developed in agricultural labs by men and women who used Darwin's theory of evolution to guide their research.

You'd have to give up on advanced medicine. Most modern pharmacology, all of epidemiology, as well as important insights into oncology, neurology, and obesity research have all rested on the assumptions of natural selection and descent with modification.

You would also have to stop driving your car. Modern petroleum geology requires evolution be true; without the twin nested hierarchies of evolutionary biology and geology, the entire science of geology is without a basis from which to operate. It needs that external confirmation to be valid.

Your entire technological world requires evolution to be true. Sorry about that.

Enjoy your cave.

Mar. 26 2009 01:02 PM
Charlotte Taylor

I wish people would quit lying to our children - it forms who they are in the future. It is a sick person who believes in anything to do with Darwin's theory - it says it himself - "theory". Wow - the people that believe in lies and the ones willing to teach them and the ones that support the lies! In schookl when they had to teach on Darwin - the instructor said to look at it as a "fairy Tale" - that is what we did! We had sense enough to know it was lies! Kids today don't seem to have much sense.

Mar. 26 2009 11:24 AM

I love this show. It gives me hope. I get so tired of fighting the christians over what's okay in the schools. My daughter's teacher started out the school year with a bible front and center on her desk. I'm just amazed at the lengths christians will go to to try to brainwash our kids. It's about time one of them was forced to just SHUT UP.

Mar. 26 2009 10:57 AM

The old coot was going on and on with his wacky unscientific ideas. He had to be cut off or the interview was going no where.

Did you catch when the dentist said that the theory of evolution was "false".

Its a dead give away that a speaker is a closed minded religious bigot when they refer to Darwinists and Evolutionists.

maybe we can find an evo-devo phd to explain....

Mar. 26 2009 10:36 AM

When you say, "leave a door open", the door he is trying to keep open is the HOPE that there is a benevolent power above that of Man that will find a way to straighten out Man's mess here on earth.

I think an optimistic Hope is always a good thing.

Hockenberry is a devout Atheist and yet he couldn't admit that bias on air.

An Atheist interviewing a Creationist, some would say that's Bad versus Good.

Mar. 26 2009 09:26 AM

If you are going to have a discussion then you invite a guest and discuss the issues. You were rude and used your guest to make your point. You would be a better reporter and interviewer if you let the facts speak for themselves. Talking over people does not a point make.

Mar. 26 2009 08:50 AM
Richard Johnston

Whenever I hear "intelligent design" I think Coco Chanel.

Mar. 26 2009 08:40 AM
Alec Duncan

It was clear to me that you were not particularly interested in really reporting on Dr. McLeroy and the Texas Board of Education's plan to set the Theory of Evolution on the same plane as the Theory of Creation. You were interested in attacking his position. You didn't let him finish a thought without jumping in with counter arguments and your own opinions. Its one thing to ask "tough" questions and it is another to wait to listen to the answers.

Mar. 26 2009 08:33 AM
Michael Girard

You appear to no understand science and what a theory is. A theory in science is an explanation supported by many facts, and evidence. It is not a guess. We also have germ theory, the theory of gravity, atomic theory. Do you doubt all of those too?

There is also the fact of evolution and the theory. The fact is what we observe, the theory is the explanation of how it works.

We do have genetic evidence through ERVs that is as good as Mitochondrial DNA evidence used in the courts today. The fact you trust McElroys word more than that of the science communities (the experts of this subject) is very telling.

Mar. 26 2009 07:59 AM
Michael Girard

It was good to bring attention to what is going on in Texas. The results could affect how it would be dealt with in other states. I was disappointed that time was not given for a person who was well educated on the subject of evolution, to explain why Don McLeroy arguments are specious. I could see that John is well informed on the subject, but being the interviewer limited his ability to fill that role.

Mr. McLeroy has no understanding of the fossil record. Also he seems to ignore things such as ERVs, development of new genes, genetic machine & anatomical features, speciation, complete morphological & behavioral changes and many other bits of evidence witness in our lifetime. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming.

Mr. McLeroy wants to keep the door open in the science to squeeze creationism/ID in by seeding science education with fallacious assertions. His goal is to crowbar enough doubt into evolution to make their beliefs seem more intellectually attractive to the kids.

Mar. 26 2009 07:47 AM

The facts are the Theory of Evolution is still a Theory, it's not a Law. You know there is a big difference.

The point I was getting to is that one would think that the DNA would spell out a clear case for evolution--I bet you think it probably does right?

It doesn't and that's why McElroy even said the best evidence for it is STILL the fossil remains.

Yes, on the face of the earth there are differences in the force exerted by gravity but ALL of those can be explained. They can't explain all of the problems with Evolution.

Hockenberry was wayyyyy over his head on this topic. Yes, he's socially responsible but not scientifically responsible.

Mar. 26 2009 07:20 AM

Hockenberry is a great interviewer who is always socially responsible! You don't need to know science to know that Bush brought Texas education into the middle ages with his cultish beliefs over the educated.

It's that same naiveté that keeps people stuck to their wheelchairs because the scientists haven't been allowed to find the cure with human embryos.

Mar. 26 2009 07:11 AM
Great Job, Hockenberry!

John showed that he actually does know about the theory, but also admitted that he's not an expert (just as the interviewee is also not an expert - funny how he admitted that for physics, but not for biology). All of the interviewee's comments just displayed how little he actually understands about the theory and it was wonderful that John actually called him on it.

The theory of evolution is a standard scientific theory - one that is refined over time. Theories are formalized explanations of the underlying reality thought to explain a series of facts. As new observations are uncovered, theories are modified. The theory of evolution by natural selection has, ahem, evolved since 150 years ago. The theory of gravity also has "inconsistencies" in it's initial form - why isn't that being attacked (and thank you, John, for the excellent point about the specificity of these "critics" of evolution").

Mar. 26 2009 07:07 AM

Why are you guys giving air time to idiots? Are we going to have to listen to the flat earth believers next week?

It's time for the media to stop giving these guys air time. The debate is finished. Let's talk about ideas that are not settled.

Mar. 26 2009 06:41 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.