It isn't bad enough that Texas, in the form of the Texas GOP Platform, gave us wars, famine, pestilence, and a global economy it broke into thousands of little pieces. It wasn't enough that it shoved George W Bush, Iraq, torture, unprecedented corporate corruption, the egregious executions of innocent men, and the likes of Tom DeLay and John Cornyn down our throats. No, now it wants to force creationism into our schools by forcing it into Texas textbooks.
Is there no end to Texan perfidy? Why can't they leave the rest of us alone?
In Austin, Texas, this week, scientists and creationists battled over whether to include the words "strengths and weaknesses" in the state's official statement about evolution. The words would influence how evolution is taught in Texas classrooms and would be immortalized in Lone Star textbooks. As the largest textbook market in the country, the decision could pressure other high school textbook publishers to conform to Texas standards.
Dan McLeroy, the Texas State Board of Education chairman, a dentist and self-described creationist, led the charge to mandate teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution. After three days of high-pitched argument on both sides, the 15-member board, by a vote of 8-7, rejected the language, relieving textbook authors and publishers of the pressure to insert what opponents called "junk science" into their pages. But in a compromise that alarms and dismays many science education advocates, the board did adopt language that attempts to cast a shadow of doubt over the validity of the central evolutionary concepts of natural selection and common ancestry.
Proponents of the theory of intelligent design, and other brands of neo-creationism, argue that evolution is inadequate to the job of explaining the diversity and history of life on earth. If they can cast doubts about evolution's validity, they have a chance to fill the authority vacuum with the tenets of creationism. But since late 2005, when a federal judge in Dover, Pa., ruled that intelligent design was a form of creationism, and that its introduction into public high school curricula was unconstitutional, advocates of teaching neo-creationism have been forced to seek other ways into public science classrooms. Enter the "strengths and weaknesses" strategy, crafted by the Seattle-based, pro-intelligent-design think thank, Discovery Institute.
DI is run by a classic fundie mental case named Bruce Chapman, an ex-Reaganite (aren't they all?) who was, scarily, once in charge of the Census Bureau. He's paranoid, narrow-minded, self-righteous and boorish. IOW, he's one of God's Warriors. Like many of them, he is funded by yet another crackpot multi-millionaire, Howard Ahmanson, the Godfather of the American Theocratic Movement and the man who has paid for Rushdoony's Dominionist proselytizing for the last 30 years. Ahmanson is from - guess where? That's right, TEXAS. Arlington, to be exact.
This may look like a loss to creationist forces but they don't see it that way. They're "psyched".
Casey Luskin, a Discovery Institute lawyer, and its guy on the Austin scene, was psyched by the outcome. "These are the strongest standards in the country now," he says. "The language adapted requires students to have critical thinking about all of science, including evolution, and it urges them to look at all sides of the issue."
One amendment calls for students to "analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data on sudden appearance and stasis and the sequential groups in the fossil record." The key words are "sudden appearance" and "stasis." McLeroy argues that "the sudden appearance" of forms in the Cambrian period, when there was a rapid multiplication and diversification of species, and the persistence of forms over long periods of time (stasis) are evidence against evolution. And thus for creationism.
Of course they are. "Critical thinking" apparently means teaching kids to equate a dentist with the tooth fairy. Personally I think we ought to force kids to question the moon landing because it was probably a fake tv stunt, and anyway the moon is made of green cheese so how could anyone have landed on it? Hey, my "analysis and evaluation" is as good as DI's.
Texas has to be one of the dumbest states in the Union. Texas native Kinky Friedman once said, "There's a lot of wide open space down here. Most of it's between people's ears." It is a fucking embarrassment to the US and to civilization in general. Its citizens occupy a strange parallel universe where George W Bush is a genius, Tom DeLay isn't a crook, and God is just a much bigger version of Rush Limbaugh. It's like a mental institution without walls.
They have done enough damage to us the last 25 years. If they won't secede, can't we make them? It's like having your scary, screw-loose, alcoholic Auntie May doing all the driving. We don't deserve this.
In a rare interview Thursday, Ahmanson shared some of his thoughts about why he switched parties. In a word, taxes.
Specifically, he was offended by the California Republican Party's insistence during a recent state budget battle that there would be no tax increases for any reason, no matter what. "They're providing one issue, and it's just a very silly issue," Ahmanson told me by telephone.
Granted but can't he just stop funding them instead of bothering us? Because he will. He'll start backing the most conservative dingbats the Dems can brag on. And we've got them. They're in the Blue Dog and Moderate Caucuses. Alaska's Mike Doogan, f'rinstance. Don't we have enough trouble without this?