Dick Neavel’s Testimony on evolution, to Texas Education Board

January 22, 2009

Testimony of Richard Neavel, PhD, to the Texas State Board of Education January 21, 2009

I oppose the inclusion of strengths and weaknesses in the TEKS and I’m going to do a show and tell about why.

At the last public hearing, Board member Gail Lowe asked me whether I was familiar with “polystrate fossils.” I had to admit that I wasn’t.

I Googled the term, and found creationist Paul Ackerman writing: “Polystrate fossils in numerous places around the world are one dramatic piece of evidence that the [young earth] creationists may be right [about earth’s history].” (Footnote [1])

Now I know why I wasn’t familiar with them. Geologists don’t refer to polystrate fossils – creationists do.

Ms. Lowe questioned me about the Lompoc whale fossil that was supposed to be “standing up” within many strata, that is layers of rock. How could this happen, she asked if the strata accumulated over millions of years. (See Figure 1 – next page and Footnote [2].)

That’s the kind of question a student might  ask to demonstrate weaknesses of  geologic theories.

I didn’t have an answer, so I researched it and here’s what I found.

The fossil is found in Miocene-age rocks about 10 million years old near Lompoc, California.

Creationists have cited it as an anomaly ever since it was uncovered.

Creationists explain it by saying a catastrophe, such as Noah’s flood, buried the whale very quickly.

Here’s what really happened.

Lompy, the whale, is eating plankton in a lagoon off the California coast 10 million years ago.

The ones he doesn’t eat die and their shells drift down to make a silica-rich, oozy sediment.

OH!. OH!    Heart attack. Lompy dies, rolls over and sinks to the bottom of the lagoon. (Figure 2)

He rots away, and his skeleton gets covered with more sediment.  (Figure 3)

The sediments harden to rock. Along comes a mountain-building force and the rocks are tilted up.

A company mines the rock, called diatomaceous earth, and uncovers Lompy’s skeleton.   (Figure 4)

Creationists go wild – it’s a miracle – a whale on its tail.

I’m a PhD geologist and I didn’t have a ready answer to Ms. Lowe’s questions about polystrate fossils.

Do you think a high school science teacher would be able to answer a student’s questions about Lompy?

Members of the Board: Do you really want students to waste time discussing this kind of creationist nonsense in science class? Not weaknesses – just nonsense.

Every other creationist so-called “scientific weakness” can be explained just like this by real scientists — but not necessarily by high school teachers.




[Pictures coming when I can get them to stick in the file!  — E.D.]

Science wins: “Strengths and weaknesses” stripped from Texas science standards, 7-8

January 22, 2009

On a one-vote margin, the Texas State Board of Education stripped out of Texas science standards for public schools, creationist language that suggests there are weaknesses in evolution theory that make the theory sound like less than it is.

So far, that’s all the news I have, via the Quorum Report (January 22, 2009).  Tip of the old scrub brush to Annette Carlisle of Texas Citizens for Science.

Huge win for Texas Citizens for Science, the Texas Freedom Network, the National Center for Science Education, and the newly-formed Teach Them Science.org.  Huge win for Texas students, Texas high schools, Texas colleges and the Texas economy.

But of course, there’s still a chance to lose. Final More votes expected on the adoption of the standards, tomorrow; final vote in March.

Update – Not all news is good:  Among amendments adopted Thursday are amendments that call into question Big Bang in physics and common descent in biology.  Watch for update post.  Oy.


Creationism outburst in Texas

January 22, 2009

Obama promised to put science in its proper place, in federal policy.

In Texas, however, evolution and science education are under assault today as the State Board of Education (SBOE) looks at revising science standards for public schools.  Creationists have been sharpening their knives for months, with a stiff-necked creationist heading SBOE as a fifth columnist.

SBOE votes today (perhaps already, but I can’t find the story of a vote).  At issue is the recommendations by scientists, educators and parents to teach evolution without creationist language that misleads students.  SBOE Chairman Don McLeroy has vowed to insert more religion into science classes.  The board is nearly evenly split between creationists and backers of science, so the vote could go either way.

Here at the Bathtub we’ll feature testimony from science supporters in a few posts, as we can snag them from witnesses.

McLeroy and his supporters at SBOE worked hard to stack the witness list, to prevent testimony from parents, teachers, scientists and educators who all favor new standards that eliminate a decade-old statement about “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution theory, hoary old creationist propaganda that has no place in a curriculum for the 21st century.  Several science witnesses were bumped from testifying, and the board was quite rude to some of America’s best scientists, appearing to fear what the scientists had to say.

It’s an ugly situation.  Say a prayer for Texas.


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