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

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  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.


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

  1. Skul says:

    It apears we’re just going to have to agree that we disagee.


  2. James says:

    Actually I did read that article, and it was one of the things I was referring to when I said that Hertog and Hawking have collaborated on various alternatives to the Big Bang, but nowhere in the article is the name of that model given. What I meant was that I found no theory or model specifically called “Hertog-Hawkings,” as your post seemed to suggest to me.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    I think it would be great to have enough time to discuss Big Bang, and the refinements on physical history proposed by Hawking and Hertog.

    Reading the Physics World article I don’t get the feeling that this is any kind of alternative to Big Bang, but instead deals with trying to figure out conditions prior to that event and how they may provide insight into just how the universe really works at a subatomic particle level.

    Our problem in Texas is complicated by the fact that most physics courses stop well short of discussing Big Bang, let alone getting to additional stuff beyond it. Telling the yahoos on the SBOE that Hertog-Hawking is an alternative to Big Bang would be a little like putting gasoline on their bananas foster, however: It would indeed make a larger flame, but it wouldn’t improve the dish at all, and would probably make it inedible, maybe poisonous.


  4. Skul says:

    That first line sure posted funny. ???


  5. Skul says:

    One reference to Hertog-Hawking. There were many more. Don’t understand why you couldn’t find any, James.

    As you mentioned, James, Bigbang does have the most supporting evidence. I’ve never disputed that fact.


  6. James says:


    I’m interested to see just how string theory is an alternative to the Big Bang–seeing as how string theory and the “branes” it proposes deal almost entirely with the structure and functioning of the universe, and not the birth of the universe. I also can’t find anything called a Hertog-Hawking theory, although I do know Thomas Hertog and Stephen Hawking have collaborated on various alternative theories to the Big Bang. Perhaps what you meant to say was “Hartle-Hawking state,” which is an alternative conception of the beginning of the universe proposed by James Hartle and Stephen Hawking. For an interesting alternative see the Scientific American article on

    At any rate, Big Bang has the most supporting evidence.


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    So, you claim string theory opposes Big Bang?

    Can you explain how they are supposed to be different?

    I’m no physicist, but I think you’re misconstruing both Big Bang partly, and string theory partly.


  8. Skul says:

    Here ya go Ed. String theory, Branes, Hertog-Hawkings. I recall maybe a couple more. Those are alternates. Now you know.
    If you’ll take time to note…not one of them refers to a supreme being.
    Just to assist you bit more, the “photo” of the CMBR from COBE is obsolete. The latest came from Wilkinson. Look it up.
    Not proof, Ed. Just good solid evidence of the bigbang.
    You seem to bandy about in regards to creationists.
    Your reluctance to accept that other scientific theories exist in regards to the bigbang, appears to be in lock-step with the attitude of the most rabid hard-core creationists have in regards to the origin of the universe.
    That’s not good science.


  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Attention paid. You’re not even willing to type a short piece to suggest any alternative to Big Bang.

    As with all creationists, every promise to detail “at length” the evidence supporting creationism stops well short of an angstrom.

    If you ever find an alternative hypothesis, let us know.


  10. Skul says:

    Pay attention Ed. Yes there are. If you, Sir, are too lazy to do some research, so be it.
    Your reading comprehension also needs work.
    I do not have to write a long winded definition of terms of science to make a point.
    If you had made a little effort to read and comprehend what I said, you may very well note that I stated much the same without all the fluff. Have a nice day. BuhBye


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    No, I don’t need to do more studies. You need to stop claiming there are hypotheses where none exist. There is no competing hypothesis to Big Bang, nor has there been since Wilson and Penzias got the Nobel in Physics for confirming Big Bang and falsifying Steady State.

    Your disagreeing with all of science about the definition of theory doesn’t stand up well. When we say “theory” in science, we don’t mean just “highly probable.” Here is how the National Academy of Sciences puts it:

    Terms Used in Describing the Nature of Science

    Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final, and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.

    Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, it becomes more probable that the hypothesis is correct. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis can be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.

    Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.

    Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

    The contention that evolution should be taught as a “theory, not as a fact” confuses the common use of these words with the scientific use. In science, theories do not turn into facts through the accumulation of evidence. Rather, theories are the end points of science. They are understandings that develop from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and logical inferences. In this sense, evolution is one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.

    That’s from Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition (1999), adapted from Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science by the National Academy of Sciences (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998). If you check scientific publications, you’ll find those definitions have been holding rather fast over the last century.

    If wishes were horses, beggers would ride and creationists would have hypotheses. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, you cannot change the definitions of words in science to suit your creationist whim.

    Update: Skul, it would be hard to do better than to have John Mashey explaining it for you. Pay attention to what he said, just above.


  12. John Mashey says:

    Paraphrasing Stephen Schneider, there are:

    1) Ideas, which, if they gather some data, become
    2) Hypotheses, which then have it slug it out sometimes for decades
    3) Until one becomes a theory, the best approximation to reality we’ve got …

    until contradictory data appears, and eventually a new theory gets accepted.

    Think of science as building the Great Wall from the bottom up. people gather raw materials (data), organize them (into bricks), and try to stick them on the Wall. Usually, they’re trying to figure out where framing goes (ideas->hypotheses->theories), i.e., things that organize data and help predict the location of new data.

    For a new theory to have a chance,it’s got to explain data at least as well as the old theory. Newton works just fine under most circumstances [you can launch rockets to orbit,etc],but you need Einstein for GPS.

    Likewise, is “matter is made of atoms” a good theory?
    Yes, but “matter is made of protons/neutrons and electrons” is a better theory,
    and “matter is made of quark and gluons” is better yet.

    Likwise, neither relativity nor quantum mechanics do everything, and a lot of great physicists have so far searched for the holy grail of a generalization. Still, both are solid theories.

    Halton Arp doesn’t believe in the Big Bang, and he’s done fine observational astronomy, but the data just hasn’t helped him.

    The various string-theory folks (sic, should really be called string-idea or string-hypotheis, if one were following the usual scientific usage) have all sorts of ideas that would extend beyond the Big Bang … but so far, there’s been a dearth of testable ideas.
    Maybe CERN will find Higgs Bosons. Maybe not. It seems unlikely that they’ll find something that overthrows the Big Bang, but maybe they’ll find something more general.

    In any case, the Big Bang has certainly accumulated enough supporting data to be a very good approximation. A friend of mine got a Nobel prize for discovering the cosmic background radiation, one of the key pieces of evidence for the Big Bang. He says “Most people get Nobles for things they were looking for, we got one for something we were trying to get rid of!” So, new discoveries do pop up.


  13. Skul says:

    “What other hypotheses? There are no other theories, and to the best of my knowledge no serious hypotheses.”
    Please Ed. Perhaps you need to do some studies.

    “Photos that disprove other hypotheses are pretty powerful.”
    No, not really. The “photos” do not disprove anything. They offer probable insight as to proof.

    “Theory, in science, means it’s solid. ”
    I don’t agree. If “solid”, it would be fact. Hypotheses are maybes, theories are very highly probable, facts are solid.


  14. Ed Darrell says:

    Yes, but since when does being disproven, by one’s own test, ever stop a creationist from railing unfairly and inaccurately against Darwin?


  15. whatchamacalit says:

    I thought one of the main reasons that ID had been disproved was in Behe’s attempt to explain bacterial flagellum. Here is his quote on that subject,

    “Of course, I could be proved wrong. If someone demonstrated that, say, a type of bacteria without a flagellum could gradually produce such a system, or produce any new, comparably complex structure, my idea would be neatly disproved. But I don’t expect that to happen.”

    It has been done so hasn’t he by his own words disproved himself and ID?


  16. Reality Check says:

    The best evidence against the hypothesis of Intelligent Design may be found in the environments and associations of the deniers of evolution. With the exception of fully identical twins or clones every individual organism, plant or animal, has a unique manifestation of its DNA and RNA. These in turn provide the potential for change.

    Perhaps the IDers are jealous that many of us have evolved beyond the common primate ancestor(s), but they stopped along the way.

    If all life was instantly created using ‘cookie cutter’ molds why are there so many variations. If it were not for genetic heredity and the manifestations of those genes how are/were we able to create more productive food sources? I wonder if the proponents if ID even know there is, or accept the existence of, an engine and transmission if their vehicles. How many of them ‘believe’ that a factory spits out completed vehicles but will deny the existence of the assembly line inside the ‘magic’ building.


  17. Ed Darrell says:

    What other hypotheses? There are no other theories, and to the best of my knowledge no serious hypotheses.

    Photos that disprove other hypotheses are pretty powerful.

    Theory, in science, means it’s solid. When a scientist says “theory,” it means that the concepts are “proven” in lay or colloquial terms. So I’m interested in claims that stuff we know to be true, are not. What other hypotheses than Big Bang are out there?


  18. Skul says:

    Sorry Ed. Photos, are not proof. They only serve to reinforce the theory. That IS afterall, the whole idea.
    No, Ed, you most surely misread my comment. There are other theories out there, but, big bang seems to answer most of the questions. If you recall, I never, EVER, mentioned steady state. Please do not try to put words in my mouth.


  19. Tony Whitson says:

    Skul says:

    Common descent speaks for itself. An extention of evolution. I have no problem with it.

    And Michael Behe (the closest anyone at DI comes to ever having been a scientist) also has no problem with it. See


  20. Tony Whitson says:

    Remember Dembski straining to spin Dover as a victory for ID, and a harbinger of the immanent collapse of Darwinism?

    Now John West is describing this week’s Texas outcome as “one step back, two giant steps forward” for the anti-evolutionists’ cause. See


  21. Ed Darrell says:


    COBE brought back photographs of just shortly after Big Bang — a decade ago. Do we have photos of any alternative possibility? Is there any potential alternative, since steady state was disproven 40+ years ago?


  22. whatchamacalit says:

    I say keep on questioning, even long held theories are regularly proven wrong but creationism doesn’t really seem to have a leg to stand on. I am a Christian and I believe in evolution. I often find myself scratching my head over the whole thing. Why are religious types often afraid of science and scientists often afraid of religion. They are two great sides to one coin imho.


  23. Skul says:

    I consider this to be good news.
    On the other hand, I do not consider questioning the big bang to be out of line.
    That, after all, IS a theory. I tend to believe in it, but, there are other scientific
    theories which can be considered.
    Common descent speaks for itself. An extention of evolution. I have no problem with it.
    Xnks for the info, and, xnks to LHF for steering me your way.


  24. misteruncledan says:

    Thank God !!


  25. […] Other stuff The Texas School Board had a hard time with creationism. Here is some of the testimony from the evolution side. Hat tip to Millard Fillmore’s bathtub, which also reported that the creationists lost this latest battle. […]


  26. Colloquy says:

    Yay Texas! :-)


  27. […] to this blogpost and the QuorumReport, by a vote of 7-8 the creationist bullsh– was stripped from the science […]


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