Natural Selection Only a "Figure of Speech," Says State Education Board Chair

Don McLeroy, a Republican dentist from Bryan, is the chair of the Texas State Board of Education. He's also a book critic: Over the weekend, an indie book publisher posted his recommendation of Robert Bowie Johnson Jr.'s new book Sowing Atheism: The National Academy Of Sciences' Sinister Scheme To Teach Our Children They're Descended From Reptiles, which you can read in its entirety here because you know you need something to read over spring break. McLeroy writes, in part:

In the current culture war over science education and the teaching of evolution, Bob Johnson's Sowing Atheism provides a unique and insightful perspective. In critiquing the National Academy of Science's (NAS) missionary evolution tract -- Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008 -- he identifies their theft of true science by their intentional neglect of other valid scientific possibilities. Then, using NAS's own statements, he demonstrates that the great "process" of evolution -- natural selection -- is nothing more than a figure of speech. These chapters alone are worth the reading of this book.

The media release announcing McLeroy's endorsement says he's pitched the book to "other board members" in advance of next week's final showdown over the science curriculum. But Dallas's Mavis Knight, who represents District 13, tells Unfair Park today this is the first she's heard of his thumbs-up. And she's disappointed with it: "So much for neutrality in the chairman's position." Alas, as the Texas Freedom Network and others have pointed out, McLeroy is an "an avowed creationist who is convinced that evolution taught uncritically undermines faith."

After the jump, Knight has a few thoughts about what to expect next week down in Austin. (Update: Also, shortly after I posted this, we received a media release from the Texas Freedom Network condemning McLeroy's endorsement. It follows in full.)

Knight was among those on the State Board of Education who voted in January against making science teachers offer the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theory. As she said at the time, "The language has not worked. It has taken on a different meaning, and I am opposed." But the January vote was a tentative okee-doke in advance of next week's final word. And Knight says she has no idea how this will go down. None at all.

"It's impossible to tell until that final vote is cast," she says. "I know the number of phone calls I am receiving, and we've all been inundated with e-mails and faxes. I am not sure how much pressure is being put on those of us who eliminated the 'strength and weakness' language. I am confident several of us will hold firm, but it's the swing votes you have to concern yourself with -- and I don't know how much pressure is being put on the swing voters."

Of this much, though, she is certain: "It definitely won't be boring."

Now this, from the Texas Freedom Network:


New Book Attacks Evolution Supporters as 'Atheists,' 'Monsters' and 'Morons'

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is calling on the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education to withdraw his irresponsible endorsement of a new book that portrays scientists as "atheists," parents who want their children to learn about evolution as "monsters," and pastors who accept the science of evolution as "morons."

"Maybe Chairman McLeroy doesn't realize how deeply offensive those insults are to people who want our schoolchildren to get a 21st-century education their science classrooms," Miller said. "But it's shocking that he would endorse a book that viciously attacks the faith of people who simply disagree with him about sound science."

A review by McLeroy of "Sowing Atheism:  The National Academy of Sciences' Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They're Descended from Reptiles" has been posted on the Web and promoted by Christian Newswire. McLeroy characterizes the book, self-published by Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr., as "unique" and "insightful" and affirms the book's central conclusions. "The questions it raises are important; they deserve a hearing," he writes.

Following are some of the "unique" and "insightful" passages in the book.

  • "The hierarchy of the (National Academy of Sciences) has stolen true science; they are sacrificing our children to their atheism, and at the same time, destroying our children's faith in God." (p. 27)
  • "The obvious problem here is that it is simply not possible to be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word, and at the same time, embrace the tenets of atheistic evolution." (p.54)
  • Regarding parents who support teaching their children about evolution: "What kind of monster parents teach their children that they're descended from rodents and reptiles?" (p. 66)
  • Regarding pastors who have signed on to the pro-science Clergy Letter Project: "In my judgment, only morons - more than 11,500 morons in this case -- could sign a letter maintaining that the 'timeless truths of the Bible' are compatible with the billions of unpredictable aberrations of evo-atheism. What do these apostate morons celebrate at their Sunday services, the lies about humanity's origins told by Moses, Jesus, and Paul?" (pp. 57-58)
The State Board of Education is set to take a final vote on proposed new public school science curriculum standards next week. Evolution opponents are insisting that the standards include a requirement that students learn "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. In 2003 they used that requirement to attack passages on evolution in proposed new science textbooks. McLeroy and other evolution opponents on the board have said they will do the same when new science textbooks are adopted in 2011.