Texas Textbooks: A Case Study for Creationism’s Staying Power

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The Texas textbook wars have finally yielded a win for the Enlightenment. In November, the state school board delayed final approval of a biology textbook that explains evolution as fact, but last month an expert committee overruled all objections and gave the book the green light for sale to the state’s public schools.

When Ide Trotter, a member of the board’s initial review panel, objected to Texas schools’ adoption of Biology on grounds of the book’s confident description of evolution, he expressed the views of many Americans. Either one third or nearly one half of all Americans deny evolution, depending on whether you favor Pew or Gallup poll results. Pew’s most recent study indicated that white evangelical Protestants make up a significant portion of that figure: 64 percent say they believe that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”

Survey results like this are enough to convince many observers that conservative evangelicalism is an anti-intellectual faith with no respect for modern science. But is this a fair charge? The truth is that the cultural power of the creationist movement—and creationism’s more respectable cousin, intelligent design—began in a particular corner of the evangelical community, at a particular moment in history, among thinkers who did not speak for all evangelicals. The story of how a small number of obscure theologians developed a theory of biblical authority that still shapes polls and educational debates centuries later tells us something about the power of ideas—and the intellectual diversity of a community ruled, supposedly, by the Bible alone.

Trotter is not the anti-science hayseed that liberals might expect. He is a former chemical engineer with a PhD from Princeton. (He worked for Exxon for many years; his other beef with the textbook was its account of manmade climate change.) Trotter is also a deacon at First Baptist Church of Dallas, an influential Southern Baptist megachurch and a longtime bastion of fundamentalist religion. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist, has called evolution a “myth” and a “religious philosophy that makes no allowance for God in either the origin of life or the diversity of life.” According to the church’s articles of faith, the Bible is “inerrant and infallible.”

Written By: Molly Worthen
continue to source article at religionandpolitics.org

42 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by sunbeamforjeebus:

      According to the church’s articles of faith, the Bible is “inerrant and infallible.”That’s that then! I’m off to stone my neighbour for cleaning his car on a Sunday!

      Don’t forget to sell your daughter into slavery

      • In reply to #2 by N_Ellis:

        In reply to #1 by sunbeamforjeebus:

        According to the church’s articles of faith, the Bible is “inerrant and infallible.”That’s that then! I’m off to stone my neighbour for cleaning his car on a Sunday!

        Don’t forget to sell your daughter into slavery

        By all means don’t boil a goddamn baby goat in its mothers milk!!

    • In reply to #1 by sunbeamforjeebus:

      According to the church’s articles of faith, the Bible is “inerrant and infallible.”That’s that then! I’m off to stone my neighbour for cleaning his car on a Sunday

      Make sure it’s Saturday not Sunday.

    • In reply to #1 by sunbeamforjeebus:

      According to the church’s articles of faith, the Bible is “inerrant and infallible.”That’s that then! I’m off to stone my neighbour for cleaning his car on a Sunday!

      and I’m off to catch a couple of pigeons to cure some people of leprosy…

    • In reply to #1 by sunbeamforjeebus:

      According to the church’s articles of faith, the Bible is “inerrant and infallible.”That’s that then! I’m off to stone my neighbour for cleaning his car on a Sunday!
      Give that son of a bitch what for! Really tho, it reads sabbath, according to who’s calendar is sabbath?… Hold up on stoning him just yet til we get it figured out…then if he’s guilty, oh by god how he’ll pay!

  1. They were worried because it has a confident description of evolution? The book I’m reading is completely hung on a framework of evolution with references to it on almost every page, and how it applies to the current topic. Last Sunday I was reading it, turned the page, and guess what the next chapter was? Evolution! The book I’m reading is called “Life”. They have such colorful titles!

    • In reply to #5 by rjohn19:

      It must take a lifetime of practice to say “inerrant and infallible” without cracking up. Well, they want respect and that’s about the best I can come up with on short notice.

      Reminds me of another oxymoron- “in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life”

      What, exactly is ‘sure and certain’ about hope???

    • In reply to #8 by PBrain:

      Is the 3rd chalk drawing from the right a creationist?

      No, the creationist is the knuckledragger on the far left. Said knuckledraggers are not to be confused with chimpanzees, who are intelligent, sensitive masterpieces of natural selection.

  2. Can someone explain to this Briton how or why America, with its emphasis on freedom of speech, even allows the existence of these boards to vet which books may or may not be sold to schools?

    Here, whilst doubtless some texts are common to meet common exam requirements, largely schools put whatever they like in their libraries. I was gratified on a visit to a Church of England faith school to see in the library several copies of Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights (or Golden Compass) trilogy – the story in which our heroine kills god.

    Would this happen in America? If not, why not?

    Telling people what they may or may not read is Stalinist. The real argument is surely about closing down all these useless non-jobs and liberating schools.

  3. There’s no problem, all that creationists have to do is present some evidence which proves evolution to be false; oh no, in fact, that is a bit of a problem for them isn’t it!

    No no, I was right the first time, there really is no problem, because they don’t need evidence do they.

    Perhaps that’s why they’re able to chunter on and on and on decade after decade with their one note refrain about their holy book’s contents, without ever learning anything what so ever.

    Hopefully, as science progresses and their position remains static and unchanging they’ll eventually be so absurdly out of kilter with reality that they’ll be ridiculed out of existence.

    I do very much hope so.

    • In reply to #10 by Stafford Gordon:

      Hopefully, as science progresses and their position remains static and unchanging they’ll eventually be so absurdly out of kilter with reality that they’ll be ridiculed out of existence.

      Although I agree with you on this, it has to be said that we have already reached this point in the progress of science with regard to the origins of the Earth, the evolution of life, and much else. The religious fundamentalists simply ignore the evidence and the science and keep repeating their superstitions. If this makes them look ridiculous, then they rejoice to know that they follow in the footsteps of St Paul by being “fools for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10). Meanwhile, efforts need to be made to ensure that the benefits of scientific knowledge are made available to all, especially children, for we owe to these the best start in life that we can provide. Although we should respect religious freedom, we also need to protect society from the ignorance and foolishness that religious fundamentalists would impose on us all.

      But I agree it would be a very welcome development if creationists came to look so foolish that even they might start having second thoughts.

      • In reply to #11 by Cairsley:

        In reply to #10 by Stafford Gordon:

        Hopefully, as science progresses and their position remains static and unchanging they’ll eventually be so absurdly out of kilter with reality that they’ll be ridiculed out of existence.

        Although I agree with you on this, it has to be said that we have already r…

        Oh yes, I forgot to mention that at all costs they must be kept away from children.

        And of course their stubborn refusal to examine or even acknowledge what are now mountainous amounts of irrefutable evidence is nothing short of infantile.

        But since all the evidence from the many and various scientific disciplines when applied to evolution fit together perfectly making one beautiful entity they have no choice other than to ignore it.

        Pathetic!

  4. The Christian is not only a scientist, then; he is a much better scientist than the nonbeliever, for he grasps the most basic truth of God’s order.

    And here in lies the problem. The Christian is a thoroughly lousy scientist because he fails to grasp the fact that God is still an unproven assertion and therefore should and must not be taken into account when examining evidence.

  5. @OP – Survey results like this are enough to convince many observers that conservative evangelicalism is an anti-intellectual faith with no respect for modern science. But is this a fair charge? The truth is that the cultural power of the creationist movement—and creationism’s more respectable cousin, intelligent design

    Err no!! Creationism is bigoted ignorance. Intelligent Design is woo-inspired dishonesty -definitely NOT more respectable than fundamentalist honest but blinkered pig-ignorance!

    —began in a particular corner of the evangelical community, at a particular moment in history, among thinkers who did not speak for all evangelicals. The story of how a small number of obscure theologians developed a theory of biblical authority that still shapes polls and educational debates centuries later tells us something about the power of ideas

    NO! It tells you about the dishonest sensationalist anti-scientific, utterly superficial US muppet media.

    —and the intellectual diversity of a community ruled, supposedly, by the Bible alone.

    “Intellectual” – That has to be joke of the month!

    Trotter is not the anti-science hayseed that liberals might expect. He is a former chemical engineer with a PhD from Princeton. (He worked for Exxon for many years; his other beef with the textbook was its account of manmade climate change.) Trotter is also a deacon at First Baptist Church of Dallas, an influential Southern Baptist megachurch and a longtime bastion of fundamentalist religion.

    Enough said! –
    As with Catholicism – “Faith” trumps both science and reasoning! Any science can be compartmentalised, ignored, and shoved into a remote corner of the dissonant woo-brain of the faith-head – or the climate denialist.

  6. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist, has called evolution a “myth” and a “religious philosophy that makes no allowance for God in either the origin of life or the diversity of life.”

    Nice. He uses the word “religion” as a way to disparage evolution.

    • In reply to #15 by Aztek:

      Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist, has called evolution a “myth” and a “religious philosophy that makes no allowance for God in either the origin of life or the diversity of life.”

      Nice. He uses the word “religion” as a way to disparage evolution.

      And yet mainstream Christians all over the world, Protestants and Catholics, including the Pope, all accept (at least) “theistic evolution”. In other words, evolution is real but god lit the original spark to create the original life form(s). It takes a peculiar triumph of wilful denial not to accept at least that much.

      Creationists are not in fact adhering to a mainstream Christian viewpoint. They are following Islam!

      • In reply to #16 by Stevehill:

        In reply to #15 by Aztek:

        Creationists are not in fact adhering to a mainstream Christian viewpoint. They are following Islam!

        Ummm, no. They are, like Islam itself, rather following a slightly, and minimally, modified form of Judaism.

  7. This whole issue goes beyond evolution textbooks and even beyond the Holy Book. This has become a very personal and mental thing. Evangelical Christians will go to great lengths in their desperation to be right. They simply cannot live with the thought that they were wrong all along.

  8. Feel a bit naive to suggest something so simplistic but am keen on the old “follow the money” principle when trying to figure out why people do and say the things they do. Especially when I see Ide Trotter is a deacon at a Southern Baptist megachurch. Megachurch means Mega Bucks so I would not discount that he is simply trying to build the business (ie. Megachuch) that pays him. Have thought about the religion scam as a nice little earner myself. But not in the usual way. Was amazed to see advertisement by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) for healing of aflictions and all what ails you at a local hall on Friday Nights. My plan was to go to these meetings and request a fix for my dodgey knee which I have had for years. After 6 months of praying, being anointed with oil, etc. with no result I would sue UCKG for causing my injury to worsen by preventing me from getting standard medical treatment/advice. What do you think. Could work. The UCKG are a real “Pay and Prey” (ie. donate or burn in hell) bunch so they have plenty of money and figured they would offer me a spare $50,000 or so to settle out of court.

    • In reply to #22 by Catfish:

      Was amazed to see advertisement by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) …

      Perhaps they should change their name to the Free Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and modify their acronym accordingly.

      • In reply to #23 by Stevehill:

        In reply to #22 by Catfish:

        Was amazed to see advertisement by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) …

        Perhaps they should change their name to the Free Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and modify their acronym accordingly.

        Aye! And if they wish to be more precise they could amend that to the ‘Free Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and his Ordained Disciples.’

    • In reply to #25 by Stevehill:

      Just a quick heads-up that Prof Alice Roberts, President of the Association for Science Education in th eUK, has spoken out saying creationism should not be taught in schools as it is “indoctrination”

      Probably worth an article of its own, moderators?

      Is that the same Dr Alice Roberts who presents science and health themed programs on TV?

      • In reply to #26 by Nitya:

        In reply to #25 by Stevehill:

        Just a quick heads-up that Prof Alice Roberts, President of the Association for Science Education in th eUK, has spoken out saying creationism should not be taught in schools as it is “indoctrination”

        Probably worth an article of its own, moderators?

        Is that the same…

        Yes, it is the one and only Alice Roberts. I reckon she’s “one of us”, so I expect I’ll see her in hell!

  9. Trotter is not the anti-science hayseed that liberals might expect. He is a former chemical engineer with a PhD from Princeton. (He worked for Exxon for many years…

    Then the man must be called what he is – a barefaced liar, a scoundrel, a lowlife. Exxon, I would imagine, believes that such things as fossil fuels exist. (I use the word “believes” stupidly. Of course I mean “have found and therefore know”.) He must be aware that 6,000 years aren’t enough to even generate peat, leave aside crude. He must be aware that the soil is, of necessity, as are our guts, a gigantic community of microbial life that does all the work of digestion and metabolism needed to support larger life forms. He must be aware that if you “create” a person without these billion pre-existing organelles, you have created a flesh doll that can’t even digest an apple and will starve.

    So he misleads deliberately, knowing that this is harming the intellectual development of the future generation. What a swine.

    • In reply to #30 by 4as4is4:

      Trotter is not the anti-science hayseed that liberals might expect. He is a former chemical engineer with a PhD from Princeton. (He worked for Exxon for many years…

      Then the man must be called what he is – a barefaced liar, a scoundrel, a lowlife. Exxon, I would imagine, believes that such things…

      Exxon have a distinguished track record for throwing money at charlatans like the Heritage Foundation to buy “scientific” research they find agreeable, especially on the topic of climate change.

      So lying for god probably comes easily enough.

    • In reply to #30 by 4as4is4:

      Trotter is not the anti-science hayseed that liberals might expect. He is a former chemical engineer with a PhD from Princeton. (He worked for Exxon for many years…

      Then the man must be called what he is – a barefaced liar, a scoundrel, a lowlife. Exxon, I would imagine, believes that such things…He must be aware that if you “create” a person without these billion pre-existing organelles, you have created a flesh doll that can’t even digest an apple and will starve.

      What makes you think that God wouldn’t create a human with pre-existing organelles?

  10. It’s just occurred to me: “A Case Study for Creationism’s Staying Power.” ; for what exactly? The duration of one’s ability to maintain the insertion one’s cranium in one’s anus?

    If so, it’s hands down for the nitwits!

    Ridicule only partly works because of the vacuum that exists where a sense of humour or irony should reside.

    I’d be all for leaving them to the own silly devices were it not for the fact that they are so dangerous in educational terms; they simply must be opposed, constantly monitored and kept away from the young and vulnerable.

    If only life wasn’t short enough for religion to mess it up quite so much.

  11. Does anyone else find it disturbing that they use information on Gallup polls that rely on the opinion of the layman. Why don’t they ask actual SCIENTISTS. specifically biologists? Would anyone poll the layman about whether or not the quadratic formula is accurate?

    • In reply to #35 by matt1162:

      Does anyone else find it disturbing that they use information on Gallup polls that rely on the opinion of the layman. Why don’t they ask actual SCIENTISTS. specifically biologists? Would anyone poll the layman about whether or not the quadratic formula is accurate?

      Sorry, but that’s a bit like saying only psephologists should be allowed to vote because no-one else understands the system.

    • In reply to #38 by Blasphemyman:

      Such attitude is a suggestion that Trotter suffers from a peculiar form of schizophrenia!

      Not necessarily. “Delusion” has a number of meanings.

      http://www.thefreedictionary.com/delusion

      1. a. The act or process of deluding.
        b. The state of being deluded.

      2. A false belief or opinion: labored under the delusion that success was at hand.

      3. Psychiatry: A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: delusions of persecution.
  12. Climate change “belief” is a religion because science’s consensus is nothing beyond “could be” and it’s shocking you didn’t know that. Science isn’t wrong about climate change because they have NEVER agreed on any certainty beyond probability and find us one single IPCC warning that “believes” as much as YOU do.
    Prove us deniers wrong.
    Find us one scientific paper that says it WILL be a crisis and is “inevitable” and “eventual” like the lab coats love to say comet hits are. You can “believe” all you like but you may not lie to our children telling them that science “believes” as much as you do.
    If science can’t agree on certainty for their 31 year old “threat to the planet” then YOU certainly can’t determine certainty.
    Science never lied or committed any hoax; YOU believers did.
    Stop embarrassing yourselves and get up to date;
    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

  13. In reply to #9 by Stevehill:

    Can someone explain to this Briton how or why America, with its emphasis on freedom of speech, even allows the existence of these boards to vet which books may or may not be sold to schools?

    OK, I’ll explain it. In the USA, we have a doctrine that “your freedom to swing your fist ends where my face begins.” In other words, our freedoms are not absolute; they exist in balance with the freedoms of other individuals. Children in the USA have a legal right to clear and accurate information in their instruction process. A board to evaluate the quality of proposed textbooks is there to ensure that the school does not violate this right by allowing any ignorant drivel to be passed off as valid instructional material. One may write, publish, and even sell total nonsense (if people will buy it), but s/he does not have an absolute right to have it used in a school. The children’s right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” requires that such boards exist, as quality education is required to support that right.

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