Saturday, November 23, 2013

Right-wing censorship of science texts because censors do not agree with evolution and climate change in Texas

For the right wing to publicly advocate for, even demand, smaller government, and then potentially to overturn the selection of science texts that posit evolution and climate change as scientifically valid, for public school boards, in Texas, is a step too far. And, of course, their objections would have to be fringe at best, yet hollered with loud voices, to make them seem all the more plausible.
The same tactic is being deployed by the Republican leader of the Senate in his denouncing of the "nuclear option" that was adopted in that body this week, to defang the obstinate and apparently permanent thwarting by filibuster of three presidential appointees to the DC Court of Appeals by the Republicans, without any reference to their qualifications or character. McConnell is wrong on the facts, and also denying his and his party's culpability in the matter. The constitution did not and does not include reference to the filibuster, and of the some two dozen times it has been used, more than half have occurred under Obama, demonstrating, factually that the current Senate Republicans will take any step available to thwart this current president and his goals and objectives.
It used to be that, when public debates were held on public issues, there was agreement on the facts, and then differences were weighed based on the opinions of those participating. Now, it is the facts that have succumbed to the tsunami of opinion, with the loudest voices dominating the public discourse.
And of course, the right wing has the loudest voices, for many reasons:
  1. They are fanatical about their opinions, because they hold them not as opinions, but as outright beliefs;
  2. They know that their method garners more media coverage than merely outlining, dispassionately, their reasons for holding their opinions;
  3. Their funding agents  are determined to grab power and to hold it for the several generations, whereas previously, political debates were framed by, at most, the next few years up to a possible decade, in order for projections to remain valid and reliable;
  4. Their fanaticism grows out of the religious right's narrow and radical and non-negotiable fanaticism about their black-and-white interpretations of Christian theology, in which literal interpretations of scripture morph into political ideology, and then get trumpeted from their apocalyptic pulpits.
  5. Included in their beliefs/opinions is the sine qua non, that whatever or whomever disagrees with them is EVIL, because they hold the only Righteous and Holy views that pertain to whatever issue. Projections of the Satanic are essential to the religious and political fundamentalists; that is their "default" position, and it paints all opponents with the same brush, thereby eliminating most from participating in any discussion with their breed.
  6. As the representatives of God, in a political culture not yet deemed a theocracy, but nevertheless sliding quickly in that direction (they hope and pray!), they divide the world into two camps, just as Dubya did in his "Either you are for us or you are against us!" a Manichean world view, that, one has to assume, provides the kind of faux security that, for them is unavailable in ambiguity, paradox, and the reality in which no motive, no person, no ideology and no interpretation of any book is ultimate, final and non-negotiable if we are willing to agree with anything worthy of concensus.
  7. Their's is a world view that rejects out of hand, all arguments with which they do not agree, and that includes all writers whose writing might just make it into the classroom for which their taxes have paid, are paying and will continue to pay. And so their children must pay the price of their tyrannical and absolutist views, as a matter, not of intellectual pursuit, (a pursuit for which they have only contempt), but of religious piety and purity.
This is a war of potentially more import than the many military "boils" that are currently attracting so much legitimate concern, the war for the hearts and minds and spirits of the next generations, who, if they are to be restricted and corseted into the "right" political and religious belief system, will render the next century one of constant aggressive conflicts between those who seek, through the application of the best minds, methods and debating skills, to find the truth and those who, without having to endure the growth that such a process imposes on its participants, already claim to know the truth, having received it in some tablet from some mountain, as did Moses.
When opinion morphs into belief, and then finds agents willing to trample the very pursuit of truth, to which education aspires for all of its clients, in order to grow the body of agreed and validated information, that starts out as speculation and only reaches a kind of acceptance through a most rigorous and even flawed process, in order to facilitate political control by those who reject both the findings of the intellectual community and their methods of acquiring those findings, we have a different kind of society, culture and freedom...all of them constricted from full access to oxygen, debate, discussion and the pains and gifts of ambiguity, uncertainty, humility, tolerance and fairplay...
and with or without military backing, the fascist  mind-set of the right be both dangerous and debilitating for us all.

Texas Education Board Flags Biology Textbook Over Evolution Concerns
By Motoko Rich, New York Times, November 22, 2013

The Texas Board of Education on Friday delayed final approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns raised by one reviewer that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory.
The monthslong textbook review process in Texas has been controversial because a number of people selected this year to evaluate publishers’ submissions do not accept evolution or climate change as scientific truth.
On Friday, the state board, which includes several members who hold creationist views, voted to recommend 14 textbooks in biology and environmental science. But its approval of “Biology,” a highly regarded textbook by Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, and Joseph S. Levine, a science journalist, and published by Pearson Education, was contingent upon an expert panel determining whether any corrections are warranted. Until the panel rules on the alleged errors, Pearson will not be able to market its book as approved by the board to school districts in Texas.
“It’s just a shame that quality textbooks still have to jump through ridiculous hoops that have no basis in science,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors the activities of far-right organizations.
Ms. Miller (no relation to the Pearson textbook author) said she nevertheless gave Friday’s vote “two opposable thumbs up” because the board “adopted all of the science books and the publishers made no effort to water down evolution or climate science in those books.”
Three members of the state school board — Barbara Cargill, the Republican chairwoman appointed by Gov. Rick Perry; Martha Dominguez, a Democrat from El Paso; and Sue Melton-Malone, a Republican from Waco — will select experts for the final review panel for the Pearson textbook. The board voted that the experts must have at least a Ph.D. in a “related field of study” and could not have served on the original review panel for the book.
The alleged errors that will be reviewed by the new expert panel were cited by Ide P. Trotter, a chemical engineer and financial adviser who is listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the website of the Creation Science Hall of Fame and was on a textbook review panel that evaluated Dr. Miller and Mr. Levine’s “Biology” last summer. Mr. Trotter raised numerous questions about the book’s sections on evolution.
“I think I did a pretty good review, modestly speaking,” said Mr. Trotter, speaking from his home in Duncanville, a suburb of Dallas. He said Dr. Miller and Mr. Levine’s textbook “gives a misleading impression that we have a fairly close understanding of how random processes could lead to us.” He added, “If it were honest, it would say this is how we are looking at it, and these are the complexities that we don’t understand.”
Susan M. Aspey, a spokeswoman for Pearson, said that the publisher “is proud of the work we’ve done with educators and scientists to create effective materials for the state of Texas.”
Ronald Wetherington, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Southern Methodist University who has already looked over Mr. Trotter’s complaints, described them as “non sequiturs and irrelevant.”
“It was simply a morass of pseudoscientific objections,” Dr. Wetherington said.
Joshua Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit group that defends the teaching of evolution and climate change, said he hoped the Texas school board members would select scientists with mainstream views.
“Tomorrow morning, you could walk five minutes up to campus and knock on any five doors in the biology department,” Mr. Rosenau said, referring to the University of Texas at Austin. “And in five minutes they would say these aren’t errors,” he said of Mr. Trotter’s list.
Separately, the board also directed Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher of an environmental science textbook, to make minor changes to its sections on climate change.
A spokeswoman for Houghton Mifflin said the publisher had already responded to the change requests.
“We stood by the integrity of our content,” the company said in an emailed statement, “and made no material changes to instruction or point of view.”

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