Thursday, January 22, 2009

Deception, Texas-Style

According to LGF, there have now been attacks on the other areas of the Texas science standards because they deal with the age of the earth and radiometric dating. Steven Schafersman, a professional geochemist and a member of the panel that crafted the Earth and Space Sciences (ESS) standards has written an open letter to the Texas State Board of Education that encapsulates the deceptions on the part of the creationists. It is a bit lengthy but is an eye-opener in terms of how these groups operate. The focus of the paper concerns the efforts of two of the ESS members who circumvented the rest of the ESS standards writers to go directly to the SBOE by sending them a minority report in which they disagreed with the wording of the standards and expressed disappointment that the "strengths and weaknesses" clause had been taken out:

The minority report was sent in secret to the SBOE without the knowledge of the other ESS panel members. Secret minority reports are especially reprehensible, since the scientist panel members, the "majority," did not have a chance to respond to or forestall the minority report by more discussion and possible compromise. Also, minority reports are supposed to be written after all the work of the panel is completed and the two sides are at an impasse, which was not the case here. This minority report was written on November 6, soon after the Oct 30-Nov 1 penultimate meeting of the ESS panel. The last meeting was scheduled for Dec 4-6, so there was plenty of time to deal with issues contained in the minority report and make changes that might be agreeable to all. [Roger] Sigler and [Tom] Henderson sent the minority report was sent [sic] to all the SBOE members--the ultimate decision-makers--without any context or forewarning to their colleagues on the ESS panel. The majority on the ESS panel never had an opportunity to respond to or even read the minority report, and have never had the opportunity to write a rebuttal to the SBOE. For almost two months, the minority report was the only ESS report that the SBOE had--the de facto ESS report--which is extremely destructive and unfortunate.

Henderson and Sigler agreed to withdraw the minority report if their concerns were addressed, and, according to Schafersman, they were. Subsequently, however, a second minority report appeared. According to Schafersman:

Needless to say, this is appalling. They had promised to withdraw the minority report if we carefully addressed their concerns, which we did, and then they broke their word. We did accept some of their suggestions that were not scientifically debilitating, and modified a few sentences that had the effect of making some statements less certain or exact, and all these changes are documented in the comments. We never promised to make all the changes they wanted, and we couldn't have done this, since many of the changes were unscientific and would have had the effect of confusing students rather than educating them about science. The behavior of Sigler and Henderson makes me certain that the purpose of the minority report is what I suspected from the first: a device to sabotage the scientific quality and integrity of the ESS standards by giving some unscrupulous SB members a hook to attack them.

...The worst part of this experience is that Henderson and Sigler duplicitously misled the ESS workgroup's members into believing that their cooperation would remove the minority report. I believe they intended to sabotage our group's efforts from the beginning with a minority report, and never planned to withdraw it after we made the changes in their favor. Also, I don't believe that Sigler and Henderson acted alone, but in my opinion conspired with Terri Leo and David Bradley to create a provocative report that could be used by the two SBOE members to convince the others to vote to censor the ESS standards in favor of removing offending requirements (fossil evolution, ancient age of Earth, origin of life) and inserting other language that would weaken the document (uncertainties with radiometric dating, global warming, and of course "strengths and weaknesses").

As we saw from the Dover School Board trial, it apparently is not above YEC supporters to deceive and lie to get what they want. That is sad.

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