Monday, March 23, 2009

Devolution In Texas

The Texas Board of Education will hold a highly politicized hearing this week on whether to modify its state science curriculum to challenge the teaching of evolution in biology classes.

The Chairman of the Board, a dentist named Don McLeroy, has a religious belief that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago, and he is leading the battle. As in other states, religious conservatives who have taken over the state Republican party apparatus have infiltrated the Board to the point that they can force a vote on this divisive issue.

At the Curmudgeon, our only doubt about evolution is the existence of people like McLeroy. We don't seem to be evolving at all, but rather sliding back to the Dark Ages.

While the Texas Board is at it, why not revise the curriculum of other scientific subjects? If the earth is only 10,000 years old, then there's a lot about geology, physical science, astronomy and other subjects that's clearly wrong.

Religious zealots like McLeroy like to position themselves as "opponents" of the "theory" of evolution, raising questions about the evidence behind the "theory." What they really are, however, is proponents of religion. They should keep their teachings to religious school, and keep their hands off the public schools.

One of the more interesting aspects of the upcoming hearing is a rift between Republicans on the Texas State Board. The 15-member board has seven staunchly religious conservatives, but also includes three Republicans who have been part of a bipartisan group that supports teaching evolution without caveats.

Significantly, the state Republican Party passed a resolution urging the three evolution Republicans to back the anti-evolution curriculum, and the three have been the target of a vigorous campaign of emails and phone calls from the religious right.

And therein lies a major problem for the GOP. As the religious right has continued to take over the party apparatus in states like Texas, it has driven out more moderate Republicans focused on taxes and economic issues.

At a time when Republicans are trying to figure out how to rebuild a governing coalition, efforts such as those of Dr. McLeroy are sure to alienate potential allies, and continue to paint the party as one of religious intolerance.

In the longer run, religious conservatives may also be damaging their religion. When a religion has to ask its adherents to ignore science and hold onto beliefs that clash with known facts, it risks extinction. Many religious beliefs of the past have long succumbed to the advance of human knowledge. Insisting that the earth was created 10,000 years ago, against an overwhelming wealth of evidence to the contrary, is a good way to become irrelevant. It is thus no surprise that, in a tradition of religious shamans going back for eons, McLeroy and his fellow travelers are busy trying to suppress the truth, rather than reconcile their beliefs with the facts.


Bluedog said...

The religious right continues to amaze me as their boogey man appears to be the scientific community. Interestingly, while they rant and rave about the santity of human life and stem cell research they condone capital punishment and the torture of terrorism suspects and they oppose gun control. Is it just me or are they strikingly similar to Islamic fundamentalists.

X Curmudgeon said...

There's little question that religious fundamentalists of all stripes have much in common with each other, mainly a strong desire to control the beliefs of others and foment hatred for those who don't share their beliefs.

If the religious right in America were able to take power, they'd be no better than the Taliban.