It’s amazing. Simply amazing. Here we are in the 21st century, surrounded by the fruits of science and technology. We human beings benefit from the discoveries of science and the advancement of technology every day, from flying in aircraft that carry us long distances in short amounts of time through the air, to watching moving images on a box that receives signals invisibly from distant locations, to talking with people across town or across the world on small devices that fit in our pockets. All of these technologies, and thousands upon thousands more, are available to us and taken for granted by us, due entirely to the scientific method. The scientific method, simply put, is a sure-fire process for arriving at truths about nature. It is sure-fire for two reasons: it is self-correcting, and it demands rigid empirical support for scientific claims. It overcomes all the problems of personal politics, idealogy, ego, human error and the like, because experimentation and verification are part and parcel of doing science. There are no conspiracies in open science. Science is not perfect, not least of all due to the failings of the humans that perform it, but the process itself works in the end, because of the built-in self-correcting mechanisms of constant evaluation, peer review and revision. There are no “sacred cows” in science. It is the best tool we have for discovering the secrets of the universe around us, and every day, we profit from the simple brilliance of it in the form of technology that would seem magical to people who lived a hundred or a thousand years before.
So how is it, here in the year 2007, long after the unbridled superstition and suffocating religious dogma of the Dark Ages have supposedly come and gone, when we can all clearly see the fruits of science and the technology it spawns, that we can have a man of such small-minded, intentionally ignorant intellectual values as Don McLeroy appointed to the most powerful position in the educational system of the largest state in the union? Bad Astronomy delivers this very bad and disturbing news:
I can think of very little that is more disturbing than listening to the man who has just been appointed to head the Texas State Board of Education prattle on at great length about religion and anti-science, and how it relates to public education. This is scary stuff, and I agree with Phil at Bad Astronomy: we cannot talk about this enough. Religious fundamentalism and the anti-science that comes of it is a huge threat that reasonable, modern-age people should not ignore.
Not convinced? Here is McLeroy’s own home page. “The key to “Clear Thinking” is a mind filled with knowledge and facts.” No, Don, actually the key to clear thinking is learning how to think critically, so that you can determine which “knowledge and facts” are actually true, and once having done that, determine how to use them. Facts are, of course, important, but they are as useless without critical thinking skills as the best fishing pole in the world is in the hands of someone who does not know how to fish. A master fisherman, on the other hand, can get by with a stick and string, but McLeroy disagrees: “Problem solving and critical thinking are secondary skills.” And extreme fundamentalists wonder why thinking adults everywhere consider them “backwards”. You can always learn new facts, but critical thinking is a singular skill, the foundation upon which you’ll build the application of those facts, and will apply to every fact you learn in the future. Besides, without critical thinking skills, how can you ever know if the facts you’re being fed are correct? McLeroy himself serves as the best example that his philosophy is flat-out wrong, seeing how poor of a critical thinker he is and where that leads him to. Perhaps if he were more of a critical thinker, he’d be less likely to buy into the unmitigated hokum that is “intelligent design”.
For a professional educator, this is simply inexcusable. This is a guy who I not only don’t want teaching my kids, but I don’t want him teaching yours either. Such anti-intellectual poppycock should not be allowed to reach the highest position in education anywhere, and it’s simply a tragedy that this man has done just that. Christians should be especially concerned, because men like this give reasonable Christians (who I know are the majority of the religion) a truly bad name.
The governor of Texas appointed this man. Speak up here:
Citizen’s Opinion Hotline: (800) 252-9600
[for Texas callers]
Citizen’s Assistance and Opinion Hotline: (512) 463-1782
[for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]
Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000
Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428