The Return of Darrell White

Founder of the Louisiana Family Forum and former judge Darrell White has published a letter (see here) decrying the use of textbooks for K-12 science in the state which feature evolutionary theory. Apparently he feels his credentials as a legal scholar are of some import as he seems to want to follow in Intelligent Design Creationism proponent and attorney Phillip Johnson’s footsteps and put Darwin on trial. Sadly, for Mr. White, science is not a matter for civil or criminal law and attempting to apply standards of evidence to science that are, like IDC, completely outside of science makes no sense.

White first says the texts under review by BESE are “subpar” and do not meet the state’s science standards. Of course this is simply bullshit. If the texts did not meet the science standards (see here), BESE would not be reviewing them at all. Here’s a fun factoid, a quote from the 9-12 grade level science standards: ”

3.     biological evolution, which includes:

a.     LS-H-C1: exploring experimental evidence that supports the theory of the origin of life (1, 3);

b.     LS-H-C2: recognizing the evidence for evolution (1, 3, 4);

c.     LS-H-C3: discussing the patterns, mechanisms, and rate of evolution (1, 3, 4);

d.     LS-H-C4: classifying organisms (1, 2, 3, 4);

e.     LS-H-C5: distinguishing among the kingdoms
(1, 3, 4);

f.     LS-H-C6: comparing and contrasting life cycles of organisms (1, 2, 3, 4);

g.     LS-H-C7: comparing viruses to cells (1, 2, 3, 4);

The above represents a list of concepts that children are expected to be taught as a  part of the state’s core science (specifically, biology) curriculum. Odd that evolution features there, isn’t it? Could it be that Theodosius Dobzhansky was right?

Moving on, White has the gall to then quote Darwin in support of his attempts to tear down evolution, boldly proclaiming that three chapters of the Origin were devoted to “criticisms of his own macroevolutionary ideas” (emphasis mine). First, Darwin spends a great deal of time discussing things, including that time-honored creationist trope, the eye, that some may view as problems with his theory. However, he proceeds to demolish these criticisms one-by-one. As Darwin himself stated, his seminal work is nothing if not “one long argument” intended to bolster his main idea and repel its critics. I’m not even really sure which text Mr. White is referencing; the first edition contains only two chapters (VI and IX) that I can see that would be considered evaluations of “weaknesses” and a total of 14 chapters altogether.

Second, the specific construction of this statement is a bit suspect. Darwin never used the term “macroevolution” and I don’t know of any biologist who does either, except perhaps in a very informal manner. In Darwin’s day, his theory was referred to transmutation. The term evolution was not commonly in use in the sense that it is today, let alone these very creationist notions of “microevolution” and “macroevolution.” What he means to say is that Darwin recognized that his theory was weak and could not explain the origin of species or supraspecific categories of taxa, which is, of course, also bullshit and, indeed, the exact opposite of Darwin’s thought (and the thought of all modern biologists).

White goes on to cite a Louisiana legal definition of the concept of “relevant evidence” and then chastises the texts (I don’t think the texts heard him) for “withholding such facts from students”. Mind you, he hasn’t even listed any “facts” of the sort that he accuses these vile books of quietly keeping to themselves.

Finally, he cites some historical figures on the notion of “fairness” and a poll by his organization of former gubernatorial candidates as some sort of bizarre argument in favor of his position opposing these books. Never mind the fact that science doesn’t operate by polls. This notion of “fairness” is simply a joke–it’s asking us to hold a nonscientific proposal like IDC as equivalent to a well-supported scientific theory. It’s a bit like saying we should also teach my hypothesis that visitors from Xenu are responsible for life on Earth in addition to evolutionary theory and we should invite such luminaries in biology as Tom Cruise and John Travolta as guest lecturers. Ironically, Mr. White appears to be calling out one of LFF’s strongest supporters. After all, Governor Jindal did sign into law the absurd 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act of which Mr. White is so proud, an act whose intent is blatantly to dilute science education rather than to promote it.

Finally, I sure hate to talk bad about somebody’s mom, but, really? “My mother, the poet Jerry White wrote in her award-winning verse”?! I guess cynicism really is a family value in Louisiana.

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