Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Creationism controversy: What's different now?

The mainstream media seems like it might be suffering from an attack of short memory syndrome, and so I'd like to help rectify that here. 
The internet positively exploded yesterday with retreads of the AP story surrounding the apparently-growing textbook controversy in Texas, as creationism once again threatens to rear its inappropriate head in public school science classrooms.  The list of news URLs went on for several pages Monday night. 

Screengrabbed from Google. 
But here's what I found curious:  Neither the Associated Press nor any of the related media sources that I've read have thus far have invoked Kitzmiller while framing the issue in its present-day Texas context.  OK, some so-called "social conservatives" are once again pushing for the teaching of creationism at the expense of science instead of in its proper historical and cultural context  - that's no more surprising than the sun rising in the east.  But what hasn't yet been explained is why this newest challenge rises to the level of justifiable alarm.  As a nation, we've been there, we've done that, and in KitzmillerJudge John E. Jones III did a jaw-droppingly good job of setting everyone straight on the issue (trial transcripts here; judgment here).  

In a word, yes (tap to expand).  Screengrabbed from this source
At this point, there are the popular news stories and Texas Freedom Network has initiated a campaign called Stand up for Science to oppose these developments (the grab above is from their summary document).  But the Constitutional precedent has already been strongly reaffirmed on this issue, has it not?  And recently, and by Republicans to boot. 
According to the NOVA episode "Judgment Day", Judge Jones (rear right) had been recommended for his position on the bench by Senator Santorum (left) and appointed by George W. Bush

Screengrabbed from "Judgment Day". 
So even if some rogue Texas creationists were to succeeded in getting inappropriate textbooks approved, what's the worst-case scenario?  Presumably, the usual squandering of an inconceivably large number of public dollars on some Rube Goldberg-style legal machinations would quickly follow, as it always does in the unwinnable culture war.  The litigation would launch, textbooks would get tossed, and Texas would then resume its expected social trajectory none the worse for wear (except financially, of course).  Or would there be more to it this time than just that? 

One of my favorite "unwinnable war" memes, courtesy of Cheezburger.
Perhaps more details will emerge in the coming days.  Hopefully some of you media people have your trackback ears on, because many of us would like to know more about the core of this emerging issue.   
A rose by any other name.

Excerpted from the Kitzmiller decision, page 8. 

The remarkable elegance of Kitzmiller is found in the way in which the plaintiffs were able to show, using actual physical evidence, that "intelligent design" is quite literally creationism re-labeled.  It was so striking that, at times, I wondered if an intelligent designer actually had a hand not in the arising of life, but in the trial

It is resoundingly and emphatically unconstitutional to teach creationism within the context of science in an American public school system.  That much was affirmed long before Kitzmiller

Screengrabs from "Judgment Day", from frames around the 1:27 mark.

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