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Looking into the Ouster of Chris Comer

In late November 2007, Director of Science Curriculum for the Texas Educational Agency Chris Comer, was forced to resign for allegedly violating a dubious policy of “endorsing” a speaker and therefore appearing to take a side in an upcoming curriculum review. She had forwarded an e-mail about a then upcoming lecture with the only comment of “FYI.” While other circumstances surrounding her ouster may have been in play, the fact that the lecture was unfavorable to the Intelligent Design/Creationist pseudoscience movement was clearly the precipitating event in Comer’s forced resignation. This sad episode gives us a window into the politics inside the NEA and the ID movement as a whole.

The announcement that Comer forwarded was for a lecture given by Dr. Barbara Forrest, co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse and expert witness in the Dover Pennsylvania school district Intelligent Design trial. Dr. Forrest has exposed the ID movement for what it is: religion pretending to be science. She exposed it as fraudulent on many levels and her testimony proved pivotal in the Dover ruling that was a deep blow to the movement. No doubt, the very mention of her name struck nerves within TEA ID promoters. With Comer making her colleagues and the greater community aware of the threat to science education, their hidden agenda was probably set back a few steps.

Because Comer’s actions were allegedly “taking a side” in the upcoming curriculum review, it is likely there is a plan for the ID/creationists to sabotage the TAKS curriculum standards so as to enable the ID movement to make inroads. TEA has apparently been stacked by conservative political appointees. Additionally, State Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy has himself promoted ID in church lectures, and other SBOE members are avid supporters of the movement. With the ouster of Chris Comer, there is one less voice in Texas educational government for science and reason standing in the way of the ID machine.

The Intelligent Design movement has its origins in the “watchmaker” teleological argument for the existence of God advanced by William Paley in 1802. While the design argument is 50 years older than Darwin’s theory of evolution, it has not borne any fruit in our understanding of nature, it has not made any scientific predictions, it has not generated any scientific papers, nor has it been the genesis of any technology giving benefit to mankind. Because so many people have come to recognize the modern incarnation of the design argument, ID, as the latest evolution in Creationism, ID supporters have not gained much traction in scientific circles. More and more, the supporters have resorted to gimmicks and trickery to advance their cause in the public sphere. “Teach the controversy” is one of their gimmicks. Unwritten policies that attempt to sabotage the promotion of science so as to “not show favoritism” against pseudoscience, shredded TEA documents that would expose the perpetrators, and fraudulent ousters are par for the course. The actions of the promoters serve as an admission that they know ID is damaged goods.

The lengths that ID supporters seem to be willing to go raises the question of why they are willing to use deception, hidden agendas, and defraud the voters that elected some of them to public office. The answer, of course, is their deeply held religious beliefs. The Intelligent Design/Creationism movement is almost exclusively Protestant and is largely promoted by Evangelicals. Darwin’s theory of evolution explains the complexity and diversity of life without a designer. It also renders Adam and Eve along with their original sin an obvious fable and effectively obviates the need for Jesus to suffer on the cross and die for everyone’s inherited “sin.” While evolution is not essentially atheistic, it is an elegant and powerful description of biological life that inadvertently does collateral damage to several core tenets of Christianity. TEA Commissioner Robert Scott seemed to admit this conflict when he said, “We teach evolution in public schools. It’s part of our curriculum. But you can be in favor of a science without bashing people’s faith, too.” Faith that conflicts with reality is just delusion.

Finally, we can learn a few things about Christianity from this sad episode. We see that Christianity has within it powerful movements of individuals who are happy to lie, promote hidden agendas, violate the US Constitution, and sabotage the education of our children to advance their cause. Their tactics clearly demonstrate that Christians have no claim to moral superiority. Religious belief is more likely an impediment to morality as believers value their god over their fellow human beings or the laws of their country. The behavior of ID supporters reminds me of a self-deprecating codependent wife who so adores her abusive husband that she lies and steals to support his drunken carousing. Only in the case of the ID-ers, they are lying and cheating in suppression of our scientific understanding to appease the God that failed to leave any evidence whatsoever of his existence. They have spun around in circles to somehow make the universe of their unjustified faith safe for their God, and He hasn’t even acknowledged their efforts by even showing up.

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The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state. The ACA serves the local Austin community through outreach programs, providing informational resources and various volunteer activities. In addition, the ACA serves the community-at-large through free online portals including informational wikis, regular audio/video podcasts and interactive blogs.

We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods. This definition also encompasses what most people call agnosticism.

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