Texas SBOE Chair Don McLeroy on Antievolution

Texas Freedom Network: SBOE Chair Don McLeroy

The Texas Freedom Network, the pro-science folks on the ground in Texas, managed to locate and transcribe a talk given by Don McLeroy to his church back in 2005. This is relevant today because McLeroy now chairs the Texas State Board of Education. Within the talk, McLeroy goes on and on about following the strategy outlined by “intelligent design” advocate Phillip E. Johnson. And you will note that while careful antievolutionists discuss teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution (then later determining that, oh, well, talking about the weaknesses has used up all the time for this section of the biology class), McLeroy at several points says that what he is for is teaching the “weaknesses” of evolution, and especially common descent.

Another notable bit from McLeroy is this,

But I want to tell you all the arguments made by all the intelligent design group, all the creationist intelligent design people, I can guarantee the other side heard exactly nothing.

I’ve emphasized the part McLeroy got right. How about the rest? Well, it’s not that the pro-science people in attendance “heard exactly nothing”, it’s that they have heard it all before. The IDC advocates and “strengths and weaknesses” crowd are pushing the same things that have been argued by their “creation science”, “scientific creationism”, and “creationism” predecessors, some of them dating back at least a couple of hundred years.

Like most antievolutionists, McLeroy doesn’t like theistic evolution.

I’d like to make a quick comment about the option of theistic evolution, and it’s a very poor option. There’s not anybody in our group that’s advocating this. Because Darwinism doesn’t allow God to do anything. Consider natural selection of random mutations. If they’re random mutations, they can’t be God-directed, and if they’re naturally selected, you can’t have, quote, “God-selecteds.” And so no one in our group represents theistic evolution, and the big tent of intelligent design does not include theistic evolutionists. Because intelligent design is opposed to evolution. Theistic evolutionists embrace it. So, you know, there are some in the Christian camp that just say, “Well, I am a theistic evolutionist.” And there are some bright minds that are that way, but they aren’t part really of the intelligent design group. It just doesn’t fit.

McLeroy seems to be unaware that scripture supports the idea of God acting through randomized, stochastic processes. Far from excluding God’s action, a random process permits God to indicate His own choices in a way beyond the ability of humans to influence or penetrate. I think that the deterministic view of the world that emerged from natural philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries did something to the way Western Christian theology considered random processes. Confronted with the data from the physics of the time, when the “clockwork universe” idea was the vogue, and I think that various streams of thought in theology eventually adopted the view of God as ultimate clockmaker (though not without a significant period of considering it either heretical or close to it), an assumption inimical to the earlier view that randomness was also a place where one would find the hand of God. Far from being a “very poor option”, theistic evolution and evolutionary creationism preserve faith and eliminate friction with the findings of science. McLeroy, though, is simply following the lead of various IDC advocates who insist that theistic evolutionists don’t understand either or both biology and theology, or are deluded, or are otherwise giving aid and comfort to the “enemy”. This was perhaps most clearly seen in the 2005 hearings before the Kansas State Board of Education concerning the “minority report” version of the new science standards.

Consider that sentence of McLeroy’s, “Because Darwinism doesn’t allow God to do anything.” There is a difference between not crediting God with an action and excluding God as a cause. Natural selection cannot exclude God; there simply is nothing that would extend the reach of statements about natural selection in biology into that realm of metaphysics. But on the other hand, antievolutionists find the idea that science will not validate their interpretation of scripture to be anathema. There must be something “wrong” with science if credit cannot be given to God within the framework that science operates. Theistic evolutionists usually have greater faith in God than literalist antievolutionists; most theistic evolutionists are not looking for external validation from science.

In any case, the Texas Freedom Network has done an outstanding job here, showing vividly that McLeroy’s agenda is not advancing students’ grasp of science, but rather in promoting anti-science notions and failed antievolution arguments as things students should credulously accept as current science.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

One thought on “Texas SBOE Chair Don McLeroy on Antievolution

  • 2007/08/13 at 7:34 am

    Questions are continually asked about evolution and the processes ,but it seems all of the directed responses either go unheeded or discredited . Creation folk don’t misinterpret Darwin they simply reinterpret what he says to establish a point they’d like to debate. If the “Theory of Evolution” were taken at face value and debated critically it wouldn’t be so bad but Creationists refuse to see it for what it is and feel the desire to fill in the gaps they create with “GOD” instantly negating the fundamental premises that have contributed to science so much over the years. When it comes to Evolution the creationists are in dire straits without a clue .

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