Texas: Religious Antievolution’s Silly Season

An astounding experience related by Nelson Thompson in a previous thread deserves more attention.

A recent experience has shown me that there is another attack upon evolution (and science in general) going on in Texas public schools.

I recently visited a relative in rural Texas, east of Huntsville. While there, I went for a walk down a dirt road that passed a neat farm house, barn and horse paddock. A foal saw me and came to the fence, expecting a treat, no doubt. His owner, a 16-year old lad, followed thereafter and we commenced to talk about horses.

I pointed to a scablike structure on the posterior side of the front legs (”chestnuts”) and asked what they were. The boy told me, and then added that he had been told (by his biology teacher, no less) that evolutionists claimed that the chestnuts were vestigial remains of what had been an extra pair of front legs!

I tried gently to let him know that no scientists I had ever read had ever said anything so obviously silly.
The young man angrily lectured me on several other silly things that evolutionists claimed, including the gem that bovine horns were vestigial wings.

He was quite clear about these “facts” as they were given him by his 9th grade Biology teacher at the local public high school, a gentleman who also served as preacher in a local church.

You may not be able to “balance” science with nonsense, but you can use nonsense to undermine any hope that science will take root in the mind of a child.

Nelson Thompson
Senior Aerospace Software Engineer

This sort of outright mendacity peddled in the name of religion is exactly what motivated me to get involved years and years ago. The sort of people who do this are enemies of faith as well as of reason.

Wesley R. Elsberry

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

27 thoughts on “Texas: Religious Antievolution’s Silly Season

  • 2009/01/08 at 7:52 am

    You’d think that the Commandment about not bearing false witness would deter a lot of these people from lying about evolutionary biology.

    Sad, really.

  • 2009/01/08 at 8:43 am

    Well, it’s been said before, but it bears saying again (and again and again):

    Apparently, it ain’t lyin’ if it’s lyin’ for Jaysus.

  • 2009/01/08 at 9:00 am

    I cannot believe how deceiving some people can be if they think their position is correct. The idea that this “teacher” has corrupted young, absorbing minds by feeding them complete lies is sickening. The teacher in question should be relieved of his position, especially if this is a publically funded school system.

  • 2009/01/08 at 10:30 am

    I remember once my daughter telling me she had been taught that the sun was a planet. Knowing full well that no teacher had told her this, I simply let it slide, explaining gently that I think she misunderstood the teacher.

    Don’t believe everything you think.

  • 2009/01/08 at 3:28 pm

    Sweet Suffering Duck!

    I know it’s hard to get decent staff these days, but how ignorant (or mendacious) can you be and still keep a job as a public school science teacher in Texas?

    Suddenly, Gaza looks attractive.

  • 2009/01/08 at 3:35 pm

    Are you trying to say that the creationist kid or his teacher MADE UP that idea? I just did a search online and found DOZENS of evolutionists saying that chestnuts and ergots are or may be vestigial…including Kathleen Hunt (who said they MAY be, she wasn’t sure) who wrote a big page on transitional forms for talk.origins.

    You might want to knock off your OWN mendacity, Wesley, and quit blaming creationists for accurately reporting what evolutionists have STUPIDLY said.


  • 2009/01/08 at 5:45 pm


    Show me anytime, anywhere that a biologist has claimed a horse has vestiges of another pair of legs and you would have the beginnings of a point. Vestigial toes, yes… and that is far from being a “stupid” thing to say. Vestigial limbs in horses, no, that’s not what biologists have said. Certainly Kathleen Hunt said no such thing. So be a bit careful about slinging mud when you obviously aren’t paying close attention to what was at issue.

  • 2009/01/08 at 7:14 pm

    I will eat my HAT if some biology teacher actually tried to say that horses once had 2 extra LEGS. ARE YOU KIDDING???? You (or the kid) obviously were not listening. Did it ever occur to you that maybe the kid was a bit confused about what his teacher said? And no one in their right mind would try to say that cow horns were once wings. You are lying…or the kid is. AND you are a hypocrite to call someone ELSE “mendacious.”

    And if that teacher DID say either of those things I would agree he should not be teaching high school. But I don’t believe that is what really occured. Leave it to an ev though to try to make deceptive hay out of what some 16 y.o. kid thought he heard.

  • 2009/01/08 at 7:45 pm

    One item could be an inattentive student. But two wildly bogus items? I don’t think so.

    If you want to go down the line of straight abuse, don’t bother with doing it here.

  • 2009/01/08 at 9:06 pm

    Whether the current report is reliable or not, one can find unambiguous cases just as egregious. I blogged not too long previous about the case of sex and Ray Comfort, who said of evolutionary biologists:

    In other words, they have no idea why pre-humans stopped splitting in half and started having sex, or why male and female exist throughout creation.

    The mendacity of various antievolution advocates is real. Calling them on it in no way means I’m indulging in the same.

  • 2009/01/08 at 10:04 pm

    I may not be a smart person and I can’t seem to grasp those scientific ‘facts’ you peddle, but by god, I’m going to make sure MY students don’t even attempt to get smarter than I by filling their head with falsehoods about your ‘science’. That would undermine their faith!

  • 2009/01/08 at 10:05 pm

    There was supposed to be a </poe> at the end of that last comment…

  • 2009/01/08 at 11:50 pm

    Just to weigh in, in defense of the event teller and the boy, I recall quite clearing an event that occurred to me in Texas public schools. I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, and my science teacher told us that sharks were mammals. I was (and still am) very interested in the natural world, and had read many books on animals by that point and knew better.

    When I told her she was wrong (little kids have often have no tact) I got in trouble. I also asked why she thought sharks were mammals, and she said that they were mammals because they gave birth to live young.

    Other than the fact that sharks are cold blooded, lack hair and don’t produce milk and that some sharks (and mammals) lay eggs and that some very obvious non-mammals also give birth to live young (like some snakes), I knew she wouldn’t listen to me so I kept my mouth shut and accepted whatever punishment I got (possibly a time out during recess).

    She certainly wasn’t a pastor, but was misinformed and spreading her misinformation to students who may not have had to knowledge base to know better. I was/am a very good student, and the follow-up discussion reassures me that I did not mishear her.

  • 2009/01/09 at 1:01 am

    I went to public school in Texas, and I can verify some less that stellar performances by teachers. Never heard anything as daffy as horns being vestigial wings, mind you, but there was quite a mess when my chemistry teacher questioned on a test whether baking a potato was a chemical or a pysical change, and then turned out to not the answer herself when studests began questioning their grades.

  • 2009/01/09 at 12:09 pm

    It would be nice to see cows with wings!

  • 2009/01/09 at 1:49 pm

    I live in that general area, in Montgomery, to be exact. I’d like to know which public school.

    Are they sure the pigs aren’t the ones with wings?

  • 2009/01/09 at 4:02 pm

    No, it would not be nice if cows had wings, because they would fly away and then I wouldn’t get to eat my steak!!!

  • 2009/01/09 at 4:06 pm

    In all seriousness though, I think in ways that something like evolution taught in schools is going to get mangled by teachers, even ones who mean well. Especially in rural schools where teachers are going to most likely be religious themselves and who “cannot abide by” any way of thinking other than their religion. Although the case here is quite eggregious and could possibly be something more than an uninformed person, IE someone trying to obfusticate young minds with anti-science to try and turn them away…

  • 2009/01/10 at 4:29 pm

    My third grade teacher explained the Archimedes principle by telling us that Archimedes was able to tell gold from lead because “gold floats.” I had already learned about water displacement, and I tried to correct her. It was one of the things that opened my eyes to the fact that just because someone is a teacher doesn’t mean they’re not a total dumbass.

  • 2009/01/10 at 7:03 pm

    I just hate people who pick up on some minor comment and blast away at it, ignoring the main thrust of a perfectly valid argument! Like this (to Praetorianstalker): “Especially in rural schools where teachers are going to most likely be religious themselves and who “cannot abide by” any way of thinking other than their religion.” Well, I’m a science teacher in a rural east Texas school and am not only religious, but even Baptist (though not, I hasten to add, Southern Baptist). However, like many other scientists and teachers who take their religions seriously (Hindu, Christian, Muslim, etc.), I am firmly convinced by the massive evidence in favor of evolution. I just want everyone to remain clear that religiosity doesn’t necessarily imply ignorance or evil intentions on young minds. So now I have demonstrated my point by ignoring Praetorianstalker’s excellent point that complicated topics like evolution can easily be unintentionally “mangled” when crammed into a brief presentation to a young audience with limited skills in critical thinking. Anyway, “Trust God. Teach Evolution, y’all!”

  • 2009/01/10 at 11:03 pm

    I like to remind many creationist teachers of James 3:1. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”

  • 2009/01/11 at 11:14 am

    OK, Austringer, a plagiarized outbreak of T-shirt envy–wishing I could get away with wearing that to school. (I’m seriously considering the bumper sticker, though…) I do, however, take credit for my email sigline, “…And God saw that it was good, and evolution continued.”

  • 2009/02/12 at 2:37 pm

    Is it true that nipples are vestigial mounting points for our ancestors helicopter blades?

  • 2009/02/16 at 2:39 am

    … Any chance that “teacher” worked for Fox news? They seem to have the same way of thinking..

  • 2009/02/20 at 2:24 am

    If giving live birth defines a mammal: then presumably some insects are mammals!

    Some species of aphid bear live young. [however they don’t suckle their young, aren’t vertebrates & etc.]

  • 2009/08/18 at 2:02 am

    I actually live in Huntsville now and I’ve lived in Texas all my life. I have to say that while I’m not surprised by this it’s also not exactly par for the course. The town I grew up in quite literally had more churches than schools, but I can’t remember any discussions in class about Creationism at all. Maybe I just got lucky with my teachers but I remember being fascinated by discussions of genetics and evolution, even as early as intermediate school. On the other hand my entire family lost their minds when I stopped going to church, so the coin quite obviously is two-sided.

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