Bookmark and Share

 By Barbara Forrest

It’s almost Kitzmas time again, which means that it’s almost the sixth anniversary of the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover [pdf] that was handed down on December 20, 2005. Although the Kitzmiller ruling applies only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, it has served as a powerful legal statement that intelligent design (ID) is merely warmed-over creationism, the teaching of which is unconstitutional in public school science classes. But in Louisiana we have something else to celebrate:  December 7, 2011, marked the first anniversary of the Louisiana Coalition for Science’s successful effort to persuade the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to approve new biology textbooks for public school biology classes.

It is important to recall this event because it marked the first — and so far only — victory that defenders of science have had in Louisiana, a state in which — where public officials are concerned — standing up for science is a liability rather than a cause for commendation. (UPDATE: An alert LCFS member noted my omission of the fact that LCFS successfully fended off HB 580 during the 2011 legislative session. This stealth creationist bill would have undercut the oversight of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education over school districts’ purchase of supplementary materials and would have written the professional staff of the Department of Education out of its role in reviewing textbooks, etc. That victory came in spring of this year, so we will have another anniversary to celebrate next June!)

The people who have attacked the teaching of science in Louisiana are still around. One of them is young-earth creationist (YEC) Charles Voss, who for years has partnered with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) in its effort to undermine the teaching of evolution. Voss is vice-president of the YEC Origins Resource Association (see the ORA Facebook page). ORA’s president is YEC chemist Edward Boudreaux (do follow this link), who was involved in the passage of the 1981 “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act,” which was declared unconstitutional in 1987 by the United States Supreme Court. (See Boudreaux’s Facebook page.) Note that the ORA was founded in 1980 as “Louisiana Citizens for Academic Freedom in Origins.” (Ring any bells?) Let’s take a look at what Voss has been doing since the approval of the textbooks last year.

In 2002, the LFF had tried to block the approval of new biology textbooks, as they attempted to do again in 2010. They failed then, as they failed last year. But in 2003, after that first failure, Voss created his “Textaddons.com” website, on which he posted creationist addenda for almost a dozen well-known biology textbooks. To say that the addenda — all of which were variations on the same basic document — were incompetently done would be an understatement. They were heavily dependent on young-earth creationist sources, which were referenced throughout the addenda. When ID creationism edged out young-earth creationism as the chief threat to the teaching of evolution, Voss duly added ID references to the addenda.

In the wake of the LFF’s failure to block the approval of biology textbooks in 2010, Voss has now continued his earlier precedent by “updating” his Textaddons.com website. Given the attacks on the teaching of evolution in Louisiana which Voss has been involved, dating all the way back to 1994, a renewed warning to teachers against using his materials is in order. But Voss’s stuff is so pathetic that it’s just not worth a three-bell alarm (or a two-bell alarm, or even a one-bell alarm). Maybe a slight ting-a-ling, but nothing more. Only the most incompetent (or unprofessional) teacher would use this stuff.

Let’s just take a short tour through the site. A few representative samples will do. But pay attention, alert readers, because the Louisiana Coalition for Science will soon sponsor a contest for the first person to correctly identify the dumbest, most incompetent statement in a section of the website that will be identified later. Those of you who have read this far may want to compete!

Main Page of “Textaddons.com”

On the main page, Voss announces, “It is generally known that today’s Biology Textbooks mislead the reader into believing that evolution has no negative aspects.” In addition to the capitalization error, there is a substantive error here: Voss’s statement is based on the false premise that there are “negative aspects” of evolution. He probably means that that the textbooks do not include what creationists call — in their shopworn code language — “evidence against evolution.” While some aspects of evolution are not as well understood as others, there is no evidence against evolution. All available scientific evidence — all 152 years of it — supports evolution.

He also includes a weird, unclear disclaimer: “It should be noted that additional information is not presented for the subjects of Fossil Formation, the Fossil Record, Geological Column, Relative Dating, Radio-metric Dating and Intelligent Design. These exclusions are deliberate because of a possible interpretation that reflects on the age of the earth and therefore might be classified as an attempt to advance a particular religion and cause litigation.” Whatever he means concerning “a possible interpretation that reflects on the age of the earth” (Voss is a YEC, and ID is a form of old-earth creationism), he claims to have excluded information about ID. As an inspection of the addenda shows, that is false. Although Voss has sanitized the current versions under the pretense of trying to avoid legal issues, he has relied on ID sources.

Let’s look at just one addendum [pdf]: Biology: The Dynamics of Life (Biggs et al., Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2004). (Note that all of the books for which Voss provides addenda are outdated; there are no updated addenda for the new textbooks approved last year.) This addendum is copyrighted for both 2006 and 2007, although an earlier version dates back to July 2004. One of Voss’s sources in this addendum (on p. 11 and elsewhere) is “Thaxton, Bradley, & Olsen, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, New York: Philosophical Library, (1984).” This is the first college-level ID creationist textbook and one of the founding books of the ID movement. (See the website, where the entire book can be downloaded in pdf for free.)

Another source in this addendum (p. 14) is “Wells, Jonathan, Icons of Evolution. 2000, pp. 146,149.” Wells is a founding fellow of the Discovery Institute’s creationist wing, the Center for Science and Culture (formerly the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture). Icons is an ID creationist book in which Wells accuses scientists of fraud (pp. 234-235). (See this critique of Icons at Talkorigins.org.)

Yet another source is “Denton, Michael, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1986″ (p. 15), which is also a founding ID text. (See a review by Mark Vuletic at Talkorigins.org.) Denton still hangs out with ID people from the Discovery Institute and is an apologist for ID creationism (see this video interview).

The original 2004 version [pdf] of Voss’s addendum for Biology: The Dynamics of Life contained both young-earth and ID creationist sources in the footnotes (see p. 10, for example). Here is the list of sources for just one section, “Life in the Mesozoic” (with relevant hyperlinks added here).

1. Sarfati, J. D., Refuting Evolution. Master Books, 1999, <www.masterbooks.net>, pp.57-68 and
Refuting Evolution 2, 2002, pp.130-132.
2. Wells, Jonathan, Icons of Evolution. Regency Publishing, 2000, pp. 111-135.
3. Davis, Kenyon & Thaxton, Of Pandas and People. Haughton Publishing Co., 1993, pp. 104-107.  [Note: This is the ID creationist book that I debunked in court in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005).]
4.Wieland, Carl, Bird Evolution Flies Out the Window. Creation Ex Nilo, Vol. 16, No. 4, (Sept. 1994), pp. 16-19.
5. Sarfati, Jonathan, Dino-Bird Evolution Falls Flat. Creation Ex Nilo, Vol. 20, No. 2 (March 1998), p 41.

In the current version of the addendum for Biology: The Dynamics of Life, Voss has left the content of “Life in the Mesozoic” exactly as in the 2004 version — except that he has deleted all of his blatantly creationist footnotes (p. 6).

Voss’s “Addendum Reviewers”

One important item on Voss’s main page is his list of addendum reviewers, which is most enlightening. The list is included along with Voss’s own bio here [Word doc]. His reviewers include Edward Boudreaux (see Boudreaux’s creationist credentials here) and — surprise! — John Oller, who should be well known to our readers. Twenty-four years after the Edwards decision, Boudreaux continues to mislead people by preaching creationism. In this video posted less than a year ago by the Rocky Mountain Creation Fellowship, Boudreaux boasts (2:47) of having once challenged the (unnamed) chair of the Tulane University biology department during a joint interview in which the chair was “talking all this biology, and you know, I’m not a biologist, OK?” But he asserts that he is comfortable debating such people “because I know the truth.”

He advises his audience (3:16) to “never hesitate” to confront such people: “Any opportunity you get, if you know the truth, you don’t have to be an expert in science or in a certain area. If you know enough about it, just get right on in and let the Holy Spirit do the work with you, OK?” Well, OK! That’ll save creationists a lot of work!

Another of Voss’s reviewers is “Dr.” Don Patton, whose organization, the “Metroplex Institute of Origin Science” (MIOS), makes the following declaration:

Evidences supporting Intelligent Design often go hand in hand with the discoveries made within Creation Science. It must be formally noted, Creation Science involves scientific evidences and should in no wise be conveyed by the media as only a Biblical explanation of creation or any other religious belief. Creation Science is scientific evidences, not religious doctrine.

There is a reason that Patton’s doctoral status is highlighted in quotes here. Voss lists Patton’s qualifying credential as a Ph.D. in “Education (Geology).” If Voss had done just a little bit of googling, he would have found out that information on Patton’s purported degrees had been published in 1989 in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education. Here is the relevant information as compiled by Glenn Kuban, who wrote the RNCSE article (emphasis and editorial clarifications added):

[T]he printed abstracts of the 1989 Bible-Science conference in Dayton, Tennessee (where Patton gave two talks) stated that he was a Ph.D. candidacy in geology, and implied that he has at least four degrees from three separate schools. When I asked Patton for clarification on this during the conference, he stated that he had no degrees, but was about to receive a Ph.D. degree in geology, pending accreditation of QCU [Queensland Christian University, Australia], which he assured me was ‘three days away.’ Many days have since passed, and Patton still has no valid degree in geology. Nor is the accreditation of QCU imminent. Australian researcher Ian Plimer reported, ‘PCI [Pacific College Incorporated], QPU, PCT, and PCGS [other purported 'educational' institutions] have no formal curriculum, no classes, no research facilities, no calendar, no campus, and no academic staff. . . . Any Ph.D. or Ph.D. candidacy at QPU by Patton is fraudulent.’

Isn’t that interesting? Patton’s website now says that he received a Ph.D. in education in 1993, but it does not include the school that granted the degree. Wonder why?

“Added Info” Page

On a page entitled “Additional Information from Other Sources,” Voss has posted links to various YEC and ID websites. He also offers to provide free copies of “The Icons of Evolution Curriculum Modules,” consisting of DVDs based on Wells’ book, Icons of Evolution. (He cautions readers: “I want to know the school you are associated with and your home address. I will mail only to a home address.”) These curriculum modules, according to which “most of the traditional evidence presented for evolution in high school textbooks is wrong,” are distributed through Access Research Network, a clearinghouse for ID “educational” materials and de facto arm of the Discovery Institute.

There is much more that could be said about Voss’s newly revised website, but these samples suffice to make the point that no self-respecting teacher should use any of this stuff in her classroom. It’s the same old junk as Voss offered in 2003, when he first posted the site — except that it has only gotten more pathetic.

But stay tuned, readers — LCFS will soon sponsor a contest in which readers will be asked to identify the stupidest thing that we can find on Voss’s website. We will announce the details soon. The winner will receive a gift card for books — a prize that we think the LCFS audience will appreciate.  :)

 

 

Bookmark and Share

Copyright © 2011. Louisiana Coalition for Science. All rights reserved.