Another SBOE Voice for Creationism

The SBOE's Ken Mercer chimes in on creationism and evolution

In recent months, North Austin's representative on the State Board of Education, Rich­mond's Cynthia Dunbar, has gotten all the headlines – as a strident voice against teaching evolution, an editorialist warning of martial law under Barack Obama, and the author of a book calling public education a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion."

But what of South Austin's SBOE rep? (SBOE districts divide Travis Co. along the Colorado River.) Oh, he's plenty capable of embarrassing his educated constituents, as well. That would be San Antonio's Ken Mer­cer, a former state rep who chimed in last week with a Dunbar-esque editorial in the San Antonio Express-News.

His op-ed, responding to an Express-News editorial slamming the creationist wing of the board, insisted that his current fight to preserve a state requirement that public school educators teach "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories – language that an SBOE-appointed panel of scientists and educators recommend removing – is about "freedom of speech and academic freedom." The Express-News' assertion that the battle "is about putting religion in public schools," Mer­cer thundered, is "a false, political red herring."

Yet after that claim of religious neutrality, Mercer spends much of the rest of the essay obsessing over atheists. "I pray for my three friends, Pat Hardy of Ft. Worth, Bob Craig of Lubbock, and Geraldine 'Tincy' Miller of Dal­las," Mercer writes, referring to three of his SBOE colleagues who played a crucial role in defeating "strengths and weaknesses" at the SBOE's January meeting. "They voted against the Republican Party platform and allowed themselves to be constantly lobbied by prominent atheists and secular humanists. These three Republicans will now have to stand accountable before their constituents."

Mercer challenged the Express-News "to find one science book approved by the SBOE that includes either creation science or intelligent design" during the past 20 years that "strengths and weaknesses" has been in effect. He fails to note that only recently creationists seized upon that previously unremarkable phrase to push their agenda and that fundamentalists haven't quite had enough votes on the 15-member board to approve using that language to undermine the teaching of evolution.

But they'd certainly like to: As a blog posting by the Texas Freedom Network (www.tfn.org) pointed out, "Mercer and his fellow evolution deniers on the state board have protested time and again that they do not want 'intelligent design'/creationism taught in Texas classrooms. But that is expressly what their supposedly authoritative Republican Party platform demands." TFN quotes the platform: "Theories of Origin – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including Intelligent Design." (Italics ours.)

Mercer's editorial includes too many contradictions to itemize here – see the Chron­icle's Newsdesk blog (austinchronicle.com/newsdesk) for more details.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

public educationcreationism, Ken Mercer, State Board of Education, Cynthia Dunbar, Texas Freedom Network, intelligent design, creationism

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