Creationist activist Dr. Don McLeroy said it: Give creationist kids evolution.
Because the evidence for evolution is so weak, creationist kids will be all the more convinced of the Bible’s truths.
McLeroy’s plea for evolution-heavy textbooks has left us controversy-watchers scratching our heads. Did he really say that?
McLeroy leapt to national prominence a few years back in his role as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. As documented in the indispensable film The Revisionaries, McLeroy used his influence to promote a profoundly conservative vision of proper educational content for Texas schoolchildren.
As that film demonstrated, Dr. McLeroy had a knack for confounding the easy stereotypes of “right-wing” educational politicians. For outsiders like me, it was odd to hear such a friendly, avuncular fellow insist that Texas schoolbooks needed more creationism and less “hip-hop.”
Earlier this week, Dr. McLeroy returned to testify in front of his former colleagues on the Texas school board. This time, McLeroy surprised everyone by insisting that the board should adopt a new set of science textbooks, books that evolutionary scientists have praised for their evolutionary content.
The Texas Freedom Network has covered these hearings thoroughly. In general, creationists have been opposing the new science books.
Let the children read the books, McLeroy told the board. The evidence for evolution is so weak, he insisted, that open-minded children will be convinced of evolution’s ridiculousness.
McLeroy’s testimony was so baffling to board members that a couple of them asked for clarification. Mrs. Mavis Knight asked him if he was being facetious. No, McLeroy explained (around minute seven of this ten-minute clip). He really wanted students to read these evolutionary textbooks.
“Let the students,” McLeroy explained,
the inquisitive students, the ones that are not blind, look at the evidence in these books. They don’t even give a hint to explain the complexity….Let’s get these books to the kids; let the little young student in the classroom ask, ‘Is this all the evidence that they can give?’ That’s why I think it’ll strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution.
Board member Thomas Ratliff also struggled to understand McLeroy’s position. Did he really want kids to read evolutionary science?
Absolutely, McLeroy explained. “I’m hoping a young creationist . . . will sit there and say, ‘Look, is this all the evidence they have? Well maybe God didn’t use evolution to do it.’”
As a stirring conclusion, McLeroy and Ratliff had this back-and-forth:
Ratliff: “So your position is that these books prove that evolution doesn’t happen and you want us to adopt them?”
McLeroy: “No. I did not say ‘prove.’ I just say the evidence is weak. I don’t prove anything. I may be wrong.”
How are we to understand this strange phenomenon? An arch-creationist plugging for excellent, evolution-rich science textbooks? And even concluding that he may be wrong?
One commenter on the Texas Freedom Network Insider called McLeroy simply “delusional.”
But isn’t his testimony actually fairly logical? Consistent? Even admirable?
After all, creationists have long insisted that evolution falls apart on its own terms. If they really believe that, doesn’t it make sense to expose people to its ridiculous claims? After all, if evolutionary science really depends only on prejudice and closedmindedness, as creationists often assert (I’ve tracked this argument here and here, for example) , shouldn’t creationists simply give evolution writers enough rope to hang themselves?
Could McLeroy’s testimony be modern young-earth creationism’s Galileo moment? When Galileo accepted his punishment for his argument that the earth went around the sun, he is said to have noted, “E pur si muove,”… “It still moves.” Whatever bad scientists said, the truth was the truth.
McLeroy’s plea to expose children to good evolutionary textbooks can be taken in a similar way. Supremely confident in the logical weakness of evolutionary theory, McLeroy can push for more and more of it. Knowing, like Galileo, that whatever bad scientists said, the truth was the truth.