Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another dinosaur roams Texas

THE University of Texas (Austin) has a website titled "Geological Wonders of Texas". It makes the claim that "120 to 100 million years ago, dinosaurs lived in the coastal shallows and offshore islands of Texas and left footprint evidence for geodetectives to investigate".

There's a little natural history museum, the Texas Memorial Museum, on or adjacent to the UT campus. Guambat used to walk past it nearly every day when he attended uni there over 40 years ago. At that time, it was a park-like place, with wide grounds separating it from the UT Law School to the north and the UT Stadium to the south.

Guambat lived in a little house just to the east of the Museum. Then Lyndon Johnson died and they decided to uproot Guambat's abode and a few dozen live oak trees and a few city blocks and build a library to his memory, which Guambat has already forgotten.

Anyway, next to the little natural history museum, there is an even littler building which houses dinosaur tracks. Guambat often felt compelled to stop and have a look at the tracks and was usually awe-struck at the thought of the monstrous track-makers and their time.

Another UT website describes this relic:

In 1939, Roland T. Bird of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) traveled to the Paluxy River site to collect sections of the trackway as part of a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project jointly supervised by The University of Texas at Austin and AMNH. The Center’s sections were hammered out of the parent trackway, numbered, transported by truck and train, and eventually reassembled at their destination.

Two trackways can be seen. The broad footprints of the first trackway were made by the hind feet of a sauropod dinosaur that may have been 40-50 feet long, weighing 30 tons. The distance between prints indicates a stride of almost 10 feet. The deep, post-hole shaped holes were made by the front feet, which were not as broad as the rear feet. A second trackway of three-toed prints was made by a theropod dinosaur. The theropod, walking on hind legs with a stride of about 9 feet, was perhaps 30 feet in length. The absence of tail-drag marks indicates that both dinosaurs held their tails aloft. Some scientists think that the footprints actually document a battle between the theropod and the sauropod—for this reason, the Texas Natural Science Center’s dinosaur tracks have become internationally famous!

Famous around the world as the first and among the best sauropod tracks ever found, the Glen Rose Dinosaur Tracks at the Texas Memorial Museum are deteriorating.

“Years of constant exposure to moisture have taken their toll,” explained Director Ed Theriot. “The tracks need to be restored and moved.”

Another dinosaur is dragging a tale across Texas now. And he has the power to indeed move those tracks, right out of the textbooks.

According to the WSJ,
Texas school board chairman Don McLeroy, who is a dentist, believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. If the new curriculum passes, he says he will insist that high-school biology textbooks point out specific aspects of the fossil record that, in his view, undermine the theory that all life on Earth is descended from primitive scraps of genetic material that first emerged in the primordial muck about 3.9 billion years ago.

He also wants the texts to make the case that individual cells are far too complex to have evolved by chance mutation and natural selection, an argument popular with those who believe an intelligent designer created the universe.

Says he, "We need to be honest with the kids."
McLeroy seems to have his own website, with the headline "A Little Clear Thinking About Texas Public Schools". This guy is clearly messing with Mother Nature. Says he,
What is our main target?

In the words of Phillip Johnson it is “metaphysical naturalism” or “materialism” or just plain old “naturalism”; it is the idea that nature is all there is. Modern science today is totally based on naturalism. In all of intelligent design's arguments against both Darwinian evolution, and the chemical origin of life, it is their naturalistic base that is the ultimate target. The important aspect of Darwinian evolution is its naturalistic claim that all life is a result of purposeless, unintelligent, material causes.

Darwinian evolution and ID stand in a complete antithesis; ID requires a designing influence to account for all the complexity of life, whereas the Darwinian Theory common descent claims that life spontaneously arose all by itself.

And why is intelligent design considered a “big tent”? It is because anyone opposed to naturalism is welcomed into the movement. All of us, progressive creationists, recent creationists, old earthers, and young earthers are welcomed in this tent.

Intelligent design here at Grace Bible Church is a smaller tent than the intelligent design movement itself. We are all biblical literalists and believe the Bible to be inerrant.

It is good to remember that the intelligent design movement is a bigger tent. There is no reason to attack one another over our disagreements, though we should rigorously examine our Bible, and see how our views fit the Scriptures and how coherent a creation story they tell. Remember, naturalism is the main target.
He adds, in another of many pieces posted there,
Over the last 100 years there has been a dramatic change in educational philosophy; emphasis has slowly drifted away from the primacy of knowledge toward an emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Our educator preparation programs and influential high school "redesigners" ... recommend that instead of memorizing facts, students should be taught how to find, use, and apply knowledge. In this popular view, knowledge and facts take a back seat in our schools.

This philosophic emphasis is also reinforced by our state testing system. The TAKS is not an assessment of basic knowledge, as many assume it to be; it is a basic skills test of problem solving and critical thinking.

This overemphasis on problem solving and critical thinking then undermines our educational efforts in four major ways

Knowledge doesn’t build on thinking; but thinking builds on knowledge. The greater one's knowledge, the greater one's ability to problem solve. knowledge is greater. Knowledge is power.

Second, this overemphasis on problem solving and critical thinking undermines the mandate Texans have given their state legislature by our State Constitution. The Constitution calls for "a general diffusion of knowledge".

Third, with the lost emphasis of “the general diffusion of knowledge”, the constitutional purpose for providing education in the first place—“the preservation of liberties”, is undermined. If we renew our commitment to what is mandated in the Constitution, we will give our children a much better reason to be in school.

Fourth, we are losing a vital part of the foundation for hard work. Some say that motivation for learning is not what it was in the good old days: that today’s students are not motivated by fear and respect for authority.... Why the willingness to give up on these values?

Of course we want our students to be able to solve problems and think clearly, therefore, how do we accomplish this? Simple, just fill our children's minds full of knowledge and facts. How did Detective Friday solve the crimes on Dragnet? By repeating: "Just the facts ma'am." Also, the more facts a child’s mind can effortlessly recall, the more the mind will be free to solve problems.

as educational leaders, we need to use our bully pulpits to tout the wisdom and benefits of knowledge.

Don McLeroy, who is a dentist, and chairman of the Texas Board of Education, believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago, according to the WSJ. "We are all biblical literalists and believe the Bible to be inerrant," according to McLeroy's website.

The WSJ story tells us
The Texas Board of Education will vote this week on a new science curriculum designed to challenge the guiding principle of evolution, a step that could influence what is taught in biology classes across the nation.

The proposed curriculum change would prompt teachers to raise doubts that all life on Earth is descended from common ancestry. Texas is such a huge textbook market that many publishers write to the state's standards, then market those books nationwide.

The Texas school board will vote after taking public testimony in a three-day meeting that starts Wednesday. Dr. McLeroy leads a group of seven social conservatives on the 15-member board. They are opposed by a bipartisan group of seven, often joined by an eighth board member considered a swing vote, that support teaching evolution without caveats.

The state Republican Party passed a resolution urging the three [moderate creationists] to back Dr. McLeroy's preferred curriculum.

POSTED SCRIPT 25 March, Guambat Savings Time: Not sure whether it is coinkidink, but Guambat Stew has been pegged as a spam blog or somesuch since about the time this post went up. Blogger now throws up a minor irritating hurdle to posting new posts, and threatens to delete it if a human fails to be convinced this blog is humanoid, which is a bit of a worry. Looking into it, it seems this can be the result of several things, only 2 of which seem pertinent. First, a sudden influx of readers and comments. This post seems to have generated both, at least relative to the cold and lonely part of the cybersphere Guambat usually inhabits. Second, it could result from some concerted effort to "hit" the "flag blog" button at the top, intended to jam or forever dump this blog. Or, possibly, it may just be bored robots at work. Anyway, Guambat is off to Japan to view the cherry blossoms in honor of his and Mrs. Guambat's 60th b/days and the birth of their ichi-ban grandchild named, appropriately, Sakura. If he never comes back, it's more due to the spambot tag than lack of any desire to keep the blogosphere alive. Cheers, Guambat


Blogger Sarah said...

I would argue that Texas has been teaching science ineffectively for quite some time now... Otherwise, how do ignoramuses like McLeroy find success on the platform of such utter nonsense???

24 March 2009 at 7:02:00 am GMT+10  
Blogger Barb said...

I totally agree that this is shocking, a determined attempt to continue to 'numb and dumb' students, to ensure that they are brainwashed to reject scientific facts, critical and lateral thinking and accurate knowledge. Whereas America used to be forefront in scientific research, it has been going backward for years. This will ensure that Texas returns to the Dark Ages. Of course, the neo-cons want children to be numbed and dumbed. It is easier to get them to believe the codswallop they attempt to brainwash the populace with when students are not taught to think rationally, critically and scientifically.

24 March 2009 at 6:53:00 pm GMT+10  
Blogger Jack said...

What the hell is a "progressive creationist"?

26 March 2009 at 2:42:00 am GMT+10  

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