Posted by: Kevin | January 2, 2008

Interesting, and Potentially Very Bad, News for Science Education in South Carolina

First, on Wednesday December 12th, Kristin Maguire was selected as the chairwoman of South Carolina’s Board of Education.  This is interesting because Maguire has elected to home school her four children.  I don’t like the idea of public schools being led by someone whose economic interests so clearly conflict with those of public school children and parents.

Economic issues aside, there are plenty of good reasons for a parent to home school their child; a bad local public school and lack of affordable private alternative being foremost.  There are also some very bad reasons, including an unwillingness to expose your children to anything that might conflict with your preferred religious doctrine.  I didn’t know which kind of home schooler Maguire was, and that made me nervous.  Now I do know and I’ve gone from nervous to genuinely concerned. 

Kristen Maguire is the co-founder of SCPIE (South Carolina Parents Involved in Education).  SCPIE is a group which supports the following:  teaching intelligent design as an alternate theory to evolution, opposing HPV vaccines, abstinence only education and parental choice.

I’m not up to speed on the HPV vaccine so I won’t comment in detail on that.  It does seem like the majority of opposition is motivated by religious conservative views on sex and sexuality rather than an interest in the health of females.  However, that could be bias in the sources I’ve read on the topic.

The same is true with school choice.  I don’t know enough to comment intelligently.  It seems like their proposals would absolutely screw low income working families.  Yet, I suspect there are some decent arguments that could be made to support it.  It would come down to implementation.

Intelligent design is a non-starters for me though.  ID is nothing more than religion masquerading as science.  The proof of this is that ID proponents can’t offer any positive proofs of their “science”.  All they can do is try to poke holes in existing theories.  Their usual method is to point to outdated theories or long-since debunked hoaxes and say that because those were wrong, all of modern biology is wrong and they’re right.

As for abstinence only education, it relies on the idea that children can’t get pregnant or get STDs if they don’t have sex.  That’s all well and good but how the hell do you prevent kids from having sex?  Those States which adopt abstinence only education, tend to have higher rates of both STDs and teen pregnancy.  So money spent on abstinence education seems to me like money wasted. 

Even knowing all that, Kristin Maguire is just one board member.  How much damage can she do?

Well, for starters she can help turn South Carolina into the next battleground in the fight to keep religion out of science class.

From the Chicago Tribune:
The debate over how to teach the origin of species in public high schools could resurface in January, when the S.C. Board of Education meets.

The divided state panel withheld its endorsement of two biology textbooks earlier this month, when board member Charles W. McKinney pointed to dozens of questions raised in critiques by Horace D. Skipper, a retired Clemson University professor.

The school board asked Dr Joseph Henson and Dr Horace D. Skipper to review the textbooks.  What kind of objections did Prof Skipper bring up?  The full list can be found here (PDF warning) but I’ll include two of my favorites below.

“Page 373:  Robins were and are still Robins.  No evidence is presented of one kind of animal changing to another kind of animal!  Charles Darwin shifted his thinking on origins after he became anti-God.”

“Page 374:  Eruption of Mt St Helen in 1980 proved long ages are not needed for geological formations.  Canyons in GA and Wa states were formed in days or months, respectively, not millions or billions of years.”

Who are Henson and Skipper?  From South Carolinians for Science Education (SCSE):

Skipper and Henson are young-earth creationists.  Dr. Skipper is listed on the Institute for Creation Research website among the colleagues of Carl Fliermans, an ICR “Associated Scientist.” Henson is on the faculty at Bob Jones University.  According to his testimony on the BJU website, “Through his high school years, [Henson] did not believe evolution because of his religious upbringing, his familiarity with the Genesis accounts of Creation and the Flood, and because he did not take biology in high school.

Let me make this clear.  As a believer in God, this attempt to pass off half-assed religious quakery as science is deeply offensive.  As a one-time student of science, it is deeply troubling.  To paraphrase something I read in the SCSE link, this isn’t a case of the religious against the skeptics.  This is a small group of small minded individuals promoting their narrow view of religion at the expense of everyone else, believer and non-believer alike.  And if they succeed, we might see a new class of home schoolers, those who want their children to actually learn real science.



  1. Nice demonizing of these scientists. Why not answer the objections instead of doing what people who cannot defend a criticism usually do. E.g. attach the worldview of their critics.

    The worldview of naturalism will never see anything that infers a Creator as anything but religion. Thank God many of the forefathers of modern science were not so biased.

    Barring any observations that question the current prevailing paradigm has always been the way of things. Many scientists were demonized for observations contrary to the current thinking.

    Why is everyone who embraces the molecules to men Theory of Evolution so upset when people point out evidence contrary to their worldview or into question their conclusions?

  2. Their objections range from various nitpicks (some of which may even be valid) to statements so grossly inaccurate and unscientific that refuting them grants them more respect than they deserve.

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