Education Icon Education
Evolution Icon Evolution
News Media Icon News Media

Did Dallas Morning News Endorsement Backfire and Sink Pro-Darwin Candidate?

John G. West

In the Texas Republican Party primary this week, voters in one part of the state narrowly rejected pro-teach-the-controversy State Board of Education member Don McLeroy. At the same time, voters in another part of the state (Dallas) dumped anti-teach-the-controversy Board member Geraldine Miller in favor of a candidate who has expressed support for teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.

The most interesting thing about incumbent Geraldine Miller’s remarkable defeat by newcomer George Clayton is the unintentional role the pro-Darwin Dallas Morning News may have played in her downfall.

Dallas Voters Unseat Pro-Darwin Incumbent in Stunning Upset

Geraldine Miller is a former long-time chair of the Texas State Board of Education, and during the past year’s science standards revision, she was basically in lock-step with the Darwin-lobby. Indeed, when forced to respond during Board meetings on issues where she didn’t have the talking points from her Darwinist science advisors, she showed herself at a complete loss for independent thought or action. She looked to her Darwinist advisor in the audience to tell her what to do. At one point, Miller even resorted to lecturing people about Christian theology at a board meeting in order to justify her science education views! Miller’s efforts to sabotage any efforts at genuine critical analysis of evolution during the past year alienated a lot of previous supporters in the Dallas area, especially after she appointed anti-academic freedom zealot Ronald Wetherington as her inaccurate science expert.

I think it’s abundantly clear that Miller’s strident efforts to oppose critical analysis of Darwin are what sunk her with a decisive number of primary voters. She certainly didn’t lose because of a lack of money or support from the establishment. According to published reports, she outspent her opponent more than 30 to 1, and she was endorsed for re-election by the Dallas Morning News, the most important newspaper in the state.

But that may have been a large part of the problem problem. In its endorsement of her, the Dallas Morning News lavished praise on Miller for being “a key swing vote” in “rejecting proposals that would have required students to study the ‘weaknesses’ in the theory of evolution.” Given that the vast majority of both the Texas and American electorates favor teaching the scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory, the Dallas Morning News “endorsement” may well have been the kiss of death for Miller’s re-election.

This explanation becomes even more likely when one learns that Miller’s opponent, school teacher George Clayton, went on record favoring teaching both sides of the evolution debate. In his response to a widely-distributed primary election voters guide, Clayton indicated that he “strongly favored” the position that “Biology textbooks which do not teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution should be rejected by the Board.” Miller refused to answer that question. Indeed, she refused to answer the candidate survey at all. Coupled with the ham-handed endorsement by the Dallas Morning News, Clayton’s support for teaching the scientific controversy over evolution likely sealed Miller’s fate with voters.

I have no way of knowing whether Clayton was sincere in how he answered the voters guide question (there have been other Board members in the past few years who essentially lied about their views on the critical analysis of evolution during their election campaigns). But if Clayton was truthful—and I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise—he will be a vast improvement over Geraldine Miller. And that’s good news for all who favor the right of students to learn about the full range of scientific evidence and arguments regarding Darwin’s theory.

Unfortunately, the rest of the news isn’t so good.

Darwinist Smear Campaign Succeeds in Unseating Pro-Teach the Controversy Incumbent

Don McLeroy, also a former Chair of the State Board of Education, became a target of the Darwin lobby earlier this year after courageously leading the Board to adopt science standards that require students to “analyze and evaluate” the evidence for major evolutionary concepts such as common ancestry, natural selection, and mutations.

McLeroy had at least three strikes against him from the Darwinists’ perspective.

Strike 1 was that he knew what he was talking about. Unlike some of the pro-Darwin Board members who simply parroted the talking points they got from their Darwinian experts, McLeroy immersed himself in the scientific arguments and literature, and in January he gave a remarkable science lesson to the Board based on his own extensive readings of the conflicting claims offered by Darwinists themselves. It was nothing short of brilliant. But Darwinists don’t like their threadbare talking points to be exposed, and so McLeroy’s presentation was like sticking one’s finger in the proverbial hornets’ nest.

Strike 2 against McLeroy was his unfailing decency and good humor. Don is the epitome of a gentleman, and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He goes out of his way to be kind and fair to those with whom he disagrees. Indeed, he irritated some on our side of the debate by not shutting down the Darwinists’ effort to stack the deck at one of the public hearings last year by falsely claiming to support teaching both the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. Don is the perpetual optimist, and his cheerfulness at Board meetings was a refreshing alternative to the sourness displayed by many of the Darwin-only activists. I suspect Don’s sunny disposition further irritated many Darwinian zealots who are anything but sunny.

The final strike against McLeroy was that he successfully led the Board to enact science standards that require the critical analysis of Darwin’s theory throughout the standards. This was the unforgivable sin. In 2008, Darwinists with a lot of hoopla set out to destroy the previous science standards’ “strengths and weaknesses” provision. To even more hoopla earlier last year, they seemed to achieve their goal. But then they discovered that it was a pyrrhic victory, because while they weren’t paying attention, the specific science standards on evolution were re-written to require genuine critical analysis of all of the major planks of evolutionary theory—a far stronger requirement than anything in the previous Texas science standards! This result was nothing short of amazing, given that the Board majority was stacked 7-8 against those who favor teaching the scientific controversy over Darwinism. Only because of overwhelming public pressure did a few Board members ultimately support science standards that did not follow the Darwinists’ party-line.

It was because of this staggering defeat of the Darwinists’ agenda in 2009 that Chairman McLeroy became the object of the Darwinists’ unadulterated wrath, and they smeared and demonized him to such an extent that Democrats in the State Senate refused to allow him to be reappointed as Board Chair. Then Darwinists did their best to continue to demonize McLeroy so that he wouldn’t be renominated in the primary. Given the demonization, smears, and money thrown against him, it’s amazing that McLeroy still almost won renomination, losing by only 860 votes. McLeroy will be missed when his term is up at the end of this year.

The Bottom Line for Science Education in Texas

In other Board races in the primary, pro-teach the controversy Board member Ken Mercer crushed his anti-teach the controversy opponent, while anti-teach the controversy Board member Bob Craig (who did his best to hide his real views from voters) crushed his pro-teach the controversy opponent.

So what is the bottom line for science education in Texas in the near future? The State Board of Education will likely remain narrowly stacked against teaching the scientific controversy on evolution, with 7 board members supporting teaching the scientific arguments for and against Darwin’s theory, and 8 board members generally opposed. As before, the balance of power will be held by a couple of Republican members (Bob Craig and Don McLeroy’s replacement) who will try to play both sides of the fence. Unfortunately, this probably means that lots of scientific errors and misrepresentations will be allowed to stay in Texas’s biology textbooks in the next round of adoptions, and it also probably means that the Board won’t force publishers to follow the state’s excellent science standards on evolution.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.