This doesn't surprise me in the least. These are my colleagues, and I work with them every day, after all. Today, I asked another colleague to circulate a position statement for my fellow science teachers this morning during state testing (my colleague is a 'rover' who doesn't have a class of his own to cover).

Here is the statement:

FROM: Bullard Science Teachers
TO: The Community

On three successive evenings, beginning at 7:00 PM, (Wednesday through Friday), the Bullard Cafeteria will host a series of presentations by Don Patton, a Young Earth Creationist who will attempt to present ‘evidence’ for a young* Earth, and against the fossil record, the geological time scale, radioactive dating and other items which are an accepted part of the California State Science Standards.

We want to make sure that members of the Bullard community know the following:

  • The Science Department was not consulted, nor do the undersigned approve of this event, which runs contrary to what we are supposed to teach and which could lead to the false impression that science teachers who teach the state standards are engaged in deception.

  • The content of Patton’s presentation would violate the Establishment Clause if it was presented in a classroom to students during normal school hours, or if it was advertised to students on campus. For this reason alone, no faculty member within a classroom setting can endorse the presentation, or recommend that students attend.

  • Without regard for that, however, the group in question has followed district policy in arranging to use our facilities, and they have every right under the law to do so. We encourage those who attend to exercise their right to free speech, and to respect the rights of others. Civility in public debate is a core value that complements the critical thinking skills needed to evaluate claims.

* = typically, 10,000 years or less

Every member of the science faculty signed. A copy of this signed statement will be made available to those who attend Don Patton's talks at Bullard. This says nothing one way or another about the merit of his claims, but it says volumes about the circumstances under which these presentations take place. Our department is united. I am grateful to have such colleagues.


I read a paraphrase of the above statement during the first Q and A of Don Patton's first talk at Bullard. To my astonishment, an obviously-aroused Patton vigorously objected to the idea that his presentations violated the Establishment Clause. I'm afraid I was so startled by this turn that I even raised my voice to object. I was concerned that Patton might even attempt to argue that I or my other colleagues at Bullard could do the same thing and what litigation-inviting impression that might leave in the minds of the local civil libertarian.

Anyway, Patton launched into a Power Point-aided defense of his interpretation of the law, which hung its hat heavily on minority opinions by Justices Scalia and Renquist in the 1987 Louisiana case (Edwards vs. Aguilard) that ruled that a state law proscribing 'equal time' for evolution and 'creation science' was a violation of the Establishment Clause. Apparently, in addition to being an alternative geologist, Patton is also an alternative legal theorist. I would describe Patton's take on the law to be earnest, but not particularly sound. In conversations after the talk, he averred he had given similar talks in public school classrooms without complaint and I responded ironically that he was braver man than I was.

Why? Because he advertised his lecture series as providing evidence for a Creator, and describes what he is presenting as 'creation science', but then (so far) plays coy about the Creator's identity within the actual presentation. He may think he's on the right side of the law, but the fact is, he's not. Playing 'bait-and-switch' at the school site doesn't eliminate the religious nature of his speech, as the discovery phase of the recent Kitzmiller vs. Dover decision shows. I wouldn't touch his arguments in an actual public school classroom with a fishing pole, even if I was a young-earther, because I'm pretty sure some savvy Bullard kid would tell their parents that teacher ain't teachin'....he's preachin' !


James F said...

Excellent job, Scott! Glad to see that your colleagues are standing four-square behind you in your efforts! Not too much longer....

Forthekids said...

Oh for God's sake, Scott, just "expel" the guy and be done with it. Send Eugenie and the Darwinian Warlords after him before he has a chance to say that evil word "creation".

Oh the horror!!!

Creation, creation, creation, creation, creation, creation.....

Are you melting yet??

Anonymous said...


Do us Californians a favor and *go back to Kansas* -- and stay there!

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Hey! Look, it's ftk, and she's deduced (correctly) that the Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies.

But I kind of see myself not so much as the Wicked Witch of the West, but as Toto, trying to see what's behind the curtain.

Black Lotus said...

I went to that very seminar Scott. It was very 'enlightening' seeing the blatant misinformation that is being fed to the religious right. As a fellow scientist, it was disheartening that a man could speak with conviction, but nothing else. I was promised a scientific analysis of "creation science," but was only provided with an hour filled with out of context quotes. Which was followed by a half hour of a hodge-podge of poor science and obviously ID-based propaganda.

Patton was unable to answer any questions with anything but erroneous assumptions and faulty logic.

'forthekids' has been in almost every blog on the subject and is a minor nuisance. It is a shame that so many people just close their ears and do not act like an adult.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Thanks for the comment, black lotus, and I appreciate you taking the time to attend. I must say, though, that my chief emotion when pondering these events is one of sorrow. You're right, people should act like adults, but if you were there on Friday night you know there is a fine line between identifying what is outrageous and simply raging--and I probably crossed that line with my comments. As the Biblical parable says, before I criticize 'ftk' for any toothpicks in her eyes, I should be awful careful to see that I don't have a telephone pole jammed up mine.

I agree that many of these folk would probably fit under the description of 'religious right', but many probably wouldn't. I do think that they were fed misinformation that they were understandably eager to embrace, often uncritically, but I don't think this is a phenomenon that only strikes conservatives. Consider, for example, the whole post-modern relativist attack on science favored by some on the left.

On the other hand, I am also sorrowful about how things went down on my end. Many of the people from this church showed more grace and patience with me than I gave Mr. Patton, especially on Friday evening. I want to make clear that I do not want to condemn my fellow Christians for attempting to affirm their particular understanding of the Bible. I do not think that how people interpret the Hebrew word for 'time period' that appears in Genesis is critical doctrine. I just think a public high school is the wrong venue for that message, and I think that Mr. Patton is the wrong person to carry that message in an academic setting.

Now, if only I could be sure that I'm the right person to respond to ad hominem arguments....based only on my interruption of Patton's Q and A on Friday night, I'd have to say 'no'. And again, this makes me sad, because I want to be an effective advocate for science education, and I felt ineffective.

Black Lotus said...

I apologize if I came across as attacking religion or a particular political ideology, it is not my intention. Nor is it my intention to personally attack ftk, I merely am attacking the method in which ftk employs to get her message across [which unfortunately seems to be the method pervasive across the internet]. It is difficult to convey meaning without tone, I am actually a very calm and quite stoic.

That aside, I agree with your point that location is very important. Blatant misinformation does not have a place in the classroom. Most children are extremely malleable and although as adults we have a little more training in thinking critically, hosting the event at a place of learning was a bad choice.

{Additional Things:}

I respect the members of the church for being so kind. As a Buddhist I have never been disrespected. You are wonderful people, even though I disagree with many of the policies put forth by the organization.

Anonymous said...

I was there for Don Pattons presentations and found them interesting and well presented. I also think it is absolutely disgusting how evolutionists will stoop so low as to try and misrepresent Sungarden by putting fraudulent pamphlets into their material, which goes to show me that you and others were very fearful and threatened by the truth.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Um....I honestly don't know what you're talking about, unless you are alluding to the statement found on this post.

I didn't see any pamphlets at any of the meetings I attended. I only saw literature that outlined Mr. Patton's presentations.

I admit to reading a statement during the Wednesday evening Q and A, the same statement that the Bullard science faculty unanimously signed, but I did not give out a copy of that statement unless someone asked me for a copy.

That statement says NOTHING about Sun Garden Church of Christ, by the way, nor does it carry any kind of representations about that church of any kind, other than the acknowledgement that 'the group in question has followed district policy in arranging to use our facilities, and they have every right under the law to do so.'

If we can agree that's not a misrepresentation, then what are these 'pamphlets' you're talking about and what exactly did they say? I mean, it would help if you provided particulars in order to evaluate your claim.

As for the truth, some of the presentations that you found interesting and well-presented would have been rejected as dubious even by some of Patton's fellow creationists. I encourage you to look up what Answers in Genesis, for example, thinks about the Paluxy river tracks:

Some prominent creationist promoters of these tracks have long since withdrawn their support. Some of the allegedly human tracks may be artifacts of erosion of dinosaur tracks obscuring the claw marks. There is a need for properly documented research on the tracks before we would use them to argue the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I meant to say literature. Somebody put false literature in the stack of literature Sun Garden had on the table pertaining to Don Pattons presentation on Friday night.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

False literature...interesting.

OK, first of all I don't think anyone should've deliberately tried to put things on the church's table without anyone's permission. That would be wrong, in my judgement. Patton provided handouts that were outlines of earlier versions of his presentation. That was actually helpful as far as following along and taking notes. These were free and I can't see what purpose would've been served by putting other literature in the same piles without his or the sponsoring church's approval.

I can say I didn't do that, but I am concerned that some other enterprising individual might've slipped something from me or someone else on the table. So, again, I am curious about this literature. Can you describe its content?