Back To School With Rep. Chris Holbert

UPDATE: Statement from the National Center for Science Education:

Otherwise a typical instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the integrity of science education, HB 13-1089 was unusual in targeting higher education as well as K-12 education. The primary sponsors of HB 13-1089 were Stephen Humphrey (R-District 48) in the House and Scott Renfroe (R-District 13) in the Senate — in Colorado, bills in either house of the legislature will have a sponsor in the other house. Among those testifying for the bill was a representative of the Discovery Institute, who claimed that his organization helped to draft the bill. Among those testifying against the bill were representatives of the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado Education Association, and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.

"One down, seven to go," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, alluding to the seven bills still active — Arizona's Senate Bill 1213, Indiana's House Bill 1283, Missouri's House Bill 179 and House Bill 291, Montana's House Bill 183, and Oklahoma's Senate Bill 758 and House Bill 1674 — that would undermine the teaching of evolution and climate change in the public schools. (A further bill, Texas's House Bill 285, which would protect faculty and students in higher education from persecution over their acceptance of "intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms," is also still active.) "But this victory in Colorado was too close," Scott added. "People in Colorado and elsewhere need to understand that these bills would be nothing but trouble: scientifically misleading, pedagogically unnecessary, and likely to produce administrative, legal, and economic headaches."

Here's a fascinating clip of audio from yesterday's hearing in the Colorado House Education Committee on House Bill 13-1089–the bill from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to "foster a culture of tolerance," according to sponsor Rep. Steve Humphrey, for students whose views on certain matters of science may be "out of the mainstream" on such matters as evolution and climate change. The bill was killed yesterday in the House Ed Committee, but not before this memorable exchange between GOP Rep. Chris Holbert and Katie Navin, Executive Director of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education: 

Can't see the audio player? Click here.

HOLBERT: Thank you, Madam Chair. Ms. Nevin, I wonder if you could describe any efforts by your group or others around the state to empower, encourage, enable, teachers and students to, especially in the high school environment, to, um, to discount what I believe to be the myth of climate change and global warming. [Pols emphasis] You referred to that as a "theory," so if that, if that is a theory, um, I hope that we are again encouraging and empowering to take a position where they could just absolutely attack that as nonsense.

NAVIN: Um, I think that (Oh, thank you), I think there's general, the general populace uses the word "theory" differently than it is used in science. And so a theory is pretty much as close to fact as you can get. Gravity is a theory in science, but you know we all drop something and I'm pretty sure it's going to hit the ground. So really, I think the language of the bill lacks clarity in describing what a theory is, in terms of discussing the strengths and weaknesses towards it. Did that answer the question?


CHAIR: Representative Holbert, do you want to ask, uh, the question differently?

HOLBERT: Does your, does your group do anything to encourage, communicate to students, uh, in K through 12 or higher ed, um, the, the, uh, to oppose, to encourage them to speak out and oppose things, because it's my impression that, that my sons are being taught one side of that. That it is, in fact "fact," and, and it's not.

It's not the first time we've felt honest-to-God sympathy for a witness in a legislative hearing, but seriously, folks. Any person with a background in academia subjected to this kind of painfully lowbrow questioning, but still retaining their professional obligation to not let the questioner know he is a blathering idiot, is deserving of your sympathy.

You might even come to the conclusion that a person with these kinds of…misconceptions about education and science has no business on the House Education Committee to begin with, but but parties get to make their selections for committees. In this case, much like having Rep. Janak "Dr. Nick" Joshi fronting health care bills, it's safe to say Republicans are not putting their best foot forward in Rep. Chris Holbert.

24 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit! says:

    What a moron. Why don't they just play this audio unedited on the evening news? Voters need to know how stupid these guys are.

    • Only if they don't present it as a respectable viewpoint. I want news programs to end segments like this with a simple presentation of the state of things…

      E.g. "97% of climate experts agree on the results of studies that indicate global warming is a real issue and that man is the primary cause."

      Don't leave the viewers up in the air: state the simple truths.

  2. VanDammer says:

    you go Holbert!  His statement, " … to discount what I believe to be the myth of climate change and global warming" nails it.  Ya see, he don't want none of ya'll teachin' something different from his beliefs.  No matter if his beliefs are 100% fucked screwy 10 times to Hell (ooh, betcha that's a-nuther one of his beliefs along with pitchforks & brimstone & God hates gays but luvs him some guns).

    We got a representative government so I guess Holbert is holding up his end for dumbshit constituents outta Parker.


  3. DavidThi808 says:

    I don't think the root of the problem is Chris Holbert. The root is the education he got where he clearly didn't learn even the basics of science (the very first thing is what a theory is). He's like Penny in The Big Bang Theory.

    • The realist says:

      He (and the other back-to-medieval-times rightwingers) may well have gotten a very good grounding in science when he was in school.  But he's not following logic, reason or the scientific method — he's following the directives of the powerful energy industry and his rightwing leaders.  He worships non-scientific ignorance not because he didn't learn any science, but because of undying loyalty to extremists and their now-shrinking political power.


  4. DougcoDem says:

    It is not just Parker. It is all of Douglas County. I have always said Charles Manson could win an election in this county as long as he had a "R" behind his name. I am embarassed to tell people I live here.

    • ArapaGOP says:

      Good God. CHARLES MANSON? Don't you think you're exaggerating a little bit?

      • There are days when I think some of us wonder… I mean, Manson was a pretty charismatic guy; if he'd been active in the Republican Party I wonder how many would have cried "conspiracy" when he was locked up. He would have needed a haircut and some nicer clothes, though.

      • Gray in Mountains says:

        As long as he was anti-choice, of course

      • Aristotle says:

        I don't. You guys will take anybody, as long as they promise to keep women's rights down, put guns in everyone's hands (check out Charlie's thoughts on gun ownership sometime – he was definitely on your side there), and fight religion-threatening science.

      • DougcoDem says:

        Nope. Cite evidence to the contrary.

        • ArapaGOP says:

          That's not an attitude that reaches across the aisle. I don't think Democrats would vote for Charles Manson.

          • Aristotle says:

            "Reaching across the aisle" ?  Since when do GOrPers care about that? Of all the radical bills being offered by the GOrP in Colorado and other states, from naked attempts to outlaw all abortion to redistributing electoral votes so gerrymandered states will still deliver for the GOrP, regardless of whether the majority of their voters select their POTUS candidate or not, to the "gun in every child's hands" bills – NONE of these are examples of the GOrP reaching across the aisle. These are gestures saying "Fuck you, we don't care whether we have the people with us or not, we're finally doing what the hell we want."

            "Reaching across the aisle." Gimme a break.

  5. DaftPunk says:

    Once more for the knuckle-draggers:

    In the American vernacular, "theory" often means "imperfect fact"—part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is "only" a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): "Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science—that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was."

    Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

    Moreover, "fact" does not mean "absolute certainty." The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

    • Duke Cox says:

      Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact.

      Yes…the same is true of gravity. That there IS gravity is undisputed…the theories are about explanations of why and how.

      Of course, when your mind has descended into ass-clownery, you can't (won't) discern that subtle distinction.

  6. ardy3 says:


    My current favorite t-shirt:

    Stork Birth t-shirt from Teach the Controversy

    Available in many designs and colors from

  7. MADCO says:

    Gravity? pfft

    The word never appears in the Bible.

  8. ArapaGOP says:

    Look, I just have one question. If you're right, then what's wrong with allowing viewpoints that millions of people hold, including many of those students, to be debated in a fair way? Won't you always win if you're right anyway?

    I don't see why we can't err on the side of respecting people's beliefs. That's not forcing anything on anyone.

    • ardy3 says:

      Millions of people believe that babies are delivered by storks? I had no idea. Can you name at least three of them?

      In science, we teach about theories that are supported by evidence. Thus, we don't teach about baby-delivering-storks. We don't teach that the earth is flat. Nor do we teach that the earth is supported on the backs of turtles. We don't even teach a geo-centric solar system. We don't teach that matter is composed of combinations of earth, wind and fire. We don't spend time attempting to describe aether. We don't teach the bad humours "theory" of disease nor the demon "theory" of disease. We don't teach alchemy. In science, we don't teach about reincarnation, regardless of how many millions of misguided people might claim to "believe" in it. We don't teach about dowsing or the fountain of youth or perpetual motion or that the earth is hollow and has people living inside it. We don't teach about telekinesis or ESP. We don't mislead students with claims that Elvis is still alive.

      If you want to cling to ignorance, that's your prerogative. But just because you don't understand what science is does not give you the right to abuse children with your bullshit.

      Next …

    • Aristotle says:

      Let me answer with a question. Why is it so important to you to teach religion in a science class? Why isn't Sunday School good enough for you?

    • Gray in Mountains says:

      if it in school that is a disservice to them just as it would be to have a math teacher teaching kids that 2+2+5

      But, go ahead and waste your time here and on blogs and FB arguing falsehoods. But, it is long past time to free Galileo, even if some still disagree with him

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