Skip to comments.Biology textbook hearings prompt science disputes [Texas]
Posted on 07/09/2003 12:08:32 PM PDT by PatrickHenry
FORT WORTH, Texas - (KRT) -
The long-running debate over the origins of mankind continues Wednesday before the Texas State Board of Education, and the result could change the way science is taught here and across the nation.
Local and out-of-state lobbying groups will try to convince the board that the next generation of biology books should contain new scientific evidence that reportedly pokes holes in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Many of those groups say that they are not pushing to place a divine creator back into science books, but to show that Darwin's theory is far from a perfect explanation of the origin of mankind.
"It has become a battle ground," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of theNational Center of Science Education, which is dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in the classroom.
Almost 45 scientists, educators and special interest groups from across the state will testify at the state's first public hearing this year on the next generation of textbooks for the courses of biology, family and career studies and English as a Second Language.
Approved textbooks will be available for classrooms for the 2004-05 school year. And because Texas is the second largest textbook buyer in the nation, the outcome could affect education nationwide.
The Texas Freedom Network and a handful of educators held a conference call last week to warn that conservative Christians and special interest organizations will try to twist textbook content to further their own views.
"We are seeing the wave of the future of religious right's attack on basic scientific principles," said Samantha Smoot, executive director of the network, an anti-censorship group and opponent of the radical right.
Those named by the network disagree with the claim, including the Discovery Institute and its Science and Culture Center of Seattle.
"Instead of wasting time looking at motivations, we wish people would look at the facts," said John West, associate director of the center.
"Our goal nationally is to encourage schools and educators to include more about evolution, including controversies about various parts of Darwinian theory that exists between even evolutionary scientists," West said. "We are a secular think tank."
The institute also is perhaps the nation's leading proponent of intelligent design - the idea that life is too complex to have occurred without the help of an unknown, intelligent being.
It pushed this view through grants to teachers and scientists, including Michael J. Behe, professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. The Institute receives millions of dollars from philanthropists and foundations dedicated to discrediting Darwin's theory.
The center sent the state board a 55-page report that graded 11 high school biology textbooks submitted for adoption. None earned a grade above a C minus. The report also includes four arguments it says show that evolutionary theory is not as solid as presented in biology textbooks.
Discovery Institute Fellow Raymond Bohlin, who also is executive director of Probe Ministries, based in Richardson, Texas, will deliver that message in person Wednesday before the State Board of Education. Bohlin has a doctorate degree in molecular cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas.
"If we can simply allow students to see that evolution is not an established fact, that leaves freedom for students to pursue other ideas," Bohlin said. "All I can do is continue to point these things out and hopefully get a group that hears and sees relevant data and insist on some changes."
The executive director of Texas Citizens for Science, Steven Schafersman, calls the institute's information "pseudoscience nonsense." Schafersman is an evolutionary scientist who, for more than two decades, taught biology, geology, paleontology and environmental science at a number of universities, including the University of Houston and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.
"It sounds plausible to people who are not scientifically informed," Schafersman said. "But they are fraudulently trying to deceive board members. They might succeed, but it will be over the public protests of scientists."
The last time Texas looked at biology books, in 1997, the State Board of Education considered replacing them all with new ones that did not mention evolution. The board voted down the proposal by a slim margin.
The state requires that evolution be in textbooks. But arguments against evolution have been successful over the last decade in other states. Alabama, New Mexico and Nebraska made changes that, to varying degrees, challenge the pre-eminence of evolution in the scientific curriculum.
In 1999, the Kansas Board of Education voted to wash the concepts of evolution from the state's science curricula. A new state board has since put evolution back in. Last year, the Cobb County school board in Georgia voted to include creationism in science classes.
Texas education requirements demand that textbooks include arguments for and against evolution, said Neal Frey, an analyst working with perhaps Texas' most famous textbook reviewers, Mel and Norma Gabler.
The Gablers, of Longview, have been reviewing Texas textbooks for almost four decades. They describe themselves as conservative Christians. Some of their priorities include making sure textbooks include scientific flaws in arguments for evolution.
"None of the texts truly conform to the state's requirements that the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories be presented to students," Frey said.
The Texas textbook proclamation of 2001, which is part of the standard for the state's curriculum, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, requires that biology textbooks instruct students so they may "analyze, review and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weakness using scientific evidence and information."
The state board is empowered to reject books only for factual errors or for not meeting the state's curriculum requirements. If speakers convince the state board that their evidence is scientifically sound, members may see little choice but to demand its presence in schoolbooks.
Proposed books already have been reviewed and approved by Texas Tech University. After a public hearing Wednesday and another Sept. 10, the state board is scheduled to adopt the new textbooks in November.
Satisfying the state board is only half the battle for textbook publishers. Individual school districts choose which books to use and are reimbursed by the state unless they buy texts rejected by the state board.
Districts can opt not to use books with passages they find objectionable. So when speakers at the public hearings criticize what they perceived as flaws in various books - such as failing to portray the United States or Christianity in a positive light - many publishers listen.
New books will be distributed next summer.
State Board member Terri Leo said the Discovery Institute works with esteemed scientists and that their evidence should be heard.
"You cannot teach students how to think if you don't present both sides of a scientific issue," Leo said. "Wouldn't you think that the body that has the responsibility of what's in the classroom would look at all scientific arguments?"
State board member Bob Craig said he had heard of the Intelligent Design theory.
"I'm going in with an open mind about everybody's presentation," Craig said. "I need to hear their presentation before I make any decisions or comments.
State board member Mary Helen Berlanga said she wanted to hear from local scientists.
"If we are going to discuss scientific information in the textbooks, the discussion will have to remain scientific," Berlanga said. "I'd like to hear from some of our scientists in the field on the subject."
That's not a bad analogy. Newton's equations are still quite adequate for NASA to launch satellites and steer probes to other planets. The algorithms for computing transfer orbits do not need to factor in relativity.
But at the fine level, relativity provides more precision, especially when dealing with extremes of velocity or gravity.
In a similar way, Darwin's primary hypothesis of variation and selection is still completely valid, but has been refined over the decades, and further refined by molecular biology.
Good point. I'm surprised the Dems haven't tried to use evolution as a wedge issue. There was a Garry Trudeau cartoon needling GWB's reported belief in creationism a while back, but it never went very far. I can only suppose it's because a high fraction of their voters are also creationists.
And the parts of evolution that creationists are usually busy attacking are the parts that have been recognized by scientists as inadequate for 75 years and long ago updated.
I rechecked my post. It didn't even mention "creationism." I simply implied that anyone who refuses to question his own hypotheses is a fool and sucks as a scientist!!!
You are the one who implies that you cannot allow yourself to question evolution because you guess that there is only one other option and you are afraid of it! Great scientific method you've rediscovered! It was previously used for most of the Dark Ages!
I agree. If one political party becomes tagged with the label of supporting pseudo-science, it becomes discredited. Liberals have already got half the country convinced that "socialism is the intelligent position," and that's why idiots out in Hollywood run around spouting leftisms -- so they'll be thought of as more than just a pretty face. We have our work cut out just convincing people of the truism that conservatism is the intelligent position. We don't need the millstone of "scientific creationism" to be dragging us down.
That said, I am officially declaring certain posters herein (or soon to be herein) on my "virtual ignore" list.
Right. Visitors to this thread should be aware that a small cadre of anti-science (and especially anti-evolution) people have perfected the practice of trolling for insults, so that when their provocative posts are answered, they can then complain of "abusive" behavior. They do this in the hope of having our threads pulled. Such people are a detriment to this website, and to the conservative cause. Everyone is therefore urged to NEVER respond to such posters. It can be difficult, because they are skilled at inciting flame wars; but it is only in this way that we can maintain a high standard of civil discourse, and preserve Jim Robinson's excellent forum as a place where conservatives can gather.
There is a preponderance on these threads of quotes from prior to 1980, and I would guess that 75% of all anti-evolution quotes date back to before 1925. I wonder how atomic energy woud fare if its science was judged by 1925 standards.
Empiricists work without hypotheses.
Perhaps rather that deal in generalities, you would care to mention some specific case that is not being addressed by modern biology and geology and paleontology, perhaps some specific error that has gone uncorrected by the science community.
Fine. That is very different from having hypotheses and refusing to question them.
That particular phylum had nearly disappeared from the evolutionary tree by then. What we see now is a new efflorescence growing out of a different base, a new verticil with the partial spectrum of things that crawl, swim, and fly. It remains to be seen if this efflorescence will develop fully or if it will an abbreviated branch.
No...I am perfectly comfortable dealing in generalities.
Another one of your pathetic lies. You guys press the abuse button regularly and have admitted as much. Creationists have no desire to have the threads pulled. The "monkey" business exhibited by the evolutionists does their cause more harm than good. Let the entire public observe!
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