Skip to comments.Textbooks at center of evolution debate
Posted on 11/01/2003 4:14:09 AM PST by I Am Not A Mod
AUSTIN -- Texas will be under the microscope this week in the fight over teaching evolution in public schools as the State Board of Education votes on adopting biology textbooks that have been at the center of the debate.
The board meets Thursday and Friday and is set to consider proposed changes submitted by 11 publishers. The board's decisions -- which could determine which textbooks publishers offer to dozens of states -- will end a review process that has been marked by months of heated debate over the theory of evolution.
Religious activists and proponents of alternative science urged publishers to revise some of the 10th-grade books and want the board to reject others, saying they contain factual errors regarding the theory of evolution. Mainstream scientists assert that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a cornerstone of modern research and technology.
Board members can only vote to reject books based on factual errors or failure to follow state curriculum as mandated by the Legislature.
"There's a bait and switch going on here because the critics want the textbooks to question whether evolution occurred. And of course they don't because scientists don't question whether evolution occurred," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the California-based National Center for Science Education.
Among those questioning the textbooks are about 60 biologists from around the country who signed a "statement of dissent" about teaching evolution and said both sides of the issue should be taught. Several religious leaders also testified against teaching evolution.
Any changes to the textbooks will have implications across the country.
Texas is the nation's second largest buyer of textbooks, and books sold in the state are often marketed by publishers nationwide. Texas, California and Florida account for more than 30 percent of the nation's $4 billion public school book market. Three dozen publishers invest millions of dollars in Texas.
One of the most vocal advocates of changing the textbooks is the Discovery Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Seattle. Institute officials have argued at board hearings that alternatives to commonly accepted theories of evolution should be included in textbooks to comply with a state requirement that both strengths and weaknesses are presented.
"These things are widely criticized as being problematic. They aren't criticisms we made up; they're criticisms widely held in the scientific community," said Discovery Institute fellow John West.
Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, said there are no weaknesses in current textbooks' explanation of evolution. Publishers are required to cover evolution in science books.
The institute has referred to a theory dubbed intelligent design -- a belief that life did not evolve randomly but progressed according to a plan or design. No book on the mainstream market presents the intelligent design theory of evolution.
"We know that this is a very contentious issue. We know that, but the sorts of things we were proposing we thought were moderate," West said.
Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors religious activists, argues that the Discovery Institute's arguments are rooted in religion. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that the teaching of creationism in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state.
"It says that the theory of evolution can't explain the diversity of life on this planet and that there must have been a designer," Smoot said. "That is a very valid and commonly held religious perspective, but not one that is upheld by scientific evidence. Therefore it's not one that belongs in science classrooms."
The Discovery Institute has maintained that its arguments have no religious foundation, but Smoot disagrees.
"The concept of intelligent design was crafted specifically to get around legal prohibitions against teaching religion in public schools," she said. "And as long as proponents of intelligent design deny that they're referring to God when they talk about the designer, they hope to be able to pull this off."
At least one publisher has submitted changes in line with the institute's recommendations.
Holt, Rinehart & Winston has submitted a change that directs students to "study hypotheses for the origin of life that are alternatives" to the others in the book. Students also are encouraged to research alternative theories on the Internet.
"The concept of intelligent design was crafted specifically to get around legal prohibitions against teaching religion in public schools,"
Well, of course. Evolution should be taught as theory rather than fact, but intelligent design by whatever name should be left to religious training.
Some of the data is the data of fact that there is no possible way that the number of life forms we have on this planet and the number of positive "mutations" that would have had to take place are even remotely possible. You want to talk about faith. It takes much less faith to belive in God than it does to buy the outlandish "hey, I need to reproduce, I think I will grow a dingle" sequence.
you 're comfortable with that gobble - gobble - turkey !
Of course not. One need not be an atheist to be willing to follow data whereever it leads.
Okay, but a negative such as that does not answer questions with data. As I said, evolution is a theory, imo, not a proven.
Well then, what's the problem for these lefties? Darwin was very definitely a creationist.
I took a few minutes to decipher that post, and I must say I agree with a lot of what you said.
These were the Classical liberals...founding fathers-PRINCIPLES---stable/SANE scientific reality/society---industrial progress...moral/social character-values(private/personal) GROWTH(limited NON-intrusive PC Govt/religion---schools)!
Where you and I diverge is on the Evolution/Communism thing. You seem to view Darwin and evolution as the beginning of the end for enlighted, moral civilization, while I think Marx, class struggle, and the "dictatorship of the proletariat" are the true dangers.
God bless you, I think we both have a common enemy in the BRAVE-NWO.
452 posted on 9/7/02 8:54 PM Pacific by Dakmar