Texas education board votes in favor of reason

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The Texas Board of Education voted 14-0 on July 22 to approve high school textbook supplements that promote a scientifically accurate understanding of evolution and the beginnings of life on earth. In doing so, they voted to reject a supplement from International Databases, LLC., a Utah-based company that had submitted its own supplement, which would have taught "intelligent design"  as an equally valid competing theory.

According to the International Databases supplement, published on the website of the Texas Education Agency, the failure of some scientific models to fully explain the origins of life means, "the Null (default) hypothesis stands. This allows for testing of the legitimate scientific hypothesis... Life on earth is the result of intelligent causes."

A section titled "Suggestions for Teachers" said, "Students should go home with the understanding that a new paradigm of explaining life's origins is emerging from the failed attempts of naturalistic scenarios. This new way of thinking is predicated upon the hypothesis that intelligent input is necessary for life's origins."

Of the other supplements to the science books that came up for review, one, by Holt McDougal, was singled out by a creationist on the schoolbook review panel. According to the critic, there was a list of inaccuracies in the book, but the supplement was accepted anyway, under the provision that any mistakes would be cleared up.

The rules for selecting science textbooks in Texas require that all materials be sent to review teams beforehand. The teams are selected by the board, and include people who were nominated by it as well as those who applied on their own. Some team members and nominees were identified not only as intelligent design advocates, but also even as "young earth creationists" - those who believe that the planet is less than 6,000 years old.

While the board has a right-wing creationist fringe, popular support seems to have moved the members, who are elected officials, away from the International Databases supplement. At a July 21 hearing, the day before the vote was taken, four times as many people spoke against the creationist supplements as for them.

The Texas Freedom Network, which in 2009 led a fight that succeeded in stripping anti-evolution requirements from the state's education standards, led the fight again this time. The group circulated a petition, initiated a rapid response team and involved evolution-friendly religious leaders and congregations in the fight for school science.

Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Council on Science Education, said in a statement on the group's website, "These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a central and vital concept in any biology class. That these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue change in the board. I commend the board for its refusal to politicize science education."

The board has a long history of issuing politicized, often right wing standards for the state's education. In 2010, it voted to ban what it saw as "pro-Muslim" and "anti-Christian" books from schools.

Decisions taken in Texas have a strong impact on the curricula of school districts across the country. Most school boards in the U.S. town-, city- or county-level, but the Texas board has responsibility for the entire state. Consequently, it is the largest school board, and therefore in charge of the largest market for textbooks. Publishers, seeking a share of the market, try to ensure that their books are selected for use by the board, and therefore often cater to its standards.

Photo: Children examining the jaw of a Megalodon, an extinct species of shark that lived millions of years ago during the Cenozoic Era, at the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. The jaw is 11 feet wide and almost 9 feet tall and has 182 teeth collected from South Carolina rivers. (Rich Matthews/AP)

 

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  • I congratulate Texas on this sound decision. But, I have a feeling that this decision is "two steps forward" and that there will be a "one step back" in the future.

    Posted by Mark, 08/12/2011 11:13am (3 years ago)

  • You have to be an idiot to not see all the patterns in all the evidence in all the fields of science. Simple as that. The bible is wrong and frankly its an archaic relic symbolic of times when we just had no way of probing questions on phenomena like lighting, rain, or the beautiful shapes in which ice crystals form to make a snowflake.

    The creationist argument is akin to suggesting that a book is not a book because a page is missing. There denial of Transitional fossils is downright funny.

    you have fossils 1,2,3,5,6 and they say that they either

    1) don't see a pattern
    2) all animals died at the exact same time in a flood, then they go on to denial of the geological column
    3) 1,2,3, are of a "3" kind. 3 could not become a 4. It is not a 4 kind. LOL.

    These people don't have the foggiest idea of things like morphology, biogeographgy, genome sequencing.

    Evolution is a fact and theory. A scientific Theory is different than a theory in philosophy. This should tell you all you need to know about their understanding of science.

    Evolution has been directly observed.

    Posted by Tag Cloud, 08/02/2011 9:28pm (3 years ago)

  • Excellent article. It's great to hear that the SBOE in Texas is doing something right!

    Posted by jim lane, 08/02/2011 5:07pm (3 years ago)

  • One for science and one for moving Texas children on a path to better understand our relationship to this beautiful planet.

    Spirituality is an admirable human feeling, it comes from being human. It has nothing to do a god or gods, one can believe in god and be spiritual and one can also be spiritual and not believe in god....

    Thanks Dan for reporting on this step forward.

    wage peace
    raise the debt ceiling for more scientific text books!

    Posted by gabriel Falsetta, 08/02/2011 1:13pm (3 years ago)

  • To the NCSE, you can fool some of the people all the time, and fool all of the people some of the time, but you cant fool all of the people all of the time.

    Posted by Benny Vallejo, 08/02/2011 4:25am (3 years ago)

  • This has to be the most progressive thing they have done yet!

    Posted by Brandon Ivey, 08/01/2011 8:30pm (3 years ago)

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