In May a Texas state bill that fostered creationism—by mandating that neither teachers nor students could be penalized for teaching or doing research on intelligent design or “alternate theories” (which could presumably include young-earth creationism)—died in committee.
Here’s the relevant section of Texas HB00285:
Sec.A51.979.A A PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RESEARCH RELATED TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN.
An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member ’s or student ’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.
Thank Ceiling Cat for that. But, as usual in these situations, and invariably in Texas, the brushfire is set to ignite again. According to yesterday’s TFN [Texas Freedom Network] Insider, six creationists have been invited to review the biology textbooks that will be vetted for adoption in Texas schools. (As you may know, Texas is one of the nation’s largest markets for schoolbooks, and publishers are loath to produce different editions for different states. Ergo a push towards eliminating evolution in Texas schoolbooks could have national repercussions.)
Since there are only eleven reviewers (the sentiments of the other five haven’t yet been identified), this is already a majority. Take a look at who Texas considers qualified to vet its schoolbooks (descriptions taken from TFN site):
- Raymond Bohlin is vice president of vision outreach for Probe Ministries in Plano and a research fellow for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute promotes the pseudoscientific concept “intelligent design” over evolution. Founded in 1973, Probe works “to present the Gospel to communities, nationally and internationally, by providing life-long opportunities to integrate faith and learning through balanced, biblically based scholarship.” Bohlin has a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, making him a star performer for anti-evolution groups. He is listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the Creation Science Hall of Fame website.
- Walter Bradley is a retired Baylor University professor of engineering who coauthored a book, The Mystery of Life’s Origins in 1984, that essentially launched the “intelligent design” movement. “Intelligent design” suggests a scientific basis for creationism (creationism dressed up in a lab coat). Bradley, founding fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, is also listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the Creation Science Hall of Fame website. He is participating in the biology review panel meetings this week.
- Daniel Romo is a chemistry professor at Texas A&M University and is listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the Creation Science Hall of Fame website.
- David Zeiger is a seventh-grade teacher at a Christian private school in North Texas. He holds a biochemistry degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. In 2009 he and his wife, Heather, opposed removing from the state’s science curriculum standards the requirement that students learn about so-called “weaknesses” of evolution.
- Richard White, a systems (network) engineer in Austin, testified at an SBOE hearing on the proposed science curriculum standards on March 25, 2009. At the time, he advocated the inclusion of phony “weaknesses” of evolution in Texas science standards:”: These are all well-known scientific problems with modern evolutionary theory, and they do not exhaust the list. The entire list is a very long one.”
- Ide Trotter is a longtime standard-bearer for the creationist movement in Texas, both as a source of funding and as a spokesperson for the absurdly named creationist group Texans for Better Science Education. Trotter, listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the Creation Science Hall of Fame website, is a veteran of the evolution wars at the SBOE and is participating the biology review panel meetings this week. He testified before the board during the 2003 biology textbook adoption and again in 2009 during the science curriculum adoption. In both instances, Trotter advocated including scientifically discredited “weaknesses” of evolution in Texas science classrooms.
Notice who’s missing from this list: anybody with a degree in straight biology (Zeigler does have a Ph.D. in biochemistry). Could they not find professors of biology at, say, the University of Texas at Austin, Rice, Texas A&M, or any of the schools in Texas that have good biology programs? Of course they could, and I am absolutely certain those people would be willing to be on this committee. It almost seems as if Texas wants to get evolution out of the schools, doesn’t it? Is this the best that the populous state of Texas can do?
As TFN notes:
In fact, publishers are making changes to their textbooks based on objections they hear from the review panelists. And that’s happening essentially behind closed doors because the public isn’t able to monitor discussions among the review panelists themselves or between panelists and publishers. The public won’t know about publishers’ changes (or the names of all the review panelists who are in Austin this week) until probably September. Alarm bells are ringing.
This is unconscionable! The public doesn’t get to hear about these discussions, but the textbook publishers do? And why are the panelists even talking to publishers?
The state school board has a hearing in late September, and in November the final list of textbooks will be chosen. In the meantime, there’s a petition you can sign here which simply says this:
Join us in sending this message to the Texas State Board of Education:
Texas students need classroom materials that are based on modern, mainstream science and prepare them to succeed in college and the jobs of the future. That means politicians must stop trying to undermine instruction on evolution and climate change. The State Board of Education must approve science textbooks that are based on sound, peer-reviewed scholarship.
I’ve signed it, but I live in Illinois and am a “carpetbagger.” It’s especially important that you sign it if you live in Texas.
From the TFN Facebook page: