Curses, Foiled Again!: Textbook Publishers Stand Up For Science

This whole “debate” in Texas is silly. No one in the scientific community has serious doubts about evolution, and federal courts have ruled that creationism is a religious belief system, not science.

The motto of fundamentalists who want to force creationism into public school science textbooks in Texas must be: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again. But it seems they’ll just have to keep on trying because their latest push has run into a roadblock: Textbook publishers refuse to play along.

This week, the Dallas Observer reported that the State Board of Education has narrowed its biology textbook options down to 14 titles – and not one of those choices includes any theories that run counter to evolution.

Don’t thank the board for this. Plenty of its members wanted creationism in those books. But textbook publishers knew better and refused to put religious concepts into secular science books.

This is a pretty significant development given that board chair Barbara Cargill is an avid advocate for creationism. In fact, she and her allies invited a few dozen people to review the textbook options this summer, including a handful of known creationists.

It was clearly a set-up. Here’s what happened:

The board has long leaned toward teaching creationism, but this year six additional anti-science advocates secured spots on the oversight body. The Texas Freedom Network (TFN), an Americans United ally, monitored the situation carefully. TFN said the initial drafts of science curricula and textbooks under review “have an uncensored, robust discussion of evolution without any promotion of creationism or intelligent design,” – but teams appointed to review the materials by the board included known creationism advocates as well as plenty of people with no relevant science background or expertise.

TFN also reported that some comments made during the review process “include suggestions that publishers water-down or censor instruction on evolution; and the whole review process has been compromised by lack of qualified review teams participants, meddling by SBOE members and confusion about the basic rules governing the process.”

TFN later obtained detailed information on one of the curriculum review panels, noting that a team of four reviewers “is shockingly devoid of any relevant teaching experience or advanced education in biology.” The panel had just one “experienced classroom teacher,” TFN said.

Many of the comments by the reviewers, TFN said, indicated a desire to weaken instruction about evolution.

Fortunately it seems none of that made any difference in the end, and real science won out. Nonetheless, the board still has to give its final approval to biology textbooks next month, the Observer said, but TFN “declared a partial victory.”

“[This is] a very welcome development for everyone who opposes teaching phony science,” TFN President Kathy Miller said.

Unfortunately Texas always seems to be the center of textbooks controversies, from the ongoing fight over biology books to social studies texts that declare America a “Christian nation.”

And the reason this problem is so serious (beyond the obvious) is that Texas is a huge state that orders quite a few books, so books that meet the state’s demands could end up in other states.

Of course this whole “debate” in Texas is silly. No one in the scientific community has serious doubts about evolution, and federal courts have ruled that creationism is a religious belief system, not science.

That’s why there’s no reason for this nonsense to continue, but of course it will because Cargill and her minions simply won’t quit. That’s why TFN, Americans United and others will have to remain vigilant in monitoring the shenanigans in Texas, making sure students get a proper education and aren’t subjected to religious indoctrination under the guise of “teaching the controversy.”