Texas Scientists Rally To Defend Sound Biology Curriculum In Classrooms

Scientists in Texas are organizing to protect the state’s biology education from a Religious Right assault.

The Texas Board of Education is currently considering a new science curriculum, and instruction about evolution is under the gun. Heading up the board is Don McLeroy (R-Bryan), a creationist who opposes an academic working group’s suggestion to remove the current requirement that “strengths and weakness” of all scientific theories be taught in biology classes.

“I look at evolution as still a hypothesis with weaknesses,” McLeroy told the Associated Press.

Alarmed by such statements, a group of Lone Star State scientists has formed the 21st Century Science Coalition. The group has been a great success, registering more than 800 Texas scientists within weeks of forming.

In early October, the group brought scientific journals to the Texas Education Agency to prove that McLeroy’s “weaknesses” don’t exist.

“Not a single one [of the articles in these journals] gives us reason to believe evolution did not occur,” Dan Bolnick, an assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas told the American-Statesman in Austin. “So where are the weaknesses? Simple: They don’t exist. They are not based on scientific research or data and have been refuted countless times.”

Critics of creationism point out that terms like “strengths and weaknesses” have been used as a way to push creationism and “intelligent design” in public schools. Texas evolution supporters said they know what McLeroy is up to.

“It’s clear he wants to promote a particular religious agenda,” David Hills, a University of Texas integrative biology professor, told the American-Statesman. “Texas public schools should be preparing our kids to succeed in the 21st century, not promoting political and ideological agendas that are hostile to sound science education.”

An editorial in the newspaper agreed. “We would not want scientists flying commercial airplanes or teaching students how to fly planes,” opined the paper. “That job is for pilots and flight instructors – the experts on flying. So who better than scientists and science educators to develop curriculum standards in science for public schools?”

The 21st Century Science Coalition has been soliciting support online for a statement that backs the teaching of evolution in Texas public schools. The statement calls for standards that, among other things, “acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences” and “make clear that evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt.”

For more information about the group, see www.texasscientists.org.