The State Board of Education doesn't vote on new high-school biology textbooks until Friday, but the Discovery Institute -- an avowed foe of teaching evolution in public schools -- is bracing for the worst.
Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, an institute board member, tells Evolution News and Views that the proposed textbooks will "leave students in the dark about contemporary mainstream scientific controversies over Darwinian evolution."
Meyer was appointed an expert reviewer in 2009, when the SBOE was drawing a new science curriculum. His faction's great victory was a small phrase that held vast implications. Students would be asked to "analyze and evaluate" the theory of evolution's guiding principles. Because courts have found that the teaching of creationism and intelligent design is unconstitutional, their advocates have had to subsist on hinting at nonexistent controversies and flaws they say undermine evolution.
As told in last week's cover story, institute fellow and expert reviewer Ray Bohlin and others faulted the new crop of biology texts for failing to teach the "analyze and evaluate" mandate. The publisher of one of the country's most widely used biology texts, Pearson, refused to accede to the reviewers' demands. It responded to their concerns without weakening the text by addressing what creationists call "gaps" in the fossil record, and other pet theories that have been soundly and repeatedly debunked.
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The question on everyone's mind is how the SBOE will respond. Will it adopt the book as is when it votes Friday? Or will the culture wars be kindled anew, and will Pearson's text be rejected for failing to conform with the curriculum?
Meyer is already lamenting the creationists' defeat. The books adopted this week will remain in Texas classrooms for a decade or more. The institute and its supporters on the SBOE would see it as a decade lost to secularism and a materialist view of the natural world.
"Students should be trained to think independently, rather than be drilled in rote fashion," he said. "Unfortunately, because Texas is a major purchaser of textbooks, the board's action may have an adverse impact on science education across America for years to come."