The State Board of Education left us with a bit of a cliffhanger last month. Despite the concerted efforts of creationists, nearly all of the biology textbooks sailed through the adoption process. Two, however, became mired in completely unsurprising ideological objections from the appointed expert reviewers.
Pearson's Biology, one of the most widely used textbooks in the country, was recommended for rejection by reviewer Ide Trotter, a chemical engineer by training and a staunch creationist, because its discussion of evolution didn't pay lip service to repeatedly debunked weaknesses in the theory. The other was an environmental science textbook that dared to report the overwhelming, global consensus that humans are affecting the climate for the worse.
The books were to pass through a second battery of new experts, which was worrisome. The board has a habit of appointing experts who are either entirely agenda-driven or completely unqualified, or both. So, imagine my surprise when the experts are named, and it turns out that each is a perfectly legitimate authority in the subject matter.
Dr. Ron Wetherington, an SMU evolutionary anthropologist is one. Wetherington has for years been a defender of the integrity of science education in this state, beating back efforts by the SBOE to inject its personal religious and political peccadilloes into public education. The next is Arturo De Lozanne, associate professor of molecular, developmental and cell biology at UT Austin. And lastly, Vincent Cassone, chair of the biology department at the University of Kentucky.
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The Kentucky legislature last year suffered a spasm of spiritually inspired education meddling. Cassone was a voice of reason. Oddly enough, as the Texas Freedom Network points out, he was handpicked by SBOE chair Barbara Cargill, whose religious beliefs have never been a secret. Cassone used to be at Texas A&M, so perhaps she knew him. Either way, it's both surprising and heartening.
Their job should be a quick and easy. There's no way these scientists are going to countenance the absurd critiques of two well-respected, widely used texts. The culture war isn't over, but it looks like reason won this round.