An Evolution-Related Victory for Texas Schoolchildren?

It’s not often I get to say that, but the Texas Board of Education just approved “scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers” by a unanimous vote:

On Friday, the 15-member elected board voted 14-0 (with one absent) to approve the list of electronic supplements, with two biology textbook publishers agreeing to edit their material in select places to meet the board’s approval.

Amazing that we have to applaud a group of educators for simply choosing scientifically accurate material, but that’s what it’s come to in Texas. You take what you can get. So what does it mean when the publishers agree to “edit their material”?

Holt McDougal agreed, after some resistance, to offer changes in the language it employed in eight instances dealing with evolution concepts. The board agreed to adopt the text after passing a motion asking [Robert] Scott, the education commissioner, to coordinate the changes with the publisher.

Seems fishy… but if they came this far, here’s hoping they finish the job properly and present the overwhelming amount of evidence supporting evolution in the best possible way.

This whole affair also shows the importance of voting for board members who have the students’ best interests in mind instead of their churches’.

The 15-member board is dominated by Republicans but the ultra-conservative wing lost a key vote in 2010 when former chairman Don McLeroy was defeated by Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant.

Ratliff said he would have voted to support the findings of the scientists and throw out the changes recommended by the board reviewer.

“There’s no question had some seats not changed, it would have been different,” Ratliff said.

It also helped that the pro-science forces came out in full support of the supplements:

One conservative group had put a call out to pack Thursday’s public hearing with witnesses urging the board to adopt materials that question evolution. But they were outnumbered by witnesses supporting evolution.

So for now, we can claim victory… while keeping one eye open to make sure the board follows through with their pro-science vote.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • cipher

    How is this a victory? The publisher agreed to edit the books to make them happy. You know what they’ll make them put in there.

    I mean, look at this:

    Daniel Romo, professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University, said
    not all data proposed within the evolution model are settled science.
    For example, Romo said the study of abiogenesis — how life initially
    arose — is one area “where multiple sides of the evidence must be
    shown” and where “there is so much mystery and unknown in this area.”

    “The primary premise of my testimony is driven by my desire to ensure that
    outdated scientific experiments that are now widely accepted to have
    been performed under incorrect conditions be removed [from textbooks],”
    Romo said.

    R.E. Smith, a member of First Baptist Church in Dallas, testified on behalf of his friend Ide Trotter that use of data such as the 1950s Miller-Urey experiment that claimed to have produced abiogenesis with amino acids is considered invalid today. He encouraged the board to hold publishers to accuracy.

    “No scientist has any idea how the first molecule containing coded information came about,” Smith said.

    When was Miller-Urey invalidated, and how does this affect common descent?

    This is the state of science in Texas; a fucking Chemistry professor doesn’t know the difference between evolutionary theory and abiogenesis.

    Texas is unsalvageable. Give it back to Mexico, along with it’s retarded little brother, Oklahoma.

    Oh, hell – give ‘em the whole damn South. We’ll never miss it.

  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    I hate that gaining official support for having actual science taught in science classes is considered a “victory.”

  • Xerxes317

    Well evolution is a theory just like creationism…where is the missing link?

    • Anonymous

      More like gravity

    • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith

      Obviously, you have no concept what is meant by a scientific theory.  But creationists have no idea about anything rational.

      For your own edification, check out “hypothesis” and “theory” in scientific terms.

      Oh, and burn your bible, it’s all lies, anyway.

  • Dave

    Only the media and fundamentalist nuts believe there is a “missing link”.

  • LJ Dellar

    Abiogenesis has absolutely NOTHING to do with evolution.  Miller-Urey still shows what it always claimed, and only that, which is that it is possible to produce amino acids from inorganic materials.

  • Scarlet

    @cipher Whoa! those of us who teach in Texas aren’t ready to cede our kids to them. Being a realist here means understanding that whole we may want wholesale changes, those aren’t going to happen overnight and progress has to be made one step at a time.  Are there science curricula in other states/regions/countries that are more rigorous? yes! Does that mean we walk away from this generation as a loss? Absolutely not! These are the very people who will be voting for those SBOE members in the future. If they understand a little more science than they did before, that’s a win. Do we stop? no!

    Progress is rarely made through wholesale revolution.

    Please keep in mind though, that just because the state approves new standards, doesn’t mean that they are also appropriating funds for those new materials. http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/new-science-textbooks-face-budget-snag-690678.html

    • cipher

      progress has to be made one step at a time

      There’s no more time. We’re going down the tubes as a civilization already.

      We’ll airlift you and the twelve or so other non-creationists before we pass papers. You can teach up here in Reality.

    • cipher

      progress has to be made one step at a time

      There’s no more time. We’re going down the tubes as a civilization already.

      We’ll airlift you and the twelve or so other non-creationists before we pass papers. You can teach up here in Reality.

      • Scarlet

        there’s always more time. . .it’s not like we’re being raptured anytime soon. . .

        these kids deserve a better science education, but they won’t get it if the people who feel strongly about it all run away to someplace where teaching evolution is easy. . .

        if you want to be in this fight in Texas, that’s fine. . .but those of us who are willing to actually do this everyday don’t want your “airlift”, we want to help our students

        people have been saying we’re going the tubes as a civilization for thousands of years, even the Romans complained about it. . .lose the drama, roll up your sleeves, and do something about the aspects of out culture that you don’t like, but don’t bitch about education if all you do to “help” are blog comments

        • cipher

          I don’t care what you think about me personally, but there isn’t more time. The fundies, through their unfortunate political choices, are largely responsible for our current economic state, and as we go continue to go down, we’ll be taking the rest of the planet down with us.

          You want to think I’m an asshole? Fine, but to say “there’s always more time” is foolish and irresponsible.

          • Scarlet

            there’s always more time to teach the students in front of us. . .the whole “no time” argument presupposes that we’ve lost simply because the solution isn’t instant. . .education is a process. . .

            there are absolutely problems with our country now that must have fixes, the place for that is Washington. . .the place where we can make sure that the future isn’t like that or worse is in a classroom. . .

            we can’t force people to change by force imposed from the outside, Bush gave us a excellent lesson in that. . .change has to be made working inside the system

            don’t call me foolish and irresponsible after you’ve advocated abandoning whole groups of kids to the very people you are blaming for our current situation. . .


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