Texas Textbook Reviewers Are Trying to Push Creationism Into the Classroom

How did the Texas State Board of Education get back into the news?! I thought we were done with them after Don McLeroy left, but they’re back and they’re once again promoting bad science:

Science textbooks shouldn’t include magic

Records show that the textbook reviewers made ideological objections to material on evolution and climate change in science textbooks from at least seven publishers, including several of the nation’s largest publishing houses. Failing to obtain a review panel’s top rating can make it harder for publishers to sell their textbooks to school districts, and can even lead the state to reject the books altogether.

The Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education put out a joint press release this week explaining how the TFN obtained the review panel’s notes from the Texas Education Agency “through a request under the state’s Public Information Act.”

Among the most egregious examples they found:

In a review of textbooks from publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Scientific Minds, a reviewer wrote:

“I understand the National Academy of Science’s [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.”

The same reviewer also wrote (in the Houghton textbook review):

“While I understand the theory of evolution and its wide acceptance, there should be inclusion of the ‘creation model’ based on the Biblical view of history.

Also in his review of Pearson/Prentice-Hall’s textbook, [reviewer Ray] Bohlin repeatedly promotes a book written by a Discovery Institute vice president, without disclosing his affiliation with the Institute:

“This entire section is out of date and wrong. Also see Meyer’s ‘The Signature in the Cell.’ [sic]”

“There is no discussion of the origin of information bearing molecules which is absolutely essential in any origin of life scenario Meyer’s Signature in the Cell easily dismisses any RNA first scenario. The authors need to get caught up.”

“If authors would read Signature in the Cell, chapter 14, they would be made fully aware of the deep problems of any RNA first scenario.”

Again, that’s just a sampling.

These are reviewers who don’t understand science, who want to push their religious agendas into the classroom to the detriment of Texas students — and possibly students nationwide who are affected by Texas’ textbook selections.

We don’t know yet how publishers have responded to the critiques from the ignorant reviewers.

The state Board of Education will meet next Tuesday to begin discussion on science textbook adoption. NCSE is asking everyone to remind them: Don’t mess with textbooks. If you sign up for information at their website, you’ll be notified where and when exactly that meeting will take place. If you can, show up at the meeting and let them know (politely but firmly) that you want Texas students to be properly educated in science and not subject to religious beliefs that belong only within church walls.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • baal

    Lysenkoism is not a harmless viewpoint. Teaching people bad science was a big part of death via starvation in the early Soviet Union.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Don’t call it “bad science”. That infers that idiots who seek to destroy science are doing science. Lying to children about the most fundamental facts of life on this planet is not a scientific endeavor.

    The mischaracterization of the word “theory” in science is especially egregious. There’s such a thing as gravitational theory, too. These “educators” should be instructed to drive to the nearest cliff and “teach the controversy”.

    • Michaela Samuels

      My exact thought. It’s not BAD science; it’s just not science at all!

    • JET

      Why on earth are non-scientists used to decide what curriculum goes into a science text? Do they also get to review what goes into the text a medical student uses to learn open-heart surgery?

      • WallofSleep

        I’ll go one further and ask why on earth do we elect non-scientists to positions where they have deciding authority over matters of science, research, and technology?

        • ZenDruid

          Usually because they’re the only ones running for the positions.

          • Jim Jones

            Because Texas.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              I try :( Unfortunately, my vote only counts for one.

          • Mark W.

            The rest of us being too busy doing, you guessed it…SCIENCE!!!

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Glad to see I’m not the only person that thought: “Just a theory, huh? Gravity is a theory too, so why don’t you go jump off a cliff?”

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        To be fair, the fact that people who jump off cliffs will fall is not a theory. Why they fall is the theory part. How fast they will accelerate is a law.

  • Goape

    I understand that a lot of people support the theory of gravity—but it is just a theory. That’s why I think everyone should be forcibly tied to trees.

    • Bitter Lizard

      If we can somehow take the money for that from hungry children, I’m pretty sure you can get the GOP on board.

      • Goape

        Yeah, they also loved my ideas on tying the poor people up with bailing twine and giving velvet-rope-tax-breaks to the rich.

      • WallofSleep

        Cave Johnson’s “Take a Wish Foundation”?

  • martinrc

    So we need to also add flat earth belief, stork belief of reproduction and intelligent falling to earth sciences, sex ed and physics textbooks respectively as well since obviously, those are just theories as well???

  • Timmah

    “I understand the National Academy of Science’s [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is a theory.”

    Stop. Let me just stop you right there because clearly you DON’T understand. You are using the word “theory” in the context of it being “an educated guess”. If you don’t even understand what Scientific Theory is, you shouldn’t be reviewing a freaking Science textbook.

    • ORAXX

      For the creationist crowd, ‘theory’ equals conjecture, which is why they think their holy book should be given equal footing.

      • Jim Jones

        That’s why I like to refer to The Revelation of Evolution and compare it to the Theory of Religion.

  • skyblue

    I had to laugh when the same person said:
    “At the same time, this is a theory” – (yes it is!)
    and
    “While I understand the theory of evolution” – (no, you don’t!)

    Creationists seem to have their own definition of “understand”, just like they do with “theory”

  • Michaela Samuels

    There was a big hubbub in Austin last week when a tea partier and mom publicly exposed questions and answer keys to a publisher’s test bank because she said it was anti-American and pro-Islam (which, I guess in her mind, are contradictory). We’ve been all up in arms over curriculum down here. I think there are enough liberal cities to throw off the ultra conservative vote, but judging by the number of tea party bumper stickers I see just on my way into work, that won’t be an easy feat.

  • Artor

    All this being the case, why does anybody lend credence to Texas textbook reviews anymore? Sure, they have a large market, but is there anyone in this country that doesn’t already know that Texas textbook review is hopelessly borked? I would hope publishers and book buyers have enough sense to look at the garbage coming out of Texas and shrug it off.

    • Itsrealfunnythat

      The students dont know…

      • Artor

        True, but they aren’t the ones with a choice to which books are published, bought and used.

        • Itsrealfunnythat

          My point is the kids dont know about this debate, they only memorize what their books tell them. Even if it is garbage they cant tell the difference.

    • ZenDruid

      I might be mistaken, but I thought CA decided to ignore any TX textbook reviews.

    • Brian

      Sadly, Texas has an overwhelming amount of power when it comes to textbooks, since their decisions have ripple effects in many other states across the country, who basically follow their lead. This is why this particular fight is always being fought, because its effects go beyond just Texas.

  • the moother

    Records show that the textbook reviewers made ideological objections [to the teaching of science against a preference of teaching religious bullshit - Additions: MINE!]

    Well, there rest of us make “ideological objections” to people pulling facts out of their ass.

  • Mitch

    Included in next year’s science textbooks: a free magic wand and pamphlets on cold-calling and seances.

  • qp3

    I can understand why these religious nuts are against evolution, but why climate change? I mean, Jesus says that if you don’t treat the least as you would treat him you will go to hell.

    If climate change is true and we do nothing: crops of poor villages will burn: causing more starvation, water will evaporate: causing more disease and starvation. It is the least who will be affected the most if climate change is true. And these christians are gambling their eternal afterlife that climate change is not real!

    If you live a modern way of life or vote against policies trying to reduce co2 then you are part responsible.

    • Bitter Lizard

      Because everyone knows that the only people who have any impact on the weather are those hurricane-causing homosexuals.

    • David Kopp

      Because God said we couldn’t hurt the planet. Duh. He’ll always take care of us, so we don’t have to worry about that. He gave us the Earth to rape, not care for.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Even he has to Extinction-Level-Event us once in a while.

    • Jim Jones

      Because these idiots are such special little snowflakes that they know that the rapture will happen in their lifetimes.

      Fools. It already happened in 1952. One little old lady, a retired schoolteacher in Topeka KS, was raptured up to meet her savior. No one else made the cut.

  • Rain

    “There is no discussion of the origin of information bearing molecules which is absolutely essential in any origin of life scenario Meyer’s Signature in the Cell easily dismisses any RNA first scenario. The authors need to get caught up.”

    Yeah stay classy, annoying in your face fundy crackpot overbearingly unjustifiably smug professional book promoter kook person. (Hat tip: google thesaurus.)

  • Dave

    “The authors need to get caught up. ”
    “The National Academy of Science’s strong support”
    If he was intelligently designed, he would be able to use grammar correctly.

  • allein

    “If authors would read Signature in the Cell, chapter 14, they would be made fully aware of the deep problems of any RNA first scenario.”

    Yes, because the best way for to make sure your science textbook is up-to-date is to read a science book (leaving aside for the moment the validity of that “science”) that was written for the popular market.

    • Jim Jones

      > that was written for the popular market.

      … that was written for the dumb ass market.

      • allein

        that too…
        I should have added to my last sentence: “…which is shelved in the religion section at your local Barnes & Noble.”

  • C Peterson

    I think the reason that Texans don’t believe in evolution is because their devolution hides it from them. And since Texas is already as hot as hell, they don’t notice global warming.

    The textbook publishers just need to fork two series. Texas can support the idiot versions for themselves and the third-world quadrant, and California and New York can support the accurate knowledge versions for the rest of the country.

  • ORAXX

    Those who attempt to turn the word ‘theory’ into an indictment, put their science illiteracy, front and center. An idea that has achieved the status of theory is an idea that has reached universal acceptance.

  • Jordan

    Check out the movie “The Revisionaries” might still be on Netflix instant. Documents the whole textbook process and why it is such a big deal for the entire US education system, not just Texas

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Reading some of the statements in the meetings leads me to see that some of those people trying to fight modern science in the textbooks genuinely have no idea what they are talking about. They seem to have listened to “talking points” in their churches and are only able to repeat those without basis in evidence or reason. To make progress we need expert sources that have taken the considerable time and effort to put the science in terms and language that ordinary people can understand. The only solution to bad speech is good speech, applied with moving language and repetition. Unfortunately, moving language and repetition are considered marks of poor arguments in the academic world, and it takes an active change of presentation methodology for experts in science to be effective advocates at school board meetings.


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