Texas Creationism: Textbook Selection Time

There has been blog chatter for months about problems brewing in Texas. The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has a team of “experts” who are currently reviewing science textbooks which will be adopted statewide. The only public hearing on the books is scheduled for September 17, and the SBOE will have its vote on approving or rejecting textbooks in November.

We’ve been avoiding the subject because we were unable to find any stories about this in any of the newspapers we regularly scan, and we generally avoid reporting what blogs are saying. But now there’s an article at the website of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) — Textbooks under attack in Texas. They say, with some bold font added by us:

Ideologues on official state textbook review teams are attacking the treatment of evolution and climate change in science textbooks under consideration in Texas, charged the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education in a joint press release issued on September 9, 2013. “Once again culture warriors on the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education,” TFN’s president Kathy Miller warned.

Here’s the press release NCSE and TFN jointly issued: TEXAS REVIEWERS PRESSURE PUBLISHERS ON EVOLUTION, CLIMATE CHANGE. We’ll get to that, but for now we’ll stay with NCSE. They tell us:

As the press release explains, documents obtained by the TFN show “that reviewers made ideological objections to coverage related to evolution and climate change in textbooks from at least seven publishers, including several of the nation’s biggest publishing houses. Failing to obtain a review panel’s top rating makes it harder for publishers to sell their textbooks to school districts or can even lead the State Board of Education (SBOE) to reject the textbook altogether.”

There’s a lot at stake. Not only is Texas one of the biggest customers for textbooks (if not the biggest), but books written for them are often adopted by other states. Publishers don’t want to have different versions of their books for each state. Let’s read on:

The arguments in these reviews are the same discredited claims anti-science activists have pushed for years,” commented NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau. Among those claims, various reviewers:

We’ll give you only the list of creationist demands:

• called for the inclusion of “‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles”
• asserted that “no transitional fossils have been discovered”
• promoted a book touting “intelligent design” creationism as a reliable source of scientific information
• denied that recombination and genetic drift are evolutionary mechanisms
• mischaracterized experiments on the peppered moth as “discredited” and as “fabrication[s]”

Impressive, huh? This is from the press release:

SBOE members nominated the evolution deniers serving on the review teams. Most of the critics are not biologists or even scientists. They include a College Station dietician, an Austin systems engineer and a retired Dallas businessman with a background in finance.

Some of the country’s most prominent evolution deniers are also on the review teams. They include Ide Trotter, a retired chemical engineer who has served as a spokesperson for a Texas creationist group; Walter Bradley, a retired professor of engineering at Baylor University who wrote a founding text of “intelligent design” creationism; and Ray Bohlin, vice president for Probe Ministries, a Plano-based evangelical Christian ministry that rejects evolution. Bradley and Bohlin are also fellows with the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based institutional home of the “intelligent design” creationism movement.

So there you are. Things are very sick in Texas. Will the publishers cave in to the pressure? We’ll be watching.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Texas Creationism: Textbook Selection Time

  1. I served on this review panel, and this is the first time I’m getting to see review instruments from the other groups. I wish there had been more active professionals in the field besides just a few of us. I’m glad we were able to accomplish as much as we could, though (7 out of 14 materials! Whoo!).

  2. MaryK says: “I wish there had been more active professionals in the field besides just a few of us.”

    If the SBOE appoints the reviewers, they can stack the deck to accomplish their goals.

  3. Mary K, any creationist material, ANY OF IT, is a disgrace to the human species. Shame on the SBOE for failing the children of Texas, failing science and failing education.

    It’s an appalling review. Absolutely appalling. Texas is a complete disgrace to the 21st century. There’s no “whoo” about it. It’s a total failure. Total failure.

  4. I have to believe that even small contributions can make a difference. I have to believe that we have to try, even though it’s a Sisyphean task.

  5. And the BBC is about to run a documentary showing, inter alia, the fruits of American-style ‘Biblical home-schooling’: Teen exorcists: The girls who expel demons on stage

    These all-American gals from Arizona appear to have been a big hit in the Ukraine…

  6. The Exorsister’s father, Rev Bob Larson sez (from Megalonyx’ link):

    “Money and motives, anytime someone is in God’s work it always comes up.”

    Ne’er a truer word spoken in this context. 😈

    They should try building a court defence premised on demon possession. Then we can all have a good, long laugh as the “experts” battle it out among all the absurdities. In fact, a whole TV comedy series suggests itself — Big Banish Theory, maybe…

  7. NCSE and TFN Press Release notes:

    Some of the country’s most prominent evolution deniers are also on the review teams. They include…Ray Bohlin, vice president for Probe Ministries, a Plano-based evangelical Christian ministry that rejects evolution.

    Probe Ministries? Based in Plano, TX? Surely this should be “based in Uranus.”

    Some wonderful nuggets from the ‘Probe’ website include a biographical note on Raymond G. Bohlin, Ph.D.; scroll down the page to his splendid POSITION STATEMENT ON CREATION/EVOLUTION, with some gems like

    That God is Creator is clearly taught in Scripture…[Bible quotes snipped]…The suggestion that life and man are the result of chance is incompatible with the biblical concept of intelligent creative activity. Theistic evolution is not a viable option in my opinion.

    2. The data from astrophysics, astronomy, and mathematics do not support the concept of an eternal universe with no beginning. …[snip]…

    3. The data from geology, chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology do not support the theory that life arose from non-life by some process of chemical evolution. There is a definite requirement for intelligence in organizing and ordering living systems.

    4. The data from paleontology, genetics, ecology, and molecular biology do not support the theory of descent with modification from single-celled organisms to man. The elements of intelligent design in nature point to a Supreme Designer that possesses a sense of beauty, form, function, and even humor. …[snip]…

    &c. &c. &c.

    And this guy has a say in the selection of science textbooks?!

    Weep! Weep ye, for Texas…

  8. The Jell-O Brains of Texas

    There’s some Jell-o Brains in Texas that run the B.o.E.
    Nobody sane should let them so close to power be!
    They pore so over science texts ‘tis like to ruin their eyes,
    And if they find some Darwin, their hackles swiftly rise!

    They’re the weirdest bunch of censors that Texas ever knew,
    Their minds are closed like clam shells, they reject all that’s new!
    You may smirk about our Ray Bohlin and laugh at Gov. Perry,
    But the Jell-o Brains of Texas lead us to theocracy!

  9. MaryK says: “I have to believe that we have to try, even though it’s a Sisyphean task.”

    Sisyphus was doomed to struggle and fail forever. It’s much more positive to think of it as a Herculean task.

  10. That’s a right snappy tune, Megalonyx. I’ll be humming it all day.

  11. Megalonyx remarks: “Probe Ministries? Based in Plano, TX? Surely this should be ‘based in Uranus.’”

    I wrote about Ray Bohlin and Probe Ministries, but it was so long ago that I had forgotten until now. See The Worst Creationism Book Ever?

  12. You’re right, Curmy, when you say, “It’s much more positive to think of it as a Herculean task.” However, it’s difficult when I look out over a fresh group of nonmajors each fall and can’t help but think, “Oh look. The boulder has rolled down again.”

  13. The data from paleontology, genetics, ecology, and molecular biology do not support the theory of descent with modification from single-celled organisms to man.

    So, there is something wrong with reproductive biology?

  14. Some further coverage in The Dallas Morning News: Religious conservatives on Texas textbook review panels criticize proposed science books

    And ding ding! Another Creationist nutritionist is stepping up to the plate:

    “I understand the National Academy of Science’s strong support of the theory of evolution,” said Texas A&M University nutritionist Karen Beathard, one of the biology textbook reviewers. “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.”

    Bonus question: if a book is up for ‘adoption’, what does that say about its parentage?