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Texas Educators' Move Against Evolution Threatens State's Students and Economy
Efforts by some members of the Texas State Board of Education to undermine education and introduce religious ideas in public school science classrooms put the state's students and its economy at risk, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner says in a commentary published in the Houston Chronicle.
Leshner wrote in the wake of a move last week by a minority bloc on the Texas board to appoint three anti-evolution activists, including a leader of the "intelligent design" religious campaign, to a six-member panel that will review proposed new science curriculum standards. The new standards, once adopted, will shape textbook selection and how science education is taught in Texas for the next decade.
"It would be a terrible mistake to water down the teaching of evolution in any way," wrote Leshner, who also is executive publisher of the journal Science. "At a time when most educators are working to prepare students for 21st century jobs, the board members' action threatens to confuse students, divide communities and tarnish Texas' reputation as an international science and technology center."
Citing the Clergy Letter Project, Leshner's commentary emphasized that many U.S. Christian leaders see no conflict between their faith and evolution.
The three anti-evolution activists named to the Texas review panel last week are: Stephen Meyer, a senior fellow and vice president of the Discovery Institute; Ralph Seelke, a science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior; and Charles Garner, a Baylor chemistry professor. Meyers and Seelke are the authors of "Explore Evolution," which has been widely criticized by science organizations for creating misimpressions about evolution and promoting the institute's intelligent design agenda. All three have signed a statement promoted by the institute expressing skepticism about evolution.
The appointments have drawn intense criticism from science and science education groups, including Texas Citizens for Science, the Texas Freedom Network, and the National Center for Science Education.
Evolution opponents and advocates of intelligent design and creationism on the Texas State Board have been maneuvering for months to open high school science classrooms to criticism of evolution and pressing for standards that require schools to teach the strengths and weaknesses of education.
But in fact, "there is no scientific controversy" over evolution, Leshner noted. "Mainstream science and medical organizations in the United States and worldwide, representing tens of millions of scientists, accept evolution as the best explanation for how life developed on Earth."
While the intelligent design anti-evolution campaign has lined up a small number of scientist supporters, he added, "most have no expertise in biology or evolution." And,he said, U.S. courts have "repeatedly" ruled that creationism and intelligent design should not be taught in science classes because they lack a basis in science.
The draft of Texas' new science curriculum standards—written by a committee of science teachers and curriculum experts nominated by the State Board of Education—would not require schools to teach the supposed weaknesses of evolution. The Board appointed its six-member panel review panel last week; the Board is expected to hold a public hearing on the standards next month, with final adoption scheduled for March.
Texas education leaders "should stick to the basics," Leshner concluded. "Students need a solid science foundation to thrive in the 21st century."
24 October 2008