Creationism's last stand in Texas?

As the Texas state board of education is preparing for its final public hearing on science textbook adoption, the Dallas Observer (November 14, 2013) published a marvelously detailed look at Texas antievolutionism past and present.

The article begins with Raymond Bohlin, Vice-President of Vision Outreach for Probe Ministries and a Fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Although Bohlin earned a master's degree in population genetics and a doctorate in molecular and cell biology, he "never accepted the hypothesis central to his discipline, hardened in the crucible of 150 years of experimentation, validated by the advent of modern genetics." Bohlin told the Observer that he undertook his studies in order to be able to debunk evolution: "If I'm going to be a critic of evolution, I have to make sure I understand in detail how it's supposed to work."

Bohlin is relevant to the Texas science textbook adoption because, the Observer explains, "His great investment in a field he entered to debunk had led him to the Texas State Board of Education, where he was appointed to be an expert reviewer of high-school biology textbooks. This, he believes, is where the war against secularism will be won or lost." As NCSE previously reported, ideologues on the official state textbook review teams attacked the treatment of evolution and climate change in science textbooks under consideration in Texas — and Bohlin was a primary offender, offering misguided advice about evolution and climate science alike.

Ron Wetherington, Professor of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University (and a recipient of NCSE's Friend of Darwin award), commented, "There are no intelligent people on the side of creationism who are still urging the teaching of creationism in form or function," adding, "It's not worth it for them to do that, so they're putting all their eggs in the basket of undermining evolution." But the signs are that the publishers are not willing to capitulate: presumably paraphrasing, Wetherington described one publisher as responding to a creationism-inflected critique of its textbook by replying, "Up yours, we're not going to change anything." 

The publishers are emboldened by the fact that the board's decision is not as important as it was, the Observer suggests, since "school districts are free to make their own purchasing decisions now ... A thorough vetting from the state board still represents a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that smaller districts will rely on to ensure their books meet Texas'[s] curriculum standards. The board's vote will be influential for years to come, but is no longer the edict [it] once was." In the future, battles over Texas textbooks may occur at the level of the individual school district — of which there are over one thousand in the state — rather than at the board.

The textbooks are scheduled to be addressed during a public hearing before the Texas state board of education, starting at 1:00 p.m. on November 20, 2013, in Room 1-104 of the William B. Travis Building, 1701 N. Congress Avenue in Austin.

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