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Getting Evolution In Science Textbooks For Texas Schools 710

Posted by samzenpus
from the monkey's-uncle dept.
First time accepted submitter windwalker13th writes "Recently the New York Times ran an article highlighting the pull that a State Board in Texas holds over that state and rest of the Nation. Because of the unique way in which Texas picks school textbooks (purchasing large volumes of textbooks at once to be used for the next decade) publishers pander to this board to get their books approved. The board currently holds several members (6 of 28 who are known to reject evolution) who hold creationist views and actively work to ensure that the science textbooks do not use as strong language or must include "critical thinking" about possible alternate explanations for evolution."
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Getting Evolution In Science Textbooks For Texas Schools

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  • ya know... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday November 25, 2013 @03:51PM (#45518531) Homepage

    Any old God can do speciation. But a TRULY awesome God? He automates it.

    • But only in a way that puts us on top, because we had to evolve to become "in his image".
      Or something...

  • News for Nerds... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ekimd (968058)

    How is this news? We've all known about this for a very long time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      How do you know that you weren't created 10 minutes ago, with your knowledge already in place?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      The Texas Board of Education on Friday delayed final approval of a widely used biology textbook because of concerns raised by one reviewer that it presents evolution as fact rather than theory.

      That's how: it's a recent development. Would have been nice if the summary mentioned this though, I agree. The article also mentioned that the board didn't attempt to do anything shady about censoring climate change from the books. Newsworthy given the low standards that are set for Texas education.

      • by Jeff Flanagan (2981883) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:21PM (#45518917)
        The article should mention that the concerned reviewer is an idiot. I'm so tired of the media pretending that "superstitious yahoo" is a point of view, and the truth lies half-way between our best understanding of the world and right-wing religious derp.
        • ... and right-wing religious derp.

          Religion is derp regardless of political affiliation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ohnocitizen (1951674)
      Comments like this should not be modded up. The article is about the recently delayed approval of a book, and the fact that Texas is continuing to elect anti-science fundamentalists to this board. That said it also looks like there was a step forward - more approval and less watering down. All of these items are newsworthy.

      But even if none of the information was new, the situation is ongoing. An ongoing struggle to dampen scientific education within the US is most certainly news for Nerds.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25, 2013 @03:52PM (#45518551)

    "Creationism" does not have ANY place in a scientific textbook. These people MUST be told to go soak their heads for 40 days and 40 nights under peer review.

    Education in sciences isn't up for a debate along the lines of "everything we're teaching has an equally plausible antithesis, if you're raised religious."

    This is bullshit taught to children with tax dollars in a secular environment. Kill it with fire.

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:32PM (#45519055)

      This is bullshit taught to children with tax dollars in a secular environment. Kill it with fire.

      I think you'll find that the sentiment is pretty equally shared by Christians who are willing to actually study and think about their scriptures. After all, it makes it pretty hard to talk to someone about what one finds important (i.e. religion) when you're called by the same name as a vocal group which is (rightly) identified as deniers of reality. Augustine (an early church father and pretty universally acknowledged formalizer of Christian doctrine) wrote in AD 400:

      If we think of these days which are marked by the rising and the setting of the sun, this was perhaps not the fourth but the first day, so that we may suppose the sun to have risen at the time it was made and to have set at the time the other luminaries were made. But those who understand that the sun is still shining somewhere else when it is night with us, and that it is night somewhere else when the sun is with us, will search out a more sublime manner of counting these days."

      AUGUSTINE - UNFINISHED LITERAL COMMENTARY ON GENESIS 14 (43)

      This literal 24 hour reading of Genesis is not a new phenomena, but it will continue because it is natural for people to either lazily read, or to avoid questions which may fundamentally challenge their faith (they would say: better a saved ignoramus than to face the dangers inherent in asking questions). The latter can be recognized as an attitude which is actually strongly criticized by the New Testament writer Paul.

      • by Type44Q (1233630)

        lazily read

        Holy shit, as I live and breathe; correct usage of a fucking adverb (never thought I'd see that again...).

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday November 25, 2013 @03:57PM (#45518615)

    Well it is, but should be better considered as methodological thinking.

    If you want creationism in science, Then give us something we can test and verify to prove it. Otherwise we will stick to what the evidence shows us.

    If it is wrong, then we are wrong, however there isn't evidence to show that yet.

    • You're about halfway to the correct idea, in that you call out creationists for failing to use methodological thinking, but your statement doesn't go far enough: creationism/intelligent design cannot ever be methodological, because if it were then it would stop being itself.

      If you want creationism in science, Then give us something we can test and verify to prove it

      The thesis of creationism (and intelligent design) is that it is untestable and unprovable. It is unscientific by definition.

      If it is wrong, th

  • Sure, creationist do not want student to think critically except when it comes to 'debunking' evolution.

    Maybe students should be given a list of proofs for evolution and a list of proofs for creationism and let them draw their own conclusion. But I guess that is unfeasible. How would you squeeze the equivalent of thousands of pages worth of proofs in a student science textbook? At least, the creationist side would add no more that 0 page of proofs to that manual. Maybe half a page if you include bananas and

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:03PM (#45518691)

      They also have double-standards when they say "teach creationism" because they want THEIR version of creationism taught and not an American Indian, Norse, Greek, Islamic, Wiccan, or any other creation myth.

      Is a pair of double-standards called quadruple standards?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Thanks to modern genetics, it's right up there with the theory of gravity. I want to see these bozos go roof-side and test that one out for us. After all, it's just a theory.

  • I'm Okay With This (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KermodeBear (738243) on Monday November 25, 2013 @03:59PM (#45518645) Homepage

    I'm okay with any theory being in a science textbook as long as there is some kind of scientific backing.

    Evolution has some scientific backing. It should be in a science textbook. It's science, after all.

    If someone can find some real scientific support for creationism, that's great. You can put that into the science textbook, too.

    Until then, whether you believe in creationism, intelligent design, evolution, some kind of mixture of that, or something else entirely, you have to accept that only science should be in a science textbook.

    You don't have to agree with the science. It is just a way of understanding the world, after all, but a science book should have science in it, and not have non-science.

    As an analogy, it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to drop the teachings of Hinduism into a new revised copy of the Koran. The Koran is an Islamic text; the Hindu teachings really don't have much of a place there. Doesn't matter which one you believe to be correct, if any. It's just information existing in its proper context.

    So please, Texas education people, it doesn't matter what you believe. It's all about putting things where they belong. You can believe whatever you want, I really don't care (unless you want to kill me or something, then there's a problem), but don't put non-science into a science book. It just doesn't belong.

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      Creationism is nonsense. But so is a lot of social science and history that you currently do find in text books.

      Ultimately, if you insist on a standard curriculum for everybody, that curriculum is going to become a political football and it's going to be abused by politicians.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:06PM (#45518729)

      And if you really want to teach a religious creation myth in a public school, put it in a World History, Comparative Religions, or Philosophy class - preferably alongside some other creation myths so you can compare and contrast.

  • Rename it.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by craznar (710808) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:00PM (#45518657) Homepage

    .. just like the Christians renamed 'creation' to Intelligent Design, maybe it is time to rename 'evolution' to something else.

    Note - that just like the Christians renamed their's to 'sound' more scientific, we have to rename Evolution to sound more 'religious'.

    Maybe "God and Nature's Excellent Adventure" or something.

    Suggestions anyone ?

    • God Codes All Life Using DNA?

    • How about the "God is really an Alien and created us all with DNA manipulations" theory?
    • Maybe we can get some Spinozans on the board to put an end to the idea that God and Nature are distinguishable.

    • Re:Rename it.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by femtobyte (710429) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:17PM (#45518869)

      "Intelligent Metaprogramming"?

      side note --- I do object to the overly-broad generalization that "Christians" renamed came up with the "Intelligent Design" name. Pathological lying scum who are a small subset of Christianity came up with the "Intelligent Design" obfuscation. As a Christian, and one with no qualms about calling out intellectually dishonest politically motivated liars for what they are, I don't like getting reflexively lumped in with those frauds.

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:23PM (#45518951)

      For every creature you can argue in favor of intelligent design because of some cool, complex and very useful trait, there are a dozen species that make you go "What in the bloody hell? How is that thing still alive?"

      The State Board in question is known to contain at least six of the latter creatures.

    • Suggestions anyone ?

      Please take this to heart: If you want this world to survive, please stop pandering to these religious morons.
      It's very dangerous to do otherwise. [youtu.be]
      You are part of the problem if you are not actively calling them on the carpet for their bullshit you encounter.

      That is the best advice I can sincerely give. I would be less of a hard-ass about it if we had more than one planet colonized -- They don't care about space funding; We're all supposed to die according to them.

  • So the point of the story is that creationists are a small minority on the Texas Board of Education?

    • by femtobyte (710429)

      The 6 are only those their position firmly on the anti-science side. Presumably, creationism gets pushed through the process by a larger majority who silently sympathize, publicly advocating for a "neutral" stance that gives the view of these six equal footing with scientific knowledge. Recall, also, that a lot of "intelligent design" proponents are proven pathological liars, who will go to great lengths to intentionally obfuscate their views and aims, in order to avoid direct "separation of church and sta

  • by joelleo (900926) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:17PM (#45518877)

    Many of the critics of the theory of evolution fall into the trap of misunderstanding the definitions of 'theory' and 'hypothesis'

    Scientific Theory (from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scientific+theory: [reference.com])
    "scientific theory
    noun
    a theory that explains scientific observations; 'scientific theories must be falsifiable'"

    Theory (from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theory?s=t: [reference.com])
    "theory [thee-uh-ree, theer-ee] Show IPA
    noun, plural theories.
    1.
    a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity. Synonyms: principle, law, doctrine."

    Hypothesis (from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hypothesis: [reference.com])
    "hypothesis [hahy-poth-uh-sis, hi-] Show IPA
    noun, plural hypotheses [hahy-poth-uh-seez, hi-] Show IPA .
    1.
    a proposition, or set of propositions, set forth as an explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena, either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide investigation (working hypothesis) or accepted as highly probable in the light of established facts."

    Here's where things become more interesting:
    Scientific Theory (from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scientific+theory: [reference.com])
    "scientific theory
    noun
    a theory that explains scientific observations; 'scientific theories must be falsifiable'"

    So, a scientific theory must not only explain the phenomenon, but also be well supported by empirical evidence and experimentation and be falsifiable yet proven. A hypothesis, on the other hand, is only a proposed explanation for given observations.

    Here's a nice comparison between the concepts: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Hypothesis_vs_Theory [diffen.com]

    • So, a scientific theory must not only explain the phenomenon, but also be well supported by empirical evidence and experimentation and be falsifiable yet proven. A hypothesis, on the other hand, is only a proposed explanation for given observations.

      Well, a hypothesis can exist as an untested proposition. However, to draw conclusions from evidence according to a hypothesis one must also disprove the null hypothesis. Statistically the null hypothesis must be less likely than the original hypothesis. Otherwise, your results may be tainted by confirmation bias.

      Say you hypothesize that stepping on cracks results in breaking of your relatives' backs remotely. You could step on cracks and find evidence that back breakages are correlated. However, you di

  • ... that God does not exist. We all know God is almighty, and that he created the Universe. What is the summit of being almighty ? That is: being able to do anything in spite of the largest possible handicap. What is the largest possible handicap ? To not exist. God, now, is sheer actuality: no possibility in him remains unactualized. ( If it were not so, he would not be perfect, and we all know he is perfect. If he were not so, he would not be God, and our argument would be somewhat moot. ) Hence, the poss

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:30PM (#45519045)
    I don't believe in any type of god, and therefore nothing that would follow from that. However, as a measure of exercising critical thinking, I believe high school students should debate all sorts of theism vs. anti-theism purely for the philosophical and intellectual merits of dissecting existence through logic. This is provided that such curriculum not be biased in either direction, by the material or by the direction of the teacher. At the end of the day, the kids can believe what they choose.

    Creationism on the other hand amounts to teaching young people that fairy tales are true. There is a point where parents stop lying to their children about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. The educational system has no place re-introducing blind belief in nonsense. The study of evolution does not hide that it is woefully incomplete on some important details, but it does teach how the objectivity of the scientific method led us to what we do now understand and shows us how one day we will unravel the whole lot of it. When you introduce creationism as a valid alternative to science, you must also introduce a creator god and that's where the buck stops - rendering critical thinking unimportant.

    I welcome any debate this comment produces. I can already guess what some of them will be : p
  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Monday November 25, 2013 @04:49PM (#45519283) Homepage

    There are several pieces above by posters who try to logically and calmly explain why they are against the teaching of creationism, or the weakening of the teaching of evolution as the accepted theory. I have only one thing to say. Stop it. Creationists are simply delusional idiots, and unless they are treated as such, they will continue to think that there is room for their ideas in the real world. THERE IS NOT. You should all be ashamed and embarrassed about your views, and what you are doing to your children. It is pig headed, idiotic, and manipulative. No one will judge you when you recover from this stupidity, except your current peers who are in the same deranged boat. Stop polluting the planet and embarrassing the US with your crap.

  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:15PM (#45519605)

    I would like to point out the disadvantages of buying textbooks from for profit companies. We buy new textbooks every so many years from companies looking to make a giant profit, if it is their textbooks that are selected. Because of this many companies invest money into writing textbooks to have a chance at making a large profit. This seems like a waste to me, especially considering that states seem to want to decide what actually goes in to the textbooks.

    Why don't we just have open source textbooks, like wikipedia. States would be free to fork and modify them as they see fit. All the money they spend on the books could instead be spent on making the content of the books current or just better in general. We wouldn't have to keep reinventing the wheel in every state every 10 years.

    Whether you believe in creationism or evolution, whether you want religious politicians or scientists writing the books, this seems like a good way to save money and prevent wasted human effort. Probably 95% of the content of the textbooks stay the same, with the exception of recent history and quantum mechanics. Why are we paying to rewrite the same books over and over again? Why don't we as a society make an effort to own the intellectual property that we use to educate our children rather than renting it? Are we really destined to be this short sighted forever?

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:44PM (#45519961)

    First, totally fine with public funding for education. I do think that everyone should get a high school level education at least paid for by the government... be that city, state, or federal.

    That said, I don't think the education should be administered by the government. I don't believe in public schools because it gives politicians control over something that really should be a personal choice of the parents and the relevant communities.

    Obviously the money shouldn't just be dolled out without qualifications. Set some basic standards that must be met to receive funding. Little things like standardized tests. If a significant percentage can't pass the standardized tests at graduation then clearly the school failed to educate them.

    How the schools are ultimately held to standards is debatable. But what I'd prefer is a system where local communities can pick and choose how THEY want to run their school largely indifferent to what the rest of society wants. Because at the end of the day, what matters is can the children function in society. Have they learned enough to progress and take the next steps to becoming functional members of our society? That's all that matters.

    No some people are going to say, "oh we must force these schools to teach evolution and drive out all this religious crap"... Well, good luck with that. Between private religious schools, home schools, and simple religious indoctrination you're going to always have that as an element. I am not suggesting we embrace it. I am instead suggesting we let parents choose how they want to educate their children. I do think they have that right. You have a right to indoctrinate your children with the values and beliefs you feel appropriate. That is core right of parenthood. The government doesn't have that right unless you're an orphan in a state home.

    Just let the religious people teach their children as they please. And everyone else can do the same. If that means the religious fellows don't educate any genetic engineers... I think we can survive that.

  • by BringsApples (3418089) on Monday November 25, 2013 @06:19PM (#45520295)
    The opposition, which is science – well, first let me say this: Every model of the universe has a hard swallow. What I mean by a hard swallow is a place where the argument cannot hide the fact that there’s something slightly fishy about it. The hard swallow built into science is this business about the Big Bang. Now, let’s give this a little attention here. This is the notion that the universe, for no reason, sprang from nothing in a single instant. Well, now before we dissect this, notice that this is the limit test for credulity. Whether you believe this or not, notice that it is not possible to conceive of something more unlikely or less likely to be believed! I mean, I defy anyone – it’s just the limit case for unlikelihood, that the universe would spring from nothing in a single instant, for no reason?! – I mean, if you believe that, my family has a bridge across the Hudson River that we’ll give you a lease option for five dollars! It makes no sense. It is in fact no different than saying, “And God said, let there be light”. And what these philosophers of science are saying is, give us one free miracle, and we will roll from that point forward – from the birth of time to the crack of doom! – just one free miracle, and then it will all unravel according to natural law, and these bizarre equations which nobody can understand but which are so holy in this enterprise.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday November 25, 2013 @07:16PM (#45520857) Journal

      Terence McKenna should have taken less psilocybin and more science classes. Like his brother Dennis. And I'm speaking as someone who loves psilocybin.

      This is the notion that the universe, for no reason, sprang from nothing in a single instant.

      We have evidence of lots of things springing from nothing in a single instance. They're called quantum vacuum fluctuations. Particles of matter and antimatter spring into existance in the vacuum all the time, only to annihilate each other an instant later. The part that's difficult to explain about the universe is why it hasn't annihilated itself, not why it sprang into existence.

      Also, the entire universe didn't spring into existence in one instant. The universe as we know it, meaning mostly comprised of atoms, took 380,000 years to form. This is preceeded by at least 5 different epochs when the universe was dominated by different forms of matter. To be fair, most of these epochs occured within the first second after the big bang. But in quantum terms that's a long time. Plank time is only about 5^-44s.

      The rest of this quote is just argument from incredulity. Worthless.

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