Anti-Science Forces Try to Spin Loss

by Ryan

We wondered how the evolution-deniers would spin this disastrous end to their two-year campaign to insert bogus criticisms of evolution into Texas science instructional materials. Predictably, we didn’t have to wait long. They are absurdly claiming they somehow won.

The primary mouthpiece for the state’s anti-evolution lobby — the Texas-affiliate of Focus on the Family that calls itself Liberty Institute — tweeted this knee-slapper:

“Victory! SBOE unanimously votes to require changes to errors in science materials, related to evolution, before adoption.”

Since these folks don’t have a good grasp of what just happened, let’s review some facts here.

First, nine science supplements were just approved for use in Texas classrooms. All of those currently contain a complete, accurate treatment of evolution, free from any ideological propaganda questioning evolutionary science. The anti-evolution lobby threw in the towel on most of these, deciding to target only one — the submission from Holt McDougal — for criticism, relying on a list of bogus “errors” submitted by one creationist on the review panel. The others were approved without any changes that water down their coverage of evolution.

For the record, the Liberty Institute lobbyist yesterday testified that many of the science submissions contained multiple “errors” and failed to adequately cover the curriculum standards. From the Dallas Morning News:

Other testimony was offered by evolution critics, who contended that some of the high school biology materials did not comply with science curriculum standards adopted by the education board two years ago that called for high school students to study evidence challenging key principles of evolution.

“These materials need to match up with those standards [from 2009],” said Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Institute, citing the requirement that students examine “all sides” of evolution and other scientific theories.

Moreover, the same lobbyist also tweeted that there were 16 binders worth of “errors” in these submissions:

I guess those other submissions somehow magically corrected themselves overnight and those scores of “errors” Liberty Institute identified were fixed. Because otherwise, LI just declared complete “victory” after the adoption of products that are supposedly full of “errors.” And if they really achieved complete victory, perhaps Liberty Institute can show us where the newly adopted materials require students to “study evidence challenging key principles of evolution.”

As to the compromise struck on the Holt McDougal product, here’s the bottom line: that matter has been taken out of the hands of the State Board of Education and given to the Texas education commissioner and the professional staff of the Texas Education Agency. If the creationists on the board had held the votes necessary to insert anti-evolution propaganda into the materials, they would have done so. As soon as it became clear they did not have the eight votes necessary to accomplish this, they gave up. And the compromise of punting the issues with the Holt McDougal product to the commissioner afforded them a face-saving way to avoid a humiliating public vote.

In other words, the anti-evolution lobby failed in its primary objective and all of the materials approved by the board teach sound evolutionary science.

So what happens now? The education commissioner and TEA staff will work with Holt McDougal to make some revisions to a handful of brief passages in their submission. We’ll obviously have to remain vigilant to ensure any changes reflect mainstream science, but we see no reason why this process should result in the introduction of creationist propaganda into this submission. After all, the publisher has already refused to acquiesce to the demands of the creationist panel member, and unlike the anti-evolution politicians on the board, the commissioner and staff recognize the need for accurate, 21st-century science materials in Texas classrooms.

In short, creationist claims of “victory” today are absurd. This was a good day for public education in Texas.