Discovery Institute Messes with Texas

by TFN

Earlier today, the anti-evolution Discovery Institute — the Seattle-based outfit that promotes “intelligent design”/creationism and has tried for years to interject itself into science curriculum decisions in Texas — sent an email to members of the Texas State Board of Education weighing in on the proposed instructional materials up for adoption in Texas this summer. The email included a 71-page “evaluation” of the proposed curricular materials. The report is basically one long complaint that the instructional materials do not cover creationist-fabricated arguments against evolution (such as contrived conspiracy theories supposedly undermining the scientific record, long-ago-debunked nonsense about “irreducible complexity,” claims about gaps in the fossil record, etc.). From Discovery Institute’s document:

Unfortunately, as regards the TEKS that pertain to biology and evolution, only one of the proposed curricula (International Databases, LLC) makes any serious attempt to fulfill the call for meaningful critical analysis of biological and chemical evolution. The remaining curricula that were accessible online make no meaningful effort to satisfy the TEKS’ requirements that students “analyze and evaluate” neo-Darwinian evolution. [emphasis in original]

Interestingly, later in the report, the Discovery Institute (DI) seems to distance itself from International Databases (which TFN and the National Center for Science Education have already revealed is essentially a creationist tract) because… wait for it… those materials supposedly go too far in promoting “intelligent design.” This, according to the report, violates DI’s policy of promoting “critical scrutiny” of evolution, but not mandating the required teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools. Of course, the entire DI report is a recitation of classic “intelligent design”/creationist arguments. Moreover, the report does not call for the outright rejection of this amateurish submission. In fact, the review of the International Databases materials is largely positive:

This curriculum is the only one that encourages students to engage in any meaningful evaluation, analysis or critique of neo-Darwinian evolution or the unguided chemical origin of life.

The folks at DI are also upset that the controversial language in the new standards requiring students to examine “all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations” (which they lobbied for in 2009) was not interpreted by legitimate publishers to require promotion of nonscientific ideas attacking evolution:

Nor do [the submitted materials] require that students critique Darwinian evolution or the chemical origin of life “by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing.” In short, the 2009 TEKS notwithstanding, most of the proposed supplements do not examine “all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.” Rather, the proposed curricula promote biological and chemical evolution in a one-sided manner, presenting only the evidence supporting evolution and failing to mention any scientific viewpoints or evidence that challenge evolution.”

Here’s the bottom line conclusion from Discovery:

Both because they fail to fulfill the 2009 TEKS and/or because they contain glaring scientific errors, 9 of the 10 proposed curricula which have posted material for online analysis clearly require significant revisions. One curriculum (International Databases, LLC) adequately fulfills the evolution-related TEKS, but it contains typographical and other errors that need to be corrected. It also goes beyond the TEKS because it addresses intelligent design, and so the material on intelligent design needs to be removed.

We’re just beginning to sort through this lengthy screed, s0 look for more thorough analysis in the days to come. In the meantime, we thought our readers might like to join in. You can read the full Discovery Institute report at