Dodging a Bullet?

Last month’s announcement by a prominent creationist group that it had decided not to seek state approval to sell instructional materials to Texas public schools was good news for supporters of sound science education. Now e-mails obtained by the Texas Freedom Network through a Texas Public Information Act request reveal just how bad the materials from Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) would have been.

Responding to a query from the Texas Education Agency, FTE outlined in a November 15, 2010, e-mail what its proposed instructional materials would do:

“FTE’s product will be electronic written material satisfying the new and expanded Biology 1 TEKS [curriculum standards] for Texas schools, with components for both teachers and students. It will include irenic yet candid discussions of what an educated person in the 21st century must know in regard to neo-Darwinian theory of life’s diversity and origin of life studies. Discussions will cover fair and accurate portrayals of the major explanations, as well as analysis and critiques of each, as advanced in scientific literature. The goal will be to equip students to see beyond the uncritical acceptance of majority viewpoints when warranted by scientific data, as well as to consider possible alternatives. Such alternatives will include intelligent design perspectives but not creationism or creation science. The major components are: (1) review of evolutionary theory; (2) critique of conventional evolutionary theory; (3) examination of origin-of-life studies and enumeration of problems with chemical scenarios for life’s origin; (4) presentation of intelligent design alternative.”

This summary from FTE repeats long-familiar and deeply deceptive arguments that would severely undermine real science education and the ability of Texas student to succeed in college and a 21st-century economy.

First, FTE lied to TEA when it said its materials would teach students about “intelligent design perspectives but not creationism or creation science.” “Intelligent design” is creationism, as a Republican-appointed judge found in the key 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover federal court case in Pennsylvania. In fact, evidence presented in the case showed that FTE itself defined “creationism” and “intelligent design” in identical ways in different drafts of its signature book Of Pandas and People. Moreover, FTE had simply replaced the words “creationism” and “creationist” with “intelligent design” in about 150 places throughout that book’s drafts. (The National Center for Science Education has more information about FTE’s involvement in the Dover court case here.)

FTE’s claim that its classroom materials would be “fair and accurate” and based on “scientific literature” is equally deceitful. Proponents of “intelligent design” have failed to provide even a shred of credible, peer-reviewed scientific evidence supporting their arguments. Simply repeating discredited arguments over and over won’t make them credible.

Moreover, FTE  repeats the same tired talking point about seeing “beyond the uncritical acceptance of majority viewpoints” in science. Unfortunately for FTE, science isn’t determined by popular vote. It’s decided by real research and hard evidence. FTE has none of that.

FTE announced its decision not to submit science materials for adoption by the State Board of Education after the Texas Freedom Network found the group’s name on a list of vendors and sounded the alarm last month. But we know that state board members are trying to put creationism activists on teams that will review science materials submitted by other vendors and publishers. You can help TFN fight efforts to undermine science education in Texas public schools by joining our Stand Up for Science Rapid Response Team here. TFN will give team members the information and tools they need to take action both at the State Board of Education and in the Texas Legislature.

Publishers will submit their proposed science materials to the Texas Education Agency at the end of this month. TEA has said it will post those materials online in March. Official teams appointed by TEA will then meet in June to review the materials, and the state board will vote in July on which materials to approve for sale to Texas public schools.

3 thoughts on “Dodging a Bullet?

  1. I look forward to the day when science books in Texas can be displayed on the shelves in full view, and not shamefully sheathed in a brown paper wrapper behind the counter.

  2. Perhaps a proposal to teach in social studies the alternative “theories”, and critique the existing ideas, that there is a God would cause some of the Creatioists to stop and re–think their mission