Important News: Publishers Are Resisting Pressure to Dumb Down Their Biology Textbooks for Texas

We have now had our first look at changes publishers have submitted in response to objections — many of them attacks on evolution and climate change science — raised by official state review teams evaluating new science textbooks for Texas. And we have very encouraging news:

All 14 publishers are refusing to water down or compromise instruction on evolution and climate change in their proposed new high school biology textbooks.

These publishers deserve our thanks for standing up to pressure from right-wing politicians and activists working to corrupt the science in our children’s textbooks.

Click here to add your name to a “thank  you” email to publishers.

But this battle isn’t over yet. The State Board of Education still must vote to adopt these new textbooks and other instructional materials, which will be classrooms for up to a decade. In past years, ideologues on the state board have refused to adopt textbooks simply because they have political objections to factual content. So in the weeks leading up to the state board’s final vote on November 22, it’s important that we keep fighting to prevent right-wing politicians from putting their personal agendas ahead of the education of millions of Texas kids.

But let’s celebrate for now by thanking publishers who are joining with people across Texas in standing up for science.

Below is a press release we sent out announcing the news:

Materials submitted to the Texas Education Agency and examined by the Texas Freedom Network and university scientists show that publishers are resisting pressure to undermine instruction on evolution in their proposed new high school biology textbooks for public schools.

“This is a very welcome development for everyone who opposes teaching phony science about evolution in our kid’s public schools,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “Texas parents can applaud these publishers for standing up to pressure from politicians and activists who want to put their personal beliefs ahead of giving Texas students a 21st-century science education.”

Publishers submitted their proposed science textbooks for adoption in Texas last April. Last month State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, asked publishers to submit by Oct. 4 any changes they propose to meet objections to content raised by citizens appointed to review the textbooks. The Texas Education Agency made the publishers’ proposed changes available to the public on Oct. 11.

Some reviewers had criticized the proposed biology textbooks for failing to include a variety of discredited arguments attacking evolution. For example, reviewers lowered the rating of one textbook because it didn’t include the inaccurate claim that scientists have found no transitional fossils and that “the fossil record can be interpreted in other ways than evolutionary with equal justification.” Another reviewer insisted that all of the textbooks teach “creation science based on Biblical principles” alongside evolution.

Editorial changes from all 14 publishers that submitted high school biology textbooks for adoption this year do not reflect those arguments and beliefs, TFN’s examination shows.

The anti-evolution arguments promoted by the textbook reviewers are based on claims that scientists have shown to be false or simply have no place in a science textbook, said Arturo De Lozanne, associate professor in molecular cell and developmental biology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“From what I can see so far, publishers are resisting pressure to do things that would leave high school graduates in Texas ill-prepared to succeed in a college science classroom,” De Lozanne said. “If we want Texas kids to be competitive nationally, we have to ensure that what they learn in their high school classrooms is based on facts, not ideology. Having said that, it’s remarkable and distressing that some folks are still arguing over what really is established, mainstream science.”

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on which science textbooks to adopt for Texas public schools at its November meeting. Most school districts will buy their textbooks from the state board’s list. The new textbooks could be in classrooms for nearly a decade, beginning in fall 2014.


36 thoughts on “Important News: Publishers Are Resisting Pressure to Dumb Down Their Biology Textbooks for Texas

  1. Thank you Dan for posting this. I signed the “thank you note.” Encouraging, indeed. It would appear that the textbook industry as well as the academic community is “on” to the religious right’s agenda, whatever in the heck that might be….

    1. I would like to thank you too Dan. This proves that if we all band together to support the truth of sound science like evolution and put relentless pressure on the far right nutcases, they will have no chance of winning. A public relations campaign like creation science/ID/teach the controversy never wins out over the truth over time.

  2. Well, surely you folks didn’t seriously think that the textbook publishers were going to see the digit 2 and call it a 5—did you? They weren’t born stupid or yesterday. No amigo. Such ridiculous ways of thinking and understanding reside only with the conservative elements on the Texas SBOE. The Proverbs 3:5-6 crowd thinks that “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” means to turn your brain off and stand firm on the notion that a duck is somehow reallya cow.

    I honestly think Jesus would say to them, “What in the Hell reason do you think I gave you that damned brain of yours if not to use it.

    Then they would cry: “But Lord, Lord. The words are “inerrant” in the original texts (which they do not have).

    Whereupon Jesus would say: “Genesis 1 is a parable dumbass. You have enough real world data to have figured that out by now. But Oh no!!! You decided not to use the brain I gave you because if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and paddles like a duck, then it must be a cow. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have people like you proclaiming to the public that you represent me. I’m outa here!!!”

    “But Lord. How were we to know? How were we to discern that with so little that you gave us?”

    Jesus waves goodbye and says: “Aw, that’s easy: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31).” Meaning that no one can communicate with deaf and dumb tree stumps like you—not even Me.

    1. Science is the observation of nature through experimentation. When has evolution ever been observed? Show me an observation from an experiment where you start with two dogs (pick whatever kind you like) and produce something other than a dog.
      Science is limited in that it can no more prove evolution than it can prove intelligent design. Science has only observed that if you start with two dogs, you get a dog.
      Schools should teach science and teach that theories are derivations of science.
      What evolutionists fear is that intelligent design is correct.

      1. Ron,

        You are completely correct. Scientists have never seen a dog give birth to a new species.

        That would be creationism. Thus, Ron, you are correct that creationism has never been observed.

        Thanks, Ron, for disproving creationism in favor of the theory of evolution.

          1. Well, Ron, Richard Lenski observed evolution under lab conditions by tracking generations of e. coli bacteria for years, freezing samples of each generation. One population evolved the ability to consume citrate, and this result was repeated using frozen bacteria from earlier generations. You can google it.

          2. You can by selective breeding quickly get the offspring far enough apart that they cannot interbreed anymore (thus getting by definition different species). That’s for specimens with a short generational span (like certain insects). Provided funding and enough time one could do the same with mammals but it would take a wee bit more than a lifetime. Get the right bacteria and a generation is just a few minutes, with mammals it tends to be years (a year has about half a million minutes). To expect to get from fish to dog and from dog to whale within a liftime would be absurd, unless we are talking Hagunenons. As for your claim that bacteria only yield bacteria => Darwin wrong, that makes as much sense as claiming that getting elephants from mice would not count since both are mammals. The changes that can be ‘bred’ (as opposed to meddling with the DNA directly like a designer) with bacteria are huge with no equivalent on the multicellular level within any group (like mammals) on a human timescale and could be likened to getting from a squid to a chlorine beathing flying elephant.
            Still science is not helpless, since there is the rule that one can get from A to B when each step of the way can be shown to be possible (silk road principle: products could get from China to Europe without any individual going the whole way). The process of biological transformation over generations can be observed in nature in managable small steps in innumerable examples in all kind of species. Unless one claims that that each species can undergo only one of these and then must stop forever, the simple logic dictates that by putting a multitude of them in a line one can get to transformations that leave little in common between start and end. the only question is what path is taken and how long it will take. There is no law that dictates that squids must become chlorine breathing flying elephants (that would be teleology, a theological not a scientific concept), it could as well be rocket-propelled checkered crocodiles (I would consider the latter actually far more likely but that’s another matter).

          3. Plus- let us not forget that these new bacteria were not on Noah’s Arc, so need for a literal Biblical translation that drives Intelligent Design can only mean that the Literal Translation is wrong, their may be a god, and he may have published a book, but he couldn’t have meant for it to be literal because that would mean that everything came into existence at that moment, and that adam named everything and that if it wasn’t killed in the flood, it would have hitched a ride on the arc, but since these bacteria were not around with adam, and didn’t get on the arc, either life evolves or the story isn’t what you think it is.

          4. Oh, Ron.

            “Bacteria” is not a species.

            What you just said is like, “so from invertebrates, he got invertebrates.”

            Are you asking for someone to evolve tadpoles from a population of paramecia? Experiments on evolution tend to work with simple organisms that reproduce quickly, because of the incredible amount of time it takes for evolution to occur. What we’re talking about here is called “proof of concept.” Certain populations of bacteria, under the right conditions, evolved into new and different bacteria. When you ask, “is that all that Darwinian evolution purports,” it comes off as if you will not be satisfied until someone evolves millions of widely varied species from a puddle of enzymes under laboratory conditions.

            I’m not sure you even bothered to google the case, but if you did, I’m certain you didn’t read it with the goal of understanding exactly why the finding is such a big deal to so many well-qualified scientists. I’m sure you have some twisted imitation of logic in your pocket to explain why it gives you no pause that the best and brightest in the field consider this finding important.

          5. Bacteria is a kingdom, like plants and animals. So saying ‘it’s still a bacterium” is like saying “it’s still an animal.” Don’t spout off if you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

          6. The answer is yes. We have directly observed speciation many times. By contrast, we have never seen a god make a person out of mud.

          7. Okay, Ron. I’ve heard enough from the “experts.” You should stand up to the experts. But know this: scientists at UT Austin took two cat-dogs and bred them. Their offspring included three cats and two dogs. Their conclusion was, “Now we know the evolutionary origin of cats and dogs.” My conclusion? “Cats are better than dogs.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Nature wants to produces more cats than dogs when cat-dogs are bred, so cats must be better. Why didn’t the UT scientists see that?

      2. Yes Ron. The beauty of Biblical inerrantism is:

        “We can claim anything we want to about the Bible and Bible times. No one can challenge us because no one can travel back in time to see with his own eyes whether we are right or wrong. All we have to say is that we believe Jesus put his stamp of approval on it and that alone makes it true.

        Trouble is. Science knew what atoms looked like before atoms were ever actually seen with high-powered scanning electron microscopes. Various detected factors, mathematical fill-in-the blanks, and bits of related information gathered over many years allowed a piecing together of a picture that turned out to be right. Science does not have to actually witness a scientific fact to know that it is right.

        And no. I am not an atheist and neither are many other evolutionists who visit this blog. However, I will say this. People like me do seek the death of Biblical “inerrantism,” which is a man-made belief imposed on the Bible from outside of it. All things that are untrue are not of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The human choice to interpret Genesis 1 as science and actual history is not truth.

        “Weez ones is…”

        1. I don’t disagree with you about using Biblical inerrantism. In fact you should note I was purposefully vague about what an intelligent designer was. It is not part of my argument. You brought it into the discussion.

          Your argument for evolution seems to presume that if a designer cannot be tested by science then evolution must be truth. In doing so, your idea of evolution is based on the concept of a lack of a designer rather than on science.

          Instead, I believe an idea should be supported on its own merit. That is, to use science to validate or invalidate it and not use the assumption that someone else’s idea is untestable. Not testable is a limitation of science, not of truth.

          My position on what should be taught in schools is:
          1) Students should be taught how to build experiments and observe the results (science).
          2) Students should be taught to formulate ideas (theory) from any source.
          3) Students should be taught to develop science in order to validate or invalidate that idea.
          If an idea is repressed because it can’t be fully tested, that is censorship of an idea.

          So, my original question remains: What has science observed that validates the idea of a dog-kind reproducing to a new-kind. And do not use the concept of designer, positively or negatively.

          1. Ok, but you can neither test nor disprove the idea that the entire universe was created ten minutes ago, all of our memories and experiences prior to that are false, and those false memories were implanted into our minds as we popped into existence.

            Since you can’t disprove it, should we put it in textbooks? “Teach the controversy,” after all.

          2. Science can’t disprove evolution. Nor can science prove evolution. Some of science validates evolution as possible.

            Science can’t disprove design. Nor can science prove design. Some of science validates design as possible.

            Why is one thought better than another?
            By repressing an idea, you are censoring a student from considering new ideas or from formulating new science to validate or invalidate an existing idea. To teach one as truth is irresponsible.

            Any idea that science doesn’t disprove and has some validation is worthy of consideration. Again, the inability for science to test an idea is a limitation of science, not of truth.

          3. If you truly believe in intelligent design, what is wrong with the idea that evolution is most likely the process which your “designer” employed in the implementation of her design?

          4. Yet another idea that should be considered. I am not repressing ideas.
            ‘most likely’ doesn’t guarantee truth.
            So I maintain that a distinction between science (limited observation), theory (guessing), and truth (truth) should be taught.
            Stop telling people they can’t think by forcing your ‘truth’ on them! How does that feel to you? I’m sure you know this feeling.

          5. So you want “truth,” Ron? Someone once said, “…I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Then, “Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?'” Often “truth” is elusive, Ron, and difficult to determine, and humans have promoted different versions of the “truth” throughout history. Truth from personal testimony, authority, or revelation is not considered reliable since it cannot be tested or independently assessed by others. Friedrich Nietzsche (in The Anti-Christ) claimed that Pilate was the only figure in the New Testament one was is obliged to respect, because his response–“What is truth?” to Jesus’s “impudent misuse of the word truth”–results in the “annihilation” of the New Testament.

            For truth about the natural world, scientific “truth” (that is, proximate empirically-corroborated justified knowledge) is accepted by the business community, by governments, and by educated and intelligent individuals throughout modern history. For example, business corporations and governments look to science–not religions–to design computers, modern weapon systems, bridges, satellites, drugs, medical techniques, hybrid crops, and other technologies to protect and serve humans. Questions about origins fall into the natural realm, so scientific truth about evolution is superior to revealed/testimonial/authoritarian truth about intelligent design creationism. And don’t claim that IDC is science; IDC is pseudoscience based totally on the marketing of sophistry: a massive collection of specious arguments meant to confuse, mislead, and ultimately persuade ignorant readers and listeners. No wonder only fools believe it.

          6. I’m sorry, I’ve been away.

            I’m glad we agree that truth is elusive. Are you honestly able to say that science is able to observe every detail necessary to prove, without any doubt, that evolution is truth? Can science show that the entire theory of evolution is truth without interpolating or extrapolating from known information?

            I’m glad we agree that science has value. It has benefitted mankind. I enjoy observing nature too. The Business community and governments don’t look to evolution either. They look to science and how nature reacts to testing. Computers, modern weapon systems, bridges, satellites, drugs, medical techniques, hybrid crops do not require that evolution is truth. Quite the opposite, in fact, is shown: these advancements show that intelligent design is necessary and beneficial. Neither one of us will be around in a billion years to observe that a satellite evolved. Which is observed? Design, or evolution?
            Do you believe that the interpretation of science is factual, that interpretation is part of science? I refer you to look up Merriam Webster’s definition of science and of theory.

            Schools should teach students how to observe our natural world (science). And separately, how to formulate ideas from what is observed (theory). And to teach that each are necessary to be developed. Science can strengthen or weaken a theory and nothing more.

            I chose your thread because you seemed most likely to carry on a non-violent discussion. Yet, you still throw in your personal attacks that I perceive are meant to intimidate. Comments like ‘No wonder only fools believe it’ are judgmental. I ask that you refrain from this type of comment.

          7. Jay, I give you my apology for my last comment. I didn’t see that a new person had joined the thread.

          8. It really doesn’t matter one way or another Ron. No one is going to allow the Christian fundamentalist view to either be taught or hinted at in public school science classes. Your religious views and their translation into conservative politics have been marked for death so real Christianity (the kind you do not have) can arise in its place.

          9. Do you believe in life in other parts of the Universe?
            – Or –
            Do you believe in the possibility of life in other parts of the Universe?
            – Or –
            Do you believe there is no life in other parts of the Universe?

          10. Ron, you’re still working out arguments on flawed assumptions.

            In The Scientific Method, “theory” is not “guessing”. A scientific theory is not just something that someone pulled out of their butt.
            The colloquial “theory” doesn’t even approach the rigor of Hypothesis in the Scientific Method.
            In Science, when we use the term “theory”, we’re talking about something that has already stood up to repeated testing.
            The Theory of Evolution, by definition, has been tested and it’s been validated by experimentation.

            This should help.

            Evolution has been extensively tested. We know it’s real because we’ve seen it happen in a lab. We know it’s real because we have found the transitional fossils. We know it’s real because we can see it in everything from physical form to genetics.

          11. These guys just aren’t giving you any solid information about evolution and why its true, so i will help you out.

            I want you to go and research endogenous retrovirus / pseudoGenes such as, Why do we all have a dead vitamin C gene in all of us?, Why do we have a dead yolk gene in all of us/ Human Chromosome Number 2 / Reptile jaw bone transition into mammalian Ear. Then Look at Biogeography/Embryology and Speciation of new species . This aint some guesswork scientists came up with. This is legit science . Just for fun, Ask yourself these questions, Why do you have Toe Nails?Why do you get goosebumps? Why do we have wisdom Teeth? Why is the laryngeal nerve so poorly evolved? Why can some people wiggle their ears? Whats the explanation of Lactose intolerance ?

            Then ask yourself this, If you truely believe in a intelligent designer,Then he must be wicked unless you suffer from cognitive dissonance and only choose the good things to represent your god in life.. If he is so loving Why did he design AIDS/MALARIA/INFLUENZA/POLIO/MEASLES/SMALL POX/CHOLERA/EBOLA/Bubonic Plague/spanish flu

            and here are some youtube videos

            Lizard to snake evolution. Loosing legs and changes the entire way it eats .
            Ineffient design against the idea of an intelligent designer =
            Why Evolution is true by Jerry coyne
            What the fossils say and why it matters
            Evolution explains everything information

      3. It has been done, with foxes in Russia. The scientist bred one breed for aggression and another for passivity. Sorry to burst your bubble, but evolution is a fact.

      4. Darwin was able to observe evolution in finches on an isolated island of the Galapagos. Google it.

      5. The evolution of the Peppered Moth. That particular species appeared in a distinctive way prior to the Industrial Revolution (preserved examples still exist thanks to scientists)… after the Industrial Revolution, after the introduction to ash and soot from factories, it changed color.

        Presto! Evolution!

        1. Two errors here.(1) Darwin did not recognize evolution when at Galapagos Islands. It wasn’t until he returned home and was informed by Galton?? that they were all finches that Darwin was able to finally put it together. (@) The Peppered Moth claims have been rejected as an example of evolution, I think! I am a life long atheist humanist and have followed evolution all my life. That doesn’t mean I can not be wrong. What does Jerry Coyne say?

  3. I have been accessing and reading the biology instructional materials changes totally independently of TFN and I concur that no changes that discredit science education were made by the publishers. Today I visited my local ESC and examined every page changed in Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I previously was able to examine the changes by some of the smaller publishers over the last few days. I admit I was worried that the publishers would make small changes, as they have in the past, that had the effect of weakening or misrepresenting evolution, origin of life, fossil patterns, geologic time, and similar topics. But they did not this time. The biology instructional materials are as good after TEA “negotiations” as they were originally.

    Frankly, the thick, full-color biology textbooks of the three major publishes have improved every year since about 1995, and the ones I saw were truly wonderful: filled with drawings and photographs of transitional fossils, phylogenetic trees, molecular phylogenies, decent discussions of hypotheses about the origin of life, diagrams showing evolutionary principles and processes, etc. These books are much better than the ones I used in high school and will have the effect of inspiring many high school biology students to investigate the questions about origins–formerly explained only by religions–using scientific methods. We have truly come a long way. The credit for this success must go to a few organizations of dedicated scientists, advocates, and lobbyists who have taken up the battle against the forces of sectarian anti-science ignorance during the last three decades to turn things around, at least for the textbooks.

    What is not explained in the blog column is that the biology publishers had to reply, in writing, to each criticism, “factual error,” and TEKS-omission “identified” by the several Creationists who reviewed the materials. I plan to read those responses, and I will write about what I find later. I think the publishers are mad and just aren’t going to take it anymore. And good for them!