Opposing Texas SBOE Candidates Talk Evolution and Science Education

by Dan Quinn

We can’t republish the Waco Tribune-Herald’s full Q-and-A pieces with Texas State Board of Education incumbent Gail Lowe of Lampasas and her challenger in the District 14 Republican primary on May 29, Sue Melton of Waco. (The two articles are behind the Trib’s paywall; links are below.) But we did want to note how the two candidates answered questions about evolution and science education.

Lowe, who is part of the state board’s creationist bloc that worked to dumb down instruction on evolution in new science curriculum standards adopted in 2009, told the Trib’s editorial board that she’s not anti-science:

Q: The most common perception is you’re a dedicated creationist who wants to get more of that belief in public school textbooks and weaken the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

A: I am a person of deep, religious faith. I believe the Bible teaches that we have a creator. But I don’t believe ever at the State Board of Education level any of us ever advocated for the teaching of creation in our materials. I would like a more objective view of what we teach as creation. The complexity of the cell and the world around us is evidence there is an order, that it is not natural processes that got us here, that there is a purpose beyond just random mutations and chance happenstance that got people here.

The science teachers who have testified before us are not the people I want teaching religious concepts. I want them teaching science concepts. But we don’t want to market things like global warming and naturalistic evolution where we sugarcoat it to get you to buy into it when in fact it’s not measurable, not observable, not replicable in a laboratory. That’s not really science.

We’ve gotten into marketing and indoctrination when we attempt those historical evolution discussions that we can’t back with fact. I want the theory of biological evolution taught but I want it taught with a little more circumspection. Students need to know this is not proven, that it is not fact, that there’s no way to recreate the situation that may have existed or to replicate what may have happened to initially start life. I just think we need to do more critical thinking about biological evolution.

Melton, a retired classroom teacher and former president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, explained her position on the issue:

Q: Most controversy involving the State Board of Education usually revolves around matters of religious belief and how those are to be reflected in textbooks. How would you go about taking a more thoughtful, professional posture in that process rather than what has happened in recent years?

A: I’m a Christian and I believe in the Bible. The Bible tells us who created the earth and why, but science can tell us when and how. I think we have the kids in schools to educate them, not to teach them religious beliefs.

Q: You don’t see any conflict between your biblical Christian beliefs and teaching evolution?

A: No, I don’t see a conflict, but I don’t think our battle over evolution and creationism has a place in the classroom. That needs to be done at home and in the churches. We need to stick to the scientific evidence in the classroom.