Publisher to Texas Creationist's Demands for Biology Textbook Changes: Not Gonna Happen

We now have Pearson Education’s response to claims that the publisher’s high school biology textbook for Texas public schools contains factual “errors” in its discussion of the genetic similarities between humans and chimpanzees. In a detailed response, the company essentially says (politely) that the anti-evolution activist who has made the claims simply doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

Neal Frey, who runs an East Texas-based censorship outfit called Educational Research Analysts and rejects the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting evolution, filed his formal complaint against the Pearson textbook with the Texas Education Agency last month. Frey claims that textbook statements pointing out that chimpanzees are humans’ closest living relatives “falsify known facts.” And he demands that state officials require Pearson to “correct” the alleged errors or fine the publisher if it refuses to make the changes.

In its response, Pearson points out that Frey has mischaracterized the technical papers he points to as evidence for his claims. “(N)one of the five technical monographs provides any evidence disputing the conclusion that chimpanzees are humans’ closest living relatives,” Pearson writes, before taking readers through each of those paper’s research and conclusions. The publisher then flatly rejects Frey’s demanded changes:

“The first change proposed for page 767 of our textbook would mislead students by telling them that there is ‘no consistent pattern of evolutionary relationships among these hominoids.’ There is, in fact, a consistent pattern of relationships, as increasingly detailed molecular studies have shown, and that pattern indicates the close genetic relationship between humans and chimpanzees. The second proposed change would imply that chimpanzees are just ‘one of the hominoids,’ when in fact they are our closest relatives among these organisms.

Because we are committed to scientific accuracy and integrity, we dispute the charge of “errors” on page 767, and insist on keeping the fair, accurate, and complete descriptions current in our textbook.”

We obtained Pearson’s response from the Texas Education Agency through a public information request. You can read the company’s full response to Frey’s claims here: Pearson_Response_HumansChimps

The State Board of Education adopted the Pearson textbook last November, along with textbooks and online instructional materials for high school biology from 13 other publishers. But the Pearson textbook had to pass an additional last-minute examination by a panel of experts after a creationist serving on an official review team claimed the textbook had nearly 20 factual errors in sections related to evolution. The expert panel rejected all of those error claims in December. (None of those alleged errors addressed the issue of human and chimp genetic similarities.)

It’s interesting that Frey went after only Pearson in this latest attack. We know that he tried, before the state board vote last fall, to pressure other publishers to revise passages explaining the close genetic similarities between humans and chimpanzees. But it appears that Frey filed a formal complaint against only the Pearson textbook.

It is unclear how the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education will resolve the dispute. It’s possible that the state board will have to address the issue at its April meeting. Stay tuned.

37 thoughts on “Publisher to Texas Creationist's Demands for Biology Textbook Changes: Not Gonna Happen

  1. To think we, as humans, are not subject to the same evolutionary scrutiny as all other life on this planet just screams snobbery by divinity. To attempt to persuade educators to disseminate this ideology to students, despite overwhelming molecular and observational evidence, deserves to be mocked and ridiculed to the highest degree.

    1. You are in error that Creationists think only life other than humankind is allowed to change. What is observed is that kind produces kind. Any deviation from this is not observed science and is simply your idea for a solution that denies a creator. If you don’t know it all (you’re not God), you must be afraid what the sovereignty of a Creator means.
      When you can explain the origin of life and consciousness, maybe we’ll start listening to you. Until then, we think you’re just looking at old rocks.

      1. Handy canned response to the “in kinds” claim….

        Microevolution refers to genetic mutations which are able to diffuse (especially via reproduction) within a population group. When a population is divided by a barrier (geologic or genetic) which precludes future diffusion between subgroups, it is referred to as speciation. Microevolutionary developments in one group unable to diffuse across the species barrier are considered macroevolutionary with respect to the other group.

        While the rate of speciation is low (on the order of per species-megayear, depending in part on time to reproductive maturity), the large number of species on earth has resulted in several dozen speciations being recorded in the literature since Darwin’s time.

        The most common response to this is that these are “not really” speciations, since “it’s still the same kind”. This response reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the theory of evolution works.

        When a species barrier arises, the organism does not become an ENTIRELY new species; rather, it becomes a MORE specific species. Humans, therefore, can be viewed as a sub-species of hominid-catarrhine-primate-mammalian-chordate-deuterostomial-bilateral-eumetazoan-animal-eukaryote-cellular-life. After becoming distinct sub-species, any novel mutation in one is thus macroevolutionary with respect to the other.

        Given that we KNOW species barriers can arise with time, it is a reasonable inference that extant barriers may not have always existed. Fossil evidence supports this. EG, searching back, we can find example some fossils showing resemblance to modern seals and some to weasels; and the older those appearing ancestral to seals are, the closer they are to resembling ancestral forms of the weasels. Thus, weasels are considered mustelid-caniform-carnivore-mammalian-chordate-deuterostomial-bilateral-eumetazoan-animal-eukaryote-cellular-life, whereas seals are considered pinniped-caniform-carnivore-mammalian-chordate-deuterostomial-bilateral-eumetazoan-animal-eukaryote-cellular-life. This inference is additionally supported by modern genetic sequencing, which indicates considerable overlap between the modern forms, with the distinguishing sequences consistent with mutations of the same type as observed in the lab, and in an degree consistent with the expectations from observed rate-of-mutation in present and from the time estimates of the fossil record.

        See also CB901-CB901, for more expertly canned responses.

        1. Ron is still hoping that the nonexistence of a time travel machine will allow Christian fundamentalists to retain their delusion that the Genesis parables are both real history and real science. His stance is that the past is directly unobservable, therefore vistually anything that happened back then is faith-based specualtion of one sort or another.

          This is a great little fantasy world that Ron is creating, and it is a world ideal for the generation of creationist blather. For creationist convenience, it is also a fantasy world where the basic laws and regularities of behavior in the universe were either suspended or were temporarily made to stand still at various times.

          Sorry Ron. Because Jesus is the sovereign Lord of the universe who left behind pieces of himself in what He made (the discoveries about evolution), you are destined to one day discover that all of your country-hick preachers are wrong. Jesus is not a Christian fundamentalist. His sayings and behavior in the New Testament make that pretty clear because you people speak and behave in ways that make it clear that you have no part in his sovereign kingdom. You honor him with your lips, but your heart is far from him.

        2. Nice canned answer. But no answer to the origin of life or of consciousness. No answer? I’m not surprised.
          “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.” – Charles Darwin

          1. Ron: When you use that quote out of context and fail to include the rest of what Darwin actually said, you reveal yourself as a fraud and a liar.

          2. Things aren’t always as they appear. I added it to see the response. And I got a response that ignores the basis of what I’m saying. Just as I expected.
            Straight up, what is the origin of life?

          3. Yes, he did lie Dan.

            These guys will do anything…anything…including sin…to prop up their crumbling position on Genesis, Biblical literalism, and inerrantism. I would like to know which KJV scripture authorizes them to lie for Jesus.

            Dan. I think you need to check this guy’s IP address against the one for Ide Trotter. Trotter is the person most known for running this “origin of life” scam in conversation. My guess is that Ron is either Ide Trotter himself or a shill that he has specifically sent here to push this issue.

          4. P.S. I have never really thought that evolution has much of anything to say about the origin of life. Scientifically, no one knows the origin of life at this time.

            It could have come to Earth in all sorts of different ways. A Supernatural being could have created it here. It could have been seeded here as a long-term and intentional experiment by technologically advanced aliens from another world or a parallel dimension. It could have come here when a planet with life on it blew up 5 billion years ago (like Superman and the Planet Krypton). It could have developed here naturally in some way that we do not understand—yet. I am sure a person could come up with all sorts of hypotheses. From a position of tangible fact, we may never know for certain how life emerged on Earth.

            Jo Patterson below has a pretty good point. Maybe it does not really matter all that much as to HOW life emerged on Earth. The principal problem now is to deal with the fact that it is here, it changes over time, and it needs protection and nurturing. It is also important to understand that most of the life forms that have ever existed on this planet have gone extinct (about 99 percent). Humans seem to be dead set on making themselves extinct.

          5. IMHO the origin(s) of life isn’t that big of a deal. Research, though, is deeply interesting, and fun.

  2. The creation accounts in Genesis are parables sent by the Jesus who preferred to teach using parables. The text has a spiritual message, as did all of the parables Jesus provided in the New Testament, not a historical or scientific message. The Fundamentalist Christian choice to read Genesis 1 as science and history is a human choice, not a Godly choice. The Biblical text has no footnote or parenthetical in Genesis that says, “Note: This text is real science and history.” Once again, the choice to believe that it is this is a purely human choice, and today’s science proves beyond question that this choice was a wrong one.

    Christian fundamentalists have always claimed that if it is not real acience and real history, then God has lied to us. I would submit instead that the spiritual pride, haughtiness, and boastful self-righteousness of the fundies have blinded them to the fact that “IT IS THEY WHO HAVE LIED TO THEMSELVES.” Rather than admit their own human weakness and susceptibility to error, they choose instead to slander the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by calling thems liars to cover for their own sins and failures as human beings. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

  3. Sometimes I think Chimpanzees are a lot closer to being our closest living relatives than creationists. Certainly their intelligence level is closer to ours.

    1. We are still fighting this in 2014 because, just like in radical Islam, some people among us are choosing to live their lives with an 8th century level of knowledge rather than a 21st century level of knowledge.

      I am not surprised by this because I have heard numrous pastors in fundie churches say, “Oh!!!! If we could only go back to the 1st century and live out our lives as those 1st century Christians did. What a blessing it would be!!!” Bull-doody. I like my Jesus with a tetanus shot.

  4. Ken Miller gets credit for writing Pearson’s excellent scientific response even though his authorship is not stated. I got Neal Fry’s complaint the day it was released and quickly located all five of his cited scientific references. I saw they didn’t support his claims and then searched for the actual Creationist references he used but didn’t cite and acknowledge. I found Jeffrey Tomkins incompetent, pseudoscientific articles published by AiG and ICR and posted their links in a comment on TFN Insider and sent those and the PDF links of the five scientific references to Ken Miller. Ken phoned me and told me he already had the five scientific references and thanked me for the others. He had had a copy of Fry’s complaint for a week and had already written Pearson’s reply. He sent me the reply on Feb 4 and asked me to not release it until it was made public by TEA or Pearson (or by TFN as it happened, since TEA wasn’t going to release anything voluntarily without a PIR, and then wait the full ten business days to do it because that’s the way they are). Except for the fact that Ken sent me a Word doc and TEA’s version is a PDF, the two responses are identical.

    The lesson here is that mendacious and incompetent Creationists such as Neal Fry will use other Creationist’s writings and cite the original scientific papers–since he wanted his pseudoscientific complaint to have a veneer of scientific legitimacy–as if he consulted them, but which he didn’t (since Fry couldn’t possibly understand them). He used Tomkins arguments and simply perpetuated the false and malicious claims for the sole purpose of trying to prevent or perjure the use of an accurate and popular biology textbook in Texas, thus seeking to deprive Texas students of a decent biology education. This is such shameful activity that it merits wide exposure and notoriety (so thanks to TFN for exposing it).

    Seemingly only in Texas would the state’s public education agency take this sort of cheap, unscientific, and duplicitous nonsense seriously, allowing a notorious Creationist to make obviously unsupported and biased nonsensical claims against an already-adopted science textbook, and require the publisher to scientifically justify the accuracy of its textbook a second time. The reason this happens is because the TEA–just as is the case for all other regulatory agencies in Texas–is a “captured agency,” i.e. one politically-controlled by a single political party and thus one that responds positively to that party’s political agenda no matter how outrageous, malicious, or crazy it is. This sort of activity inevitably damages the public institution that the regulatory agency has responsibility for. In this case it is public education, but the same thing happens in Texas with regulation of environmental quality, public health, the insurance industry, and almost every other example you can imagine. The only way to stop this social disaster is to stop electing Republicans and their crazy anti-human agendas to public office. Then Texas’s public government will join the 20th century (and someday perhaps even enter the 21st century).

  5. I know that scientific data show that we a genetically close to chimpanzees but I do feel that, by evidence of his own words, Frey is more closely related to chimpanzees than most people 🙂

    1. I had a Christian fundamentalist Uncle in Nashville who believed that God Created Adam and Eve directly. He also stated that he was open to the possibility that black people ONLY evolved from an ape lineage.

      Hey, nobody could just make this stuff up. This is real life in the raw.

  6. Fact of the matter is PEARSON PLC is a publicly traded corporation on the London Exchange and the NY Stock Exchange. Its profits were over $1.5 billion in 2012. It really DOES NOT CARE WHAT SOME IDIOT IN TEXAS THINKS ABOUT ITS TEXTBOOK REFERENCES TO EVOLUTION. The entire world is its marketplace, and that textbook in question wouldn’t mean a hill of beans to its bottom line. Pearson is not ABOUT to soil its sterling reputation for excellence in education materials by deliberately pandering to ignorant fools trying to hijack public education.

    Wingnuts, you have more than met your match in Pearson PLC. Take a hike.

    1. I agree Roy. This is also a basic ethical question.

      If I were the CEO at Pearson, there is no way that I would compromise scientfic truth by intentionally incorporating creation science lies into a major textbook. One willful slip like that and the reputation of the whole corporation goes down the drain—and future sales and profits with it. Also as a matter of ethics, if I were the head of a school system and knew that they had made a lying compromise like that, I could not in good conscience buy any more books from them for my school system. I think they would be permanently on the “poop” list for nearly every sane school system on the planet.

      I hope Pearson reads this because I am pretty accurate at calling things like this.

      1. I think you hit the nail on the head. As big as Texas is in geography and population, it is a pinhead compared to the world marketplace that Pearson serves. (The “pinhead” reference obviously also qualifies as a metaphorical description of some of my fellow Texans.) Pearson is not going to risk its world-wide reputation to make a buck or two cow-towing to some right wing evangelical loudmouth bullies attempting to influence textbook publishers. Those days are gone. Through mergers and buyouts of publishers over the years, Pearson has grown into an economic powerhouse. They have a sterling reputation in multiple fields of education, in elementary, secondary, university, and specialized certification education. These belly-aching religious clowns in Texas are pip-squeaks in front of a steam-rolling juggernaut. They will be squished into the asphalt and never even realize what hit them. They are messing with a multi-billion dollar, international corporation interested in protecting its reputation for accuracy and honesty.

    2. Roy is correct, but this is a new day. In the past, Pearson would have agreed to make small changes as all publishers have done since the Texas State Board of Education had a monopoly on what textbooks could be used in the enormous Texas market and even in many other traditionalist states. This time, I was told that if the SBOE refused to approve their Biology textbook without compromising changes, Pearson would continue to refuse to make changes, withdrawn it from SBOE consideration, and use that refusal to bow to pressure to diminish the text’s scientific accuracy as a marketing message in individual Texas school districts and across the country. Pearson is thus the first publisher to directly stand up to the bullying and extortionist tactics of the SBOE and I applaud them for that. But we also have the legislative changes in textbook adoption law to thank for that.

  7. In the March issue of Texas Monthly there’s an article called “Evolution of the Specious,” by Tom Bartlett which summarized the Sisyphean efforts over the years by creationists. Sadly, I don’t quite agree w/ Mr. Bartlett’s speculation that this may be the last of the “…Great Texas textbook wars.” The creationists/ID folks have an agenda, plenty of skin in the game and will keep pushing the rock up the hill and raising their children to take over when the rock rolls over them. Nevertheless, it’s the 21st century and they right reach a point of diminishing returns. I hope so.

    1. They will reach that point of diminishing returns…and in fact already have. As their own statistics show, 88 percent of their children leave the churches they were raised in at age 18 and never come back for their entire lives. The important thing to remember is that these people are thinning in numbers and petering out over time—and most of all—they are desperate—and one could make an excellent and very logical argument that God has abandoned them—which explains their incessant failure to make any headway in their quest to force people to believe exactly as they believe. The important thing in this fight for the truth is to give them no quarter and keep nipping at their heels relentlessly until they dwindle to nearly nothing.

      I remain convinced that the real Jesus of the New Testament, the one they do not know and have never known, will arise from their ashes and the world will one day be engulfed by his love and peace. Come Lord Jesus!!!

      1. Charles, you are a deluded believer of old fairy tales; there is no lord jesus to rise and bring “love and peace”, there are no supernatural beings to save you or anyone else.

  8. Ye gawds, that’s embarrassing. Amusing, too. But alas, in our world today, people are allowed (encouraged?) to embarrass themselves publicly.

    Getting off track a bit. The only thing that matters in our schools is fact, not ancient, ignorant, Iron Age myths written by unenlightened insects.

  9. I’ve read the Texas Monthly article “Evolution of the Specious.” It contains several errors. Here are three. First, Bartlett is correct in writing that “biology textbooks in Texas de-emphasized Darwin [presumably meaning evolutionary biology] through much of the seventies and eighties.” But he misstates the goals of Mel and Norma Gabler. They never, to my knowledge beginning in 1980, asked that “creationism” or “scientific creationism” be included in textbooks, even before the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court decision that banned teaching creation science in science classes because it is religious. The Gablers always demanded that the negatives as well as the positives of evolution be taught; the bad as well as the good; the weaknesses as well as the strengths. Some Creationists wanted Creationism explicitly taught, but not the Gablers. They thought that evolution was a cornerstone of secular humanism; they wanted evolution taught as a theory, not a fact; they objected to any “bias in favor of evolution.” They did state their preference for “sudden creation” rather than evolution, but didn’t ask for it to be taught. Since evolution coverage was weak overall in biology and Earth science textbooks in the 70s and 80s, the Gablers’ main theme was objecting to any suggestion that the Earth or life on the Earth was older than 6,000 years. They always objected to any textbook sentence that said something was millions of years old. The TEA/SBOE always congenially changed these sentences to “ancient” or “a long time ago” in backroom “negotiations” (i.e., extortion) with publishers. Happily, these ancient days are past!

    Second, teaching “Intelligent Design,” the most recent form of Creationism, is only illegal in a single Pennsylvania Federal District Court district; it is not illegal elsewhere in the U.S. However, it is still not science and therefore bad pedagogy and pseudoscientific, thus unethical–but not illegal. However, I agree that the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision is a strong deterrent to teaching IDC in public schools; even the Discovery Institute agrees with me. It doesn’t want the “bad” federal court decision extended to other states.

    Finally, the worst mistake that Bartlett makes is his opening sentence: “The final shot of the last battle of the Great Texas Textbook War has been fired.” That is certainly untrue. The Social Studies curriculum standards were politicized, damaged, and corrupted much worse than the Science standards were, and the battle will be even bigger when the History, Government, Economics, and Texas History books are examined next year. The evolutionary biology battle will look small compared to that of American History. The “Great Texas Textbook War” continues stronger than ever. And you will find that the pro-science majority on the SBOE will disappear when Social Studies comes up.

    1. Thank you Steven. Excellent attention to detail. We certainly agree regarding that opening sentence. But I wonder … to where will the pro-science majority on the SBOE disappear when Social Studies comes up?

      1. Rubin, possibly all the Republicans except Thomas Ratliff will vote to adopt materials that insert the ugly, bigoted, and duplicitous un-scholarly and historically-false information required by the corrupt social studies standards, or vote to insert that stuff anyway if the materials fail to provide it. Republicans Pat Hardy and Tincy Miller, who are usually pro-science (not 100% but pretty good), explicitly supported and voted for the bad standards. That will give the radical religious right Republicans a voting bloc of seven votes. I don’t know how Sue Melton-Malone or Tom Maynard will vote. If even one of them supports the radicals, that will give them an eight-member majority. If neither supports the corrupt standards, the pro-honest and accurate-scholarship side will have the eight votes. So it will be close. I assume the new members Donna Bahorich and Marty Rowley, who were not SBOE members when the original corrupt social studies standards were approved, will support the radicals.

        I term them “radicals” because adopting social studies standards and materials that contain accurate, honest, and scholarly-supported historical content is traditional and conservative. The radicals support “Christian Nationalism,” “American Exceptionalism,” “founding documents are Biblical and God-inspired,” “pro-militarism and American dominance,” and “American intervention for democracy rather than American imperialism” dogma/fantasy. Most of the corrupt social studies standards fall into these categories. There is a huge online literature available that documents the history of how this stuff was approved by the SBOE. The Social Studies adoption will give Texas another chance to be the most backwards and reactionary state in the country.

        1. They’ll have to compete with Tennessee, Ohlahoma, Kansas, Alabama, and Louisiana to attain that title. You would not believe some of the state laws they are considering and passing here in Tennessee. All are in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution in one way or another—no doubt about it. All are designed to hurt people and take away their basic rights. I am beginning to see what it must have looked like to live in the Soviet Union in 1947.