The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released a report in November showing that the notion of any “controversy” over evolution is rejected almost unanimously by trained biologists at Texas colleges and universities. In addition, scientists overwhelmingly oppose the proposition that public school students should be taught creationist-fabricated “weaknesses” of evolution rather than 21st-century science based on sound research and evidence. (It would be, as we have pointed out, like teaching that maybe the earth doesn’t really revolve around the sun after all.) The report’s findings are based on an extensive survey of biologists and biological anthropologists at the 35 public and 15 largest private and religious colleges and universities in Texas. Now the creationist pressure group Texans for Better Science Education is trying to counter those findings by pointing to polls of the general public that show stronger support for teaching so-called “weaknesses” of evolution. (Actually, we’re being generous in calling TBSE a “pressure group.” It’s mostly just a Web site with an e-mail list.)
Why has the “controversy” over evolution persisted among the public even though it ended decades ago in mainstream science? One big reason: evolution deniers — backed by well-financed pressure groups like the Discovery Institute in Seattle — have mastered the art of propaganda. Unable to win their arguments in the scientific arena, they have instead employed a complex strategy to persuade the general public that well over a century of scientific research and overwhelming scientific evidence are all wrong. It’s a deeply dishonest strategy based on the cynical belief that nonscientists can be persuaded by well-packaged pseudoscientific nonsense.
During the Texas State Board of Education‘s public hearing on proposed new science curriculum standards, evolution deniers tried to counter the results of the TFN Education Fund survey of biologists with the argument that science isn’t decided by popular vote. Well, that’s right. It’s decided by research and evidence provided by trained scientists — nearly all of whom say that all of the evidence supports evolution. But now evolution deniers fall back on the popularity contest they decried, pointing to polls of nonscientists in the general public.
The state board’s creationist faction and its allies are playing politics with the education of more than 4.6 million kids in Texas public schools. The result may well be that the next generation of Texas students are saddled with a 19th-century education in their 21st-century science classrooms. Evolution deniers are okay with that. After all, it means that promoting their pseudoscientific propaganda would be even easier — even if it also handicaps the ability of Texas students to compete and succeed in college and the jobs of the future.