SMU Prof Tears Apart Official Texas Review of Leading Biology Textbook

by Dan Quinn

Anti-evolution activists have been alarmingly influential in the state’s official review process for proposed high school biology textbooks in Texas, but truly qualified reviewers have also been part of the process. One of the best examples of the latter is Ron Wetherington, an evolutionary anthropologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Wetherington is not just a highly respected scholar and published researcher. He also is a veteran of the evolution battles at the State Board of Education (SBOE). In 2008-09, for example, he served as an expert adviser during the SBOE’s controversial revision of science curriculum standards for Texas public schools. As the award-winning documentary The Revisionaries makes clear, Wetherington helped frustrate creationists’ efforts to undermine instruction on evolution in those standards.

This year Wetherington is serving as an official reviewer for Texas textbook adoption. The textbooks assigned to him for review did not include Pearson Education’s biology textbook, one of the leading texts in the market. However, that textbook did go through the review panel that included Ide Trotter, one of the most prominent anti-evolution activists in the state. And sure enough, that panel’s review is filled with misleading and distorted arguments against evolution. Because Pearson is such an influential textbook in the high school market, how the publisher responds to the review is critically important to science education both in Texas and across the country. (You can read all of the reviews by the official panels that met in August here. Those reviews will be finalized once reviewers have evaluated any changes publishers propose to make to their textbooks.)

Working on his own, Wetherington has written a point-by-point rebuttal to that review. A State Board of Education member who received that rebuttal from Wetherington passed it on to us. You can read the full analysis below, but Wetherington makes it clear from the start that his comments are based on decades of experience in researching and teaching about the subject:

Although I was a panel member for several publisher submissions, Pearson was not one of these. My rebuttal simply constitutes my own individual assessment. Since I teach much of this material in my university classes, and have for almost 50 years, I have felt it my responsibility to reveal the biases and shortcomings in this official review, which resulted in a recommendation for rejection to the Texas Educational Agency.

Wetherington proceeds to dismantle, point by point, the anti-evolution propaganda found throughout the panel’s review. If you want to understand why we’re so alarmed about the pseudoscience we’ve seen promoted in this textbook review process, Wetherington’s analysis is a must read.

Pearson Review Rebuttal