Texas Creationists Are Still Bullying Science Textbook Publishers

Evolution deniers don’t like it when science textbooks tell students the truth. And creationists were really unhappy last year when they failed to pressure publishers into undermining the teaching of evolution in new biology textbooks adopted by the State Board of Education (SBOE) for Texas public schools. So now they’re making a last-ditch effort to bully publishers into falsifying the science in those textbooks.

We told you in January that the head of an East Texas organization that opposes the teaching of evolution, the absurdly misnamed Educational Research Analysts, had filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Neal Frey’s complaint charged that Pearson Education’s high school biology textbook was wrong in explaining the close similarities between chimpanzee and human DNA. The textbook said scientific evidence shows that chimps are the closest living genetic relatives of humans. Creationists hate that. Pearson responded to Frey’s complaint by pointing out how he simply doesn’t know what in the world he’s talking about.

Well, this week the Texas Freedom Network discovered that SBOE Chairwoman Barbara Cargill backed Frey’s complaint. Of course, it’s no great surprise Cargill would support a fellow evolution denier’s efforts to dumb down a science textbook. What’s particularly troubling here is how she did it.

Writing in a January 8 email TFN obtained through a request under the state’s open records law, Cargill tried to pressure TEA staff into ruling that Frey’s claims about the Pearson textbook were actually valid. If TEA were to make such a ruling, Pearson would have to revise its textbook or face potentially hefty fines. Keep in mind that a strong majority of Cargill’s SBOE colleague’s voted to adopt the textbook last November. Did Cargill consult those colleagues before trying to pressure TEA staff to go after Pearson’s textbook less than two months later? We see no evidence that she did.

In any case, Cargill claimed in her email (click on the image below) that Frey told her publishers McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and STEMscopes “quickly agreed to revise” their textbooks after he told them that similar passages about chimp and human DNA in their textbooks were also inaccurate. In discussing Frey’s claims about the Pearson textbook, Cargill wrote:

“Pearson has been very hard-nosed during this adoption, so I hope staff at least agrees that these 3 items must be changed, especially knowing that 3 other publishers agreed to the changes. If the science experts at McGraw, Houghton, and STEMscopes agreed with Neal, that says a lot. Neal does his homework, and I looked into it too, just to be sure. The research is solid, accurate and current.”

CargillEmail_1.8.14But what Cargill said doesn’t appear to be true. We have found no evidence, through open records requests as well as queries to publishers, that the publishers have made the revisions Frey was demanding. In fact, our most recent open records request to TEA also revealed that Frey is now complaining — in two June emails to the agency — that STEMscopes did NOT make the changes he demanded. So he wants TEA to fine STEMscopes as well as Pearson. Moreover, as we pointed out in January, McGraw-Hill’s biology textbook says essentially the same thing Pearson’s does: that chimps are humans’ closest living genetic relatives. So contrary to Cargill’s claims, it’s clear that the publishers’ science experts don’t agree with Frey.

But Cargill and Frey think they’ve “done their homework” and that they’re more qualified on this topic than the distinguished scientists who authored the textbooks the SBOE adopted last year. So they’ll probably continue bullying publishers in an attempt to force them to teach junk science in Texas public school textbooks. We’ll be watching this very closely.

10 thoughts on “Texas Creationists Are Still Bullying Science Textbook Publishers

  1. It’s the same old problem, they want to capture the minds of the young while there’s still a chance to promote creationism and discredit real, peer-reviewed science and replace it with their christian fundie BS.

    Those of us in Texas who understand the elegance and truth of modern science must constantly be on guard to prevent creationists dogma from being presented as science,

    One can only wonder if we were to go to a Sunday “school” anywhere in Texas and the south for that matter and tell them we demand a place in their “school” to teach real science; rioting for sure.

  2. Oh how I wish these morons would be raptured out of this world. I am so sick and tired of their BS and lies. When is Texas going to put a stop to people like these idiots being put on the SBOE?

  3. If I were TFN, I would have your lawyers forward a copy of this Cargill email message to the severally named textbook companies and ask whether its contents are true.

    The companies would certainly know whether they made such a willing and “lapp dog” concession to Frey—which frankly makes the companies look like a bunch of blithering idiots with no moral integrity. I would think that they would be more than willing to correct the matter (if it needs correcting) rather than see their national reputations ruined. The people of Texas need to know whether someone was lying here and who that someone was at the time.

    Many thanks to TFN for bringing this issue to light. As I have said for many years on this issue, dog them relentlessly day and night. Let them know that there will be no breathing space, no recourse, no opening, no crack to slip through. Full court press 24/7 until all there efforts are brought to the nothingness that they deserve.

    Message for Babs Cargill and Frey:

    “Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” (Luke 12:3)

  4. Every textbook publisher should proudly advertise that they do NOT edit for Texas. That’s a good strategy to sell books in the other 49 states.

  5. Interestingly, it doesn’t become apparent when the REAL difference between REAL SCIENCE and Creationism, when a student has finally graduated from high school and learns he/she has learned the difference between these two, religion/philosophy and Real Science, when they begin to attempt to ask the hard questions to get the real answers for the information they will need to get a job in the REAL world. All the Asians and Chinese know the difference between a philosophy on how to view the world and what can be proven…What creationists want are people to lead around by the nose instead of those who have the ability to ‘show leadership’.

  6. Thanks for investigating and reporting this attempted censorship and inept research of the literature regarding primate evolution.

  7. Good and bad to this story. Bad: There is clearly a pandering moron on the TEA. Good: Someone in Texas is actually reading. It might be a first.

  8. I used to work for a textbook publisher (Art Director of Advertising).. Our two biggest markets were California and Texas because they were big populations, and they used a system called “adopting”. If the state board “approves” a textbook, any teacher in the state can order it without further permission. It was automatically ok’d and paid for. This was huge. And the publishers really wanted to be awarded this approval. So they paid close attention to what these boards wanted.

  9. Hopefully people will be calling for Cargill to resign after being caught in such a big lie.