A University of Texas scientist is expressing serious concerns about the qualifications of fellow reviewers examining new biology textbooks proposed for public high schools in the Lone Star State. A letter he sent to State Board of Education members this week also highlights concerns that SBOE Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, might have inappropriately tried to influence reviewers in Austin last month. His full letter is at the end of this post.

We reported on Monday that anti-evolution activists nominated by SBOE members to serve as official reviewers are pressuring publishers to weaken instruction on evolution in their new biology textbooks. Texas Education Agency staff appointed reviewers from the list of SBOE nominations and individuals who nominated themselves. State board members will use their reviews to help them decide whether to adopt the textbooks for use in Texas schools. The board has scheduled a public hearing on the textbooks for Tuesday (Sept. 17) and a final vote on adoption in November.

Late Wednesday, an SBOE member forwarded to the Texas Freedom Network a letter from Jimmy Gollihar, a doctoral student and scientist working at UT-Austin. Gollihar nominated himself as a reviewer.

Gollihar’s letter describes a “review process that… Read More

Now the veil is dropped.

We already knew that creationists on the State Board of Education had nominated anti-evolution ideologues to sit on teams reviewing proposed new high school biology textbooks in Texas. We now have seen the actual reviews from those ideologues — and they’re every bit as alarming as we warned they would be.

Many of the reviews offer recitations of the same pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo anti-evolution activists — like the folks at the Discovery Institute in Seattle — have been promoting for decades. Never mind, of course, that each one of those arguments has been debunked by scientists (repeatedly). No, they are insisting that Texas dumb down the science education of millions of kids with such nonsense.

Even more astonishing is a demand that “creation science based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.” Some of the reviewers are clearly oblivious to the fact that teaching religious arguments in a science classroom is blatantly unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has made that abundantly clear.

Tuesday, September 17, is the first (and only scheduled) public hearing on the proposed new biology textbooks. [UDPATE: A TEA official… Read More

Today the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has some good news about proposed new high school biology textbooks in Texas. A review of the new textbooks by science scholars at Texas universities shows that publishers have largely resisted — so far — efforts by political activists to include junk science that weakens coverage of evolution.

This new report from the TFN Education Fund comes after we reported that six proponents of “intelligent design”/creationism got influential positions on the State Board of Education‘s review panels for the proposed biology textbooks. And state board Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, has refused to say whether she tried to get the review panels to pressure publishers into weakening textbook content on evolution.

So while it’s clear that publishers are likely under a lot of pressure to dumb down their textbooks, the versions they submitted for consideration in April treat evolution as established, mainstream science. This is very good news because creationists on the State Board of Education made revisions to curriculum standards in 2009 that they hoped would force publishers to include discredited arguments against evolution in their new textbooks. Publishers refused to do so.

The challenge now will… Read More

The audio above is almost as amusing as the clip from “The Revisionaries” in which former Texas State Board of Education Chair Don McLeroy uses a cardboard model to describe how all the animals were able to fit on Noah’s Ark. You know, this one, where at the end all the children pretty much say “NO!” when asked if dinosaurs were on the Ark, only to be contradicted by McLeroy.

The audio above is a radio ad that comes courtesy of Ken Ham. Ham, a young-Earth creationist from Australia, founded the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis and is president of the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Answers in Genesis seeks “to train others to develop a biblical worldview” and “to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas, and its bedfellow, a ‘millions of years old earth’ (and even older universe).” All of this is on full display in Ham’s ad above. Here’s the money quote:

What else does the Bible say about dinosaurs?

Um, nothing. It says nothing.

As long as we’re throwing out nonscientific ideas, let’s play along. Maybe all of the animals, including the dinosaurs, were placed on the Ark in alphabetical order. The unlucky… Read More

Was Texas State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, trying to influence the work of the panels reviewing proposed new high school biology textbooks last week? Cargill, a creationist who has insisted that textbooks should teach “another side” when discussing evolution, met with the panels last Wednesday (July 31). We now know that those panels included at least four creationists invited to participate in the review. When a fellow state board member raised her own concerns about the independence of the panels at a meeting last Thursday, Cargill replied that she had simply been thanking the reviewers and answering their questions. She also invited anyone with concerns to contact her. So we did.

Unfortunately, Cargill’s responses to our emails weren’t particularly helpful. She simply told us that the meetings of the review panels were open to the public. That’s irrelevant in this case. Observers are required to sit so far from the panels that it’s impossible to hear discussions among the reviewers or what Cargill told them. Cargill ignored our questions about whether she was trying to influence the work of the panels.

Following is TFN President Kathy Miller’s email… Read More

Texas Freedom Network

It took years to convince the @TXSBOE to create a Mexican American studies course for the state's public schools. It's great to see school districts offering it to students. cbsloc.al/3kKHvgR