It looks like the Lone Star State’s reputation as a hotbed of anti-science fanaticism is about to be reinforced. At least six creationists/”intelligent design” proponents succeeded in getting invited to review high school biology textbooks that publishers have submitted for adoption in Texas this year. The State Board of Education (SBOE) will decide in November which textbooks to approve. Those textbooks could be in the state’s public school science classrooms for nearly a decade.

Among the six creationist reviewers are some of the nation’s leading opponents of teaching students that evolution is established, mainstream science and is overwhelmingly supported by well over a century of research. Creationists on the SBOE nominated those six plus five others also invited by the Texas Education Agency to serve on the biology review teams. We have been unable to determine what those other five reviewers think about evolution.

Although 28 individuals got invites to review the proposed new biology textbooks this year, only about a dozen have shown up in Austin this week for the critical final phase of that review. That relatively small overall number of reviewers could give creationists even stronger influence over textbook content. In fact, publishers are making changes to their… Read More

Teams made up of educators, parents and other community members from around Texas are meeting in Austin to complete their reviews of textbooks and other instructional materials in science that publishers have submitted for the state’s public schools. The teams are meeting to determine whether the proposed materials conform to the state’s Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, curriculum standards for science.

This week teams for the high school courses, including biology, are meeting. The curriculum standards for those courses, adopted by the State Board of Education in 2009, are particularly controversial. Creationists on the state board succeeded in adding standards they hoped would force publishers to include junk science arguments against evolution in their new materials.

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund asked two science academics to review the most problematic standards shortly after they were adopted. We published a report of their work, which includes their analysis of the problematic standards and how publishers can responsibly address them. You can find the report here.

We will be monitoring the progress of the review teams, but their reports will not be available until later in August or September. The state board will hold a… Read More

As the Texas State Board of Education prepares to adopt new science textbooks for public schools this year, we expect to see plenty of junk science thrown around by evolution deniers. And among the most prominent evolution deniers are the folks at the Discovery Institute — the Seattle-based outfit that promotes the concept of “intelligent design.”

For those who don’t already know, “intelligent design” proponents suggest that life as we know it is far too complex to have developed without the guidance of an “intelligent designer.” In 2005 a federal judge in Pennsylvania, after an exhaustive accounting of the evidence, wrote in Kitzmiller v. Dover that “the writings of leading [‘intelligent design’] proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity.” He even noted how proponents in the 1980s had simply replaced “creation” with “intelligent design” in written materials in light of court rulings that it was an unconstitutional promotion of religion for public schools to teach creationism as science. He wrote:

“The overwhelming evidence at trial established that [‘intelligent design’] is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”

Well, that kind of talk makes… Read More

Once again creationists are trying to undermine science education in Texas. On Wednesday the Texas House Higher Education Committee will consider legislation that would bar the state’s colleges and universities from discriminating against or penalizing “in any manner” faculty members or students who engage in research on “intelligent design” — the name creationists have given to their pseudo-scientific attacks on evolution.

This isn’t the first time creationists have targeted the teaching of evolution in Texas colleges and universities. State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, proposed the same bill in 2011. It never got a committee hearing. In 2008 the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas lost a bid to get the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to certify its master’s of science education degree program. The ICR then sued the state, but that went nowhere.

Now Rep. Zedler is back with his academic fraud protection legislation, House Bill 285. This year he’ll get his committee hearing. We have a briefing paper on HB 285 here, but the key points are the same as in 2011.… Read More

We told you this would happen.

In 2009, when the Texas State Board of Education adopted new science curriculum standards, we warned that creationists had inserted language they would later try to exploit to pressure publishers into including junk-science arguments against evolution in new textbooks. Barbara Cargill, the Republican state board chair from The Woodlands near Houston, showed last Thursday that we were right. Speaking at a Senate Education Committee hearing in Austin about CSCOPE, a curriculum management tool developed by Education Service Centers around the state and used by many school districts, Cargill said she thinks CSCOPE doesn’t conform to the science standards because it doesn’t teach “all sides” about evolution:

“Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations…. But when I went on [to the CSCOPE website] last night, I couldn’t see anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution. Every link, every lesson, everything, you know, was taught as ‘this is how the origin of life happened, this is what the fossil record proves,’ and all that’s fine, but that’s only one side.”

Cargill went on to… Read More