Documents Show State Reviewers Want Publishers to Add ‘Creation Science,’ Discredited Arguments to Textbooks Submitted for Adoption

September 9, 2013


Dan Quinn (TFN), 512.322.0545

Robert Luhn (NCSE), 510.601.7203

Ideologues appointed to official state review teams are pressuring publishers to weaken instruction on evolution and climate change in new high school biology textbooks up for adoption in Texas this year, documents obtained by the Texas Freedom Network reveal. The textbooks, once adopted, could be used in the state’s public schools for a decade.

The documents show that reviewers made ideological objections to coverage related to evolution and climate change in textbooks from at least seven publishers, including several of the nation’s biggest publishing houses. Failing to obtain a review panel’s top rating makes it harder for publishers to sell their textbooks to school districts or can even lead the State Board of Education (SBOE) to reject the textbook altogether. The documents, obtained from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) through a request under the state’s Public Information Act, are available at www.tfn.org/sciencereviewdocs. (A sample of objections from the reviewers is available here.)

“Once again culture warriors on the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “What our kids learn in their public schools should be based on mainstream, established science, not the personal views of ideologues, especially those who are grossly unqualified to evaluate a biology textbook in the first place. What we see in these documents makes it imperative that the board finally establish genuine qualifications for those entrusted with reviewing textbooks or curriculum standards for our kids.”

Officials at the National Center for Science Education in California are also expressing alarm.

“The arguments in these reviews are the same discredited claims anti-science activists have pushed for years,” said Josh Rosenau, Programs and Policy Director at NCSE. “This is scary because of Texas’ big influence on publishers and on textbooks used across the country. Publishers should listen to real experts, not unqualified reviewers who don’t seem to understand even basic scientific terms.”

SBOE members nominated the evolution deniers serving on the review teams. Most of the critics are not biologists or even scientists. They include a College Station dietician, an Austin systems engineer and a retired Dallas businessman with a background in finance.

Some of the country’s most prominent evolution deniers are also on the review teams. They include Ide Trotter, a retired chemical engineer who has served as a spokesperson for a Texas creationist group; Walter Bradley, a retired professor of engineering at Baylor University who wrote a founding text of “intelligent design” creationism; and Ray Bohlin, vice president for Probe Ministries, a Plano-based evangelical Christian ministry that rejects evolution. Bradley and Bohlin are also fellows with the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based institutional home of the “intelligent design” creationism movement.

Science scholars at the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University in Dallas gave the coverage of evolution in those textbooks passing marks after publishers submitted the books to the state last spring. Those scholars’ reviews are available in a TFN Education Fund report: www.tfn.org/2013sciencereview.

Negotiations between publishers and the reviewers are ongoing. TEA officials say they cannot release documents showing what changes – if any – publishers are offering to make to their textbooks before the only scheduled public hearing on the books on September 17.

A final vote on whether to approve or reject the textbooks for Texas schools is set for November.


The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan public education and religious liberties watchdog based in Austin. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution and climate change.