Texas Textbook Reviewers and Ernst Haeckelby
All of us at the Texas Freedom Network are grateful for our friends at the National Center for Science Education. NCSE has been a fantastic partner in our battles at the State Board of Education, including the current debate over proposed new science textbooks for Texas public schools. Josh Rosenau, NCSE’s programs and policy director, has been posting on NCSE’s blog this week about some of the worst objections of anti-evolution activists serving as official reviewers examining new biology textbooks publishers have submitted for adoption in Texas. We’re pleased to cross-post one of Josh’s analyses here.
On Monday NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network issued a joint press release about internal documents demonstrating how creationists and climate change deniers tried to take over the Texas textbook adoption process. By securing seats on review committees, the science deniers tried to rewrite textbooks, forcing good science out of the textbooks and wedging in bad science, pseudoscience, and personal ideology.
That list only scratches the surface, partly because we had to find examples that could be explained easily in the limited space of a press release. But here at the Science League of America, we can take on anything the deniers throw at us.
It doesn’t take much to explain what’s wrong with a reviewer insisting, “I understand the National Academy of Science’s [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.” But it takes a bit more to explain what’s wrong with this reviewer’s speculation about the Glencoe/McGraw-Hill textbook:
This section seems to introduce Haeckel’s embryos and recapitulation theory in a somewhat sanitized form. Haeckel’s work was exposed as fraudulent during his lifetime and recapitulation theory was rejected a long time ago.”
Criticisms and complaints about drawings produced by Ernst Haeckel are a staple of creationism. Attacks on these drawings are a major theme of Jonathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution, as discussed in NCSE’s review, andaddressed in Explore Evolution, a propagandistic “textbook” largely written by the Discovery Institute’s staff. The allegation that Haeckel’s work is fraudulent is unjustified, as explained by the leading scholar of Haeckel’s life in his paper “Haeckel’s embryos: fraud not proven”. “When Haeckel’s science is placed in the wider context…his accomplishments appear in a decidedly more favorable light,” Robert Richards explains. “And in the particular instance under review here, I think that light shows that fraud has not been proven.”
Worse yet, the textbook in question doesn’t even talk about Haeckel. Here’s the page in question: