Just how much did creationists gain in the battle over new public school science standards adopted in Texas this spring? Houston Chronicle writer Lisa Falkenberg points to an article from the journal Science that suggests an encouraging answer: not as much as evolution deniers hoped.
As you will recall, creationists on the Texas State Board of Education lost a high-profile battle to require that science students learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. A majority of board members, backed by countless scientists(including Nobel laureates), successfully opposed that broad requirement. But creationists succeeded in passing other requirements for students to learn pseudoscientific arguments against evolution based on distortions of the fossil record and the complexity of the cell.
The June 12 article in Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, discusses how publishers and textbook authors may be able to use those requirements actually to strengthen instruction on evolution. (The article is locked except for subscribers.) The weight of scientific evidence shows that the creationists’ arguments are nonsense, suggests Kenneth Miller, author of one of the nation’s leading high school biology textbooks. Says Miller:
“The advocates of these (Texas) standards underestimate the strength of the scientific evidence for structures and phenomena that they mistakenly believe evolution cannot account for. The new wording is an opportunity to make biology texts even stronger.”
So, for example, textbooks may simply spend more time discussing how the complexity of the cell supports evolutionary theory. Textbooks can also use discussions of the fossil record to explore the concept of “punctuated equilibrium,” among other topics that are based in sound science.
In short, Miller believes the new Texas science standards can’t force publishers and textbook authors to lie to students, no matter how much creationists might want that to happen.