Religious conservative members of Texas state textbook review panels are pushing for the inclusion of arguments against Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in high school biology textbooks. The review panels include several creationists who are urging the State Board of Education to reject biology books unless they include more “disclaimers on key concepts of evolution,” Dallas News reports.
One textbook reviewer suggested that all biology books address “creation science.” In 1987, the United States Supreme Court ruled that states cannot require public schools to teach “creation science,” deciding that the movement to put the biblical view of creation on equal standing with the theory of evolution violated the legal principle of separation of church and state.
Others objected to biology books’ acceptance of evolutionary principles such as the fossil evidence for evolution.
Former Texas Board of Education Chairwoman Gail Lowe nominated about one third of the 28 reviewers for biology textbooks. Lowe is a social conservative and creationist who failed to get reelected last year.
Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller said on Monday that “Once again, culture warriors on the state board are putting Texas at risk of becoming a national laughingstock on science education.” Her group is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization that has defeated “initiatives backed by the religious right in Texas, including private school vouchers and textbook censorship…” according to their website.
“What our kids learn from 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,” she added.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s 1987 ruling, then-Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox decided that the Texas State Board of Education’s rule concerning the treatment of the subject of evolution in textbooks was in violation of the first and fourteenth Constitutional amendments.
In 1984, Mattox wrote that “Although the stated purpose of [the board’s] statute was to provide a ‘balanced’ treatment of the teaching of evolution, the court found it necessary to look behind this stated purposed to consider the historical context of the statute, the specific sequence of events leading up to its passage, and contemporaneous statements of the legislative sponsor.”
Examining those circumstances, Mattox said, led to the unavoidable conclusion that the statute was “passed with the specific purpose… of advancing religion.” He continued, “In our opinion… the board… has injected religious considerations into an area which must be… strictly the province of science.”
Despite such rulings at both the state and national level, some Texas textbook reviewers still want religious principles included in public school biology materials. One biology textbook reviewer, Karen Beathard, a nutritionist at Texas A&M, said that she understands the National Academy of Science’s strong support of the theory of evolution, but it’s “a theory.”
“As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that creation science based upon biblical principle should be incorporated into every biology book that is up for adoption,” she said.
The state of Texas is one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, and has strong influence over textbooks that are marketed in other states.