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  Topic: Texas Textbook Selection, The Perennial Antievolution Struggle< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 14 2003,10:53   

For decades, antievolutionists have attempted to influence the state of Texas in its selection of science textbooks (and all too often succeeded).  Texas is an attractive target for antievolutionists.  The state's constituency is largely conservative and religious, so there is an overlap with the ideological outlook of most antievolutionists.  The state of Texas is also one of the largest markets for secondary school textbooks in the USA.  Antievolutionists know that if they can influence Texas to cause textbook publishers to de-emphasize evolution or eliminate references to evolution entirely, they get the added bonus of changing the textbook content for the rest of the USA as well.  This is because publishers aren't going to offer a "science lite" version to Texas and a "real science" version to the rest of the country.  That would be an expensive proposition for publishers, and publishers are at basis simply looking to maximize their profits.  So the whole country gets "science lite" or even "pseudoscience" versions of textbooks because of the political machinations of antievolutionists in Texas.

For several decades, the names of Mel and Norma Gabler were the most familiar of antievolutionists involved in the selection process.  The Gablers would offer long critiques of candidate textbooks, suggesting rewording or deletion of any content having to do with evolutionary biology.  (Antievolution was not their exclusive focus, though; their criticisms covered a number of the political hobby-horses of the religious right.)

Now, the Discovery Institute has entered the fray in trying to influence the Texas textbook selection process.  A letter to the editor from DI fellow John G. West shows their intent nicely:

Institute supports accurate science, by John G. West

Quote
First, we believe students should be exposed to legitimate scientific (not religious) controversies over evolutionary theory. Peer-reviewed science journals are filled with articles raising issues about various aspects of neo-Darwinism, the prevailing theory of evolution taught in textbooks. In 2000, for example, an article in the journal Cell noted that there is a ''long-standing question of the sufficiency of evolutionary mechanisms observed at or below the species level ('microevolution') to account for the larger-scale patterns of morphological evolution ('macroevolution').'' Yet this ''long-standing question'' about neo-Darwinism isn't covered in most textbooks. Why not?

In addition, we favor correcting clear factual errors in textbook presentations of evolution.


In the first instance, the Discovery Institute has a vested interest in keeping its antievolutionist activities labelled as something besides " creationism".  The DI rather obviously is looking forward to taking a test case to the courts, and there is way too much precedent attached to "creationism" and "creation science".  But the religious motivation of the high-profile DI fellows is easy to find (see Brian Poindexter's excellent page, From the Horse's Mouth).  The DI fellows have also liberally borrowed antievolution arguments from the SciCre young-earth creationist (YEC) contingent. The DI also encourages the YEC contingent to join forces with them in their antievolution activities.  This sort of "front" strategy doesn't fool people when it is employed by organized crime, so there should be no expectation that organized antievolution will be able to hide its intent in that fashion, either.

The Discovery Institute has no interest in correcting factual errors in textbooks.  They wish to suppress certain well-known examples in evolutionary biology from textbooks and have taken a page from Orwell in their rhetoric on this topic.  The analysis of the targeted "factual errors" presented by DI fellow John C. "Jonathan" Wells, while lauded by West, has been shown to itself be rife with factual errors and misrepresentation (see Nic Tamzek's Icon of Obfuscation and Alan Gishlick's essay).

West's letter has elicited several critical responses.

First, Dr. Sean Carroll takes exception to the misuse of his words by John G. West of the Discovery Institute.

Quote
Editor:

John G. West of the Discovery Institute, in his guest column Friday, quoted an article in a leading biology journal as purported support for his view that alternatives to contemporary evolutionary science ought to be presented in biology textbooks. I am the author of the article he quoted (but did not properly cite) and I am writing to make it absolutely clear that West is gravely mistaken in taking the excerpted sentence out of its full context.


Oak H. DeBerg and Dr. Eugenie C. Scott also criticized West.

Please enter further information about the Texas textbook selection process in this thread.

Wesley

Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on Aug. 16 2003,09:35

--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 15 2003,08:51   

Proposed changes in biology textbook assailed

Quote
SAN ANTONIO -- Responding to suggestions from a group that critics say advocates the teaching of creation theory, a publisher has made changes in a biology textbook being considered for Texas schools.

Critics accused publisher Holt, Rinehart & Winston of caving in to pressure from special interests and conservatives on the state Board of Education.

The Discovery Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Seattle, argued at a Board of Education hearing in July that alternatives to commonly accepted theories of evolution should be included in the textbook to comply with a state requirement that students analyze competing ideas.

Some board members were sympathetic to the group's views.

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 15 2003,14:35   

TEXTBOOKS CHANGED FOR CREATIONISTS (San Antonio Current)

Quote
Textbook publisher Holt Rinehart & Winston is altering biology textbooks to meet the criteria of creationists who are attempting to weaken the study of evolution in high school biology classrooms.

Last week, the Texas Education Agency announced the changes proposed to textbook publishers in response to testimony offered in July at the State Board of Education hearing.

"One publisher has now bowed to the voice of a few religious extremists who would insist on teaching creationism in Biology classrooms," said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network. "Rather than stand up for keeping good science standards in textbooks, Holt Rinehart has compromised the education of Texas students."


--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 16 2003,09:31   

Institute known for pseudoscience

Quote
What is dishonest in West's misappropriation of Carroll's words is that Carroll is not challenging evolutionary theory at all. West is hoping that few Texans will realize that Carroll's research is focused on the different evolutionary consequences of mutation (meaning any genetic change) in genes that build parts of cells from mutations in genes that control what other genes do.

West mentions his associate Jonathan Wells, and says that that Wells received a doctorate, implying that Wells is a scientist. What he didn't mention is that Wells, like West, is a professional science denier employed by the Discovery Institute.

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 16 2003,09:34   

Maxwell column had it right

Quote
Like many Americans, I'm interested in Texas' schoolbook choices.

I was amazed to read John West's guest column attacking Angelo State professor Terry Maxwell's sensible column on science textbooks. West, a political writer for a political pressure group, may not know that just about everything he said is wrong. But it is.

West's group is called the Discovery Institute. West praises a book attacking science, but fails to disclose that the author, Jonathan Wells, is a Discovery Institute operative too. Does West not know that the book has been thoroughly discredited, as Maxwell states?

    
efvinson



Posts: 4
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 19 2003,21:39   

Thursday, August 21 is the last day to register to testify in person at the Sept 10 biology textbook hearings, as well as the last chance to submit written testimony. You might even get to meet Dembski.....

http://www.tea.state.tx.us/textboo....03.html

  
Bebbo



Posts: 161
Joined: Dec. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 20 2003,17:53   

Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ Aug. 14 2003,10:53)
For decades, antievolutionists have attempted to influence the state of Texas in its selection of science textbooks (and all too often succeeded).  Texas is an attractive target for antievolutionists.  The state's constituency is largely conservative and religious, so there is an overlap with the ideological outlook of most antievolutionists.  The state of Texas is also one of the largest markets for secondary school textbooks in the USA.  Antievolutionists know that if they can influence Texas to cause textbook publishers to de-emphasize evolution or eliminate references to evolution entirely, they get the added bonus of changing the textbook content for the rest of the USA as well.  This is because publishers aren't going to offer a "science lite" version to Texas and a "real science" version to the rest of the country.  That would be an expensive proposition for publishers, and publishers are at basis simply looking to maximize their profits.  So the whole country gets "science lite" or even "pseudoscience" versions of textbooks because of the political machinations of antievolutionists in Texas.

For several decades, the names of Mel and Norma Gabler were the most familiar of antievolutionists involved in the selection process.  The Gablers would offer long critiques of candidate textbooks, suggesting rewording or deletion of any content having to do with evolutionary biology.  (Antievolution was not their exclusive focus, though; their criticisms covered a number of the political hobby-horses of the religious right.)

Now, the Discovery Institute has entered the fray in trying to influence the Texas textbook selection process.  A letter to the editor from DI fellow John G. West shows their intent nicely:

Institute supports accurate science, by John G. West

Quote
First, we believe students should be exposed to legitimate scientific (not religious) controversies over evolutionary theory. Peer-reviewed science journals are filled with articles raising issues about various aspects of neo-Darwinism, the prevailing theory of evolution taught in textbooks. In 2000, for example, an article in the journal Cell noted that there is a ''long-standing question of the sufficiency of evolutionary mechanisms observed at or below the species level ('microevolution';) to account for the larger-scale patterns of morphological evolution ('macroevolution';).'' Yet this ''long-standing question'' about neo-Darwinism isn't covered in most textbooks. Why not?

In addition, we favor correcting clear factual errors in textbook presentations of evolution.


In the first instance, the Discovery Institute has a vested interest in keeping its antievolutionist activities labelled as something besides " creationism".  The DI rather obviously is looking forward to taking a test case to the courts, and there is way too much precedent attached to "creationism" and "creation science".  But the religious motivation of the high-profile DI fellows is easy to find (see Brian Poindexter's excellent page, From the Horse's Mouth).  The DI fellows have also liberally borrowed antievolution arguments from the SciCre young-earth creationist (YEC) contingent. The DI also encourages the YEC contingent to join forces with them in their antievolution activities.  This sort of "front" strategy doesn't fool people when it is employed by organized crime, so there should be no expectation that organized antievolution will be able to hide its intent in that fashion, either.

The Discovery Institute has no interest in correcting factual errors in textbooks.  They wish to suppress certain well-known examples in evolutionary biology from textbooks and have taken a page from Orwell in their rhetoric on this topic.  The analysis of the targeted "factual errors" presented by DI fellow John C. "Jonathan" Wells, while lauded by West, has been shown to itself be rife with factual errors and misrepresentation (see Nic Tamzek's Icon of Obfuscation and Alan Gishlick's essay).

West's letter has elicited several critical responses.

First, Dr. Sean Carroll takes exception to the misuse of his words by John G. West of the Discovery Institute.

Quote
Editor:

John G. West of the Discovery Institute, in his guest column Friday, quoted an article in a leading biology journal as purported support for his view that alternatives to contemporary evolutionary science ought to be presented in biology textbooks. I am the author of the article he quoted (but did not properly cite) and I am writing to make it absolutely clear that West is gravely mistaken in taking the excerpted sentence out of its full context.


Oak H. DeBerg and Dr. Eugenie C. Scott also criticized West.

Please enter further information about the Texas textbook selection process in this thread.

Wesley

Talking of West's/DI's intent:

http://www.mmisi.org/ir/spr96/west.pdf

--
Dene

  
Dr.GH



Posts: 2113
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Aug. 23 2003,13:34   

Thanks for the link to West's essay.

--------------
"Science is the horse that pulls the cart of philosophy."

L. Susskind, 2004 "SMOLIN VS. SUSSKIND: THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE"

   
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 10 2003,23:15   

Biology textbooks spark ideological fireworks at hearing

Quote

Samantha Smoot, president of the Texas Freedom Network, said ``intelligent design'' proponents want to use the concept of an intelligent design behind man's evolution as a way of introducing religious creationism into science classes.

``Teaching creationism in science classrooms is unconstitutional,'' said Smoot, whose group opposes Christian conservative groups. ``Teaching `intelligent design,' the new creationism, is radically unscientific, and, despite the protests of `intelligent design' proponents, profoundly religious in nature.''

But William Dembski, identified as a leading proponent of ``intelligent design'' in a ``New York Times'' report, told state board members that ``Darwinian lobbyists'' are striving to maintain an illusion of scientific consensus related to evolutionary theory.

``I, and other mathematically trained scientists, regard claims for the creative power of natural selection as implausible in the extreme,'' said Dembski, an associate professor at Baylor University. ``All the textbooks under consideration grossly exaggerate the evidence of Neo-Darwinian evolution, pretending that its mechanism of natural selection acting on random genetic change is a slam-dunk. Not so.''


I don't think Bill Dembski gets to speak for all those with mathematical training.  And certainly if one is a scientist, one is other than Bill Dembski.

--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

    
Wesley R. Elsberry



Posts: 4807
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 12 2003,09:42   

What Should Be In Textbooks?

Quote
In Mr. Fennel's science class, LBJ high schoolers learn a lot about geology and biology.

"Do I think it's good to talk about evolution in biology classes yes. I think it's a biological process we have a lot of evidence for," LBJ High School Science Teacher Tim Fennell said.

But some say that evidence is flawed.

"Presenting this stuff as fact when it's been in science literature discredited for 20 years that won't cut it," Bruce Chapman with the Discovery Institute said, "Did you take biology? Yeah. I did too and a great deal is wrong."

So they tell members of the State Board of Education it's their right to add their opinion to Texas textbooks.


Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on Sep. 12 2003,09:45

    
Bebbo



Posts: 161
Joined: Dec. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 14 2003,15:35   

A firsthand account of the Texas SBOE hearings can be found at:

http://www.atheist-community.org/events.htm

Also, someone else on talk.origins who was there claims that Dembski denied being a member of the DI!!

--
Dene

  
efvinson



Posts: 4
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 21 2003,18:04   

I quit taping Dembski before he was asked about being a member of DI, but my recollection of the answer was that he didn't answer, even after being asked about four times. Odd. And embarrassingly obvious that he was, and didn't want to say so.

One of the real highlights of the whole meeting (I only stayed till 10:30 PM, and then drove five hours to get home) was after a Dr Cannatella's testimony, in which he tore Johnothan Wells up - said that none of his publications were scientific, that he was intellectually dishonest, etc. Wells' little sockpuppet on the Board, Terri Leo, took issue with that, and pointed out that Wells was "a member of The American Assosciation for the Advancement of Science" and therefore a real scientist. Cannatella pointed out in return that Ms Leo could be a member too if she paid her $110 a year dues. She shut up.
(But it's up to $129  :(   )

  
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