|Wesley R. Elsberry
Joined: May 2002
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
|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.
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.
Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on Aug. 16 2003,09:35
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker