Evolution Sparks Debate Texas Board Of Education's Textbook Review
Turkeys are not the only things under fire this Thanksgiving week.
On Thursday night the Texas Board of Education delayed final approval of a new biology textbook produced by Pearson Education, until an "alleged 20 errors" about the theory of evolution are checked.
Social conservatives on the panel's citizens review board took issue with lessons presented in the book on natural selection because "selection operates as a selective but not a creative force." Pearson disputes the errors and refuses to make the changes. According to David Bradley, a leader among the boards' social conservatives, publishers of other biology textbooks have agreed to make the changes. "We have one publisher of one book that says they are not making changes," said Bradley.
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The school board's move is seen by some as a last ditch effort to inject creationism into schools. Creationism is a religious theory that states that a supernatural deity or force directly intervened in the creation of the physical world. Earlier this year Texas Board of Education's former chair Don McLeroy explicitly told the board that it should endorse textbooks that teach creationism alongside evolution enabling them to "strike the final blow to the teaching of evolution."
Evolution, the theory that life, including human life, evolved from earlier species, has been under fire in the United States since Charles Darwin first codified the theory in his seminal work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Perhaps the most famous case involving evolution was the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial which accused Tennessee teacher John Scopes of violating the Tennessee Butler Act which outlawed teaching human evolution in state-funded schools. Scopes was found guilty, though the verdict was eventually overruled on a technicality. The law remained on the books until 1967 when another teacher, Gary L. Scott, was fired for teaching evolution in violation the act. Scott sued for reinstatement and filed a class action lawsuit for an injunction against enforcement of the law citing that it barred free speech. A bill repealing the Butler Act was eventually passed and signed into law on May 18 of that year.
What makes the Texas School Board debate so compelling is that discussing evolution as a valid scientific theory continues to be seen as an affront to some religions. After all, Judeo-Christian religions, have long since come to terms that with the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun, and even the Catholic Church, says that the theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity. Secondly, what makes the Texas textbook controversy an issue of national importance is that its outcome will likely sway the rest of the country. Texas and California have the highest numbers of K-12 schools in the United States. Therefore these states' book selection processes influence what districts around the country choose as course materials. The outcome of the debate will directly impact the next generation of scientists, doctors, and thinkers.
Granted, theories of evolution are not without fault. Evolutionary biology itself is an evolving branch of scientific thought. But in the spirit of scientific debate, its faults should be discussed on scientific terms and not theistic ones.
The board will make its final decision on Friday.
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