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Update from Texas

The creationists and climate change deniers reviewing biology textbooks in Texas attracted the attention of the newspaper of record. "As Texas gears up to select biology textbooks for use by high school students over the next decade, the panel responsible for reviewing submissions from publishers has stirred controversy because a number of its members do not accept evolution and climate change," The New York Times (September 28, 2013) reported.

The comments from the reviewers hostile to evolution and climate change were disclosed by NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network in a joint press release issued on September 9, 2013, as NCSE previously reported. Subsequently, NCSE's Joshua Rosenau discussed a variety of these comments in detail on NCSE's new Science League of America blog, devoting posts to debunking the comments relevant to Ernst Haeckel and embryology, climate change, and punctuated equilibrium.

The Times observed, "By questioning the science — often getting down to very technical details — the evolution challengers in Texas are following a strategy increasingly deployed by others around the country," adding, "There is little open talk of creationism." (One reviewer stated that "creation science" should be taught in the classroom, however.) "Instead they borrow buzzwords common in education, 'critical thinking,' saying there is simply not enough evidence to prove evolution."

NCSE's Joshua Rosenau attended, and testified at, the Texas state board of education's hearing on the textbooks, held in Austin on September 17, 2003. His testimony is posted on the Science League of America blog, as is his report of the hearing. "I lost count over the four hours of testimony," he observed in the latter, "but it felt like there were three or four speakers in support of evolution and climate change education for every creationist or climate change denier who spoke."

The Times reported, "The publishers are considering changes," quoting a spokesperson for Pearson as saying that the publisher adjusted the books but without compromising the integrity of the science. But the textbooks are only part of the equation. Rosenau told the Times, “Most educational decisions are made in the 17,000 school districts and by individual schoolteachers in the classroom, ... [a]nd it is really hard to know what is happening there."

The Texas state board of education is expected to make a final decision on the textbooks submitted for adoption in November 2013. The president of the Texas Freedom Network, Kathy Miller, expressed her worry about the outcome, telling the Times, "Utterly unqualified partisan politicians will look at what utterly unqualified citizens have said about a textbook and decide whether it meets the requirements of a textbook." TFN's Stand Up for Science campaign is urging the board to adopt the books.