Oct 09, 2008

Scientists in Texas are speaking up, hopefully in time to protect the state's science education from the Religious Right.

The Texas Board of Education is currently considering a new science curriculum. Heading up the board is Don McLeroy (R-Bryan), a creationist who opposes an academic working group's suggestion to remove the current requirement that "strengths and weakness" of all scientific theories be taught in biology classes.

"I look at evolution as still a hypothesis with weaknesses," he told the Associated Press recently.

And with statements such as that, the 21st Century Science Coalition, which had just formed two weeks prior, was flooded with new members.

The Coalition now represents more than 800 Texas scientists, and last week, the group brought scientific journals to the Texas Education Agency to prove that McLeroy's "weaknesses" don't exist.

"Not a single one [of the articles in these journals] gives us reason to believe evolution did not occur," Dan Bolnick, an assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas told The Statesman. "So where are the weaknesses? Simple: They don't exist. They are not based on scientific research or data and have been refuted countless times."

The terms "strengths and weaknesses" has always been used as a way to push creationism and "intelligent design" in public schools, and scientists can clearly identify McLeroy's motivation.

"It's clear he wants to promote a particular religious agenda," David Hills, a University of Texas integrative biology professor, told the Austin American-Statesman. "Texas public schools should be preparing our kids to succeed in the 21st century, not promoting political and ideological agendas that are hostile to sound science education."

State education officials would do well to listen to the experts in this field. Scientists and educators, not Religious Right activists, should be drafting our science curriculum.

As an editorial in the American-Statesman pointed out, "We would not want scientists flying commercial airplanes or teaching students how to fly planes. That job is for pilots and flight instructors—the experts on flying.

"So who better than scientists and science educators to develop curriculum standards in science for public schools?"

Certainly not McLeroy. Let's hope the majority of the Texas School Board sees it that way, too.