Texas Textbook Trouble: Lone Star State Faces Yet Another Creationist Push

The controversy began when Texas’ State Board of Education appointed a number of creationists to review panels meant to ensure the quality of new biology textbooks.

The Religious Right’s creationist campaign continues to threaten Texas public schools.

The controversy began when Texas’ State Board of Education appointed a number of creationists to review panels meant to ensure the quality of new biology textbooks. Despite valid concerns raised by watchdogs like the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), creationists remained on the panels.

Now it’s possible to see just how far they’ve advanced their agenda. The results of an open records request filed by TFN reveal that creationist reviewers have made audacious – and legally problematic – demands that the state teach religious dogma as scientific fact.

“I understand the National Academy of Science's [sic] strong support of the theory of evolution,” one reviewer wrote. “At the same time, this is a theory. As an educator, parent, and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.”  

Another wrote that, “While I understand the theory of evolution and its wide acceptance, there should be inclusion of the ‘creation model’ based on the Biblical view of history.”

Are we talking about biology or Bible study? Reviewers seem to have confused one for the other.

Dr. Raymond Bohlin, a reviewer affiliated with the creationist Discovery Institute, repeatedly plugged the Institute’s own work in his objections to the textbooks.

“There is no discussion of the origin of information bearing molecules which is absolutely essential in any origin of life scenario. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell easily dismisses any RNA first scenario. The authors need to get caught up,” he wrote.

Signature in the Cell argues that a so-called “digital code” present in human DNA is evidence of an “intelligent designer.” Its author, Stephen Meyer, also wrote a book titled Darwin’s Doubt, and like Bohlin, he’s affiliated with the Discovery Institute. No bias to see here.

For good measure, Bohlin also attacked climate change, writing, “We don’t really know that the carbon Cycle [sic] has been altered….In reality we don’t know what climate change will do to species diversity….Question seems to imply that ecosystems will be disrupted which [we] simply don’t know yet.”

And Bohlin wasn’t alone in his extremist objections to the proposed textbooks.

Other reviewers asserted that no transitional fossils had been discovered and attacked the famous peppered moth experiment, which demonstrated the validity of Darwin’s theories regarding natural selection. These assertions are popular among creationists, but they’re myths. The scientific community has clearly reached a consensus on both transitional fossils and natural selection.

Americans United has successfully argued that intelligent design has no place in public schools. Our victory in Kitzmiller v. Dover answered any doubts that creationism is a religious belief system, not science. And if creationists are honest, they’ll admit that.

Reviewers like Bohlin aren’t really concerned about quality scientific education. They promote creationism because evolution offends their religious beliefs. As individuals, they’re certainly entitled to hold that belief. But these culture warriors cross a constitutional line when they attempt to insert their dogma in public school textbooks. Our schools aren’t meant for proselytization.

The Texas Education Agency will hold two public hearings, the first on September 17 and the second in November, to address concerns about the textbooks – and their reviewers.

There’s still time for the state of Texas to take a clear stand for science and ignore the Religious Right’s anti-science campaign. If the state’s Board of Education really cares about its students, that’s exactly what they’ll do.