Texas Board of Education votes to strike amendment questioning evolution

Blogging on EARTH

Evolution will still be taught in Texas. After months of proposed amendments, statements by special interest groups and lengthy debate, the Texas Board of Education voted 8-7 today to strike language from its curriculum that required students to “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency” of common ancestry, a major tenant of the theory of evolution.

Proponents of the amendment went down fighting. “It’s genetics that’s the foundation of modern biology, not evolution,” said Don McLeroy, R-College Station, chair of the board and a dentist in Bryan-College Station, Texas, during a final plea to the board to keep the language in the curriculum.

“Genetics goes back to a Christian monk that did precise, careful data: Gregor Mendel,” he added. “Evolution goes back to a man that basically came up with philosophical speculation. And science is on the side of genetics. I believe evolution is hooking its wagon to the car of genetics.”

But in the end, the board voted against the amendment, allowing for the teaching of evolution. That decision was supported by 50 scientific societies (including the American Geological Institute, the publisher of EARTH), who had signed a letter asking the board to strike the amendment and uphold the centrality of evolution in the study of biology.

“Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is crucial in fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology and medicine," the statement said. “We oppose any efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution ... whether by misrepresenting those subjects or by inaccurately describing them as controversial and in need of special scrutiny.”

Textbook publishers could be significantly influenced by this decision, since Texas is such a large education market.

Brian Fisher Johnson
Friday, March 27, 2009 - 12:30