Promoters of Intelligent Design may get their wish in Texas, due to state education board appointments and an impending review this month of state-mandated science textbooks.
This week I was passed a Dallas Morning News editorial warning that the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in Dallas has been recommended to prepare graduate students online to teach Science in Texas.
DMN is usually a rather conservative paper, but this time they at least at first took a stance supporting the separation of church and state: “It’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.”
And then there was the closing call to respect faith: “It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.”
The ICR’s CEO wrote a letter to the editor defending his curriculum and calling into question whether the theory of evolution has been scientifically proven. But the ICR stands to gain tens of millions of tuition dollars from students around the world who want a Texas-certified master’s degree taught from a fundamentalist perspective.
An earlier story reported a Texas state board of education employee’s forced resignation, highlighting the tensions around “the first review of the science curriculum in a decade. …As one of the largest textbook purchasers, the state could dictate content across the nation. …The agency hopes to fill the position in January, the same time review groups are set to begin meeting and examining each aspect of the science curriculum.”
President Bush has said he advocated teaching Intelligent Design in schools. His protégé Texas Gov. Perry appointed a Bryan, TX, dentist (who teaches Sunday School at a very conservative Bible Church) to the position of chairman of the state board of education, and Dr. McLeroy said he could support an addition that requires teaching the strengths and weaknesses specific to evolution.
Skeptics (including Science Avenger, Texas Citizens for Science, and Panda’s Thumb) think such a tactic of “teaching the controversy” is yet another repackaging of creationism and intelligent design.
Let’s take a look back to 2004, when the Dover, Pa., school board added this requirement to their curriculum, which sounds similar to what TX education board members are looking into:
Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life is not taught.
That Dover school board also required a statement promoting a textbook on Intelligent Design be read to 9th grade students; dissenting board members resigned with frustration and teachers refused on the grounds that they did not believe the statement was true, so an administrator was called upon to do the reading.
In Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, the plaintiffs argued successfully that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism, partly because its proponents did an obviously poor job of replacing the term in a draft of the proposed textbook, and was therefore unconstitutional in accordance with Edwards v. Aguillard. Nova had a documentary on this case recently.
But Teaching the Controversy could leave a big footprint. Once they can establish in the public’s mind that a controversy exists, then it would be much less controversial later to reintroduce intelligent design into public school curricula. Discovery Institute fellows have documented this reasoning and the new Texas state board chairman agrees. And if they establish this controversy in Texas, other states who buy from the same textbook publisher will follow suit.
At church this Sunday, one member asked, “If they add this to the public school’s current 180-day curriculum, then what will they have to take out? Will we have to sacrifice proven science for pseudoscience?”
At home, my husband asks, “Would you trust a doctor, who doesn’t believe in evolution, with the medical treatment of your children?” Well, squarely in the Bible belt, I am certain that many fundamentalists would flock to such doctors were they known.
On a Parenting forum, it brings up the question, “Who is the state board of education to circumvent my rights as a parent in indoctrinating my children on something that is clearly the realm of religion?”
In a more and more cosmopolitan population where more and more people come from different countries, heritages, and belief systems, I am vigilant to examine the sides in question, but I don’t see any scientific evidence on the part of intelligent design, only rhetoric that is either transparently offensive or vociferously defensive. It makes me watchful of steps that could lead a teacher or classmate to belittle, proselytize, harrass, or exclude my sons if they happen to offer an argument for evolution.
On Sept 17, 2007, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a report of American creationist efforts to influence European schools that concluded, “If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe…. The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements… some advocates of creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.”
I hope the Texas education board will listen carefully to science educators and parents of all backgrounds during the comment period. I hope they don’t make a decision that will have to go to court when the money for that expense would be better spent elsewhere. Say, on research to cure disease or on organizations who help children get out of abusive families into safe and healthy environments.