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Texas Darwinists Reject the Scientific Method of Analyzing “Strengths and Weaknesses” of Scientific Theories

Casey Luskin

Over the coming months, the Texas State Board of Education will be deciding whether to remove or bolster its requirement that students learn the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories, “using scientific evidence and information.” The pro-Darwin lobby group National Center for Science Education (NCSE) does not want that standard to be applied specifically to evolution. In fact, Texas Darwinists want that language completely removed from the Texas Science Standards. To reasonable people, it is apparent that investigating the “strengths and weaknesses [of scientific theories] using scientific evidence and information” is exactly what scientists do all the time. Discovery Institute believes that if scientists can dispute the core claims of neo-Darwinism (as these scientists do), then students can learn about those views:

Discovery Institute believes that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

(Discovery Institute Science Education Policy)

Texas Darwinists reject this approach because they will accept nothing less than the one-sided dogmatic presentation of the pro-Darwin-only position in public schools. Thus, the NCSE and other Darwinist groups have developed arguments to convince people that when science standards say teach the “strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information,” they’re really conspiring to teach religion.

(Update 9-30-08: For another example, Dan Quinn of the Darwinist group “Texas Freedom Network” reportedly argues that “teaching the strengths and weaknesses of theories such as evolution has become ‘code’ for pushing those religion-based ideas in schools.” Mr. Quinn’s imaginative hypothesis requires that when the Texas science standards say teach the “strengths and weaknesses” that Texas science teachers are actually in on a big conspiracy where they all believe that the language really means “teach religion.”)

For example, a recent NCSE press release states that learning about the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinism will “dilute the treatment of evolution.” Not only is this a false claim, but it isn’t even an argument: this merely shows that what the NCSE wants is the dogmatic presentation of only the pro-Darwin viewpoint in schools. For the NCSE, allowing students to learn about scientific critiques of neo-Darwinism will “dilute” their dogmatic approach.

Likewise, the NCSE quotes Texas Darwinists saying that teaching the strengths and weaknesses will “damage and corrupt science textbooks.” Again, such rhetoric is not an argument: it merely demonstrates Darwinists think it will “damage and corrupt” education if students learn that neo-Darwinism might have scientific flaws because in their dogmatic view, neo-Darwinian evolution has nothing that rises to the level of a weakness. Such authoritarian statements have no place in science, and they serve to indoctrinate students rather than teach students how to think critically and skeptically–like scientists.

But perhaps when it comes to evolution, that’s exactly what Texas Darwinists want.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.