In The New York Review of Books, Gail Collins has a piece titled “How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us.” She laments that in 2009, the Texas State Board of Education required students to “consider gaps in fossil records and whether natural selection is enough to explain the complexity of human cells,” claiming that the State Board rejected standards proposed by “People with PhDs.” But Collins, a New York Times columnist, neglects to point out that a parade of PhD scientists testified in Texas in 2009 that there are scientific weaknesses in Darwinian evolution worth presenting to students. In addition to the experts Stephen Meyer (PhD, History and Philosophy of Science), Ralph Seelke (PhD, Biology), and Charles Garner (PhD, Organic Chemistry), we reported about the “parade of PhDs” who testified in Texas:
PhD biologists who testified in favor of teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” included Ray Bohlin, Don Ewert, Wade Warren, and Sara Kolb Hicks. Warren and Hicks gave striking testimony about the lack of academic freedom for university researchers. Warren testified about how a non-mandatory discussion on the pros and cons of evolution that he wanted to hold while a graduate student in biology was shut down. Specifically, Hicks, who holds a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Rice University, lamented the fact that “science censorship permeates education at the undergraduate and graduate levels.” These biologists testified about weaknesses in evolution including the limits to the amount of biological change that can be effected by natural selection, the lack of evidence for evolution in the fossil record, the inability of Darwinian evolution to produce the complexity of cellular processes, and the fact that evolution is not even required to do most biology research.
Additionally, LeTourneau biology professor Karen Rispin testified about scientific weaknesses in evolution pertaining to the presentation of evolution in biology textbooks, and discrepancies between fossil and molecular dates for alleged common ancestors of species. By the end of the day, no one could say with a straight face that there are no scientific weaknesses in evolution, or that no credible scientists doubt neo-Darwinism.
Despite the good science standards adopted in Texas, we saw last year that publishers are still trying to force students to learn inaccurate information about evolution. We issued a report last summer evaluating curricular materials submitted for adoption in Texas for online instruction in biology, including lots of examples of errors:
- Using long-outdated arguments that certain organs (like the appendix or tonsils) are “vestigial,” and thus serve as evidence for evolution.
- Inclusion of Haeckel’s long-refuted embryo drawings, which overstate the similarities among vertebrate embryos in the early stages of vertebrate development.
- Retelling old myths about the Miller-Urey experiment and the origin of life and wrongly telling students the experiment correctly simulated gases present on the early earth.
- Overstating the evidence for biochemical evolution by claiming biologists have evolutionary explanations, when they don’t.
Gail Collins claims that teaching students about the scientific controversy over evolution makes it “boring.” That’s not what students and teachers I encounter tell me — they tell me the precise opposite, that teaching about this scientific debate engages student interest in the science, and even gets them interested in pursuing careers in science. Nonetheless, Collins is right that “bad textbooks” are being inflicted upon us. But that’s not because of Texas, it’s in spite of Texas.