Texas reaches evolution compromise: who won, who lost?
The State Board of Education in Texas voted on Friday to remove a long-time science curriculum rule that required “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories be covered in the classroom.
It also struck down two proposed sections that would have required students in high school biology classes to study the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of common ancestry and natural selection of species.
But it settled on a compromise that will require teachers to discuss “all sides” of scientific theories with their students. This may allow both sides to claim a victory of sorts.
Evolution proponents were especially alarmed by the “strengths and weaknesses” clause because it implied a “weakness” where few scientists say one exists. But some biblical critics of evolution will no doubt be happy by the “all sides” provision.
The old “strengths and weaknesses” wording was regarded by many as an attempt by social and religious conservatives to raise questions about Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which is popularly known as his theory of evolution.
Some of the supporters of the “strengths and weaknesses rule” said they just wanted open discussion and accused the evolutionists of trying to stifle debate.
Critics contended that maintaining the rule would have given Biblical creationists or proponents of “intelligent design” theory an open door to get their anti-evolution agenda into the classroom.
Some fear the new “all sides” rule will still allow this to happen.
“The word ‘weaknesses’ no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, an advocacy group that has long been at odds with religious conservatives on a range of issues.
The Dallas Morning News urged the board to vote out the “strength and weaknesses” rule in an editorial on Thursday under the headline “No Doubt About Science.”
“Even many people of faith accept the theory of evolution,” it noted.
For the most part, the two sides are light years apart. Many creationists believe the planet is a few thousand years old. The scientific consensus is closer to 4.5 billion years.
Intelligent design theory holds that the complexity of life would not have been possible without a designer. (And that designer would be God).
The vast majority of scientists accept evolution at least in its broad outlines, and the theory of natural selection (once again, to use the term favored by Darwin himself) is the foundation of modern biology.
Scientists point to an abundance of evidence to support the notion that species evolve. These include the species divergence found between islands, even those close apart (this was the clue that got Darwin thinking); the fossil record (no mammals in those Precambrian rocks); DNA testing (the great apes are indeed our closest living relatives).
But what do you think? Is it not right to let students look at all sides of scientific issues, provided that they stick to science? Or does this open the door to a religious agenda that may not be ground in science?
(Photo: The skeleton of an Ophtalmosaurus sea reptile on display at the Christie’s auction house in Paris February 12, 2009. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes (FRANCE)