The Texas Freedom Network’s defense of sound science education was featured this weekend in a New York Times piece about the State Board of Education’s adoption of new biology textbooks – and, no surprise, anti-science pressure groups are hopping mad about it.
Check out this rant from the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based organization that promotes the anti-evolution nonsense called “intelligent design” (essentially creationism dressed up in a lab coat):
Regardless of whether one thinks there is a genuine debate in the scientific community over Darwinian theory, there most definitely is a political and educational debate in Texas over how evolution should be covered in science textbooks. If the Times still wants to be considered an impartial news source, its reporters ought to fairly represent the different sides of that public debate, not suppress the viewpoints they disagree with.
In the first place, contrary to the Discovery Institute’s suggestion, the debate over the teaching of evolution is political, not educational. An educational debate would focus on which details about evolution students should master so that they can understand what mainstream science says. In contrast, the debate right now is largely over whether anti-science politicians and other fanatics should be permitted to pressure publishers into dumbing down their textbooks with junk science attacking evolution. Of course, that political debate affects education because it will determine whether Texas students get a 21st-century science education that prepares them to succeed in college and the jobs of the future.
Secondly, the Times piece does include viewpoints from anti-evolution activists. For example, it notes (discredited) claims by anti-evolution activists that the fossil record doesn’t support evolution. And it fairly quotes an anti-science textbook reviewer in Texas who called for new biology textbooks to include discussions of “creation science.” (That fact might be inconvenient for the Discovery Institute, but it’s a fact nonetheless.)
And the story includes this entirely accurate passage:
By questioning the science — often getting down to very technical details — the evolution challengers in Texas are following a strategy increasingly deployed by others around the country.
There is little open talk of creationism. Instead they borrow buzzwords common in education, “critical thinking,” saying there is simply not enough evidence to prove evolution.
If textbooks do not present alternative viewpoints or explain what they describe as “the controversy,” they say students will be deprived of a core concept of education — learning how to make up their own minds.
That is, of course, precisely the strategy pushed by anti-science activists and groups like the Discovery Institute. Frankly, the Times should be applauded for not permitting them to hijack the story with even more pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo.
Of course, the Discovery Institute also takes shots at us, calling TFN a “left-wing lobbying group” — as if support for sound science education should be a political litmus test. We hate to break it to the zealots at the Discovery Institute, but support for teaching sound science in public schools comes from the right, the left and the political center — although the energy behind the anti-evolution movement does come largely from the religious-right.
The real problem here for the Discovery Institute is that a newspaper reported the truth — the truth about the agenda and strategy of anti-evolution activists and the dangers they pose to the education of our kids in the 21st century. So now they’re doing the only thing they can: stamping their feet and pitching a hissy fit.