Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, wondered how the creationist chairwoman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) came to appoint a real scientist and evolution defender to a key textbook review panel. As we reported on Tuesday, that panel unanimously rejected creationist claims that a leading high school biology textbook from Pearson Education was filled with “factual errors.” The panel’s decision removed the last obstacle to that textbook’s official approval by the SBOE for use in Texas public schools. To learn more about what happened, Josh reached out to Vincent Cassone, the chair of the University of Kentucky Biology Department appointed by creationist Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, to serve on the panel. Here is Josh’s report:
With the news that an expert review panel unanimously approved Pearson’s Biology textbook and rejected creationist criticisms of it, there was one last nagging mystery in the Texas textbook saga. I expected the book to be approved as written, having said it would take five minutes for reviewers to see that the complaints against the book were bogus. And I understood why Arturo De Lozanne and Ron Wetherington, both Texas scientists long active in promoting the integrity of science education in their state, were appointed to the review panel. Since they had already publicly dismissed the bogus complaints, I wasn’t surprised by their vote on the panel.
But what about Vincent Cassone, the reviewer appointed by Texas state board of education chairwoman Barbara Cargill? Cargill is a leader of the board’s creationist wing, and in the past has often used her power to undercut evolution in textbooks. Why did she appoint a scientist from Kentucky rather than Texas? (Granted, he was once biology department chairman at Texas A&M.) Why would she appoint a reviewer who has so vigorously opposed creationism, having debated various creationists and publicly declared that the evidence for evolution is stronger than that for gravity?
Myomancy having failed me, I tried the next best thing and wrote to Cassone directly. Here’s our email exchange (edited for flow and clarity, but not changing any of his answers).