Texas textbooks may add critique of evolution

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A creationist group expressed interest in including information about the religious belief in science textbooks that comply with the new Texas curriculum.

The Richardson-based Foundation of Thought and Ethics seeks to expand children’s education, specifically on creationism, or the belief that God created the world. Although public schools cannot legally teach creationism, the latest Texas curriculum requires students to learn the weaknesses of evolution when studying the origin of man, said Don McLeroy, former State Board of Education member. The board will vote on the proposed material in April.

“The standards are what the publishers look at when they write their textbooks,” board spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

The State Board of Education changed its science curriculum in 2009, and publishers are creating new books to comply with the new standards, which specifically require students to “critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence,” she said.

Books are considered to conform to the standards when they cover all of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test objectives for that subject area, Culbertson said. The new standards cover strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary scientific studies in order to examine all areas of scientific theory, she said.

McLeroy said the board is restoring scientific integrity to the teaching of evolution by requiring students to think critically and to challenge the theory

“Everyone accepts real science,” said McLeroy, who has studied evolution for more than 30 years. “Genetics has empirical science behind it. Evolution does not, despite what they say. What we have shown in Texas will restore the luster of science because we are being honest.”

McLeroy said he looks forward to seeing how the textbooks will incorporate the new curriculum. The board released the list of potential contributors Thursday.

Students will study challenges to evolution’s weaknesses, including gaps in the fossil record in which sudden species appear, he said.

Integrative biology professor Edward Theriot said he completely rejects gaps in the fossil record as a valid challenge to the theory of evolution.

“You can’t expect to find every single kind of organism,” Theriot said. “It only means the entire history of life did not get preserved.”

Theriot said the problem lies in the public’s misconception of the definition of a scientific theory. He said scientific theories are tools scientists use to make predictions about the natural world.

“That is what science is,” he said. “That is what needs to be taught in schools. We need to do a better job explaining what science is and what it is for.”

Theriot said scientists used the theory of evolution to predict the course of influenza viruses and to help capture criminals using forensic analysis.

“If evolution is just a theory, gravity is just a theory,” Theriot said. “We can predict some things better with evolution than we can with the theory of gravity.”