News item - Texas scientists challenge creationists
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Texas scientists challenge proposal to teach weaknesses of
By Laura Heinauer
Science curriculum draft that would remove ideas "based upon purported
forces outside of nature" from what Texas students are taught in
Armed with stacks of scientific journals, a group that says it
represents more than 800 Texas scientists is challenging the idea that
discussion of the weaknesses of evolutionary theory belongs in science
The group of professors held a news conference Tuesday in the lobby of
the Texas Education Agency in Austin and said that they would be
watching while a state board rewrites the state public school science
curriculum next year.
"Not a single one (of the articles in these journals) gives us reason
to believe evolution did not occur," said Dan Bolnick, an assistant
professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas, pointing
to stacks of the scientific journal Evolution. "So where are the
weaknesses? Simple: They don't exist. They are not based on scientific
research or data and have been refuted countless times."
Last week, the state released an early committee recommendation for
the new science curriculum that would excise ideas "based upon
purported forces outside of nature" from what Texas students are
taught in biology classes. The curriculum, once approved, will outline
what will be taught about science to every public school student in
Organizers of the 21st Century Science Coalition said the group formed
about two weeks ago and blossomed in membership in response to
comments by State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan,
who opposes a committee proposal to remove the requirement that the
"strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories be taught in
McLeroy has also said he wants to spell out in the curriculum that
there are limits to what science can explain.
Critics of the teaching of intelligent design and creationism ideas
that hold that the universe was created by a higher power say such
language has been used to undermine the theory of evolution.
"It's clear he wants to promote a particular religious agenda," said
David Hillis, a UT integrative biology professor. "Texas public
schools should be preparing our kids to succeed in the 21st century,
not promoting political and ideological agendas that are hostile to a
sound science education."
In an interview after the news conference Tuesday, McLeroy said he
"totally rejected" the idea that he or anyone on the board wants to
inject religion into science classrooms. "I'm not arguing for
supernatural explanations, only testable ones. When I look at the
evidence, I see lots of problems," McLeroy said.
William Dembski, a senior fellow for the Discovery Institute, a think
tank devoted to challenging aspects of evolutionary theory, said the
fossil record defies the theory of evolution in several instances.
Because of the inconsistencies and other reasons, Dembski said, "I'd
argue that constitutes a weakness."
The institute promotes intelligent design.
Coalition member Richard Duhrkopf, who teaches introductory biology at
Baylor University, said that although one might expect his university
the largest Southern Baptist and second-largest Christian university
in the country to teach creationism in science classrooms, it does not.
Creationist theories, Duhrkopf said, "just don't make the grade as
science, and to teach them would be to teach a lie to our students."