Clarifying the Issues in the Texas Textbook Controversy
Q&A about Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design
July 10, 2003
July 10, 2003
Press contact Rob Crowther,
206-292-0401, ext. 107,
On July 9 the Texas State Board of Education heard testimony from two Discovery Institute scholars who encouraged the Board to make sure biology textbooks fulfill state standards and teach students about both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory. Unfortunately, much of the reporting about Discovery’s views has been factually inaccurate.
When reporting about Discovery Institute, we encourage reporters to talk with us first. We will gladly assist you and answer your questions, and we have access to many different sources and experts who can explain complicated science issues in easy to understand language.
For your quick reference, here is information that corrects assorted misstatements that have appeared in recent news accounts.
1. What is Discovery Institute?
Founded in 1990, the Institute is a national, non-profit, non-partisan policy and research organization. It has programs on a variety of issues, including regional development, technology policy, legal reform, and bioethics.
2. What is the Center for Science and Culture?
Discovery’s Center for Science and Culture encourages schools to improve science education by teaching students more fully about the theory of evolution, as well as supporting the work of scholars who challenge various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory and scholars who are working on an alternative theory known as intelligent design. Discovery’s Center for Science and Culture has more than 40 Fellows, including biologists, biochemists, physicists, philosophers and historians of science, and public policy and legal experts, many of whom have affiliations with colleges and universities.
3. Does Discovery Institute favor including the Bible or creationism in biology textbooks?
No. Discovery Institute is not a creationist organization, and it does not favor including either creationism or the Bible in biology textbooks. The Institute is a secular policy and research organization, and its concerns about textbook coverage of evolution have nothing to do with creationism.
4. Is Discovery Institute trying to eliminate, reduce or censor the coverage of evolution in textbooks?
No. Far from reducing the coverage of evolution, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that students ought to learn more about evolutionary theory, including the theory’s unresolved issues. The true censors are those who want to keep textbooks from including any discussion of the scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory.
5. Is Discovery Institute trying to get the Texas Board of Education to put intelligent design in biology textbooks?
No. The Institute’s goal is to inform policymakers and citizens about factual errors in how some textbooks cover evolutionary theory and to encourage textbooks to include information about both the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. The 41-page preliminary textbook review Discovery Institute distributed to the Board of Education focused on factual errors and the need to include additional information about four issues—the Miller-Urey experiment, the Peppered Moth experiments, the Cambrian Explosion, and Haeckel’s embryos. The only places that the report broached the subject of intelligent design was in reference to two textbooks that already discuss intelligent design theory. The textbook review noted how these two textbooks discussed intelligent design in a biased and highly inaccurate manner. While the Institute is not advocating that textbooks must cover intelligent design theory, it does believe that textbooks that already mention intelligent design should cover the theory accurately and fairly. Again, the Institute’s chief concern is that evolutionary theory be treated fully and accurately in textbooks, NOT that intelligent design be included.
6. Is intelligent design theory the same thing as creationism?
No. Intelligent design theory is an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. The effort to detect design in nature is being adopted by a growing number of biologists, biochemists, physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers of science at colleges and universities around the world. American scholars who adopt a design approach include biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, and mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University.
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