ELIMINATING ERRORS: Evolution becomes topic of concern for voters

Andrew Bell
Texas Tech University Daily
November 10, 2003
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On Friday the Texas State Board of Education voted to adopt Chief Deputy
Commissioner of the Texas Education Agencys Robert Scott's, recommendation
for the elimination of factual errors in high school and advanced placement
biology textbooks.

The vote required that all remaining factual errors in the textbook be
addressed and identified by the publishers before the textbooks can be
printed, Robert Crowther of the Discovery Institute said.

The vote is a step in the right direction of helping teach children
critical thinking in an adequate and balanced way, Crowther said.

DeEtta Culbertson of the Texas State Board of Education said there was a
preliminary vote held Thursday before the final vote on Friday.

The vote on Thursday was an 11 to 4 to adopt the recommendation for the
books. She said the vote on Friday did not have a vote count, but the
recommendation passed unanimously.

According to a press release from the Discovery Institute, the organization
believes this vote is important to the science education of all students.

"This is real progress in the cause of science education reform," Discovery
Institute President Bruce Chapman said. "We are already happy that a number
of embarrassing errors that overstate the evidence for evolutionary theory
were being fixed; for example, two textbook publishers have proposed
removing Haeckel's faked embryo diagrams from the 1800s."

The diagrams referred to are 19th-century drawings by Ernst Haeckel.
According to the National Center of Science Education Web site, in some
textbooks the drawings can still be found, but many present a rank-and-file
illustration of vertebrate embryos.

According to the NCSE Web site, the illustrations accompany a discussion of
the relationship of embryology to evolution. The organization argues the
illustrations are a useful pedagogical, or educational, tool for showing
that more recent common ancestry is reflected in greater similarity of
embryos.

In response to the allegation of factual errors, textbooks redrew the
embryo drawings, or substituted photographs for them, but left intact the
text's discussion of the importance of embryology to evolution, according
to the web site.

Harvey Madison, president of the Lubbock chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union, said the changes are minor and are not critical of the
evolution or scientific theories. He believes some of the changes are ones
scientists would not mind to have changed.

One fact the Discovery Institute is happy to see coming out of textbooks is
the claim that human embryos have gill slits. According to the press
release, the vote assures errors such as this and others will be addressed
before being distributed to students in books.

"Texas has pledged to make sure that publishers address all remaining
errors in the textbooks over the next several months," Chapman said. "So we
now hope that fake facts like human embryos with gill slits, the flat earth
myth, and overstatements about peppered moth research will be things of the
past as well."

The Discovery Institute would also like the Board to require textbooks to
include coverage of peer-reviewed scientific weaknesses of the evolutionary
theory, according to the press release.

The weaknesses refer to challenges that go up against the evolution theory
or the things the theory has trouble explaining, Crowther said.

According to the NSCE Web site, board member Patricia Hardy said the
strength and weaknesses language applied to any scientific theory and was
not intended to apply to all, or any single theory. If the language applied
to every theory, "we'd need a crane to carry the books to he schools."

The NSCE stated on its Web site they commend the Board and the publishers
of the textbooks for withstanding enormous pressure to compromise the
scientific accuracy of their books.

In the future the Discovery Institute officials in their press release said
they will continue to publicize the errors in textbooks, the weaknesses
alleged to prove Darwinian evolution theory, and educate the public on the
dangers of not fully and completely teaching Darwin's theory.