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Board gives final approval to biology books

AUSTIN – Biology books in Texas will continue to present the origin of life according to the theories of Charles Darwin.
The State Board of Education gave final approval Friday to 11 biology books, among others, despite a major campaign to poke holes in Darwin’s theory of evolution as presented in the textbooks.

School districts in Texas will be able to purchase books from the approved list for use beginning in the 2004-2005 school year.

Texas Education Agency Director Robert Scott said any factual errors in the books would be addressed by publishers before the books become available.

The decision could impact dozens of states because books sold in Texas, the nation’s second-largest buyer of textbooks, are often marketed elsewhere. Texas, California and Florida account for more than 30 percent of the nation’s $4 billion public school book market. Three dozen publishers invest millions of dollars in Texas.

Some alternative science groups had argued that weaknesses in the theory of evolution weren’t adequately presented in the books. But scientists and educators argued that the theory is widely believed and is a cornerstone of modern scientific research.

One of the most vocal groups criticizing the theory of evolution is the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.

“We were also hoping that the Board would require textbooks to include coverage of the peer-reviewed scientific weaknesses of evolutionary theory,” said Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t a majority on the Board that was willing to enforce that.”

Institute officials said they will continue to publicize what they call errors and weaknesses in Darwin’s theory as presented in some books.

Board member David Bradley made an unsuccessful attempt to amend the adoption measure Friday to place all but two of the items on a “non-conforming” list. School districts would still have the option of purchasing the books, but use of non-conforming books in Texas is rare.

Bradley maintained that criticisms of the theory of evolution weren’t religious. Bradley voted against preliminary approval Thursday, which passed in an 11-4 vote. Final approval came on a voice vote.

Despite the religious implications of evolution, several churches and ministers throughout Texas signed a letter to the board in opposition of “attempts dilute, distort or censor the teaching of evolution in biology textbooks.”

“We believe religious convictions about the origin of life are sacred and should be cultivated and strengthened in homes and houses of worship,” the statement said. “We further believe that efforts to insert religious beliefs into science textbooks misunderstand and demean both faith and science.”