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Texas forges compromise over creationism
Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 03/30/2009 @ 8:44 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Public school students in Texas will be called on to “analyze, evaluate and critique” evidence that undermines Darwin’s theory of evolution as well as evidence that supports the belief man and all other modern life has developed from primordial sludge, following a vote by state officials.
“Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned,” said John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, which had argued before the Texas Board of Education for students to have the right to review all of the evidence, not just what evolutionists want presented.
The decision initially was praised by pro-evolution factions for the board’s decision to remove the guidance that students should study the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific evidence. However, West told WND the replacement policy now includes requirements for students to “analyze, evaluate and critique” all such provisions in evolution, such as the concept of common ancestry and natural selection.
The language is an improvement, according to the Discovery Institute, on the old language calling for study of “strengths and weaknesses” in scientific fields. The new standard calls for students “in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”
Texas becomes the seventh state to specifically require in its science standards that students critically analyze key aspects of evolutionary theory, joining Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Missouri, South Carolina, and Alabama. Two other states, Louisiana and Mississippi, have adopted legislation protecting the academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss scientific evidence critical of Darwin’s theory.
West said the standards do not call for teaching creationism or intelligent design in science classrooms, only that students study science but keep the right to “critique” it.
Board member Ken Mercer of San Antonio had suggested even stronger language, saying those who subscribe to evolutionary theory were trying to suppress discussion of anything that doesn’t support Darwin’s theory.
“I don’t see how we can say there is no disagreement about evolution. There is disagreement,” Mercer said.
Since Texas is the second largest textbook market in the nation, after California, the decision could impact the content of textbooks used nationwide.
Casey Luskin, a lawyer for the Discovery Institute, said Texas now has the “strongest standards in the country.”
“The language adapted requires students to have critical thinking about all of science, including evolution, and it urges them to look at all sides of the issue,” he said.
Kenneth Miller, a biology teacher at Brown University and noted opponent of intelligent design, took a different position.
“The theory of evolution has no weaknesses,” he told Salon.
But Texas education board chairman Dan McLeroy contended evolution has a status it hasn’t earned, and it should be questioned in the same fashion as any scientific theory.
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