Texas: A Word from the Pro-Science Side, Too

The Waco Tribune had two op-eds, the one I noted earlier from antievolutionist Don McLeroy, but also one from Daniel Bolnick making the case for teaching accountable science in the science classroom, and giving a pass to an ensemble of arguments passed down from the religious antievolution hymnal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Texas State Board of Education is revising science curriculum standards for Texas public schools.

The last science standards revision was a decade ago. Since then, biologists have published more than 30,000 research articles demonstrating that evolution has occurred and how it works.

Unfortunately, evolution opponents are uninterested in updating the standards to reflect this expanded knowledge. They instead want standards that divert class time from this well-established scientific discipline to cover thoroughly discredited arguments about “weaknesses” of evolution.

That requirement would allow the state board to reject any science textbook that did not include such phony arguments.

Our children’s textbooks would then reflect the personal beliefs of state board members, not scientific consensus.

More than 100,000 published biological research studies demonstrate the fact of evolutionary change.

Many experimental studies demonstrate that natural selection and related processes can produce observed evolutionary changes.

In contrast, no scientific evidence exists showing that species were created separately or that natural processes can’t account for observed evolution.

There is virtually universal support among research biologists for the overwhelming scientific evidence behind evolution. The job of high school teachers is to present this consensus view of science.

Regardless, evolution opponents continue to promote worn-out arguments based on demonstrably false information.

For instance, they claim that an incomplete fossil record disproves evolution. Yet they ignore the millions of fossils (yes, millions) that clearly illustrate a history of evolution.

Opponents also frequently distort published research from respected scientists in an effort to mislead the general public about the scientific consensus supporting evolution.

Evolution opponents who promote such phony “weaknesses” claim we are trying to censor them, suppressing free speech. But the entire point of education is to provide students with the best information available, without wasting time on bogus arguments.

We don’t teach alchemy alongside chemistry, for example, or astrology alongside physics. We don’t ask students to decide for themselves whether Earth revolves around the Sun or vice versa. Is that “censorship”?

No, it is good science.

Opponents also argue that accepting the science of evolution means rejecting faith in God. Yet many scientists and theologians see no conflict between science and their faith.

These scientists do see the importance of ensuring that public schools are not put in the position of deciding whose religious beliefs to teach in science classes.

If public schools did so, they would threaten the right of families to direct the religious education of their own children.

The State Board of Education’s decisions in the coming months will affect both the college preparation and future job qualifications of our children.

Our students deserve a sound education that includes the latest findings of scientific research and excludes ideas that have failed to stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Daniel I. Bolnick is assistant professor of biology at the University of Texas at Austin. R. E. Duhrkopf is associate professor of biology at Baylor University. David M. Hillis is biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Ben Pierce is biology professor at Southwestern University. Sahotra Sarkar is a professor in biology at the University of Texas at Austin. Each is a member of the 21st Century Science Coalition, which represents more than 1,000 Texas scientists — TexasScientists.org.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.