North Texas Daily

Textbooks threaten Texas’ scientific future

Textbooks threaten Texas’ scientific future

Textbooks threaten Texas’ scientific future
October 01
12:18 2013

Last week, the Texas State Board of Education held a public hearing to discuss the textbooks the state plans to adopt for the 2014-2015 school year. The testimony by some members of the panels appointed by the board to review the books is deeply troubling. Accepting the recommendations of these members would be catastrophic for the state at all levels of public education, including the state’s public universities. They should listen to the Steves.

Debate at the hearing centered on two issues in high school biology textbooks – evolution and man-made climate change. The numerous social conservative panelists, including former State Board of Education President Don McLeroy, testified against the supposed scientific consensus that has developed around both issues and suggested alternative theories of Earth’s beginnings and the reasons behind the current global climate crisis should be included in the books.

That the ideas of McLeroy and his cohorts are being taken seriously by the board and the media is an embarrassment for our state.

In the scientific community, debate over both of these issues is over. There is no controversy to be taught. Social conservatives often point to the Discovery Institute’s claim that, as of 2007, there were more than 700 scientists who professed belief in intelligent design — which is simply a term of art for biblical creationism.

If that many scientists doubt evolution, the thinking goes, shouldn’t our kids? What conservatives won’t tell you is what infinitesimally small percentage of the scientific community those 700 represent.

In a tongue-in-cheek attempt to illustrate how small the group of evolution-deniers is, the National Center for Science Education introduced a petition in support of teaching evolution to be signed only by scientists named Steve or some variation thereof. As of Aug. 23, the Project Steve petition has been signed by 1,281 scientists – close to doubling the number of scientists of any name who support the teaching of intelligent design.

As for climate change, the argument is even less nuanced. Conservatives argued that heat and severe weather are merely cyclical. And that’s true – Earth’s weather is cyclical. But our current cycles are – according to very nearly the whole of the scientific community – far more severe than they should be.

A University of California at San Diego survey of all peer-reviewed articles about climate change submitted between 1993 and 2003 revealed exactly zero that supported anything but man-made climate change being the cause for global warming and the increase in severe weather events.

The arguments over these textbooks clearly aren’t about science. It’s about promoting a political or religious view over the whole of the scientific community. It’s the kids and young adults who suffer. Even for those of us who received adequate science education in high school, the threat is real. Ill-prepared students in college classrooms slow down learning and dilute all of our degrees. Call the State Board of Education at (512) 463-9734 before its final vote in November and tell them you won’t stand for it, that the only thing that should be taught in science classrooms is science.

Stephen Young is a journalism senior. He can be reached at StephenYoung2@my.unt.edu

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