Group Says Textbook Publishers Pressured to Adjust Evolution, Climate Change Lessons

You mean “unchange” them.

NBC-DFW reports:

Publishers producing high school biology textbooks that could be used in classrooms across Texas are being pressured to water down lessons on evolution and climate change, a progressive watchdog group said Monday.

The State Board of Education is considering new science books which, if adopted, could be used by some Texas public school students for a decade. The board will hold a public hearing on the books next week.

But board members rely on citizen review committees that can raise objections to the new books before the approval process begins. Books that fail to receive full endorsements from review boards may be harder for publishers to sell to school districts — and might even be rejected outright by the Board of Education.

Using a public records request submitted to the state education agency, the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit that monitors the board of education, released the reviewers’ objections to the textbooks.

Many objections were ideological in nature, raising doubts about the theory of evolution and questioning whether global warming is based on science.

Read more…

40 thoughts on “Group Says Textbook Publishers Pressured to Adjust Evolution, Climate Change Lessons”

  1. Ghost, I hate to say it, but once agin, we get to the point that it’s tautological. There was a point in the formation of Earth (the gathering cloud of debris through the lava-land stage) where we can say with conviction that no life existed on Earth. Obviously, we have life now. Therefore, there was a begining of life.

    Similarly, entropy is ever-increasing. However, by our current understanding of physics, entropy is a measuable, finite quanitity. Therefore, either we have a fundamental gap in our understand of physics, or there must be a beginning of the universe with the laws of physics as we know them.

    The hows are the matter of cosmological hypothesizing, but it’s not abstract philosophy because obviously something must have happened. Discussing the various possible methods of such is not a waste.

    And no, while I do speak of them separately for purpose of discussion, I do quite well understand the complete cohesiveness of divine creation with base physical processes. If you read my other posts on this thread, you would understand that.

  2. The only scientific evidence we have that a non biological process to create life exists is the existence of life. That is exactly the same evidence the creationists have. However, even if a biochemist manages to create functioning cells in a lab that still wouldn’t prove what happened in the past. It may be that there is more than one way to create cells. Empirically, all the chemist will have shown is that an intelligent designer can create life.

  3. You’ve fallen into the trap of seeing macro evolution and spontaneous devine creation as an either or prospect. I don’t think either have a place in children’s science classes as they are both philosophy and religion. My earlier statement was merely to point out the flaw in Occam’s Razor arguments. It’s not scientific to just say “this one has fewer assumptions so it must be right”.

  4. The point is merely that Occam’s Razor is a philosphical argument and not science. Leaving other portions of the Holy Scientific Origin Myth aside, getting from single cells to all life seen today by way of punctuated equilibrium requires a lot of assumptions based on very little data. The same argument is used by both sides of the debate. Ruminations on the origin of life as we known it are inherently philosophical. Science is about observable, measurable data and repeatable results.

  5. Ben, if you compare Himalayas and North Atlantic, you will probably have to reject the idea that land elevation is the biggest cause of gravity variation.

  6. Ghost, don’t forget that “God did it” relies on the existence of an unobserved extra-universal being of great power, which there is no evidence to support.

    The variations of big bang theory and abiogenesis rely on the assumption that natural processes, extensions of standard chemistry and physics, that have been hypothesized and partially observed, actually exist, and that they have caused the formation of life. THis is a much smaller assumption than that of the existence of God because it is a possible solution that fits within the existing framework of our knowledge of reality.

    On the other hand, a creationist, much less Young Earth design, relies on the interference of someone that we do not have any scientific proof of existence, and then like the “voodoo shark” explanation of Jaws 2, raises more questions than answers (who/what is this being, are there more, why did he bother?) that are best left to religious philospohers, not scientists. Now, this is spoken as a Baptist raised Lutheran.

  7. Big bang is among the worst kinds of fiction we get from mainstream science. It is not something you’d hear a biologist propose, I tell you.

    The ideas of the possibility of non-cellular life were given a boost when self-catalytic DNA and RNA molecules were discovered, and then upon further screening it turned out that RNAs can have a broad range of catalytic functions, plus it was already known they could self-replicate. It is not an “assumption”, as you call it; it is not needed for anything. Nothing we know rests on such assumptions. But things like that make you think in new ways.

  8. Evolution is nothing but selective breeding, that is, the replication of code with subsequent selection of products (or code itself). Whatever is the local cause of selection at the moment, you can call it a designer. Call it intelligent, we don’t mind. It just sounds funny.

    You do begin to give credence to the idea that all life originated from a single cell when you consider that (1) each of us is a progeny of a single egg cell (except plants, (2) unicellular life likes to exist in communities where members take on different functions and differentiate morphologically during a single cell cycle; (3) when we are very young we look and function like our remote cousins — the younger, the more likeness over the longer distance, and (4) a lot of code (and thus the core functionality) is shared by all existing life, with closer relatives sharing more code.

    The last item is relatively new and it has not yet fully informed the conversation about the origins of life among non-biologists. I suspect #2 is not known well enough, while #1 and #2 are not taken into account often enough. But like with all information, the more your know, the better you see. And as Gamecock has said, we already see enough to do well without help from the uninformed.

  9. If you’re going to cite Occam’s razor, “God did it” only has one assumption compared to the many assumptions getting from the big bang, abiogenesis of single cell organisms, and divergent evolution to here. Again, you’re confusing philosophy with science.

  10. My point is that is an assumption based on an observation, not a fact. The Intelligent Design crowd loves the left-handed amino acid bit as evidence of God. We don’t know how abiogenisis happened so how can you claim there’s no reason for it not to be random? There are many guesses about what conditions lead to abiogenesis. Maybe sea life started near the volcanic vents, maybe land based life started in the nutrient rich pubbles under the cosmic radiation. Guessing is fun and certainly interesting, but it isn’t science.

  11. “All that is required for evolution is reproduction, inheritance of traits, and variability of traits”

    You’ve described selective breeding, not macroevolution. To say that witnessing this proves macroevolution from single-cell organisms to what we have today is like saying you’ve seen a car go from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds so you know that it could go 360mph in one minute.

    Believe what you want, but it is faith, not science to claim that you know for a fact how life arose and proliferated. Teach it in a philosophy class where it belongs so that kids that want to learn science can focus on observable, measureable, and repeatable facts.

  12. And Occam’s Razor applies. Evolution explains the diversity of life on earth quite well; there is no reason to look for other theories.

    “The process in which we are engaged is the search for rational evidence for or against intelligent design. It does not suffice to say that intelligent design is possible, and proponents of intelligent design have no right to re-cast the question as one in which the non-existence of intelligent design must be proven. Within the framework of Occam’s razor, intelligent design is an added hypothesis and the proponent’s burden is to demonstrate why it is necessary to make this hypothesis. I have argued that no evidence or rational argument for intelligent design can be found in either the data or the theories of modern physics and cosmology. If the hypothesis of intelligent design is to be discussed in science classrooms, then good science methodology demands that we make clear that this is an uneconomical hypothesis that is not required by existing scientific knowledge.”

  13. Sorry, important typo. “The difference between intelligent design and an atheistic universe is something that BY definition cannot be proven”. If God doesn’t pop anything into existence and works within natural laws, then there is no way that the existence (or non-existence) of God can be proven.

  14. The difference between intelligent design and an atheistic universe is something that my definition cannot be proven. I think Ron is referring to the 7-day creationists.

    Ron, you have to differentiate between Young-Earth 7-day creationists and plain old creationists. The vast, vast majority of Christianity understands the age of the universe, and understands that Genesis 1 is a symbolic story. The young-Earthers are ostracized even among the faithful (or at least we politely change the subject).

  15. I didn’t say proof. I said that there was an indication that there was a single original starting point. If life formed multiple times, then why would it not be random? There is no chemical or biological reason to prefer one way or the other. If life formed multiple times, then it would be quite likely that we would see both chiralities present.

    It’s not proof, but this indicates that single-point origination is the more likely answer.

  16. Sorry, It’s difficult to tell where science fiction ends and science fact begins sometimes. Gravitational waves are theorized, though not detectable directly (and only important on celestial distances anyway). As for the minor variation in gravity, the biggest cause is land altitude, as that topological map shows. When measuring from a satellite, being directly over a mountain or mile-high glacier is measurably heavier than being over lowland. Even Newton predicted such with that little “r^2” part of the good old High School equation. As for the rest, yes. The mantle has not only variable consistency, but variable pressure from location to location. Of Course you will have uneven gravity.


    ” When one allows harmful mutations that get selected out along the way, 200 beneficial mutations would accumulate fairly quickly — in 200/r generations using the assumptions of Morris’s model.”

    But let us talk evolution. All that is required for evolution is reproduction, inheritance of traits, and variability of traits. All of which every adult has witnessed. It’s no more complicated than that.

    “Anyone who follows the true basic tenets of science is willing to admit we just don’t know.” Of course we know. It’s dirt simple.

  18. Admitting the lack of knowledge is a fine thing to do. However, there are degrees of cluelessness. People who attempt to critique biology using calculations of odds are simply uninformed. Life is not random.

  19. Howdy ronhave
    You’re right that some creationists and some climate science alarmists are cut from the same cloth. Then you get someone like me or, I suspect, Gamecock. I could be called a believer in guided evolution or even intelligent design expressed in evolution but I’m ready to find out if I’m wrong. I feel the same way about climate science: I think the alarmists are deluded or liars or some of each, but I’m ready to find out I’m wrong.

  20. The argument is not that a creator couldn’t do it in 500,000,000 years. The argument is that it couldn’t be done without a creator. Many creationist believe in something they call guided evolution.

    Random chance without external intervention is what they argue is statistically too improbable to have occured within the given time frame. The counter argument is that life exists, there is no god, so it must have happened. Statistically it’s possible to win the lottery the first time you play, so the argument is moot. Both sides are religious in nature. Anyone who follows the true basic tenets of science is willing to admit we just don’t know.

  21. Good point about “just a theory”, but gravitational waves are fiction and density affects more than gravity.

    See if you are comfortable explaining these anomalies with density alone:

    All reasoning about density in the context of gravity ends up being circular because we can’t directly measure density down there. Seismic refraction is the closest indicator, but it does not indicate anything close enough to explain the observed gravity variation. The scientific authority in this area is highly suspect.

  22. Creationism and climate science are NOT linked. Except I don’t believe either. But one could believe in one or the other, or both, or neither.

  23. Creationists and “climate science” ideologues are cut from the same cloth. No amount of reasoned argument or empirical observation will derail their beliefs. There is such a thing as climate science, but a majority of those who go into this field do so with a prior conviction that the human footprint will ruin the earth one way or another. This mind set makes their scientific credentials meaningless because they reject empiricism and the necessity that any scientific theory be falsifiable. They are as much “scientists” as “Christian Scientists” are scientists.

  24. Actually creationists in one form or another represent the majority of people. The media loves to point them out because it’s socially acceptable to bully and opress people who espouse a belief in a creator and cite this belief as proof that they have no right to opine on any other matter no matter how scientifically sound their arguments are. This is why Roy Spencer was asked about being a creationist at a senate hearing that was supposed to be about CAGW.

  25. Again I refer to the difference between observation and assumption. A good clue is when both sides of a debate cite the same evidence. Whatever conditions favored left-handed amino acids may have happened more than once, or may have produced many different forms of single cell organisms, or it may mean a magic creator being is left-handed. Saying all known biological amino acids are “left-handed” is sound biochemistry. Claiming that this fact is proof of any specific for of abiogenesis is ideology.

  26. I am always amused by the creationist declaration that the diverstity of life on earth could not have evolved over 500,000,000 years, so it must have been poofed in two days.

    It is stunning to note the dichotomy, that God could do it in two days, but He couldn’t do it in 500,000,000 years.

  27. Actually, no, the Law of Universal Gravitation has a single constant, G, which was unmeasured for several centuries. Gravitational anomalies are due either density changes (which are fully incorporated into classical gravity) or gravitational waves, which lie so far outside the realm of Netwon’s view of Absolute Space that isn’t even recognizable. I was being flippant in my terminology to dismiss the “just a theory” nonsense. Theory is currently the highest level of scientific authority, so “just a theory” is heavily misguided.

  28. Careful here Ben. The Law of Universal Gravitation has unexplained constants in it that were hyped as universal after having sampled a fairly small locus (which only appeared large at the time), and that was done with poor accuracy. The (almost) immediate consequence of poor accuracy is that we have the so-called “gravitational anomalies” within the same small locus.

    The Theory of Relativity did not overturn anything, it only muddied things further. How can you expect a model of the universe consisting of a schizophrenic combination of a single-mass universe and an empty universe overturn anything that we can measure?

    I think we need to be far less arrogant than you think we are.

  29. Actually, there is evidence for an ultimate Adam. The most important of which is the chirality of biological molecules.

    Chemically formed molecules are chiral randomly left handed or right handed (the atoms are arranged in random order in the molecule). Biologically formed molecules are universally left handed. There is no reason for this, except that biological reactions with left handed molecules produce other left handed molecueles. This is a strong indication that life formed once and only once and that we are all decended from this “ultimate adam”, the first biological moleculue.

  30. Creationists represent a tiny faction of people, but they get a lot of publicity from the media because they allow the “progressives” to use creationism to attack anyone who disagrees with un-related “progressive sciences” like global warming.

  31. Evolution is no theory. It’s a tautology. Either we popped into existence or we evolved. We cannot have popped (as we see a history of evolution over pre-humans and early humans and there is no evidence of anything, anywhere “popping”). therefore we must have evolved.

    “Theory” is just the new term for law. After the Law of Universal Gravitaiton was overturned by the Theory of Relativity, we aren’t quite so arrogant as we once were.

  32. The process is important here. Texas is unique in allowing ‘interested citizens’ to provide input to the state board responsible for selecting the state’s schoolbooks. A selection may endure several years, and the state is a large enough customer that publishers of textbooks will strive to accommodate the Texas board specifications and sell the same texts to all US customers. Unfortunately, zealous religionists of several flavors have discovered this fact, and endeavour to use it to enforce their own ‘curriculum’ on the public school students of Texas.
    The unfortunate problem in the reporting on this issue it that the ‘journalists’ inevitably focus on the ideologies involved rather than the question of whether or not the content being discussed represents the result of actual science.

  33. The complaints about how evolution is taught aren’t with natural selection or variability within genetic groups. It’s with things like the thoroughly discredited horse series being taught as fact. To say that animals change over time, therefore all animals share a common, single-cell ancestor is a much bigger leap than CAGW’s connection between the industrial revolution and slightly warmer average temps. My personal complaint is that all of these philosophies are being taught in place of hard science like physics and chemistry. Let’s teach the kids sound experimental design and how to tell the difference between empirical observation (these fossils bear superficial resemblance to modern horses) and assumptions (these animals evolved into modern horses) and we’ll spend much less time in the future debating wild alarmist assertions.

  34. Evolution theory is only a problem for literalist fundamentalists who believe that God would have chosen to or been able to get primitive authors to record an intelligible theory of evolution using vocabulary that did not exist yet.

  35. Hech-ahem.
    The theory of evolution is borne out by a lot of data over two hundred years of research and description, data that go back literally millions of years. The record is less than complete and some of Darwin’s (and others’) ideas have been revised or discarded. The central concept that life forms change over time due to natural selection has become stronger rather than weaker with more data.
    It’s true that evolution theory is not supportive of traditional religious teaching but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It’s also true that evolution theory leaves us wondering how the universe kicked off and how life itself formed in the universe. It even leaves people like me believing philosopically in an Entity we call God that set evolution in motion.
    Creationism is not science, though. One could offer various life-creation stories from different religions and traditions as sidebars in a science text. One could teach creationism in a class on philosophy or religion.
    Climate science exists too. It’s a new discipline, a complex one, and its “skill” is developing slowly.
    “Climate change” in terms of “humans are burning stuff and the world is doomed” is bunk and should be watered down. Watered down the drain, actually.

  36. Unfortunately both evolution and “climate change” are pursued with religious ferver. Evolution seems to be looked at not as a theory but a law and evolutionists seem to brook no challenge. Teach it as a theory and teach what a theory is.
    “Climate change” is an assault on clear language and should never be taught in any way other than the climate is dynamic and has changed throughout history. AGW should be taught as one of many theories. Unfortunately, it will never happen because the libs control the textbooks.

  37. It appears as though the people who have so far been influential enough to keep creationism out of schools are now completely under the influence of climate change and environmentalism. Science never fared well in public schools, and now it is going to be impossible.

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