Who are these outsiders, pontificating how Texas should teach biology and evolution? On one side is the anti–Bible, anti–creation National Center for Science Education (NCSE) , based in California. On the other side is the herald of “intelligent design”—the Discovery Institute, based in Washington State.
During a hearing on whether to adopt 11 evolutionary biology textbooks, the Texas Board of Education had enough sense to exclude out–of–state organizations from the floor. Only citizens of Texas were allowed to testify.
Unfortunately, the finger of outsiders was evident throughout the goings on.
This is a “controversy” because Texas is a big state, and its decisions reach far beyond its borders. When it comes time for the state board of education to approve a new batch of textbooks, publishers and educators listen. The State of Texas is the second largest consumer of textbooks in the US (after California).
The textbook approval process recurs every six years. When it came up this year, supporters of “intelligent design” saw a golden opportunity to challenge the evolutionary establishment. So they—and their local followers, such as Texans for Better Science Education—alerted the board to the blatant errors in the proposed biology textbooks (e.g. the peppered moth and embryonic recapitulation frauds). The complainants cited the board’s rules that require textbooks to be “free from scientific errors.”
Meanwhile, supporters of evolution (NCSE and its ally, Texas Citizens for Science) saw a chance to bash “anti–evolutionists” and to get some free publicity. Typical of the pro–evolutionists who spoke before the board, Liz Carpenter, a former big–wig in Texas politics, begged the board not to “water down the strength of the science curriculum. Texans with our wide spaces and blue skies believe in freedom, I think and resent more than anyone being throttled. And I don't want to be defined by extremists who want to curtail knowledge of any kind.”1
As a Texan, I find this hypocrisy hard to swallow. Where’s the true Texas spirit—the proud “Don’t mess with me!” ethos that makes my state unique? It looks like outside manipulation to fabricate a controversy.
The NCSE has combined the symbol of Texas pride—the Lone Star flag—with the motto “Don’t mess with Texas!” to create a “Don’t mess with textbooks” campaign (see NCSE image above).
Is this really an appeal to Texas” independent spirit? Hardly. It’s more like a follow–the–crowd “herd mentality” that Texans find so offensive . The real people trying to “mess with textbooks” are the NCSE power–brokers who don’t want students to hear the slightest hint that evolution might have weaknesses.
Have Texans been hoodwinked? I don’t think so. According to a Zogby poll, the vast majority of Texans (75%) support revision of the biology textbooks, believing that “the state board of education should approve biology textbooks that teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it.”2
The NCSE isn’t interested in the wishes of the people (that the state board supposedly serves). It wants to railroad its views through the board.
At the same time, the NCSE—and its fawning brood—has caricatured its opponents, claiming that fanatics are trying to subvert good science and replace it with religious dogma. Nobel laureate Alfred Gilman, throwing his weight behind the NCSE effort, wrote an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News:
“I write on behalf of 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences and/or the Institute of Medicine; four of us are Nobel laureates. We all live and work in North Texas. We are speaking as individual scientists and clinicians, not as employees of any institution. …
“In the scientific community, the unanswered questions surrounding evolution concern not the fact of evolution but rather the mechanisms by which evolution operates.3 …
“If successful, [the campaign against adopting the 11 biology textbooks] would prevent the state’s students from being exposed to one of the most tested theories in science and would place them at a disadvantage in relation to their peers in most other states, where scientific approaches to evolution would continue to be taught. Without a basic knowledge of evolution, how could they begin to comprehend high school or college biology classes?”
Ironically, Gilmore cites two websites to support his claims: the NCSE and its “grassroots” ally, Texas Citizens for Science. So much for independent thinking.
In spite of the theatrics, the Texas textbook “controversy” is not a grand battle of ideas, weighing the relative merits of biblical creation and atheistic evolution. Such freedom of debate disappeared in the United States long ago, at least in the arena of education.
No, this non–controversy is about heavy–handed, pretentious evolutionists who want to impose their beliefs on public–school students, without any discussion of the merits of alternative views or the interests of parents.
Look at the simple request that stirred up this “controversy.” Concerned Texans didn’t request that the Bible’s history be taught in schools. They didn’t even ask for intelligent design to be included in textbooks. Nor did they, as Gilman suggests, want to keep students from knowing about evolution. All they wanted was accurate biology textbooks that give honest information for and against evolution, the belief system being promoted to answer the most important, difficult question of biology—where did we come from?
Publishers have until October 3 to suggest changes to their textbooks. But don’t expect any action. On 7 November, the Texas Board will make its final decision … and it’s a forgone conclusion.
The recent battles in Kansas, Ohio, Texas and other US States (see Q&A: Education) offer some hard lessons for those who want to halt evolution’s steamroller.
What have these political battles accomplished? Christians who oppose evolution have often downplayed the Bible and religion to win some political crumbs. Yet evolutionists see through the façade and mock the religious motivation behind these efforts (though they obstinately deny their own antibiblical motivation):
“Even though their [Discovery Institute and Texans for Better Science Education] arguments did not invoke religion, I think we all know what’s behind these arguments. They’re trying to protect religious beliefs from contradiction by science.
“They used to do it by prohibiting teachers from teaching evolution at all; then they wanted to teach intelligent design as an alternative theory; now they want the supposed ‘weaknesses’ in evolution pointed out.
“But it’s all the same program—it’s all an attempt to let religious ideas determine what is taught in science courses.”4
–Steven Weinberg, Professor of Physics at University of Texas–Austin and a Nobel laureate, testifying at the Texas Board of Education public hearing on 10 September
Sadly, the attitude “leave the Bible out of it” has eliminated Christians” greatest ally—God’s Word itself. This is not a debate about science and religion, but about choosing the right starting point to study history that cannot be observed or tested (see Part 2: Culture Wars: Ham vs Bacon).
But what chance does the church have to convince educators and politicians, when the church is divided against itself? Evolutionists are having a field–day. Why should anyone listen to the Christians” alternative views of creation, when so many Christian leaders openly reject the Bible’s straightforward teaching, accepting millions of years of death and suffering before Adam?
The battle for our culture goes far beyond “evolution.” It’s a battle over the authority of God’s Word, founded in the history in Genesis. It’s not enough to “disprove” Darwinian evolution and to plead for some mysterious “designer” who did his marvelous work over millions of years.
The Bible leaves no doubt that the Creator God of Genesis made everything “very good” in six, 24–hour days, Adam and Eve were created at “the beginning of the creation” (Mark 10:6) and death came after Adam’s sin. Until Christians are willing to defend this plain truth of the Bible, as it stands, and reject “millions of years” that blatantly contradict the Bible, what good can they accomplish in educational politics (see The common factor)?
The solution is for the church to do some “housecleaning.” Christianity needs a new reformation, as in the days of Martin Luther. The goal of Answers in Genesis is to hold a mirror up to the church, to help it see how far it has moved from its biblical foundations. Once Christians understand the root problems and stand up for the authority of God’s Word, beginning with Genesis, then they can effectively challenge the culture with the gospel and a biblical worldview.
That’s the message that AiG is taking to churches around the world. That’s what we believe our role is in the “textbook debate.” Just this weekend (4 October) at a “Reclaiming the Culture” conference in Fort Worth, Texas, AiG–US president Ken Ham will team with evangelist Ray Comfort and actor/speaker Kirk Cameron to challenge the church with this message.
Want to change education or politics in your country? It begins one heart, one community, one state, at a time!
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