Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Texas debates intelligent design

Transcript of today's show:

Last month's resignation of the Texas state science curriculum director has ignited a highly charged and politicized debate over the teaching evolution in the state's schools, which come up for state-wide review In January. Most members of the State Board of Education, including the chairman, have said publicly they don't want to introduce intelligent design into the curriculum, and many of them also have said they want to keep the current language on evolution. To some, this exercise could turn into a pivotal opportunity for change. Even small changes in the language could mean big changes in textbooks later on. "Emphatically, we are not trying to 'take evolution out of the schools,'" said Mark Ramsey of Texans for Better Science Education, which wants schools to teach about weaknesses in evolution. "All good educators know that when students are taught both sides of an issue such as biologic evolution, they understand each side better. What are the Darwinists afraid of?"

[source: The Dallas Morning News]

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from an editorial published in the San Antonio Express-News:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released the results of a test that assesses science and math skills of students in 30 industrialized countries. The results showed American students scored in the bottom half — worse than their peers from 16 other countries, and better than only those from Italy, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and Mexico.

U.S. students do not reach "the baseline level of achievement ... at which students begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology," the report says. The comparative results for math were even worse.

Many explanations exist for the lagging performance in science by American students. One that cannot be avoided is that some of the adults who are responsible for their science educations don't take science seriously enough.

Do Texans truly want their educators to be neutral on the teaching of religious faith versus science in schools? If so, then the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency are well on their way to making students in Italy, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and Mexico feel proud. [read full editorial]

from Eric Berger of the SciGuy Blog:
The state's science curriculum director, Chris Comer, recently resigned from the Texas Education Agency as part of a flap surrounding her endorsement of a lecture by Barbara Forrest, a critic of the intelligent design movement. We peripherally discussed the issue here.

Now biologists from the state's leading universities have taken to the defense of Comer, saying it's ridiculous that she was essentially fired for not adhering to the TEA's policy of remaining neutral on the issue of evolution versus intelligent design.

There should be no neutrality on an issue that is scientifically and legally clear-cut, they write. Evolution should be taught at the K-12 as it is in universities, they say, and the TEA should work to bolster evolution education in Texas rather than undermining it. [read full blog post]

from a news report by Rod Rose, published in Texas' Mineral Wells Index:

The Texas Education Board has taken a significant action to protect the American public from the horrors of scientific knowledge..... Next year, the state of Texas will choose new science textbooks. With California and New York, Texas is the largest single buyer of public school textbooks. Because of their buying clout, those states can influence what is said in those texts.

If Texas tells a publisher it wants creationism in a biology textbook, it will probably get books that espouse creationism as a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution — because publishing is a for-profit business.

The United States faces critical scientific challenges in the next few years. The solutions to those challenges cannot be based solely on the philosophy that “it’s in God’s hands.”

If any religion ever scientifically proves the existence of God, then science classes should include that proof. Until then, the existence of God is a matter of faith.

Faith may move mountains, but it can’t be grown in a petri dish.

[read full article]