Now a battle looms in Texas over science textbooks that teach evolution, and the wrestle for control seizes on three words. None of them are “creationism” or “intelligent design” or even “creator.”
The words are “strengths and weaknesses.”
Starting this summer, the state education board will determine the curriculum for the next decade and decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.
Already, legislators in a half-dozen states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina — have tried to require that classrooms be open to “views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory,” according to a petition from the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based strategic center of the intelligent design movement.
After the fiasco that was Dover, one wonders how successful these movements will be. There is still funny business going on, though:
The chairman of the state education board, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist in Central Texas, denies that the phrase “is subterfuge for bringing in creationism.”
That is nothing short of malarkey. Teaching "strengths and weaknesses" has been applied only to evolutionary theory because people don't like evolution. If this were an honest effort, that language would be applied to other theoretical constructs that we teach in science class, such as germ theory, gravitational theory and quantum theory. To say that evolution has not been singled out is deceptive at best and lying at worst.
Here is how the Discovery Institute replies:
The central premise that teaching "strengths and weaknesses" of Darwin's theory (and chemical origin of life theories) is a new, post-Dover innovation is flagrantly false.
That this is false can be proven with only a minimal amount of research, which makes it so much more surprising that Beil would blindly follow the assertions of the NCSE and others without bothering to call the people they're attacking – Discovery Institute and Texans for Better Science Education.
Here's the problem: Ms. Beil doesn't say that it is new. She clearly says:
The “strengths and weaknesses” language was slipped into the curriculum standards in Texas to appease creationists when the State Board of Education first mandated the teaching of evolution in the late 1980s. It has had little effect because evolution skeptics have not had enough power on the education board to win the argument that textbooks do not adequately cover the weaknesses of evolution.
The rest of the piece is devoted to arguing that the notion of teaching strengths and weaknesses is not new, something Ms. Beil never said. Beyond that, in typical DI fashion, there is no substance to the piece. Oops. screwed that one up.