My report yesterday that the Texas School Board had approved every submitted biology textbooks (a report I got from the Texas Freedom Network) was inaccurate, as noted by biologist and textbook author Ken Miller in a comment on yesterday’s post. As he noted:
Jerry, unfortunately your column is not quite true. One textbook was held up by the Board, and has still not been approved. Guess which one?
I knew the answer from his note, of course, but he supplied the link from the New York Times: “Texas education board flags biology textbook over evolution concerns.“
The book is, of course, one of which Miller is an author. It’s a very good book, and one of the most popular in the U.S. And it’s been held up because it contains supposedly questionable stuff about—evolution.
On Friday, the state board, which includes several members who hold creationist views, voted to recommend 14 textbooks in biology and environmental science. But its approval of “Biology,” a highly regarded textbook by Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, and Joseph S. Levine, a science journalist, and published by Pearson Education, was contingent upon an expert panel determining whether any corrections are warranted. Until the panel rules on the alleged errors, Pearson will not be able to market its book as approved by the board to school districts in Texas.
What were the “errors”? As expected, they were picked out by a creationist who has no formal training in biology:
The alleged errors that will be reviewed by the new expert panel were cited by Ide P. Trotter, a chemical engineer and financial adviser who is listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the website of the Creation Science Hall of Fame and was on a textbook review panel that evaluated Dr. Miller and Mr. Levine’s “Biology” last summer. Mr. Trotter raised numerous questions about the book’s sections on evolution.
“I think I did a pretty good review, modestly speaking,” said Mr. Trotter, speaking from his home in Duncanville, a suburb of Dallas. He said Dr. Miller and Mr. Levine’s textbook “gives a misleading impression that we have a fairly close understanding of how random processes could lead to us.” He added, “If it were honest, it would say this is how we are looking at it, and these are the complexities that we don’t understand.”
Here’s the info on Trotter that I published in a previous post:
- Ide Trotter is a longtime standard-bearer for the creationist movement in Texas, both as a source of funding and as a spokesperson for the absurdly named creationist group Texans for Better Science Education. Trotter, listed as a “Darwin Skeptic” on the Creation Science Hall of Fame website, is a veteran of the evolution wars at the SBOE and is participating the biology review panel meetings this week. He testified before the board during the 2003 biology textbook adoption and again in 2009 during the science curriculum adoption. In both instances, Trotter advocated including scientifically discredited “weaknesses” of evolution in Texas science classrooms.
The Times continues:
Ronald Wetherington, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Southern Methodist University who has already looked over Mr. Trotter’s complaints, described them as “non sequiturs and irrelevant.”
“It was simply a morass of pseudoscientific objections,” Dr. Wetherington said.
It’s a sad day when a yahoo like Trotter can hold up the dissemination of a superb textbook in biology. Knowing Miller and Levine, I am sure the stuff on evolution is solid, and the school board, lacking expertise in biology, simply couldn’t adjudicate Trotter’s complaints and fobbed them off on a committee.
It is an embarrassment to both the U.S. and, especially, Texas, that out of eleven people chosen to vet biology textbooks for the state, six of them—more than half!—were creationists like trotter. No other First World country would do anything like this. I hope Pearson refuses to yield and make corrections, and that the “panel of experts”—I don’t know who they are—will find the creationist objections unfounded.
Miller and I have had our differences over accommodationism, but I’m with him 100% on this issue, and on keeping the material in his text. I’m sure he has to keep quiet about his own feelings until this issue is resolved, but we know from his other books that he has no truck with creationism.