The seemingly endless attempts by certain elements of America to caveat the teaching of evolution continued last week. As we noted:
Half of Texas’s Board of Education voted [Thursday] to support the teaching of “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution in high school classrooms. But because the vote was a tie, an earlier decision to leave out the evolution-doubting component stands.
Then on Friday, The Dallas Morning News notes, “social conservatives lost another skirmish over evolution”:
In identical 8-7 votes, board members removed two sections written by Chairman Don McLeroy that would have required students in high school biology classes to study the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of common ancestry and natural selection of species. Both are key principles of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
However the board also voted to encourage scrutiny of “all sides” of scientific theories. This didn’t go down well with Eugenie Scott, executive director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, who said, “I think we’ve seen some classic examples of politics interfering with science education.” (AP.)
Also, as the Bad Astronomy blog points out, “The far-right Republicans on the Board were not finished. They put in language to weaken the Big Bang theory, saying that there are different estimates for the age of the Universe.”
So everyone can claim they won, or they lost, depending on how they want to spin it.
In Newsweek Christopher Hitchens says proposes a compromise: school debating societies should restage the famous debates between Thomas ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, as well as the Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ in Dayton. Time should also be set aside for children to learn all creation stories, he says, “from the Hindu to the Muslim to the Australian Aboriginal”. In return, Texas churches should teach “the “strengths and weaknesses” of the religious world view”.
“This is America,” writes Hitchens. “Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a thousand schools of thought contend. We may one day have cause to be grateful to the Texas Board of Education for lighting a candle that cannot be put out.”
Image: Texas state flag / via wikipedia