Thanks to Jeremy over at An Evolving Creation for alerting us to the latest in the debate over the Texas science standards.
As mentioned recently on this blog, a review panel has been appointed by the State Board of Education to review the changes proposed for the science (and especially biology) TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). In that blog entry, I mentioned the potential conflict of interest with two of the members of the review panel, Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke, who are authors of a high school biology textbook called “Explore Evolution”, known for being critical of evolutionary theory.
The Discovery Institute attempted to turn the tables on the Texas Freedom Network, who first reported this conflict of interest on the panel:
What the TFN doesn’t reveal is that another of the expert reviewers co-authored a one-sided, Darwin-only textbook! David Hillis, a biology professor at UT Austin co-authored the 2008 edition of Life: The Science of Biology, a textbook whose previous editions have been approved for use in Texas high schools.
We’ll let the ignorant “one-sided, Darwin only” statement go.
To the uninformed, the above quote might sound pretty damning. Combined with the next statements, one might reasonably question the Texas Freedom Network and their cries of outrage.
Hillis also serves as a spokesman for a pro-evolution lobbying group that is trying to remove language in the Texas science standards requiring students to study the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. Gerald Skoog, another expert reviewer, has signed a statement issued by the same pro-evolution group, and he too has been a science textbook author and has a long history as a pro-Darwin activist.
Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute certainly thinks the TFN is being hypocritical.
“If being a textbook author really is a ‘conflict of interest,’ then why isn’t TFN attacking Hillis and Skoog?” asked Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
Well, Casey, let’s tackle that question. Why ISN’T the TFN attacking Hillis and Skoog?
It’s pretty simple, really. Hillis’ book, Life: The Science of Biology, is a college-level book. It is not one of the books widely used in the state of Texas for teaching high school biology (that honor goes to Kenneth Miller’s and Joseph Levine’s Biology book). Hillis’ book is one book of several that can be used in a college-level high school biology class–in other words, an Advanced Placement class. The curriculum and standards for such classes are NOT set by the state of Texas. AP class standards are governed by the College Board. Thus, there is no conflict of interest where Hillis is concerned.
Furthermore, a brief search for textbooks written by Gerald Skoog reveals that the last one he co-authored appears to have been published in 1999. This book was titled, “Science Insights: Exploring Earth & Space“, and was a middle-school level textbook. Naturally, this would not be appropriate at the high school level. Again, there is no conflict of interest here.
Interestingly, the article from the Discovery Institute actually reveals another conflict of interest on their part:
Dr. Meyer is director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute…
Aha! Well of course the DI feels the need to defend Meyer against the allegations of the TFN! He’s one of theirs! Naturally, they must come to the rescue of Seelke as well, since he was involved in the Kansas evolution hearings which resulted in Kansas including anti-evolution standards in science curriculum–which we thankfully remind readers were overturned in 2007.