The Missing Piece in Coverage of Texas Evolution Controversies

Once again, there's a dust-up going on over whether students in Texas should be taught about evolution in science class, or whether they should instead be told the lie that there is a scientific "controversy" about whether evolution has taken place, or perhaps be told nothing at all about it, or be told the biblical version of creation. But beyond the obvious, there's something bugging me about this.

The current round is about science textbooks, and there's a story you've heard before, which goes like this: Texas is a huge market for textbooks, so big that whatever textbooks get bought by Texas can affect the whole country. The Texas Board of Education appoints reviewers to recommend changes to proposed textbooks, and among these reviewers are a host of young-earth creationists who demand that discussion of evolution portray it as some kind of nutty idea with no empirical support. Then the textbooks get changed in this way, making students across the country just a little dumber.

All of which is true, and there are stories about this issue particularly when they have public hearings on the topic, at which Texas-based scientists beg the Board not to do what it's doing, while fundamentalists (some of whom sit on the Board) decry the influence of godlessness upon our youth.

So here's the missing piece: what about the textbook companies? When this issue is discussed, the publishers are talked about as if they have no agency, no ability to affect the outcome of these events. But they're morally culpable for participating in these farces. If they wanted, they could stand up to the state of Texas. So how can the people who work at a publisher in good conscience agree to write a biology textbook that treats evolution as a wild, unsupported idea? What if the Texas Board of Education demanded that their books discuss the "controversy" about whether the Earth travels around the sun or vice-versa, or the "controversy" about whether earthquakes happen because the turtle on whose back the world sits is scratching an itch, or the "controversy" about whether stars are actually faeries winking at us from up in the sky? Would the publishers say, "OK, if that's what you want, we'll write it and print it"? Someone should ask them where they draw the line on their integrity.

Of course, there's big money at stake. But surely there's some level of deception aimed at children that the textbook publishers wouldn't be able to live with themselves for propagating. I wonder where it is.

Comments

As an editor, writer, and former bookseller, I am so glad you said this out loud. I've been wondering this for years. All these publisher weasels going along because otherwise a competitor will get the lucrative contract? Gag.

When it comes to SCIENCE, my allegiance is 100% to the SCIENTIFIC METHOD, and 0% to RELIGION or ACADEMIC CONSENSUS or ACADEMIC FIATS. SCIENCE is, by definition, a body of knowledge that has been established by the SCIENTIFIC METHOD.

The following TWO BASIC HYPOTHESES of Darwinian Evolution have NOT yet been established by precise, repeatable experiments as demanded by the SCIENTIFIC METHOD:

HYPOTHESIS #1: Life-less matter with NO Genome, was somehow TRANSFORMED into a living single-cell organism with a Genome.*

HYPOTHESIS #2: Single-cell organisms somehow EVOLVED into a multi-celled organism.**

When these two Basic Hypotheses are established by means of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD, I will 100% accept Darwinian Evolution as SCIENCE.

Sincerely,
Joseph Allen Kozuh, Ph.D.
Austin, Texas
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* Nobel Laureate FRANCIS CRICK, the co-discoverer of DNA, after spending more than 40 years trying to prove this Hypothesis, eventually rejected it as ... UTTERLY IMPOSSIBLE ... !!!

** Nobel Laureate WERNER ARBER, a Swiss micro-biologist, has spent more than 50 years of his life, documenting the cumulative effects of MUTATIONS on thousands upon thousands of generations of single-cell organisms. Thus far, Werner Arber reports that he has found ... NO MECHANISM ... that would enable a single-cell organism to evolve into a multi-cell organism.

It would be nice if you were a scientist, but you are just a troll pushing the Creationist viewpoint. Your understanding of science is marginal at best and fully ignorant in all likelihood. Science has explored primordial evolution or Abiogenesis and demonstrated that organic compounds can develop from inorganic materials. What you REALLY need to think about is that religion is entirely false. People believe what those around them inculcate - people in different parts of the world believe considerably different, and in some cases such as Scientology, incredibly laughable ideas. That makes the case for viewing religion as a social artifact with no empirical base. Religion is for people who either can not or will not do the homework to examine evidence and reject the poorly formed opinions of others.

I am a science editor at one of the big publishers you are calling out, and I am here to tell you that you are misinformed about how Texas impacts what other states can expect to see or purchase from educational publishers. It may have been true years ago—which is probably why you treat it as a given—but these days publishing is all about customization. That means Texas gets Texas versions of traditional textbooks and of the newer digital content, while other states either get their own versions of those products or they buy national versions. In other words, even if some folks in Texas were to succeed in getting publishers to produce products that paint evolution as an unsupported hypothesis, no other states in the country would be forced to have those products in their schools; they would get their own versions, or they would get the national version. In this way, what happens in Texas stays in Texas.

Wow, this Kozuh, Ph.D guy just won't go away. I googled him and found him (http://www.utexas.edu/news/2010/06/09/lambowitz_cyanobacterium/ ) saying basically the same thing about Werner Arber in another blog back in summer 2010. Another responder tried to set him straight: " Dr. Kozuh, allow me to be the first to suggest you're not a biologist of any kind, are you? It's evident from your argument from authority -- pulling in a Nobel laureate -- and it's a tired old error in reasoning.

Not only that, but he doesn't even agree with you. Take this letter Arber wrote to the Institute for Creation Research, taking them to task for misrepresenting his findings and conclusions:

Here's a choice bit: "A number of citations are taken out of their original context and surrounded by comments and misinterpretations by the author of the article."

And another: "Serious scientific investigations can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God or a possible impact of God on evolutionary processes."

Now if you'd kindly go away, hopefully you've got honest research to do in your own field, where you won't get schooled by a layman."

As for HYPOTHESIS #1, your description, which is basically abiogenesis, is NOT part of evolution. Yes, the scientific method is preferable to all other methods of investigation, but it isn't always possible to go back in time (say a few billion years) to see if abiogenesis is indeed the way life came from inanimate matter. But we can experiment and see if it's possible with certain laboratory conditions today. Even if we can "create life from non-life" today, it doesn't prove that that is how it was done billions of years ago, it simply shows that it was possible and that a creator was unnecessary.

Even if all of the details in Evolution by Natural Selection haven't been worked out, what we have worked out so far not only agrees with everything that we see in nature, but we can use it to predict how drug treatments and other medical procedures will work, how to grow crops more effectively, breed better cattle, save endangered species, etc. Show me another theory explaining the diversity of lfe that is so useful.

And as soon as you can use the scientific method to show that another theory explains evolution better than Natural Selection, feel free to publish and accept your Nobel Prize. But if your intent is to say, "Science can't prove it, so God did it", go back to college and get your Ph.D. in Biology.

I wonder what Crick would say today given that science (unlike religion) continues to learn more and more and the understanding of evolution has grown. Being able to point to a few scientists does NOT make a case against a scientific theory. By the time scientists consider a body of knowledge comprehensive enough to be considered a Theory (in the scientific sense like the theory of gravity) it goes well beyond the ability of a single scientist to dispel it with a few comments of doubt.
The fact that you believe that it is meaningful to make the point that a scientist like Arber would state "...NO MECHANISM ... that would enable a single-cell organism to evolve into a multi-cell organism" shows your (and his if the quote is correct) ignorance of evolution. Organisms don't evolve. Populations evolve.
Your fundamental lack of understanding of the scientific method and its application to the development of the theory of evolution speaks volumes.

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