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.

You may also like