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Texas wades into evolution debate at textbook hearing

Sept. 18, 2013 at 4:23 PM   |   Comments

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Scientists reviewing biology textbooks urged Texas education officials not to use books questioning evolution lest the state become a "national embarrassment."

Religious conservatives have pressed the state to approve texts that water down evolutionary science and include references to creationism.

Texas, the nation's single largest textbook purchaser, has significant influence over the content textbook publishers use across the country. The debate over whether to include references to creationism as a scientific -- rather than religious -- alternative in explaining how humans came into being drew sharp rebukes from a panel of experts board members tapped to review the 14 potential biology books the state could approve, the Dallas Morning News said Tuesday.

Southern Methodist University anthropology Professor Ronald Wetherington was one of the panelists who reviewed the books and said teaching creationism as a rational counter-argument to Darwin's bedrock theory of evolution would be teaching children junk science.

Wetherington said efforts by creationists to press the textbooks to undermine evolution expose the scientific flaws in the creationist argument.

"Their arguments [against evolution] often expose an ignorance of the very materials they are attempting to review," he said. "I ask you to not let Texas once again become a national embarrassment."

Former Texas Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who believes the Bible's creation story to be literally true -- and who also thinks the Earth is only a few thousand years old -- said Darwin's evolutionary theory is "unsubstantiated."

"The evidence for evolution in these books is incredibly weak. And if there is no evidence, there is no evolution," McLeroy said.

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