On Darwinism

Texas board moves closer to new science standards

AUSTIN, Texas — The State Board of Education moved a step closer to dropping a 20-year-old science curriculum requirement that critics say is used to undermine the theory of evolution.

After two days of heated debate, the board made a key vote Friday in favor of dropping a mandate that teachers address both “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theory.

A panel of science teachers had recommended that the language be dropped, suggesting instead that students be required to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations.

The new standards the board ultimately approves — a final vote on the curriculum proposal is not expected until March — will be in place for the next decade. They also will dictate how publishers handle the topic of evolution in textbooks.

Critics of the “weaknesses” language argue that watering down the teaching standards of origin of man is an attempt to promote creationism in public schools.

Federal courts have ruled against forcing the teaching of creationism and intelligent design.

Critics of the proposal to drop the mandate blame “left-wing ideology” for trying to stifle free speech.

A narrower requirement, adopted in an unexpected amendment Thursday, would require high school biology students to address the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of common ancestry to explain certain aspects of evolutionary theory.

I was just reading an in-depth article on Darwin in Smithsonian Magazine while I had the current issue of the Houston Chronicle on my lap with the above-quoted article on the front page. Apparently Texas is somewhat behind in the scientific world (no surprise, really), but we are getting there, if slowly.

The article on Darwin, if you have a chance to read, it is absolutely fascinating from a purely historical perspective, at the very least, but it also delves into the more recent discoveries that Darwin (along with Mendel, also discussed) planted the seed for with his theories.

Born in 1809, Charles Darwin was born in England to a well-off family of social progressives who were active in supporting the anti-slavery movement. A new book suggests that this background helped influence his scientific interest in the subject of evolution – his hypothesis being that the various human races were not fundamentally separate, a notion that many would do well to remember even now. For more, look for Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond.

Also in the news this week: what you feed your toddler can change his or her genes! Eek!

A new study by the University of Calgary, suggests that a high fat diet can actually affect a child’s genes and influence later obesity, by permanently changing how those genes react to certain diets. You can read more here. I wonder, what would Darwin think about that?

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