Disco Spin

As part of their "Academic Freedom" initiative, the Discovery Institute has been on a crusade over the past year to require the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory of evolution be taught in school. According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE),
In 2003, the "strengths and weaknesses" language was selectively applied by members of the board attempting to dilute the treatment of evolution in the biology textbooks then under consideration, and so it was clear that the "strengths and weaknesses" language would be a matter of contention when the standards were next revised.
A vote on the "strengths and weaknesses" language was held yesterday and, by a one vote margin, was defeated. Another vote is planned for today so the outcome is not yet certain, but it is interesting to see how the Discovery Institute, for whom this is nothing less than an abject failure, is spinning the results in a press release:

"The Texas Board of Education took one step back and two steps forward today," said Dr. John West of the Discovery Institute. "While we wish they would have retained the strengths and weaknesses language in the overall standards, they did something truly remarkable today. They voted to require students to analyze and evaluate some of the most important and controversial aspects of modern evolutionary theory such as the fossil record, universal common descent and even natural selection."

See what they did there? They made it look like a win for them when in fact science education is all about "analyzing and evaluating scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing." Dr. West is trying to put on a good face about this and, to his credit, he did call the vote "something truly remarkable". But it's a painful rebuke of the Discovery Institute. Just look at the nice document (pdf warn) they put together to promote "strengths and weakness" language...all for naught.

Still, as I said, there are more votes on the issue so we're not out of the woods yet.

For a detailed account of how the voting went down, check Steve Schaferman's live-blog of the Texas State Board of Education Meeting. It's really very well done. If the link doesn't work, check the homepage of the Houston Chronicle...they should have a direct link there.

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