Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Asking About Life

Some people just think they have a right to decide what other people read, and no amount of education seems to dissuade them. In a separate but parallel track, some people believe that the scientific Theory of Evolution is bunk, and no amount of education seems to dissuade them. The two so easily combine it is hard to keep them apart.

So it is no surprise that the parent of a high school student in Tennessee's Knox County school system has challenged an honors biology textbook that touches on evolution. One would think that Free Speech law, related court precedents, the risk of public ridicule, and the failure of the vast majority of censorship attempts would have taught everyone not to waste their own time or anybody else's. Failing that, one would think that repeated court decisions against teaching creationism in public schools would scare people away from the topic altogether. But apparently not. The parent has asked the school system to drop the book from the curriculum.  

Asking About Life by Allan J. Tobin and Jennie Dusheck is an immense textbook (about 960 pages) that covers cell biology, genetics, the physical structures of plants and animals, and includes a section on Evolution.  The parent's complaint, as reported by knoxnews.com, is that the book is biased against Christianity in that it labels the Genesis creation story a "biblical myth."  The news article notes that "o
n page 319 of the text, the authors describe creationism as 'the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in 7 days.'" An extensive preview of the book is available on Google Books, and the book does indeed contain the quoted phrase, albeit on page 299 rather than 319 (that might just be a difference in editions; the 3rd is online). 
A story on wate.com quotes one former science teacher as telling the board "Evolution has no good science behind it. To put it forth as if it has a good scientific explanation is to deal in mythology," a rather tired argument at this late date. It might be a shock for some who are not yet mentally ready for the 21st Century to learn both that Evolution is on a sound scientific footing and that questioning Christian dogma is not a legitimate basis for dropping textbooks from public school curricula. 

A review committee apparently has recommended the retention of the book. The parent is appealing this decision, however, and the school board is expected to vote on the matter on Wednesday night.  

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