SAN ANTONIO - Responding to suggestions from a group that critics say advocates the teaching of creation theory, a publisher has made changes in a biology textbook being considered for Texas schools.
Critics accused publisher Holt, Rinehart & Winston of caving in to pressure from special interests and conservatives on the state Board of Education.
The Discovery Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Seattle, argued at a Board of Education hearing in July that alternatives to commonly accepted theories of evolution should be included in the textbook to comply with a state requirement that students analyze competing ideas.
Some board members were sympathetic to the group's views.
The Texas Education Agency disclosed Wednesday that Hold, Rinehart & Winston had submitted changes in its biology textbook, the San Antonio Express-News reported in its Friday editions.
"Rather than stand up for keeping good science standards in textbooks, Holt Rinehart has compromised the education of Texas students," said Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that monitors the religious right.
The network singled out a passage directing students to "study hypotheses for the origin of life that are alternatives" to others posed in the book. Students also are encouraged to research alternative theories on the Internet.
Richard Blake, a spokesman for the publisher, said the changes responded to valid scientific arguments.
"Publishers are obligated to respond to comments without considering where they come from," Blake said. "We see these as minor changes and clarifications and certainly nothing that challenges the role of evolution."
The Discovery Institute has led a movement on the "intelligent design theory" - a belief that species did not evolve by natural selection but instead progressed according to a plan or design.
Bruce Chapman, president of the institute, said he supports teaching intelligent design. But he said suggestions for changes in the book only pointed out scientific errors.
While those who favor intelligent design want to offer it as an alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, critics want to keep the idea out of biology textbooks. They say the theory is nothing more than a dressed-up version of creation science, which the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited from public schools as a violation of the separation of church and state.
Because Texas is the second largest textbook market in the country, changes made by publishers here often influence textbooks nationally.
The elected Board of Education has no control over textbook content but can reject books because of errors or failure to follow the state curriculum, which is mandated by the Legislature. The board will make its final decision on the biology textbooks in November.
Another public hearing is planned for September. Publishers must submit final changes by Oct. 3.
File Date: 08.11.03