The Good Fight: Biology textbook calls Creationism a Myth – Student’s Father Protests Biased Text


 

***UPDATE***

I urge you to politely email the respective members of the Knox County BOE to express your concerns about this biased textbook. There can be no doubt that such a textbook, teaching that a core tenet of traditional Judeo-Christian doctrine is a prescientific myth, violates the Establishment Clause. They will vote on the Zimmerman textbook appeal on May 5, 2010. Visit http://board.knoxschools.org/modules/groups/integrated_home.phtml?gid=500078&sessionid=4c30493d0b1b9199fa1c31eadc2d225d to email each one!

Also: Know what you’re talking about.

Initially, Ms. Carson proposed an amendment to the main motion, seconded by Vice Chair Deakins, to uphold the recommendation of the Review Committee [ie. not to ban the offensive textbook] and provide the Evolution Addenda [which clarifiies the criticisms of evolution and does a nice job of noting some Creationist distictions [macro/micro evolution, for example] but would not negate the stigma of Biblical Creationism being dubbed a myth as the term is generally taken] to Knox County Schools Honors Biology teachers. After discussion, Ms. Carson revised the amendment, with Mr. Deakins’ approval, to add to the main motion” and to provide the Evolution Addenda to Knox County Schools teachers of Honors Biology, subject to review of the Knox County Schools Science curriculum staff”. This latter addition may have been what caused the motion to fail. I’m sure opponents of the biased textbook would have seen the potential here for this proposed review as a way of burying the issue quietly while keeping the textbook after all. I know from listening to the Knox Co BOE’s podcast that Mr Anderson felt an Addenda was inadequate and that the textbook was biased and should be rejected. Only Ms Carson, Vice Chair Deakins and Mr Bratton voted for this proposed ammendment approving the book but adding a possible Addenda pending review.

According to the minutes of the April 7, 2010 Knox Co BOE meeting, Ms. Buttry made a substitute motion, seconded by Mr. Richmond, NOT to uphold the recommendation of the Textbook Review Committee and have the textbook banned from Knox County Schools. [Yes!] Dr Murphy objected, feeling that it would be almost impossible to find textbooks without offense and that it was a slippery slope to approve textbooks based on whether someone would be offended by them. It should be mentioned that banning this biased book would effect the market. Also, Dr Murphy should be taking the Establishment Clause into account here. BOE Superintendent McIntyre urged the Board to “honor the process” and approve the Textbook Committee’s decision to keep the textbook despite the appeal. Mr Bratton responded that the Board was a part of that process, that the Committee’s defense of the textbook was, well, weak and that the textbook was arguably biased. After this bit of  discussion, Chair Kincannon exercised her right to delay voting on the issue for 30 days, noting that the Committee was not present to cross-examine [an understandable concern considering Mr Bratton has characterized their defense of the book, again, as weak.  Honestly, I’ve thought about it and this matter does beg for heads to meditate on the right course of action here. Again, this biology textbook goes out of its way to convince students that a core tenet of traditional Judeo-Christian doctrine is a prescientific myth, and I can’t help but feel this is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. I do worry that this move on the Madame Chair’s part was planned beforehand if the matter began to go contrary to Dr McIntyre’s stated desires that the Committee’s decision be approved despite the appeal. I hope this is not the case, but I really don’t know the politics of the Knox Co BOE. I think that Dr McIntyre’s comments, that the Board should “honor the process” meaning that the Committee’s decision should be honored, are unfortunate. The way he phrased his desires has the effect of marginalizing the appeal process by possibly setting up a precedent of favoring the Textbook Committee. In any case, I feel a cross-examination of the Textbook Review Committee will only confirm Mr Bratton’s conclusions.

-Rev Tony

A concerned Tennessee father has asked that an elective biology textbook be removed from Knox County schools because it calls Creationism a “biblical myth.” Kurt Zimmermann’s request was originally denied, but he has since appealed that decision. The matter is due to be decided on May 5, 2010. You can view the county’s review of the textbook here: AskingAboutLifeTextbookReview

I’ve outlined my concerns in an email to the Superintendent of the Knox County school system in the hopes that they will see that this textbook, “Asking About Life,” seeks not simply to convey information about evolution, but to actively convince the student that Creationism is false and evolution is true. It is unnecesarily inflammatory, incorrect on several accounts and goes beyond education to actively proselytizing for evolution while painting Creation science as an unscientific religious myth. I’ve written him because I feel this case has the potential to set precedent for similar cases where Creation science could be misrepresented or vilified by textbook publishers with an axe to grind.

Dr James P McIntyre Jr,
 
I wanted to take a moment of your time to address my concerns about the biology textbook, “Asking About Life.” I’m not a resident of your county or even your state, but the decision you make concerning this issue could set a rather bad precedent for the rest of us.
 
I shall be brief. I have 5 basic objections to the textbook in question:
 
1. The text book does refer to Creationism as a “biblical myth.” A few of the review committee members admitted in their comments that they saw the word “myth” in a negative fashion. Apparently, they opted to give the textbook publishers the benefit of the doubt; they propose that the publishers really meant the term “myth” in a neutral fashion – and yet they did it for “shock value.” Even if it were intended thus, the children will take the term myth as it is most commonly applied in our society, as a falsehood. Certainly, atheist sites like Pharyngula are taking the term as denoting falsehood.
 
My next point will make it evident that the publishers did NOT intend the term “myth” to be taken neutrally.
 
2. The textbook refers to Creationists as “antievolutionists” and states explicitly that we are at war with science. In fact it explicitly states “But creation ‘science’ is not science.” In short, they dust off the old “religion versus science” chestnut and give it a veneer of authority – for all such opinions have the weight of authority when they come from our authorized textbooks. Creationists are not at war with science. Bible-affirming scientists like Dr Wernher von Braun [the fellow responsible for getting us to the moon] have always practiced normal, everyday science utilizing the Scientific Method – without the slightest need to affirm evolution. The Scientific Method itself is credited to a Bible-believing Christian, Sir Francis Bacon. We love science! We simply disagree with the theory of evolution.
 
In light of this heavyhanded portrayal of creationists as antiscience religion, it’s pretty clear the term myth wasn’t meant in any neutral fashion. The student is intended to see the truth evolution as having triumphed over creationist prescientific Just-So Stories. 
 
3. It inaccurately describes what Creationists affirm. The definition of Creation is given on page G-8: “The view of the origin of life that says that the Earth was created very recently and that each species was created individually.” Though a few reviewers opined that this definition was vague at best, they didn’t not note that it is inaccurate. Creationists don’t believe that each species was created individually. We believe that God created the animals and plants “after their kind” [which is more at the Family level on the Linnaean system] and that natural selection and speciation allows variation within these created kinds. Like Gregor Mendel, we believe this variation has great potential [just look at all the variety of the canine kind!] but has definite limits [so that a dog is still a dog and recognizably so, be it a wolf, English bulldog or a dachsund]. The erroneous definition of Creationism given in the book gives the impression that Creationists do not affirm horizontal change like speciation and natural selection, when in fact we do – we just don’t observe that these processes eventually result in vertical [phyletic] microbes-to-man evolution [viz dinosaurs to birds]. Dog breeders and horse breeders can affirm that there are limits to genetic potential.
 
4. The publishers also go out of their way to note that a letter by the presidents of Kansas’ 6 universities statesd “The argument that teaching evolution will destroy a student’s faith is no more true today than it was during the Scopes trial in 1925;” however it is is statistically demonstrable that kids who are taught evolution as scientific fact largely go on to reject religious truth wholesale. More information on these sad statistics are recorded in the attached pdf: evofactor
 
5. Since the textbook is [a] inflammatory toward the Christian faith, painting an erroneous image of Creationists as being an antiscience myth, [b] inaccurate in its definition of Creationism and would therefore cause a student to possibly reject Creationism [and even Christianity] through a incorrect understanding of what we propose, and [c] contains other inaccurate statements and a heavy-handed interpretation of the history of the creation/evolution controversy meant to convince the student of the accuracy of evolution and the falsity of biblical creation, one wonders why this book is even an option! Especially since it was decided [before the appeal] that an alternate text could be chosen if the student objected to this one for this class. Why make the offensive one the primary choice [or any choice] at all?? 
 
Given these points, I hope you’ll consider dropping this unnecessarily inflammatory textbook. It is clear that this book seeks not simply to impart information but to convince students of the truth of evolution over the myth of biblical creation.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration,
 
*Rev Tony Breeden
DefendingGenesis.org
Charleston, WV
I encourage my readers to likewise send a respectful email to Dr James P McIntyre Jr at knoxsuperintendent@k12tn.net expressing your own concerns about their up-coming decision.
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5 thoughts on “The Good Fight: Biology textbook calls Creationism a Myth – Student’s Father Protests Biased Text

  1. Dear Rev Tony Breeden,

    I am replying to your message just to say THANK YOU for your e-mail and your words of wisdom. My wife and I have three children in the Knox County Schools system two in Elementary school and one in college and this kind of scholastic teaching is the last thing we thought our children would be exposed to. I feel now we have to battle the school system to keep our children’s Christian upbringing from being compromised. We hope and pray that our elected people make the right Christian decision in this matter.
    Thank you,
    Mark Miles

  2. In scientific terms, it IS a myth, just like Hindu creation story et. al. Just because people believe it doesn’t make it an accepted scientific model.

    • Alex,

      “In scientific terms…’

      By this, I presume that you mean to beg the question of whether the Creation model is scientific and/or whether the evolution model is. You are correct in stating that just because people believe a creation story doesn’t make it an accepted scientific model, but neither is it disqualified for being a religious narrative, except arbitrarily and according to your presuppositional bias for the evolutionary creation storSuch dogma!y. And just because a scientific model isn’t accepted by a majority of scientists doesn’t make it invalid. Heliocentrism was accepted by a notable minority of scientists at one point in time – and the great consensus of science in that age were dead wrong!

      On another level, to compare the Biblical creation model with the Hindu creation model is simply hubris. Take a closer look at what you disagree with rather than simply giving a knee-jerk affirmation of evolution and a genralized denial of all competing theories. Such dogma! Pantheistic creation stories fail precisely because they cannot consistently and nonarbitrarily account for the uniformity of nature, as I have previously pointed out in Zeus? Jesus? the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Why the Biblical Creator is the Only Rational Possibility.

      [Sigh]. Let me put it to you another way, a way that might reveal your own biases to you: If the creation model is a myth in “scientific” terms, it is only because you conflate evolution with science and by virtue of that assumption denigrate all other models to pseudoscience and myth. But if the Biblical creation model is correct, it is evolution that deserves, along with Hindu and Roman creation stories, to be termed a myth in scientific terms. Which is precisely why your snarky little statement merely reveals your personal biases and, well, begs the question.

      Think about it,
      Sirius Knott

    • Anthony,

      Creationism is not a myth, despite what you’ve been told to believe in public schools. I have grown up; I even have four kids and a job to prove it. And Galileo looked like a fool for going against the grain, too… but he was still right.

      Think about it,
      -Sirius Knott

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