The State Board of Education in Austin gave final approval to 11 biology books by an 11-4 vote concluding that there’s not enough evidence to support weaknesses of evolutionary theory.
This would have great impact on curriculum nationwide as Texas being the second-largest buyer of school textbooks.
The 11-4 vote came after months of controversy about how origin of life must be taught in public schools. It was in 1987 that US Supreme Court ruled not to teach creationism as part of studying origin of life.
Activists who wanted to present evolution as merely a theory pushed to include discussion of creationism called “intelligent design” – that there is a designer of creation in textbooks. But many disagreed on this idea, who thought only presenting weaknesses of evolution is not scientific enough of approach.
Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, commended the board's decision.
"The voices of the science community have been loud and unified," she said. "This is not a theory. There's no question about whether evolution exists at all."
Supporters of the books, however, said the changes sought by the critics would have weakened scientific education.
"We've sent a strong message that Texas does have high science standards," said David Hillis, a biology professor at the University of Texas.
And Steve Lucas, pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin, said he represented 100 religious leaders who believe "the pursuit of scientific understanding does not threaten religious faith in any way."
"Too often in the past, we believe, a few loud strident voices of extremism have been allowed to dominate the discussion around biology textbooks," said Lucas.
One of the most prominent promoters of “intelligent designer” is molecular biologist Jonathan Wells who is a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. His book "Icons of Evolution" takes biology textbook publishers to task for the alleged "mythology, falsehoods and hoaxes" within today's scientific circles that "pass for evidence of Darwinian evolution."
His book takes on 10 of the most prominent arguments neo-Darwinists use as examples of evidence for evolution and claims to show how each is misrepresented and misused to support Darwin's theory of naturalism.
"Dogmatic Darwinists claim that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," Wells says. "Then they misrepresent the evidence to promote their view. The truth is, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evidence."
A Texas grass-roots group opposing the proposed books is circulating a petition that urges the Board of Education to take a stand "against efforts to censor scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory."
More than 3,500 people have signed the petition, organized by Texans for Better Science Education.
The group says it has documented dozens of factual errors about evolutionary theory in textbooks.
More than 500 educators and students are among the signers, along with hundreds of scientists, businessmen, lawyers, medical doctors and engineers.
The petition's full statement reads: "I agree that both scientific strengths and weaknesses in the theories and hypotheses relating to chemical and biological evolution should be taught and that known errors should be either fully exposed and examined or else be removed from the textbooks completely."
As one of the largest consumers of textbooks, Texas frequently is a battleground for ideological differences. The State Board of Education was sued last week over its 2001 rejection of an environmental science book after critics complained it was extreme and anti-American.
Last year, publishers responded to criticism of history books by changing references to the Ice Age and other events occurring "millions of years ago" to read "in the distant past."