It remains the only state where biology textbooks carry a disclaimer Creationists claimed a partial victory yesterday as Alabama maintained its distinction of being the only state where biology textbooks carry a sticker warning students that evolution is a "controversial theory" they should question.
At the urging of the Christian Coalition and the Eagle Forum, the Alabama Board of Education voted without dissent to include the disclaimer on the front of 40,000 new biology textbooks that public school students will use for the next six years, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The board's uneventful decision was in stark contrast to 1996, when there was plenty of debate on the matter. At a board meeting to approve the original disclaimer, then-Gov. Fob James impersonated an ape to mock Darwin's theory, the AP said.
The earlier sticker included questions students should ask about evolution, such as: "Why do major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record?" John Giles, state president of the Christian Coalition, said the new sticker was not as strong as the old one, but he had been concerned that the board might drop the warning entirely.
The new stickers will say, in part, that evolution is "a controversial theory...Instructional material associated with controversy should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." Giles said that the revised warning "does provoke the child to think through the process."
Evolution proponents, though, decried the disclaimer's renewal, the AP reported. Eric Meikle, outreach director of the National Center of Science Education, said: "It's definitely a negative in people's view of education in the state."
Meikle added that the teaching of evolution had been an issue in several states, but no other state used a disclaimer sticker on textbooks statewide. Other states where school boards have tried to de-emphasize evolutionary concepts include Arizona, Kansas, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska.
Earlier this year, the Kansas Board of Education voted to restore the teaching of evolution as a central theory in science classes. The decision came 18 months after the board caused a controversy by voting to omit references to many evolutionary concepts in the science curriculum, the AP said.
Elsewhere, the Texas Board of Education yesterday tentatively rejected two of three high school environmental science textbooks after Christian conservatives criticized them for presenting an extreme environmentalist view, "The Houston Chronicle" reported.
The board's 10 Republicans voted in favor of a motion to reject the textbooks, and the five Democrats opposed the motion. During a heated four-hour hearing, many of the speakers criticized the books for being "anti-capitalist and anti-Christian," the "Chronicle" reported.
One book blames Christianity, democracy and industrialization for environmental degradation, speakers said. Some compared the debate to controversies over how biology books should address evolution. "Today's vote was a victory for Texas schoolchildren, and for patriotism, democracy and free enterprise," said Peggy Venable, director of the 48,000-member Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, a conservative organization. "The [board] sent a strong message to textbook publishers that Texas students deserve quality materials free from activist agendas."