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Evolution Survives Vote in Texas

26 March 2009 1:37 pm
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A new attempt to weaken the teaching of evolution in Texas failed this morning. Science standards under consideration by the Texas Board of Education will not contain existing language that has required teachers to teach both the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.

“We are elated,” Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education told ScienceInsider from Austin, where she has been lobbying board members during their final deliberations on the new science standards. 

The voting was on an amendment supported by creationists that would have reintroduced the “strengths and weaknesses” language into the proposed standards. There were seven votes cast in favor of it and seven against, meaning that the amendment narrowly failed to pass. The result was identical to an earlier, penultimate vote taken in January.

“Some of the moderates on the board were under a great deal of pressure to change their vote today,” Scott says. But a sustained campaign by scientists and educators appears to have clinched a victory. For example, Scott says, community leaders recently took out full-page ads in the San Antonio papers urging the board to “do the right thing.” The pressure may have been instrumental in persuading Rick Agosto, San Antonio’s representative on the board and a swing voter, to “stick with the moderates.”

Scientists warn that the battle over the proposed standards isn’t over yet. In January, creationist members succeeded in inserting a few amendments designed to dilute the teaching of evolution, including language skeptical of common descent. The board is expected to vote on those amendments later this afternoon and tomorrow.

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