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Evolution texts survive in Louisiana

The theory of evolution has survived the latest attack in the struggle to insert creationism-flavored themes into science classrooms.

On Tuesday, a committee of Louisiana's school board recommended in a 6-to-1 vote that the state approve purchase of industry-standard textbooks on evolution, which have been attacked by Christian conservatives for failing to teach the "controversy" about evolution.

"That sent a strong signal from the Louisiana board of education that they want accurate science taught in the classrooms, and that publishers don't need to put in these creationists' critiques," Joshua Rosenau, the programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education, told me.


Today, the full board voted 8-2 to approve the recommendation.

The theory of evolution via natural selection isn't controversial within the scientific community. In fact, it forms the basis of modern biology. But anti-evolution activists, who believe that super-intelligent beings or forces shaped the world, argue that evolutionary concepts are full of holes.

Opponents of the standard biology textbooks, led by the Louisiana Family Forum, argue that they should include language encouraging students to think critically about human origins. The books "are biased and inaccurate when covering controversial scientific topics," the forum's president, Gene Mills, told The Times Picayune in New Orleans.

The debate over textbooks flared up after the 2005 defeat of the scientific-sounding intelligent design movement in the landmark case Kitzmiller v. Dover. Instead of teaching intelligent design alongside evolution, school boards are trying to write anti-evolution and creationist language into state science standards, Rosenau explained.

Texas did this last year, "which is worrisome because Texas buys so many textbooks. They are the largest single purchaser of textbooks in the Western Hemisphere, and publishers tend to look at the science standards as a guide," he said.

The Lone Star State was supposed to start purchases of new textbooks next year -- but because of budget woes, that has been delayed. As a result, publishers are looking to other states, including Louisiana, for guidance.

Given budget woes across the nation, anti-evolutionists are also pushing into the textbook supplement market, hoping to get schools to buy supplements on controversial science subjects such as evolution, global warming and human cloning, Rosenau said. But again, he added, the economic situation may hold back the activist tide.

"I don't see cash-strapped school districts going out and buying supplements," he noted. "If they don't have money to buy textbooks, they don't have money to buy supplements."

What do you think about the way evolutionary biology is being taught in science classes? Feel free to weigh in with your comments below.

More stories on evolution education:


Tip o' the Log to Wired Science's Brandon Keim.

John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).