News Reports That Expose the True Goals and Financial Supporters
of the Discovery Institute

From Genesis To Dominion
Fat-Cat Theocrat Funds Creationism Crusade

by Steve Benen
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
from: Church & State, July/August 2000
http://www.au.org/churchstate/cs7003.htm

Anti-evolution crusader Phillip Johnson, dedicated his 1997 book, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, to "Roberta and Howard, who understood 'the wedge' because they love the Truth."

The mysterious reference is apparently a note of thanks to Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. and his wife Roberta, a wealthy and secretive Orange County, Calif., couple who have generously funded the anti-evolution movement and other right-wing causes that advance their fundamentalist Christian outlook.

Howard Ahmanson, however, is no ordinary fat-cat. The savings and loan heir has maintained a long-time relationship with Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme faction of the Religious Right that seeks to replace American democracy with a harsh fundamentalist theocracy.

Reconstructionists believe conservative Christians should take "dominion" over American society. Under their version of "biblical law," the death penalty would be required for over a dozen categories of offenders, including adulterers, homosexuals, witches, incorrigible children and those who spread "false" religions. They regard the teaching of evolution as part of a "war against Genesis."

Ahmanson served for over two decades on the board of directors of the Chalcedon Foundation, Rousas J. Rushdoony's Reconstructionist think tank that serves as the intellectual center of the movement. Ahmanson has also generously supported the Foundation's work.

As for Ahmanson's interests in opposing evolution, his relationship with leaders such as Johnson raises a series of questions about how the movement to "defeat" evolution is paid for and what the larger agenda might be.

There is little doubt that the Ahmansons have the resources to help finance anti-evolution efforts. The family's wealth grew exponentially during the 1950s and '60s when Howard Ahmanson Sr, made billions in the savings and loan industry. After his death, his estate was divided between his son Howard F. Ahmanson and the Ahmanson Foundation, which had $663 million in assets at the end of 1996. (H.F. Ahmanson & Co., the parent company of Home Savings of America, had over $47 billion in assets in 1997.)

With a vast fortune in hand, the Ahmansons are playing an active role in ensuring the anti-evolution movement's success.

According to Reason magazine, promotional materials from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute acknowledge that the Ahmanson family donated $1.5 million to the Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture for a research and publicity program to "unseat not just Darwinism but also Darwinism's cultural legacy." In fact, the August 1999 issue of the Discovery Institute's Journal recognizes an Ahmanson outfit for providing the Center's start-up funds.

With such high-powered assistance, the Center has quickly become a leading anti-evolution organization. The center's senior fellows include some of the highest profile advocates of "Intelligent Design" creationism, including David Berlinski, William Dembski and Michael Behe. Johnson himself is listed among the center's two official advisors.

Additionally, Roberta Green Ahmanson provided the funding for Dembski to appear at her alma mater, Calvin College, a conservative Christian school in Michigan, to promote his approach to attacking evolution. Although he claims to be interested only in the scientific "evidence" against evolution, Dembski's appearance was listed as part of the college's "Seminars in Christian Scholarship."

Funding from the Ahmansons is not always obvious. For example, the Fieldstead Institute is an extension of the Ahmanson empire, which frequently provides financial support for creationist causes. Dembski's appearance at Calvin was sponsored by a group called Fieldstead and Company. (Both appear to derive their name from Howard's middle name, Fieldstead.)

Ahmanson has also taken an interest in providing money for other political causes, including support for voucher subsidies for religious schools and opposition to gay rights and pornography. In the January/February 1997 issue of Religion & Liberty, published by the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, he argued that the Bible opposes minimum wage laws.

Ahmanson's opposition to evolution remains part of his larger agenda of establishing a fundamentalist "Christian nation." In the coming years, as different groups and personalities step into the anti-evolution fray, Ahmanson's role bears watching.


Money Man Spurs 'Design' Efforts
Heir spends family fortune to discredit evolution theory.

Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, have pledged $2.8 million to support the Discovery Institute.

by Scott Stephens
Plain Dealer Reporter
sstephens@plaind.com, 216-999-4827

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Edition: Sports Final; Section: National; Page: A1
December 23, 2002

If you can't imagine how an ultra-conservative California savings and loan heir could be linked to the shaping of Ohio's new science standards, you probably have never heard of Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson.

For years, the reclusive philanthropist and evangelical Christian has channeled millions from his family's fortune to a variety of causes designed to discredit and defeat Darwin's evolution theory that living things share common ancestors but have changed over time.

Some of those millions have gone to the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the nation's best-known, best-organized and best-funded proponent of intelligent design - the concept that living things have been "designed" by some purposeful but unknown being because they are too complex to have occurred by chance.

Critics of Discovery use Ahmanson's funding as a club to pummel the institute.

Discovery, despite criticism from some of the nation's top Darwinists, had a prominent role in this year's origins debate in Ohio. Discovery President Bruce Chapman, who founded the institute in 1990, meets those blows with a mixture of anger and amusement.

"I think the materialists had better get some better material," said Chapman, who founded Discovery in 1990 after serving as director of the U.S. Census Bureau and as an assistant to former President Ronald Reagan. "A lot of our foes are pretty ruthless. They'd like us to go away, but what they're reduced to is slurs against the people giving us grants."

If 2002 was any indication, the Discovery Institute isn't going away anytime soon. Senior fellows from the institute were invited to sit elbow-to-elbow with evolutionists at high-profile debates involving intelligent design this summer in Columbus and at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The issue has captured the public's imagination and landed the institute on the front-page of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, as well as on CNN.

Some believe Discovery scored its biggest victory earlier this month when Ohio adopted science standards that require students to examine criticisms of biological evolution. The Ohio Board of Education explicitly stated it wasn't pushing intelligent design, but Discovery fellows hailed the new standards as a historic victory, a triumph of democracy and academic freedom over the rigid edicts of the science establishment.

But the institute, which has a $2.5 million annual budget, has plenty of work not connected to intelligent design, including public transportation, technology, Social Security reform and the environment.

"I was very much impressed by both the range and the quality of their work," said University of Washington Professor Herbert Ellison, who served on the institute's advisory board. "Their ideas and opinions have had considerable impact in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and across the country and abroad."

Still, Discovery's most visible impact has been with intelligent design. Often derided as stealth creationism, the concept has shown some legs in the ageless argument about the origin and development of life on Earth.

Through its Center for Science and Culture, Discovery has tried to position itself as a scientific rather than creationist player.

Instead of embracing biblical literalists who believe God created the Earth in six days or that Adam and Eve shared the planet with dinosaurs, Discovery has offered up reputable scholars with impressive academic pedigrees, including Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, Baylor University mathematician William Dembski and University of California-Berkeley molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells .

Behe's "Darwin's Black Box," which theorizes evolution cannot explain the complexity of cells, and Wells' "Icons of Evolution," which argues that evolution textbooks are filled with mistakes, are two of the movement's defining books.

"An important thing about them is the big-tent approach," Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, a leading Darwin defender, said. "Within the guts of the movement, you can find rather nasty arguments between the Biblical literalists and the intelligent-design advocates. They [intelligent-design supporters] say, 'We might disagree on things like the age of the Earth and the fossil record, but we have a common enemy.' "

To some of those enemies, that's a distinction without a difference.

Eugenie Scott, a physical anthropologist and director of the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education, noted wryly that Discovery recently shortened the name of its "Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture" to "Center for Science and Culture" to make itself sound more "scientific." She said the name change doesn't mask the fact that the institute's contributions to science have been nearly nil.

"They weren't being taken seriously as a science organization," Scott said.

Scott and others say the institute's efforts to be accepted as a serious player are also being undercut by the source of its money.

Ahmanson, whose family made billions in the savings and loan business, was associated at times with Christian Reconstruction, a radical faction of the Religious Right that sought to replace American democracy with a theocracy based on biblical law and under the "dominion" of Christians. For years, the Orange County multimillionaire served on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, the movement's think tank.

Ahmanson gave Discovery $1.5 million to help start its Center for Science and Culture. Fieldstead & Co., which is owned by Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, has pledged $2.8 million through 2003 to support the institute's work.

Discovery Institute adviser Phillip Johnson, arguably the nation's best-known anti-evolutionist, dedicated his 1997 book, "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," to "Howard and Roberta." Johnson said his relationship with Discovery is limited.

"I'm very loosely connected," he said during an October visit to Northeast Ohio. "I don't direct it and I don't take any money from them."

Discovery also received $350,000 from the Tennessee-based Maclellan Foundation. Foundation officials were quoted publicly as saying the grant was to help researchers prove that "evolution was not the process by which we were created."

Ahmanson rarely grants interviews, and calls to him and to Maclellan Foundation executive director Tom McCallie were not returned. Chapman said linking the institute to the radical Christian Right is a ploy not unlike the red-baiting antics of former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

He also said evolutionists have put Discovery in a classic catch-22: The institute is frozen out from publicly funded research grants and excluded from science publications, and then criticized for its lack of "serious" research in peer-reviewed journals.

So Discovery fellows have followed the lead of an unlikely role model who also drew heat for publishing his findings in a book rather than scientific journals.

"They criticized Charles Darwin for the same thing," Chapman said.


BLINDED BY SCIENCE FICTION

'Intelligent design' proponents try to wedge religion into Texas' biology textbooks

By Lisa Sorg
San Antonio Current
June 17, 2003
http://www.sacurrent.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=9854883&BRD=2318&PAG=461&dept_id=484045&rfi=6

The air was stuffy inside the toffee-colored trailer, where about a dozen believers sat rapt in straight-backed chairs and watched a videotape about the beginning -- and the end -- of the world. The narrator, a middle-aged man dressed in a maroon cardigan and navy blue pants, spoke with the calm confidence of Mister Rogers, even when he pattered about quantum physics, pink light waves, and jet fountains spewing from beneath the oceans, causing the Great Flood.

On a recent Saturday afternoon at the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, about a hour southwest of Fort Worth, people had driven from as far away as Missouri to reaffirm their belief that God and the Book of Genesis can tidily explain such evolutionary principles as the fossil record, natural selection, and the ascent of man.

The entrance sign exclaims, "Evidence here! Man and dinosaur together!" Inside, among cheesy plastic dinosaur heads, a fossilized dinosaur egg (double-yolk), and stacks of creationist literature, museum director Dr. Carl Baugh has installed a hyperbaric chamber, whose air and electromagnetic waves have been controlled to allegedly replicate the world's atmosphere before the flood. As a result, the chamber's atmosphere has altered the cellular structure of snake venom to render it non-poisonous, fruit flies raised inside the chamber have lived three times longer than normal, about three days -- "as if you were to live for 200 years," explained the tape's narrator.

The electromagnetic waves, which are allegedly beamed into a cramped fish tank, are also supposedly causing the Pacu Pirahnas to not only grow larger and faster than normal (although the experiment has no control group), but also to become vegetarians, and live longer -- just as the dinosaurs did when they walked the earth alongside humans before the flood.

These are the types of old-timey creationists from whom the nouveau creationists -- also known as "Intelligent Design" -- are trying to distance themselves. While ID followers downplay their theories' biblical roots, they discount evolution and believe only an outside "intelligent" force (presumably God, although the theory opens the door for alien creators) could have designed a world of such complexity.

ID has become the invisible hand in Texas' public school textbook controversy. To give the appearance of legitimacy, ID followers are using their doctoral degrees and big bank accounts to hijack textbooks. Last year, they targeted Ohio's State Board of Education; this year, among the other Religious Right groups trying to push their agenda onto public education, ID attempted to sway the Texas State Board of Education to reject biology textbooks based on "flaws" in evolutionary theory. Because Texas is such a huge textbook market, publishers tend to cave in to the state board's demands, then market those censored books to other states. As a result, public school students nationwide could be learning bad science -- thanks to Texas.

"This is not the brainchild of homegrown, Texas religious-right activists," said Samantha Smoot, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, which opposes allowing creationist theories in science textbooks. "It's part of a national agenda. But what has changed is the religious right has changed its tactics. They no longer come in under the banner of promoting creationsism. These are think tanks with pseudo-scientific information that destroys real science."

That attempted hijacking occurred July 9 during the State Board of Education's first hearing on the state's high school biology textbooks. More than 30 science teachers, university professors, and concerned parents argued against the conjoining of church and state. "Keeping science separate from religion is one of my goals," said Steve Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, college professor, and evolutionary scientist.

Nevertheless, three Intelligent Design proponents tried to undermine evolutionary theory to advance their views -- seemed to find sympathy on the 15-member board.

According to Texas law, all biology textbooks must meet requirements for the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge Skills) test, which requires that students critically examine and analyze strengths and weaknesses of theories and concepts.

"None of us wants unscientific data in textbooks," said conservative board member Terri Leo. "No board member is seeking to remove evolutionary theory from textbooks; it wouldn't conform with the TEKS."

The Discovery Institute and fellow creationists say they don't want to eliminate evolution from textbooks either, but that by including their theories, which supposedly prove evolution's flaws, students can think critically about the origins of life. This argument convinced the Ohio state board to require students to examine criticisms of evolution -- a victory for creationists.

"They are trying to do the same thing in Texas," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education during a media conference call. She said the institute falsely claimed that 44 "peer-reviewed," "legitimate" articles showed flaws in evolution. "I wrote the authors of those 44 articles and asked for comment, and if e-mail can smoke around the edges, these did. Scientists were furious by quote-mining and the distortion of their science."

One of the alleged quote-miners is institute fellow Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution, who writes pop science books under the institute's publishing arm. The institute used Wells' book as a basis for its critiques to the Texas board.

In its written comments to the board, the institute gave 10 of the 11 textbooks failing grades for alleged inaccuracies about the chemical components of the early atmosphere on earth (which sounds eerily like the creation museum's hyperbaric chamber), missing links in the fossil record that supposedly disprove Darwin's theory that animal species evolved over time (also alluded to in the museum's video), and misleading photographs of a peppered moth, which the textbooks use to illustrate natural selection.

During the hearing, Bassett MacGuire, University of Texas professor emeritus of integrative biology and marine science explained the gaps in the fossil record. "There are lots of other moleculear evidence to complement the theory. Where there is a lack of observable evidence in one place, another fills the gap."

As for the staged photographs, different-colored dead peppered moths were glued to tree trunks to show the insects' ability to adopt the color of its surroundings. Those who do survive longer than moths who cannot blend in and hide. The photographs' captions did not state that the moths were dead or had been affixed to the bark. MacGuire said these photographs were intended to simulate a natural occurrence and if "we were to wait with a camera for two moths to light on tree bark, we'd still be there."

"That is not the point," said board member Leo. "[The photographs] are a weakness, and to bring in none of the weaknesses is wrong."

Raymond Bohlin, executive director of Probe Ministries and a Ph.D in molecular and cell biology, emphasized the alleged flaws in Darwin's theory and portrayed himself as a victim. "After testimony today, I don't know if I should have worn a devil suit. Am I not allowed to have a scientific opinion if I have a religious affiliation? I want to further explore accuracy of scientific evidence."

Democrat Joe Bernal, who represents part of Bexar County, was the only board member who asked critical questions of the creationists.

"Have you written a textbook [for consideration]?"

"No, not at that point at this time. I don't think the time is ready for that," Bohlin replied.

"When would be that time?"

"Ten to 20 years."

Board leans to the right

Since 1995, when the state legislature forced the board to consider only the facts and not the members' personal ideologies when approving textbooks, the concept of "factual accuracy" has become slippery.

Two years ago, an environmental science book came under siege by Texas conservatives, who objected to a passage that said "too many people reproducing too quickly" could harm the environment. The board rejected this textbook and others when the publishers refused to censor statements about global warming and industrial pollution. However, according to Texas Citizens for Science, one publisher removed a reference to carbon dioxide as a pollutant responsible for global warming.

UT Professor Emeritus Dr. Bassett MacGuire said in a previous interview that a reference to the Ice Age was changed in one environmental science book to stating it "happened in the distant past." "I talked to the author after the testimony and before the vote," MacGuire said. "He told me he had spent all night trying to conform to individual members of the board so the book would be accepted."

With the exception of Republican Geraldine Miller, who was appointed by Governor Rick Perry, the education board members are elected. Republicans hold the majority, 9-6. While Cynthia Thornton touts her "common sense conservative values," and Don McLeroy accepted contributions from arch-conservative groups Texas Eagle and Dallas Eagle Forums, the two look like Ralph Nader compared to Terri Leo, who is serving her first term.

During her 2002 campaign, Leo was endorsed by the far-right Concerned Women of America, which describes itself as being built on "prayer and action," and working to "bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy." She also earned the seal of approval from Rick Scarborough, co-founder of Vision America, whose mission is "to promote Biblical values back into every aspect of our public arena."

According to Leo's campaign contribution filings (she was one of only five members to file on-line), she accepted contributions from fellow board members Geraldine Miller and David Bradley -- $4,000 and $3,000, respectively.

Leo also received $500 from Robert Schoolfield, a far-right Austinite who ran for the board, but lost in the primary to Cynthia Thornton. The Texas Observer called him "the Christian Right's anointed candidate" and during his campaign, Schoolfield spoke out against homosexuality and supported school vouchers.

But Schoolfield's campaign unraveled after he became entangled in a controversy over his campaign contributions to a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, who upheld that state's voucher laws. The Wisconsin elections board ruled that Schoolfield and others' out-of-state contributions were illegal. Dogged by controversy, Schoolfield lost his bid for the board, but found his voice in Terri Leo.

The creationist movement also has deep pockets. Evangelical Christian Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson has contributed millions to the non-profit Discovery Institute, whose Center for Science and Culture is advancing intelligent design/creationist theories. Ahmanson, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has been associated with Christian Reconstruction, an even further-out faction of the Religious Right that wants to replace American democracy with theocracy based on biblical law, dominated by Christians.

With Ahman's help, other contributions, and stock holdings, the Discovery Institute earned $2.6 million in revenue, according to Internal Revenue Service records. While board president and founder Bruce Chapman -- the former director of the U.S. Census Bureau and was an assistant to former President Ronald Reagan -- earned an annual salary of about $106,000 from 1997-1999. In 2000, the institute lost money in the stock market and contributions fell 60 percent; Chapman took a pay cut to $82,000.

Although the Texas-based Probe Ministries isn't directly affiliated with the institute, it shares similar theocratic and creationist theories. Headquartered in Richardson, Probe logged just over $1 million in revenue for fiscal year 2002. It has 22 paid employees, and five salaried board members. In 1999, the latest year complete records were available, Dr. Raymond Bohlin, who testified at the July 9 hearings, earned a base pay of $84,000 a year.

The textbook publishers have another week to respond to the criticisms from the hearing. The board will conduct a second round of hearings on September 11; the group will vote on the textbooks in November.

However, critics of the creationist movement fear creationists will lobby the board during the interim -- as the religious right has done in the past. "People are afraid that we will get the end run," said citizen Laura Sargent at the hearing.. "I went to a private school and was taught these 'weaknesses' by very small group of self-published people who couldn't get peer reviewed.I was the victim. I was embarrassed in college and eventually discounted science altogether."

At the Creation Evidence Museum, a crude painting on the wall portrayed humans feeding leaves to gentle dinosaurs at the ole' swimming hole. Like the people in the portrait, creationists are feeding scientific misinformation to Texas schoolchildren, who are waiting for the giant, invisible hand to intervene.


New Force in the Fray on State's Textbooks

'Intelligent Design' adherents use science to question evolution.

By Melissa Ludwig
Austin American-Statesman
Wednesday, July 9, 2003
http://www.statesman.com/asection/content/auto/epaper/editions/today/news_f3b0fbcaa4c2715d008a.html

As summer activities chase flagella and mitochondria from the minds of Texas schoolchildren, parents and interest groups are preparing to battle over biology textbooks.

Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth.

If past years are any indicator, evolution, sex education and the origins of life will be the hot-button topics for parents and conservative groups who will testify before the board. But this year's arguments over evolution may swerve from the beaten path.

As traditional creationism has lost political ground in Texas, a national movement that embraces the concept known as "intelligent design" has gained influence by using science rather than religion to battle evolution. Intelligent designers believe certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained as the product of intelligent action, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

Two senior fellows from the Discovery Institute, a nonprofit Seattle-based think tank that has led the intelligent design movement, will testify at today's hearings.

The institute scored a victory in December 2002 when, after much debate, the Ohio Board of Education adopted science curriculum standards that required the examination of criticisms of the theory of evolution.

Factual errors will be the focus of the institute's criticisms.

John West, assistant director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, said the institute's intelligent design theories are not related to its position on evolution. West says evolution should be taught, but its discussion should include disagreements among biologists about aspects of the theory.

"If you are going to cover it, you need to cover it correctly," West said.

The institute has graded each Texas biology text up for adoption on the basis of four "icons of evolution" they say are inaccurate and misleading.

The institute picks each icon apart. For example, it cites problems with a 1953 experiment that produced organic molecules from a mixture of primordial gases. It also claims that fossil evidence of a sudden explosion of life during the Cambrian era (about 500 million years ago) poses a mystery that evolution can't solve. It argues that drawings of vertebrate embryos are regularly misrepresented and that photos of moths on tree trunks in England, a classic example of the workings of natural selection, were staged.

Bassett Maguire, a biology professor at the University of Texas, says there is truth to the institute's claims. The moths were staged, the embryos exaggerated. But Maguire says the examples don't matter as much as the concepts they teach, which he says are still valid. The icons represent flawed but nevertheless historic moments in science, and the concepts they illustrate have since been heaped with supporting evidence, Maguire said.

The institute has tried hard to publicly extricate itself from creationists and social conservatives who have besieged textbook hearings since the 1980s, most of whom believe that evolution is incompatible with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis in the Bible and that Earth is no more than 10,000 years old.

The Texas Education Agency definitively foiled efforts to get creation taught alongside evolution when they adopted new science education standards in 1997 with a requirement that all students learn the basic concepts of evolution. There is no requirement regarding creationism. Those standards form the basis for the state's new Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which 11th-graders must pass in order to graduate.

West said institute scientists are not creationists and are not associated with religious fundamentalists. However, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that one of its major donors is Howard F. Ahmanson, a wealthy Californian who served on the board of directors for the Chalcedon Foundation, a think tank for Christian Reconstruction, a movement that seeks to replace democracy with a Christian theocracy.

West dismisses attacks on the institute for its motives. "Everyone has motives for everything. Science is about the evidence," West said.

But Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, says scientists such as William Dembski, Michael Behe and Jonathan Wells, all senior fellows at the institute, are not taken seriously by mainstream scientists. Scott and Maguire say work on intelligent design is not published in scientific, peer-reviewed journals.

The institute's interest in Texas is obvious. Texas is the second-largest purchaser of books in a multibillion-dollar market; California is first. In recent years, publishers have begun tailoring their books to appease interest groups on both sides of the debate.

In California ,the debate has tended to center on politically correct phrasing. Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network, a political watchdog group, says Texas is the other side of the California coin. Here, conservative and religious ideologies have made condoms and Cambrian fossils controversial, Smoot said.

"Concerns about how elderly people are depicted are the tip of the iceberg; the rest is in Texas, where accurate scientific and historical information and age-appropriate health education are at risk. We're not talking about world choices or window dressing," Smoot, who advocates the teaching of evolution, said.

Smoot says many members of the State Board of Education favor the kind of social conservatism propagated by groups such as the Eagle Forum, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Texas Pubic Policy Foundation. San Antonio millionaire James Leininger, who founded the Texas Public Policy Foundation, also funded many of the board members' campaigns in the 1990s, Smoot said.

Vance Miller, husband of State Board of Education member Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, serves on the foundation's board.

Because textbook rejections were being influenced by ideologies, the Legislature in 1995 halted the board's power to reject textbooks on the basis of anything except a factual error or a manufacturing defect.

Two years ago an environmental science text was rejected for the first time since the law went into effect. Smoot and board member Mary Helen Berlanga condemned the rejection as censorship, but the board majority insisted there were numerous factual errors.

Last year, publishers made several changes in response to complaints, including a reference to the Ice Age as occurring millions of years ago to taking place "in the distant past."

Though intelligent design theorists and creationists may be a minority in the scientific community, the most recent Gallup poll shows that nearly half the American public leans more toward creationism than evolution.

Research conducted by Kim Bilica, an assistant professor of science education at the State University of New York in Buffalo, indicated that science teachers across the state were not emphasizing evolution as much as the teachers would like..

"Given unlimited instructional freedom, in almost every single case they would prefer to emphasize evolution more than they had that last class year," Bilica said.

Clay Smith and Nicole Sorto, both biology teachers at McCallum High School, say the controversial nature of evolution affects how they teach it. Both try to accommodate children who say they are uncomfortable learning it.

Gladys Havel, a biology teacher at LBJ High School, said she uses supplemental materials more than the text when teaching evolution, although she says texts remain important .

"At home the kids have their textbooks to read over and reinforce the lesson," Havel said. Havel said when students bring up creationism, she tells them that they can believe whatever they wish and that evolution is merely an explanation for the changes in life forms. She also teaches them that all scientific theories are just that -- theories.

"Science is a constantly changing realm," Havel said. "There are not many things you can say are absolutely concrete."

••••••••••••

Intelligent design

What is it?

Popularized in the early 1990s, the intelligent design movement claims that the development of life can't be explained by natural selection. Though intelligent designers disagree among themselves about the history of life on Earth, most agree that life suggests the hand of some creator, rather than a series of developments governed only by the laws of nature.

Where is it based?

Center for Science and Culture, part of the Discovery Institute in Seattle.

On what grounds do proponents dispute evolution?