Public Testimony about New Supplemental Digital Biology Instructional Materials

Steven D. Schafersman, PhD
Texas Citizens for Science
2011 July 21

I want to introduce myself to the new members of this Board. My name is Steven Schafersman. I am a consulting scientist in the petroleum and environmental industries and was a university science professor for 23 years specializing in evolutionary science. For 31 years I have traveled to Austin to speak to member of the Texas State Board of Education about protecting the integrity and accuracy of science education in Texas by defending the content of science standards, textbooks, and other instructional materials when some sectarian and pseudoscientific organizations and individuals object to topics they mistakenly claim are controversial. This continues to be the case today.

I recommend that this Board accept the recommendation of the Commissioner and Texas Education Agency to adopt the supplemental materials on their list. This includes the three major textbook publishers and several smaller but legitimate companies that specialize in digital media. The only errors I found are listed at the bottom of my written testimony with links to a discussion that you may easily access. Topics include the history of the Endosymbiotic Theory and Haeckelís vertebrate embryo diagrams.

I recommend that this Board not force legitimate, mainstream publishers to censor or make changes to the evolution content of their materials in ways that damage the contentís scientific accuracy, imply that a supernatural intelligent design process operates in nature, or mislead students about the reliability of modern evolutionary biology and the scientific method. Two years ago several biology curriculum standards were politically forced into the science curriculum with majority votes by members of this Board against the intentions and explicit advice of the scientists and science educators who originally wrote the science standards. The publishers created new material that satisfies these unnecessary standards in a scientific manner and they should not be censored.

Finally, I recommend that you do not adopt the instructional materials of International Databases LLC. Some of the modules submitted by ID LLC contained scientific errors and several explicitly advocated Intelligent Design Creationism. Even if the ID mentions are removed, the modules still contain misleading and incompetent discussions of several important scientific topics. For example, the module on Cambrian fossils erroneously implies that complex fossils appear suddenly in the Cambrian. This is not the case, and the apparent sudden appearance of some fossils is due to an artifact of preservation and discovery, not to genetic saltation or intelligent design and creation. In fact, the fossils appear sequentially over several tens of millions of years and have fossil precursors. It is just incompetent to suggest that one or two excellent fossil deposits must be interpreted literally as sudden appearance without taking into account fossil preservation, discovery, erosion, genetic continuity, and speciation as modern paleontologists routinely do.

Correction needed about the history of the Endosymbiotic Theory in School Education Group biology materials

Correction needed about the use of Ernst Haeckel's vertebrate embryo diagrams and a discussion of the Evaluation submitted to TEA by the Discovery Institute