An online biology textbook up for approval by the Texas State Board of Education is drawing fire from scientific and education groups for tacitly pushing creationism. Created by the obscure, New Mexico-based International Databases LLC, the textbook seeks to justify the existence of a higher being while avoiding direct mention of God or the Bible. The Texas Freedom Network, which monitors the religious right in Texas, said in a press release that its adoption by the SBOE would be “a shocking leap backward.”
The textbook’s “Origin of Life” chapter details lab experiments that have failed to create life from inorganic materials, concluding that there is a huge gap between “life” and “non-life” (as crudely illustrated in the photo at right). But from there it makes the considerable leap that biological explanations for the origin of life are discredited. “[T]he legitimate scientific hypothesis,” it argues, is that “life on Earth is the result of intelligent causes.”
The notes to teachers accompanying the chapter leave little doubt that pushing a belief in God is the ultimate goal:
[A]t the end of the instructional unit on the Origin of Life students should go home with the understanding that a new paradigm of explaining life’s origins is emerging from the failed attempts of naturalistic scenarios. This new way of thinking is predicated on the hypothesis that intelligent input is necessary for life’s origins.
Of course, this is far from the first attempt to insert creationism into Texas classrooms; the issue has often been a cause célèbre for right-wing members of the State Board of Education, as well as Republican state legislators. The SBOE will vote on adopting the new science curriculum materials in July.