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Evolution Votes in Texas

The Texas board of education approved final science standards this afternoon, which say that students will no longer have to be exposed to the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution.

The decision to remove that language was strongly supported by scientists, who said it undermined the teaching of the core biologic theory. The board approved the overall document by a 13-2 vote.

Yet the 15-member board of education also approved a host of amendments that seem likely to draw objections from scientists, based on the audio discussion of the meeting that I heard. I listened to the meeting over the Internet, so I don't have the wording of them. Here's a link to the original document being discussed, and a Twitter record set up on the Texas Education Agency's site, so you can try to do your own comparison. I will try to update later.

Immediately afterward, the Texas Freedom Network, a group that has fought efforts to weaken the status of evolution in the standards, released a statement crediting the board for removing the strengths-and-weaknesses wording. But it also said the new document "still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

"Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments," the organization added, "the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks."

The TFN also predicted that the evolution issue would rise again in 2011, when the board considers textbooks, which are based on the state's standards.

On several occasions throughout the discussion, board members sounded as if they had grown weary of the acrimony surrounding the discussion and that they were searching for compromise language on how to treat evolution on several points.

"We appreciate that the politicians on the board seek compromise, but don’t agree that compromises can be made on established mainstream science or on honest education policy," the TFN said. The TFN live-blogged the meeting, and sought to keep up on the exact wording of the amendments as they were discussed, and what came of them.

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