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Louisiana Panel Endorses Textbooks, Despite Evolution Critics

A state panel in Louisiana voted earlier today to recommend a new batch of life science textbooks, despite complaints by critics of the theory of evolution, the Associated Press reports.

The advisory council of educators and lawmakers voted 8-4 on the use of the textbooks for high school students. A final decision will come next month from the state board of elementary and secondary education.

As I wrote this morning, opponents had said the books gave undue deference to the theory of evolution and should include information about "intelligent design."

The AP story says that most of those who testified before the state advisory council supported the books and objected to any inclusion of disclaimers about the theory of evolution or of provisions about intelligent design or creationism.

A story in the Baton Rouge Advocate provides some more detail about the proceedings, which lasted more than three hours. For one, two of the "no" votes came from prominent state lawmakers on education: Senate education committee Chairman Ben Nevers, a Democrat, and House education committee Vice Chairman Frank Hoffmann, a Republican.

Lennie Ditoro of Mandeville, La., who has worked with an advocacy group called the Louisiana Family Forum in the past, said the science textbooks are flawed, according to the AP story.

"The books are really weak on the side of examining scientific evidence," Ditoro reportedly told the state's Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council. "Let's not teach the kids that there is no controversy in the scientific community."

But backers of the textbooks told the panel that Charles Darwin's ideas about evolution are widely accepted in the scientific community, and that the continuing debate in Louisiana is an embarrassment.

"We have been here before," Tammy Wood, a veteran educator in East Baton Rouge Parish, told the panel, the story says. "I don't know why we are here again."

As I noted in my earlier blog entry, supporters of the textbooks had worried that the critics were aiming to get disclaimers added to the books, change their content, or pave the way for adding supplemental materials that challenge Darwin.

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