National science group urges rejection of disclaimer

Thursday, November 18th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A national science education group is blasting the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee for requiring a
disclaimer about evolution in science textbooks. The National Science Teachers Association urged Oklahoma educators Wednesday to reject the committee's Nov. 5 decision calling for middle school and high school biology and life sciences textbooks to include a disclaimer about evolution.

Textbook authors and the Oklahoma Academy of Science asked the committee to reconsider its action. The disclaimer tells students evolution is a theory and should not be taken as fact, referring to some of the theory's ideas as an "unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things."

The committee has narrow but unfettered authority over the state's classrooms. The committee screens textbooks for the state's
540 public school districts. Districts, which also have textbook committees, may purchase only books approved by the committee -- although as few as five superintendents may force the committee to consider additions to the list.

The group found all of the approximately 15 biology books and at least one other science book it reviewed objectionable. "By adopting a disclaimer that has serious errors of fact,
you're misleading the young people of the state of Oklahoma as to the scientific status of evolution, and we think that's a bad idea," said Ken Miller, a biology professor at Brown University in Rhode Island. "I certainly wouldn't want to see my children ... misled."

Miller was joined by textbook authors from Colorado, California, Texas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina in
releasing a statement urging the committee to reconsider. Ron Tyrl, president of the Oklahoma Academy of Science, said in
his group's statement that evolution is the best explanation for a large number of facts and that no other theory adequately explains
these observations.

"It's sad that the topic gets so confused and people with a variety of emotions step forward to give their opinions on things they don't have the expertise in," said Gerald Wheeler, executive director of the science teachers' association. The national teachers organization said the disclaimer doesn't
reflect an accurate interpretation of the concept of evolution and distorts the nature of science. The group said the disclaimer doesn't improve the quality of science education in the state and will only confuse science teachers and students and weaken the
integrity of science education.

The National Science Teachers Association is holding a regional meeting beginning today in Tulsa. The association said in its statement that the disclaimer erroneously defines evolution as the explanation for the origin of
life. The NSTA position paper on the teaching of evolution defines evolution as "the idea that the universe has a history; that change through time has taken place."

"I think it's extremely unfortunate to have a committee so ideologic," said Eugenie Scott, who will speak at the convention. "This decision places it above the sound education of public students."

Ms. Scott is to speak Friday afternoon on the anti-evolution movement and methods to handle the issue. "Teachers face anti-evolution because people don't understand
evolution and don't understand creationism," she said. "Anti-evolutionists have done a good job of seeding the debate." Ms. Scott took issue with teaching creation science or using
creationism to offset evolution. "Kids who are taught creationism science learn in college they have been lied to," she said. "It's promoting a religion, and it's bad science."