The article by Randy Moore, called “The Lingering Impact of the Scopes Trial on High School Textbooks” can be found in Electronic Reserves, on Blackboard.
The article, as is implied by the title, discusses the impact that the Scopes Trial had on how evolution was written about in high school textbooks. Moore begins his article by first describing how textbooks and the scientific community started to accept evolution in the years between Darwin’s publication and the Scopes Trial. Indeed by the Scopes Trial, many textbooks had pages and pages explaining evolution.
Following the Scopes Trial, the immediate impact was, predictably, a drop in interest in writing about evolution in textbooks. No one wanted to be convicted like Scopes. Many publishers removed evolution from their books, as if evolution had suddenly become taboo. Moore even describes how the first female Governor in a Southern State, Miriam Ferguson (Texas), ordered her textbook commission to cut out (with scissors) any pages from high school textbooks that discussed evolution, and threatened to fire any teacher did not use ‘approved’ textbooks.
It’s interesting to note that the Governor’s self-proclaimed reason for doing this was “I’m a Christian mother who believes Jesus Christ died to save humanity, and I’m not going to let that kind of rot go into Texas textbooks,” where “rot” obviously refers to evolution. The interesting part of this, apart from being a completely personal and selfish reason for banning evolution, this is clearly a violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment, more so than many evolution/creationism trials since, such as Edwards against Aguillard in 1987. How can no one have realized that the governor basically saying ‘My religious must be taught in high school classes’ is a clear push of religion by the government? I know this was the early 1900s but my question still stands.
According to Moore, evolution started reappearing in textbooks in the 1940s, albeit with “religious quotations” which “presented evolution as a theory and not an established fact.” That being said the word evolution was used in the 1930s, 40s, or the early 50s, and no textbooks even implied that evolution was a basic principle of biology. I, personally, find it slightly disturbing that absolutely no one in 30 years felt it necessary to try and give a decent of something so important, even if it was “just a theory”.
The establishment of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) in 1959 saw the creation of a universal science textbook (in 1963), that was evolution heavy as the “BSCS was determined to base its textbooks on the best science available rather than the consensus-driven, bland, evolutionless biology that typified most other textbooks.” These textbooks were not even close to popular, especially in Texas, where they were viciously attacked by newspapers, sermons, and the Texas Textbook Commission, who said that the textbooks “just stopped short of atheism.”
I again find it annoying that the government continues to have a more religious centered view than they should. The implication I get from the above quote is that Texas would only accept textbooks that discredit evolution. I don’t understand why people (including people today) get so upset about the teaching of something other than god. What is wrong with having a textbook that presents the known information, evidence and proof for evolution, and the allow students to choose what they want to accept/believe/understand.
A good example of this type of person would be my mother, who was born and raised in Texas. There would be some conversation going on at home, and I would say I didn’t believe in god, or say that I wasn’t a Christian. She would say, “Oh my gosh I’m a terrible mother,” to which I would respond, “Why? Because you let me grow up to make my own personal choice about what I believe in? Because I went to church when I was little, and learned about evolution in school, and made an informed choice that I am not the type of person that believes in god?” I should just note that I am not saying people have to choose between one or the other, there is room for both science and religion. I’m just saying that I’m not the type of person that can believe in an all powerful being. I, personally require some type of understandable proof of something, in order to believe in it.
Today there are only a few textbooks that don’t teach evolution, but focus on creation-science, which is now referred to as Intelligent Design, and I believe there was a trial in 2005 (happy to be corrected) in which a judge found that Intelligent design was just creationism relabeled, and couldn’t be taught in science classes, but could be taught in a different class. For the past few years or so, it has seemed to me that there hasn’t been much change in textbooks. Does this mean we are just waiting for a new discovery relating to evolution or creation? Or are we at the point where we know all the facts and we just have to convince the diehards on both sides? Or will the situation evolve into something else?