(Reuters) - A Texas vote on middle school curriculum due on Friday has become the latest battleground over the teaching of creationism or “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution in public schools.
At issue is whether Texas education leaders will approve supplemental materials, as recommended by Education Commissioner Robert Scott, that some Christian conservatives complain don’t adequately address “alternatives to evolution” as a theory of how life began.
In 2009 in a move that grabbed headlines across the country, a more conservative Texas State Board of Education approved standards encouraging debate over the veracity of evolution science.
Rejecting the supplemental materials on Friday would be a win for conservative groups who want the curriculum to reflect a “diversity of views” on science. That has made evolution proponents nervous.
Debate on the issue grew heated during a hearing on Thursday, even as board members sought to reassure the crowd that none of the supplemental materials currently being considered mentioned creationism.
"Do you also plan to start teaching the philosophy of Astrology as science?" retiree Tom Davis asked the board.
Jonathan Saenz of the conservative Liberty Institute, which supports questioning evolution in classrooms, said the scientific community was not united on evolution.
"There are scientists who have all kinds of different views. That’s what the scientific community is all about."
Evolution advocates are concerned over the views of the board’s newly appointed chairwoman, Barbara Cargill, a self-described conservative Christian and former biology teacher who has disputed the theory of evolution. She has said its weaknesses should be laid out in science classes.
She was elected in 2004 and appointed to chair the board earlier this summer by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who is considering a run for president.