The 21st-Century Science Coalition is a group of Texas scientists who have come together for a common purpose: to ensure that Texas students get a sound science education that reflects the most current scientific knowledge and is based on established scientific data.  We simply believe that students deserve the best science education in their Texas classrooms.

Please also see the statements made by the Advisory Committee at the September 30, 2008, press conference announcing the 21st Century Science Coalition.

Why is the 21st Century Science Coalition Necessary?

In 2008-09 the Texas State Board of Education is revising the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards for the sciences. These standards lay out the core curriculum guidelines for all Texas public school science classes. Alarmingly, a number of members of the state board have expressed hostility to teaching evolution, a concept that is a central pillar in any modern science education. Chairman Don McLeroy recently told the New York Times that the Texas state board was preparing for a debate between two systems of science: “You’ve got a creationist system and a naturalist system.” (NYT, June 4, 2008)

Politicians on the state board have publicly indicated their intention to exploit the wording of the existing standards which requires coverage of the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. On its face, this might seem like common sense to non-scientists. But as MacArthur Fellow and University of Texas biology professor David Hillis told the New York Times, the main purpose of the “weaknesses” strategy is to introduce religious ideas in the guise of science in our public school classroom.

“The fact that biological populations evolve is not in question. Evolution is an easily observable phenomenon and has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt. The ‘theory’ part of evolutionary theory concerns the experiments, observations, and models that explain how populations evolve.

At this level of introductory instruction, it is ludicrous to think about teaching what some people disingenuously call ‘weaknesses.’ We teach what is known and has been supported by a huge body of scientific research.”

A note about science and faith

It is wrong when politicians portray support for teaching evolution as a position that is necessarily hostile to faith. Many people of faith – including many scientists – do not believe that accepting the science of evolution means rejecting their religion. We can do best by our kids and honor the faith choices of all Texans by teaching sound science in science classrooms and leaving religion to families and congregations.

What’s at stake?

This is more than an academic question. Biotechnology is a key player in our future economy, and biotech firms move to places with well-trained biologists. Evolutionary biology has made fundamental contributions to drug synthesis, medical genetics, and our understanding of the origins and dynamics of diseases. Evolutionary principles are applied daily by people working in medicine, agriculture, engineering, and pharmaceuticals.

If we want our children to succeed in college and these jobs of the future, we must ensure that their education is based on sound science. In short, the stakes of this debate – and the ramifications of the decision on science standards at the State Board of Education – are simply too high for the science community to watch from the sidelines.