As astonishing as it may seem, Texans are on the verge of proving that they are not yet ready to join the 21st Century -- or maybe even the 19th. Politics and religion are about to mix and insure that "laughingstock" becomes an almost required synonym for the word "education" in Texas. The religious right -- in a move that any ayatollah in Iran would be proud to claim -- is dangerously close to substituting religious dogma for science.
Right-wing mullahs, oops, er, members on the 15-member State Board of Education are determined to reinstate the religious concept of "intelligent design" into science classes throughout the state. If this happens, textbook publishers will be forced to pander to non-science in order to have their textbooks eligible for use in Texas.
So what? Laughing observers in other states could just say, "Let the children of Texas be wrongly educated. It will just mean that our state will have one less competitor for the science and technology jobs in the future." Wrong. It won't be just the children of Texas who will be affected. Because of the size of the Texas schoolbook market, if Texas adopts these rules, then children across the country will have such nonsense included in their textbooks as well. Don't laugh yet. You too have a dog in this fight.
It will be a close thing. The vote is Friday, and the mullahs have at least seven of the eight votes required to inflict this dogma on students for ten years. The voices of reason are not going down without a fight, however. Knowing that such a degrading of science education in the state would both jeopardize the education of students and discourage companies -- especially those in the biotech fields -- from finding qualified employees in Texas, some worried parents and business people are even expressing their concern in newspaper ads.
Scientists in Texas recognize the impact of turning scientific education over to religious crusaders and, as the president of the Texas Citizens for Science notes, such action would "...put a stain on the scientific quality of the science standards written by the science experts."
Heading into Friday's vote, the Board has seven votes (all Republicans) in favor of undermining science and five votes (all Democrats) to uphold science. It comes down to three people to determine whether Texas joins with reason or succumbs to the dictates of zealots.