Update: What Happens in Texas Doesn’t Stay In Texas

Texas Board of Education's new (and wishy-washy) stand on evolutionary theory— coming to a textbook near you!

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Courtesy of Little Black Spot on the Sun Today via Flickr.com

For months, scientists, educators, and textbook publishers across the country have waited as members of the Texas Board of Education squabbled over whether to remove three little words in their sciences standards: "truths and weaknesses." The controversy? The language—supported by creationists—requires biology teachers in Texas to discuss possible weaknesses in evolutionary theory, and has had implication for how evolution is taught across the country. Last Friday, the evolutionists won. Well, sort of.

On Friday, the board voted to remove "truths and weaknesses" from the state's science standards—a boon to evolutionists. But the board also voted to include language in the new curriculum that loosely encourages students to look "at all sides" of scientific theories and that casts particular doubt over natural selection and common ancestry—important tenets of evolutionary theory.

Because Texas is the largest textbook market in the nation, publishers often write to the state's standards. This means that books written to Texas standards tend to end up all over the country. Some groups worry the new language will allow intelligent design and creationist theology to slip into textbooks nationwide.

"Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks," Kathy Miller, president of Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group, told the Associated Press.

The new curriculum, called Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, will be in place for the next 10 years, and will impact new textbooks to be purchased in 2011.