November 5, 2003
Dear Texas State Board of Education Member:
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of over 80 science and education professional societies and organizations, and roughly 6,000 individual scientists and educators. Collectively, AIBS represents roughly 240,000 scientists and science educators across the United States and around the world. AIBS is dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society. AIBS serves as a national umbrella organization for the biological sciences, presenting objective scientific findings relevant to research, education, and public policy on a wide range of issues affecting people and nature. AIBS members conduct research in all areas of applied and basic biology, including evolutionary biology.
We write to you today to request that you not leave Texas students behind. The future educational, employment and economic growth potential of Texas and the United States depends upon a scientifically literate workforce and a population capable of making informed decisions. Thus, we urge you to adopt biological sciences textbooks that have been evaluated and found acceptable by professional science educators and research scientists. Biology textbooks are not a proper forum for the presentation of non-scientific critiques or explanations of evolution and the diversity of life, such as creationism, intelligent design, or specious arguments about "weaknesses" or "problems" with evolutionary theory.
As you have likely heard from scientists, educators and business leaders across Texas, homeland security, economic growth, and international competitiveness demand a scientifically literate workforce. Forcing school systems to choose from textbooks that include non-scientific material and inaccurate representations of fact and theory as proposed by special interest groups will not produce this skilled workforce. Consider the importance of a scientifically informed population in light of recent public health and bioterrorism scares across the United States. Whether SARS, monkeypox, or an as yet unknown threat, public officials charged with responding to these outbreaks and preparing for potential bioterrorism must make decisions based on their understanding of basic biological principles, such as evolution. It is irresponsible to deny the next generation of these professionals the scientific training they will need to meet their public obligations. In coming years, it is likely that public officials will increasingly make decisions that will require a public understanding of basic science. For example, consider the controversies surrounding the use of genetically modified agricultural crops. Ultimately, agricultural interests, decision-makers, scientists, and the public must make informed decisions about the safety, security, and utilization of genetically modified crops. For these decisions to be based on reason rather than emotion, the public must have an understanding of the principles that underpin the science used to develop these crops and evaluate their safety. This public understanding starts with educating our students.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences opposes the inclusion of non-scientific explanations of evolution such as "intelligent design" in biology textbooks and urges you to adopt biology textbooks that include scientifically accepted evolutionary theory. If AIBS may be of assistance to you in your deliberations, please do not hesitate to contact me at 202-628-1500.
Richard T. O'Grady, Ph.D.