By Chris Kahn
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Education Writer
Posted February 24 2006
High school biology students in Broward County will use a textbook next year that watered-down passages about Charles Darwin and evolution theory.
Science teachers picked Florida Holt Biology this month in a countywide vote, favoring it over another book that discussed the controversial idea of intelligent design.
The Holt textbook stays away from intelligent design, the idea that a god or other guiding force caused the development of life on Earth. Mainstream scientists have discredited the theory as a repackaged form of old-school creationism.
But publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston did edit several sections at the request of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that has peddled intelligent design around the country for years.
The changes were "kind of a merging of philosophies to get something that everyone was satisfied with," said Broward science curriculum supervisor J.P. Keener.
"What came out in the book was scientifically correct," Keener said. "That's the bottom line."
A review by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found that on one edited page, Holt agreed to give Darwin less credit for shaping modern biology. In another section it inserted descriptions that conservative Christians believe challenge evolution theory.
Previous editions of the textbook said Darwin's theory "is the essence of biology."
In the Broward edition, students will read instead that Darwin's theory "provides a consistent explanation for life's diversity."
The county plans to spend $1.2 million for 20,000 copies of the book. It will be required reading in Biology I classes until 2013.
"We're very pleased," said Rick Blake, spokesman in Chicago for Holt, Rinehart and Winston. "Science is a very strong area for Holt."
Broward has largely avoided the debate over intelligent design, which has embroiled other districts. Broward Superintendent Frank Till said he'd rather leave intelligent design decisions to the state, which will begin revising its science standards in 2007 or 2008.
But the issue has crossed into the district, because publishers like Holt have changed textbooks over the years while under pressure from such groups as the Discovery Institute.
The Minneapolis School District should stay away from these textbooks.