Sunday, August 26, 2012

Richard Dawkins vs Bill O'Reilly or Science Vs Jesus

Censorship of a Textbook to remove Evolution

My father, M.E. Ensminger, known to generations of agriculture students as “Doc E,” wrote more than 30 books, mostly in the field of livestock science. In the late 1970s I was working for a class action litigation unit inside of New Jersey state government when he asked me about a situation involving his rights as an author. His book, Horses and Horsemanship, was under consideration by the Texas textbook adoption committee, which at that time selected books to be used in high school and public higher education classes in the state. Once a textbook was selected, it had to be the primary textbook for any class taught on the subject.

The book got the approval of the committee with one condition. A short chapter on the evolution of horses had to be deleted. The publisher was okay with this, since adoption by the committee would mean thousands in sales every year for the multi-year period the adoption would be in effect. The publisher would take out the offending chapter, reset the table of contents, and delete the index reference to evolution. (They would not repaginate because, in a pre-word processing era, that would involve too many expenses in adjusting the index and internal cross-references.)

My father refused to allow the special edition. He was, however, willing to allow the teacher’s manual to exclude mention of evolution or the chapter, because (1) the manual was to be written by someone else, and (2) he regarded teachers’ manuals as something for teachers “too lazy to read the textbook they’re teaching from,” in his words.

After some additional lobbying by the publisher, the committee accepted the book provided the teacher’s manual made no mention of evolution. Royalties from Texas were substantial for many years.

I have to emphasize that my father did not see this as a dispute between science and religion. In fact, he saw it as a dispute between religion and religion. He found no conflict between evolution and his deeply held religious beliefs. He was offended that the adoption committee was trying to modify a book he had spent two years writing, and which had already gone through several revisions and editions and was considered by many to be the best book on equine agricultural science ever written, in order to push its religious perspective above his.

I don’t know if it’s true but my father (who died in 1998) believed that he had the only agricultural textbook ever adopted by Texas with a favorable reference to evolution.

-John Ensminger

Life is the result of our choicesRichard Dawkins-vs-Bill O'reilly or Science-vs-Jesus