The Texas Board of Education is voting this week on a new science curriculum designed to challenge the guiding principle of evolution, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The proposed curriculum change would prompt teachers to raise doubts that all life on Earth is descended from common ancestry. Texas is such a huge textbook market that many publishers write to the state's standards, then market those books nationwide. "This is the most specific assault I've seen against evolution and modern science," said Steven Newton, a project director at the National Center for Science Education, which promotes teaching of evolution.

I briefly mentioned this issue at the end of a post back in January, at which point the Board was divided about the curriculum content. But the future of our children's scientific knowledge seems pretty precarious, given that the Board chairman, a dentist named Don McLeroy, believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago, and wants textbooks "to be honest with kids" that there is a "problem" with evolution.

According to Dr. McLeroy, specific aspects of the fossil record undermine the theory that all life on earth is descended from primitive scraps of genetic material. And individual cells are "far too complex" to have evolved by chance mutation and natural selection.

The Texas school board will vote after taking public testimony in a three-day meeting that starts Wednesday. Dr. McLeroy leads a group of seven social conservatives on the 15-member board. They are opposed by a bipartisan group of seven, often joined by an eighth board member considered a swing vote, that support teaching evolution without caveats.

Neither side is confident of victory. All members of the board have come under enormous pressure in recent months, especially three Republicans who support teaching evolution without references to "weaknesses." The state Republican Party passed a resolution urging the three to back Dr. McLeroy's preferred curriculum. A conservative activist group put out a news release suggesting all three were in the pocket of "militant Darwinists."

Thanks to ever-resourceful slashdot for the heads up.