Form 410.4 (a)
Citizen's Request for Reconsideration of
Library and/or Instructional Material
Location of Material: Lawrence Public High Schools
Request initiated by: Parents for Objective Science and History,
Spokesperson: Nancy Turner
Complaint represents: Parents for Objective Science and History
1. To what in the instructional material do you object? Please be specific.
(Details per outline below on accompanying attachments)
I. Primary Problem : Confusion in the use of the term
A. Case 1 - 'Evolution' = minor variations
B. Case 2 - 'Evolution' = major innovations
of species, structures, organs, body plans
C. Case 3 - 'Evolution' = naturalistic
philosophy, Darwinism as dogmatic belief, or implied atheism
II. Secondary Problems
A. Omission of Information
1. Unsolved problems
in evolutionary theory
2. Discussion of
contradictory scientific data
scientific interpretations of existing evidences
B. Study Questions which lead to confusion of
scientific fact with theory, or philosophy
C. Problems of Missing or False Information in
2. What do you feel might be the result of using this material?
- Students will fail to learn the importance of defining terms carefully when attempting
to think logically.
- Students will contribute to the vast ignorance of the real issues behind the
controversies surrounding evolutionary theory by continuing the common practice of using
one term to mean at least three very different ideas.
- Students will be less inclined to contribute to the investigation of origins,
evolutionary processes and mechanisms if they are led to believe the field is closed to
- Students may contribute to prejudice against scientists with non-mainstream ideas about
evolution, or interpretations of scientific evidence which are at variance with the
evolutionary beliefs of the majority of scientists (although the progress of science has
so often been furthered by those who dared to think against the common current).
- Students own theistic belief systems may be unnecessarily discriminated against if
they are not made aware of the many scientific interpretations of existing biological
evidences which are consistent with theistic presuppositions.
3. For what age group would you recommend this material?
This material is consistent with the high school audience for whom it is intended.
4. Is there anything good about this material?
Parents reviewing this textbook enjoyed the visual aids, the overall content, the
clarity of the text's layout. Although none of the non-evolutionary material was being
checked for problems, we found much of it interesting and well-written. At least one
reviewer appreciated very much the text's treatment of human reproduction and sexually
transmitted diseases. The text is clearly of high quality overall.
5. Have you read or previewed the entire material?
If not, what parts have you read or previewed?
All parts directly pertaining to, or addressing the concept of evolution were taken
into consideration in this review.
6. Are you aware of the judgments of this material by critics inthis subject area?
7. What do you believe is the theme or purpose of this material?
Obviously, the theme is the teaching of biology. Under the teacherss section (p.
T6), it states that the text has a two-fold purpose. The first is to present conceptual
development and thinking processes behind scientific discovery. The second is to provide a
conceptual outlook toward science making "sure that the book would take an
evolutionary approach to biology." The philosophy section concludes with,
"Rather, evolution is presented as a unifying concept that interrelates all other
areas of biology...."
8. Your recommendations for action toward this material?
We recommend that the text continue in use and that teachers be trained to compensate
for its weaknesses using material we have provided in our attached report on sample
- We recommend that no religious material be presented in this context, but that religion
and philosophy be kept out of the science classroom.
- We recommend that future textbook selection committees look for a text that incorporates
the clearer definitions, the non-doctrinal presentation of evolutionary theory, and the
more complete information about anomalous scientific evidence which we have provided on
attached worksheets for the interim.
- We recommend that students with the curiosity to explore diversity of opinion be
provided with ample resources to research a wide variety of scientific thought in the area
of evolutionary theory, and that they not be 'protected' from the controversy by
indoctrination, or censorship.
- We recommend that the district adopt the following statement formed by the Science
Education Commission of the American Scientific Affiliation:
"The State Board of Education and the local boards of education shall encourage
teachers to make distinctions between the multiple meaning of evolution, to
distinguish between philosophical materialism and authentic science, and to include
unanswered questions and unresolved problems [regarding evolution] in their
9. To whom did you talk in your school about this material?
This review did not involve a particular school, or teacher.
I. PRIMARY PROBLEM : Confusion in the use of the term 'evolution'
A. Case 1 - 'Evolution' = minor variations and adaptations
When the term 'evolution' is used in this sense, it refers to small changes within a
species, such as finch beak variations and peppered moth adaptations to environmental
changes. This process is observable and can be considered scientific fact. The reviewers
consider presentation of this material to be appropriate and likely to be fascinating to
students - possibly interesting them in careers in scientific research, or in making their
own scientific observations of the natural world. The problems we find, with this usage of
the term 'evolution', are instances in which scientific evidence for minor changes within
a species are reported as evidence for the development of higher taxa from lower, or for
major structural innovations requiring new DNA for plausibility.
Examples of Case 1 Problematic Usage:
P. 272, "Darwin and other scientists have accumulated a vast amount of evidence
that proves that evolution has occurred."
(There is a vast amount of evidence that microevolution has occurred, but the
evidence for macroevolution has not been accumulated. Good science fobids the use of the
term "prove" outside the mathematical deductive proofs. The term
"evolution" in the text here should be identified as microevolution for this
statement to be accurate.)
P. 291, "Observing that evolution has occurred is relatively simple."
(Observation of microevolution may be simple, but macroevolution has not been observed.
In fact, scientists have noticed that species such as bacteria and flies do not evolve
into higher order life forms throughout hundreds of thousands of observable generations.
This type of statement implies that anyone questioning the proof of macroevolution is
P. 303, "Evolutionary change occurs around us constantly. Scientists today have
observed many examples of evolutionary change that have occurred in living
(Scientists have observed microevolutionary change, and the remainder of the article on
this page gives as an example of such change the development of insecticide resistance in
insects. This is a valid example of microevolution. The problem with the text is that,
once again, the fact that microevolutionary change has been observed is used to imply that
'evolution' is obvious and unquestionable when used interchangeably to convey the concept
of micro- or macro- evolution.)
P. 304, The student is directed in the guide for reading to learn from section 14-4
"How do new species develop from existing species?" Examples are given of fish
which differentiate into fish with different characteristics, but no examples are given of
fish which develop into a higher order life form. In this way, students are led to believe
the process of microevolution has resulted in macroevolutionary leaps to entirely new
P. 308, Figure 14-20 is another example of the above use of observed microevolutionary
change to convey or imply the idea that macroevolutionary change is proven. The picture of
many species of finch could just as well be used to convey the idea that, after millions
of years of adaptive radiation and evolution, these finches are still demonstrably finches
despite their variations and, contrary to macroevolutionary expectations, have not become
different life forms. This is a good example of editorial bias within the book which
extends to all chapters on animal development which assume common descent and
macroevolution of all life forms.
Educate students via Worksheet #1 (attached) to use the term 'micro-evolution' to refer
to relatively minor variations and adaptations. Encourage them to notice when the term
'evolution' is being used ambiguously, or when evidence for microevolution is presented as
proof that evolution accounts for the development of new species, organs, structures and
B. Case 2 - 'Evolution' = major innovations of species, structures, organs, and body
When used in this sense, 'evolution' refers to the belief based on inference from
scientific evidence (rather than the directly observed, experimentally verified scientific
fact of microevolution) that evolution (gradual, or punctuated equilibrium) accounts for
the appearance in the fossil record of drastically different life forms, and the
remarkable innovations of variant structures, organs and body plans in different life
forms. It is factual to say that many scientists view this idea as plausible. What is not
factual to say, or imply, is that all true scientists believe it, or to lead a student to
believe it by implying that evidence for microevolution is sufficient to prove that such
evolution has occurred.
Examples of Case 2 Problematic Usage:
P. 266, "The small furry creatures chasing one another among the bones and
squabbling over the last scraps of dinosaur meat may not seem all that impressive.
However, they and their relatives were the ancestors of elephants, horses, whales, and
other mammals. Some of their descendants became intelligent enough to contemplate the
extraordinary diversity of life, theorize about the processes that formed many kinds of
creatures from a single original kind, perform experiments to test theories, and imagine
events that occurred millions of years ago."
(In this case, the theory that humans descended from small furry creatures, and
that all life proceeded from a single kind of organism is dogmatically presented as fact.
It may be the case that this occurred, but while so many scientists are skeptical of the
evidence for macroevolution, it is not just to present this as an irrefutable fact. This
type of conjecture discourages the student from considering legitimate evidence to the
contrary, that is, from thinking scientifically.)
P. 271, "If you look back far enough in time, you will see that all species
have shared, or common, ancestors. Since species have descended from common ancestors,
Darwin called this principle common descent."
(One way to 'look back in time' is through the fossil record. Paleontologists are aware
that this evidence does not demonstrate the continuous record of common descent, which is
presented as fact in such statements as these. Darwin himself believed that a lack of
fossil records of transitional species would undermine his theory, yet now, when that lack
is patently clear, our modern text is presenting his theory as proven fact. This is poor
science. It may still be true that common descent is the reality, but this is presented
dogmatically and another example of poor science. Students should be made aware of the
tenuous and theoretic nature of the fossil links between bacteria and man.)
P. 284, "Snakes, for example, evolved from four-legged ancestors."
(This is given as a fact, when there are credible scientists who see reason in the
available evidence to doubt it. It may be cumbersome to continually qualify such
statements, but it is more accurate. The students are led to accept this without question,
and are not given the opportunity for critical thinking that might be introduced at this
point. Scientific questions about why there are no fossil records of snakes with partial
legs, or how intermediate life forms could have survived with the encumbrance of partial
legs are not addressed, or alluded to. Once again, this may have been the case, but to
introduce it as a fact teaches students to think dogmatically instead of scientifically.)
P. 309, Figure 14-21 introduces dogmatically the concept that the bear, bird, dolphin,
snake, alligator, and turtle evolved from the cotylosaur. The student must be taught to
challenge this presentation, learning to ask how much of this is based on irrefutable
fossil evidence and how much on conjecture, extrapolation, and artistic license. This
figure presents as fact a series of hypothetical links between modern and ancient
organisms without encouraging students to search for the scientific basis for the 'family
tree.' As is the case throughout the book, it is implied that irrefutable scientific
evidence exists for the presentation, but students are encouraged to trust in that
evidence without questioning. They are shielded from knowledge that there are eminent
scientists who regard such extrapolations from available evidence as implausible. It may
be the case that such macroevolutionary leaps have occurred, but students being taught
scientific literacy must be encouraged to evaluate the plausibility of the idea, not
taught it as fact. This is known as an "ad hoc" hypothesis, which is poor
P. 312, Punctuated equilibrium is introduced by way of explaining relatively rapid
evolutionary changes. It should be pointed out that punctuated equilibrium theory
developed in response to the utter lack of fossil evidence for transitional species
(jumps, for instance, from cotylosaur to dolphin). It is a way that believers in
macroevolution have reconciled their belief with the lack of evidence in the fossil
record. Since the evidence shows a wide range of animal types exploding into the fossil
record in a 'geological blink of the eye', punctuated equilibrium may be the more
up-to-date theory. Students should be made aware that it is a theory which contradicts the
notion of Darwinian gradualism.
P. 725, "one thing is certain - birds evolved from ancient reptiles."
(In this and in every section on animal development, the text states or implies that
such macroevolutionary changes are proven, unquestioned, and irrefutable. Meanwhile,
students are dissuaded from considering that many scientists see gaping holes in such
logic, and that there are challenges posed by many scientific disciplines that bring into
question whether or not such innovations are possible. As noted above, punctuated
equilibrium provides a frame of reference which negates the need for such fossil evidence,
but which leaves open the issue of mechanism. Still to be resolved, is the concept of the
mechanism at work in the causation of rapid acquisitions of wholly new and innovative body
plans, organs, and systems of interrelated organs. As Socrates might have pointed out,
real learning comes from considering real questions.)
Worksheet #1 (attached) will help teachers encourage students to use clearer terms to
distinguish between microevolution and 'Case 2' usage of the term 'evolution' which may be
called macroevolution. Students can be taught all the same elements of evolutionary theory
as are currently considered foundational to their college studies in biological science,
but at the same time, can be prevented from confusing inference with scientific evidence.
Where scientific evidence for micro-evolution is extrapolated to show grounds for the
majority opinion that macroevolution is plausible, students will understand the
presuppositions involved in making this inference, and can make their own evaluations.
This clarification of terms will in no way prevent them from learning what are the
commonly held beliefs about evolution in the scientific community. It will help them
consider science in the light of the scientific method.
Worksheet #2 (attached) detailing some of the reasons not all scientists accept the
evidence for microevolution as evidence for macroevolution will help students see science
as a field open to people of diverse ideas and opinions, and help stimulate them to do
their own research into these ideas before making evaluations. It will fit in nicely with
the text's presentation of evolution as a theory which has itself undergone "a
process of change," by broadening the students' understanding that evolutionary
theory is not a field closed to controversial ideas. We have deliberately excluded
references to authors who base their arguments on the validity of macroevolution as the
overarching explanation for development of all life on religious presuppositions. It is
our opinion that such arguments have no place in an effort to teach objective science.
C. Case 3 - 'Evolution' = naturalistic philosophy
In this case, the philosophical belief that undirected natural processes account for
all the diverse and complex living organisms that exist is presented as the necessary
conclusion to be drawn from scientific evidence for microevolution, or from the
predominance of belief in the occurrence of macroevolution. There are, in fact, scientists
who hold evolutionary beliefs, but consider them consistent with theistic presuppositions,
or consider the evidence clear that some sort of intelligent direction must have been at
work in the process of evolution. There are many parents who hold unclear ideas about
evolution itself, but who are content that whatever mechanism operated to produce the
panorama of life forms must have been directed by supernatural intelligence. There are
believers in modification through descent who hold to belief in some sort of cosmic
intelligence which they consider a guiding and directing force behind the formation of
complex life forms. Many scientists honestly throw up their hands when it comes to
explaining what the source of the information guiding genetic change
might have been, but do not rule out what they cannot know. For every such person involved
with the public schools, indoctrin- ation of students in naturalistic philosophy is
unacceptable. The fires of prejudice are fueled by implications that belief in
supernatural guidance of natural processes, or intelligent design of organisms is
inconsistent with scientific fact.
Examples of Case 3 Problematic Usage:
P. 269, "In science, you will recall, observation, questioning, and constant
testing of hypotheses must replace belief."
(This statement could be construed as a demand that beliefs will necessarily be
upstaged by scientific discoveries.
Rather than dwell on this philosophical issue, the reviewers simply point out that the
statement represents our own position in a nutshell: that we must teach students to
differentiate between ideas confirmed through observation, experiment and testing and that
which is, by its nature, a matter of belief - nonobservable, untestable theory. To confuse
the two is to close hypotheses to questioning and to brand as skeptics, quacks, heretics,
or ignoramuses anyone who dares defy what has become a quasi-religious dogma of
presuppositions. Let us not imply that scientists are capable of operating in a vacuum of
belief, but admit that everyone brings a combination of philosophical bias and fact to the
table of investigation and discussion of the origins of life.)
P. 285, "The very complexity of life and its processes supports Darwin's
(This statement refers to the structural and biochemical complexity of all
organisms. Ironically, one of the most articulate and revealing refutations of Darwin's
conclusion has been written recently by a biochemist with impeccable credentials who
concludes that the irreducible complexity of organisms at the biochemical level is proof
beyond doubting that natural selection is insufficient to account for the development of
life forms. Whether complexity supports or refutes Darwin's conclusion is, in the absence
of scientific evidence such as Behe has provided in Darwin's Black Box, a matter of
philosophical presupposition. Statements such as this one step over the line between
scientific information and philosophical speculation.)
P. 291, "Evolutionary theory is the foundation on which the rest of biological
science is built. In fact, the biologist Theodor Dobzhansky once wrote that nothing in
biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
(This statement presents evolution as the unquestionable presupposition without which
biological science itself would unravel and be undone. This is patently a philosophical,
even a religious way of thinking about evolution. This is a faith-based approach to
science. The text seems to be a catechism of evolutionary dogma when it describes
evolution in such fashion. This is unacceptable indoctrination. It is especially offensive
to those scientists, past and present, who have been able to make a great deal of sense of
and contribution to the biological sciences without faith in evolution as the overarching
principle of the natural world.)
P. 313, "Only because all living organisms are related through common descent
can we talk about universal characteristics of life. ¼And only through application of
evolutionary theory can we truly understand the way that organisms interact with each
other and with their environments."
(As above, this statement is true only if naturalistic philosophy is accepted as given.
Scientists were talking about universal characteristics of life long before evolution was
seen as the First Cause of all life. There are also some potentially flawed perceptions of
the way the organisms interact with each other which spring from the unquestioning
acceptance of evolutionary theory, or from the application of microevolutionary concepts
to human social interactions. The text states truly, to give it credit, that "the
influence of evolutionary thought extends far beyond biology," but implies that
all such influence is positive, whereas many philosophers trace extremely negative trends
in human interaction to its influence. Students should either not be faced with such
subtle philosophical argument, or should be allowed to face it with more well-rounded
information on alternative perspectives.)
P. 335, "all living things - all of us- share a common past and a common
destiny on this planet. If you remember nothing else from this course ten years from now,
(One of the text's authors makes explicit his vision for the students. He seems, in his
letter, to be thinking of the need for students to be concerned with the
interrelationships among all living things and the need for us to carefully steward the
planet and its organisms. He goes beyond this commendable goal, however, in engaging in
metaphysical speculation. Elsewhere on this page, he describes Darwin as having found
"order in the chaos of the living world." It would surprise scientists such as
Linnaeus and Mendel, who believed for vastly different reasons than his in order in the
universe, to hear that Darwin had 'found' what they took as given and foundational to
their profound contributions to science. The destiny of beings is a matter of
philosophical and religious, not scientific, theory.)
P. 658, "it is important to keep this concept in mind: Evolution is random
and undirected." (Bold as in text)
(Some students will be comfortable with the atheism at the root of
evolution-as-philosophy. Others, however, will be able to accept the concept of
macroevolution as plausible only as far as they can reconcile it with theistic belief
systems of one kind or another. Theistic evolutionists, for example, are able to perceive
a creator as the intelligent designer of the evolutionary process. Some religious beliefs
can accommodate the idea of physical macroevolution, but must involve a creator at the
point of the vast departure of man in rationality and spirituality from other beings. When
even this much of individual faith is denied expression, however, the strong current of
philosophical/religious indoctrination that runs through this text is made apparent.
Naturalistic philosophy holds the natural world and its laws as sufficient to account for
and explain all that exists. Meaning and purpose of life are contained within the sphere
of the material world. It is one philosophical perspective, but better studied in a
philosophy than a science classroom. It is possible to present microevolution as a
different theory than macroevolution, and both without presenting evolutionary theory as
the ground of all scientific truth, or the necessary presupposition for all scientific
Concepts included in Worksheet #3 (attached) will help teachers and students
differentiate between scientific fact, scientific theory and philosophical or religious
We recommend that there be a prohibition against indoctrination in naturalistic
philosophy in public schools and that as future textbook updates become necessary, texts
be eliminated which cross the line between science and philosophy, or religion. Ideally,
teachers help fight prejudice by teaching students to define terms clearly, refuse to use
ad hominem arguments, and research opposing positions with respect before making
evaluations. Public school libraries should contain non-religious, scientific reference
materials which explain alternative ideas about evolutionary theory.
II. Secondary Problems
A. Omission of Information
The text omits discussion of unsolved problems and unanswered questions in evolutionary
theory, discussion of anomalous scientific data, and discussion of alternative scientific
interpretations of existing evidence. Although it presents evolution as a theory which has
'evolved', it does not address any of the open questions still being addressed by
Worksheets #4-6 (attached) present a few of the most interesting concepts which have
been omitted. Worksheet #3 (attached) has already been introduced, and includes
information about the presuppositions necessary for belief in macroevolution which have
been omitted in the text.</small>
B. Dogmatic Study Questions
There are a number of non-scientific review questions in the text which lead the
student to a conclusion consistent with positive belief in macroevolution,or naturalistic
philosophy and do not allow for alternative answers not covered in the text. Worksheet #7
(attached) is suggested for teachers' information about possible valid alternative answers
to such questions to which they should be open and respectful. The questions could easily
be rephrased to clarify whether the student is being asked what he believes, or what many
evolutionary theorists believe. We suggest that teachers make such clarifications of
review and test questions. In this fashion, students can learn all the currently accepted
correct answers to questions about evolution without having to make as statements of fact
ideas which are inconsistent with their own conclusions about evolution. For example, a
non-believer in macroevolution could easily answer the question, "Did all life forms
develop via evolution from single celled organisms, according to the majority of
evolutionary scientists?" He/She could answer "Yes," without compromising
The committee reviewing this text has worked very hard to present its conclusions in a
clear format and to provide solutions for problems which have been identified. An integral
component of the recommendations is the set of worksheets, which follow. These can be used
as supplemental reading for students, and guides for teachers toward opening up and
clarifying the discussion of evolution without denying the fact that it is the most widely
held theory of origins in today's scientific community. In all cases, the tone is
respectful of the various schools of thought in this discussion, and in no case has
religious dogma been introduced. The worksheets should be understandable to the high
school student. No attempt is made at indoctrination, or elimination of the teaching of
evolution. The materials can be used whether or not a particular school district will
be testing students on terms, concepts and conclusions of evolutionary theory.
C. Misinformation in text: See Appendix
Definitions of 'Evolution'
There are many different ways the word 'evolution' is used. When we are studying the
scientific idea of evolution, it is very important to be quite clear about the sense in
which an author, scientist, teacher, or fellow student is using the word. Just as, in the
study of logic, the definition of terms is the necessary prerequisite to having an
intelligent and helpful argument, this clarification of meaning is critical to any
discussion or study of the concept of evolution. When potential confusion is high because
of the various ideas a word is used to convey, it is helpful to use an alternate word,
which expresses a more precise meaning. Here, for example, are two words we may use when
discussing evolution, which convey two very different meanings. You and your friends,
parents, or teachers may want to create different ways of expressing the two definitions
of 'evolution', or use the following terms to help clarify your thinking and discussion
about the subject.
Changes and adaptations within a population of life forms.
These small-scale, or minor, changes do not result in leaps between one kind of life
form and another, but in a wide variation of types of this same form. Although we observe
many varieties within the group, a finch remains a finch, a virus a virus, a moth a moth,
etc. 'Micro-evolution' is the term which accurately describes what we observe. Some
scientists prefer calling microevolution subspeciation to differentiate it
from change in which new genetic material must be acquired by the organism. At this level,
the changes we observe are a function of recombination of existing genes. No new
information is gained in the change of a color, beak size, and similar minor variations.
Note: All students need to know that while variations happen they do have the following
l. They have limits. (Insects can become resistant to pesticides, but not a
2. They still remain in the same animal family or plant family.
3. The genetic information was already present in order for the adaptation to occur
(Finches - no new appendages/organs grew, just variations in a beak already there)
4. The gene pool is now more limited. (A chihauhaus cannot breed with a great dane as
the genetic information is no longer present.)
Large-scale, or major changes from one kind of life form to another, involving
innovations in structure or body plan, or new organs.
If a snake becomes a bird, a dinosaur a bear, or a bacteria develops into a man,
'macroevolution' is the term to use. A fin becoming a leg, a circulatory lung a bellows
lung, or a scale a feather would be examples of 'macroevolution'. New genetic information
must be acquired by the organism in order for it to develop these drastically different
structures. Scientists who support the concept of macroevolution may differ in their
understanding of the mechanism by which it occurs, the length of time necessary for it to
have occurred, or the sequence in which one type of organism turned into another.
Critical Thinking Exercises-- Worksheet #1
Observe in your Biology text, or in articles about animal development,
how the term 'evolution' is used. When evidence is given for evolution, observe and take
note of which type of evolution is being supported, or demonstrated by the evidence. Keep
a chart of the examples you find, listing them under the headings "MICRO" and
Interview a variety of people, asking, "What does the word
'evolution' mean?" Categorize their responses as 'Micro', 'Macro', 'Ambiguous' (when
someone uses the term to cover both meanings), or 'Other' (the term is used in
non-scientific contexts to mean 'change over time', or 'development', for example). Report
on the new ways you find people expressing their idea of evolution, and on your
observation of the way most people mean 'evolution.'
Diversity of Evolutionary Ideas
The theory of evolution has changed over the years. As scientists uncover more fossils,
conduct more experiments involving genetic mutations and investigate living organisms more
closely, their ideas about how evolution might have occurred develop and change. Since
they research different animals, and bring to their work a variety of presuppositions and
expectations, the scientific plausibility about the 'how', 'when', and 'whether' of
evolution varies. There are many questions about various aspects of evolution, and
scientists often debate heatedly among themselves about their preferred solutions to
evolution's puzzlements. The process of forming and testing hypotheses, investigating and
observing the smallest details of life forms, and publishing and discussing (even arguing
about!) findings and theories is all part of the exciting world of science. Here are some
of the ideas that scientists are 'chewing on' right now. What are your thoughts about the
questions they face?
Identifying the Mechanism of Evolution
If macroevolution has occurred, how did it happen? Darwin's explanation was that the
gradual process of natural selection could account for the development of all life forms
over millions of years. Some scientists still hold this view. Others theorize that gradual
accumulation of genetic changes could not have worked to produce large-scale changes, or
that the lack of transitional species in the fossil record implies rapid, major changes
occurred, which natural selection could not have produced.
Discovering How, or Whether, New Genetic Information Is Be Acquired
Natural selection is the idea that mutations in genetic information are preserved in a
population when they increase an organism's ability to survive and reproduce in its
environment. Some scientists believe natural selection is the mechanism of both micro- and
macroevolution, though they disagree about whether minor mutations accumulated gradually,
or major mutations account for rapid developments. Others observe natural selection
operating as the mechanism of microevolution, or subspeciation, but cannot agree that it
can account for changes in which the acquisition of new genetic information is required.
Can an organism develop, and transmit through reproduction, new genes, which give the
information needed for the growth of new structures and body plans to the next generation?
Do mutations result in increase, or decrease in genetic information within the organism,
or just a reshuffling of the DNA code?
Sorting Out the Sequence of Common Descent
Life forms with homologous structures are said to have evolved from a close common
ancestor. Animals with such similarities indicating they are near neighbors on the
hypothesized evolutionary 'family tree' may have biochemical similarities, which would
seem to reclassify them in different relationship to other organisms. For example,
horseshoe crabs are structurally similar to crustaceans, but by blood chemistry are more
closely related to spiders. Scientists struggle with the question of whether similarity of
structures can be evidence of common descent. Which sort of similarity is more indicative
of a relationship between animals?
Accounting for Lack of Fossil Evidence
Darwin believed that scientists would find fossils of animals which represented
transitional forms between, for example, reptiles and birds. He said that lack of such
evidence would undermine his theory that natural selection worked to produce
macro-evolutionary changes over time. Since his times, paleontologists have found millions
of fossils, but no undisputed transitional forms. Scientists disagree about how to
interpret this evidence. Some say macroevolutionary change occurred too slowly to be
observed in the fossil record; others, that it occurred too rapidly to involve
transitional forms; still others, that it could not have occurred at all via natural
selection. See Ernst Mayr's, Stephen Jay Gould's, and Michael Denton's writings for more
information about three different ways evolutionists think about this issue. Their books
can lead you to other scientists who agree and who disagree with their positions.
Accounting for the Cambrian Explosion
The earliest appearance of fossils lies in what scientists refer to as the Cambrian
layer of rock strata. Suddenly there was an explosion of highly organized life forms in a
period of time geologists consider relatively short. Evolutionist Richard Dawkins writes
in The Blind Watchmaker that it "is as though they were just planted there
without any evolutionary history." All the major animal phyla appeared, contrary to
Darwin's expectation of progressive diversity through evolution of new phyla. The Cambrian
fossil evidence reveals an amazing diversity of life forms, some of which are now extinct,
and others which are still with us in much the same form. How can gradualism account for
such rapid diversity? How can punctuated equilibrium address the evidence? What other
explanations can you think of for the Cambrian explosion?
Facing Facts About Mutations
Scientists have experimented with organisms such as bacteria and fruit flies, inducing
genetic mutations and observing the results. (Such life forms reproduce very quickly, so
many generations can be observed within a scientist's investigation.) The vast majority of
mutations proved harmful to the organisms, or prevented reproduction. Geneticists have
confirmed the experience of animal breeders that species stubbornly remain what they are,
despite any number of variations. Dogs remain dogs, flies remain flies. These findings are
confirmed by the fossil record, which shows species appearing suddenly and remaining
within consistent boundaries. The theory of punctuated equilibrium is an evolutionary
model for describing this phenomenon. Scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould defend this
theory. Other scientists view this as evidence that macroevolution did not occur, or that
some other mechanism besides accumulated mutations must have been at work.
Facing the Difficulties of Complexity
Many features of animals are interrelated in an extremely complex fashion, which poses
a problem for us in imagining the gradual development of such intricate systems. For
example, the long neck of the giraffe requires a sophisticated system of blood pressure
sensors and controls be in place for its survival. For a reptile to transform into a bird,
respiratory, skeletal, digestive, reproductive and nervous system changes would all have
had to occur simultaneously. Scientists recognize the difficulties in supporting the
theory of gradual change, but have not found a mechanism of genetic information
acquisition which could lend credence to the theory of rapid leaps in evolutionary
development. Scientists supporting the punctuated equilibrium model hypothesize that
'hopeful monsters' appeared via unique and fortuitous combinations of genetic mutations
and, having such a drastic advantage over others in their population, reproduced widely
and successfully. Some evolutionists, such as Michael Denton (Evolution: A Theory in
Crisis) see the evidence as pointing to some form of intelligent design. Michael Behe,
a biochemist, supports this theory in his book, Darwin's Black Box, based on his
observation of irreducible complexity at the molecular level.
Critical Thinking Exercises
- For each of the research areas above, investigate at least two different ways of
thinking among modern evolutionary scientists. Identify the school of thought represented
by the scientists you report on (Neo-Darwinist, Punctuated Equilibrium, Intelligent
Design). (You may need special permission from your teacher, or parents, to investigate
the thoughts of Theistic Evolutionists, or Creationists as these involve religious
beliefs.) Include the credentials of each scientist whose opinions you include, and
document the sources of your information. You might also include a bibliography, which
would help classmates investigate the way different scientists address these issues.
- Read several issues of one scientific journal such as "Systematic Zoology",
"Natural History", "Paleobiology", or "New Scientist".
Identify one area of controversy and report on the arguments of at least two different
scientists and the evidence each uses to support his proposed solution. Follow their
debate in the next few issues of the journal, and notice what other scientists in their
field are saying about their conclusions.
Facts, Theories, Science and Philosophy
Science is the study of every aspect of our world with a view to explaining it all more
and more clearly. It is the domain of inquisitive, curious minds and of all who wonder how
and why things happen in the natural, physical world. We owe a great deal to all who
pursue scientific understanding. There are other fields of study in which different types
of knowledge and understanding are pursued in different ways. Philosophy, for instance, is
the search for truth through logical reasoning rather than factual observation. We can
expect that people searching for truth in different ways will find their paths
intersecting, their fields of study overlapping. No scientist begins his studies without
some philosophical beliefs about the world. Philosophers incorporate knowledge gained from
scientific study into their models of thinking about truth. This is an important concept
to understand as you study science. Here are some key terms, which will help you think
about different ways of understanding our world.
Science: Process whose goal is to understand the natural world. (Biology,
Theory: Time-tested concepts that make useful and dependable predictions about the
natural world. (Biology, Miller/Levine)
Hypothesis: Possible explanation about some event in nature. (Biology,
Miller/Levine) The authors also state: "When a hypothesis is tested and confirmed
often enough that it is unlikely to be disproved by future tests, it may become worthy of
being called a theory."
Objective: Belonging to the sensible world and being observable or verifiable,
especially by scientific methods. (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary)
Fact: A piece of information presented as having objective reality. (Webster's)
Experiment: An operation carried out under controlled conditions in order to
discover an unknown effect or law, to test or establish a hypothesis, or to illustrate a
known law. (Webster's)
Infer: To derive a conclusion from facts or premises. (To infer implies arriving at
a conclusion by reasoning from evidence; if the evidence is slight, the term comes close
to surmise.) Inference: The act of passing from one proposition, statement, or
judgment considered as true to another whose truth is believed to follow from that of the
Proposition: Something proposed or offered for consideration or acceptance; a
theorem or problem to be demonstrated; an expression of something that can be believed,
doubted, or denied or is either true or false. (Webster's)
Epistemology: The study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge
especially with reference to its limits and validity. (Webster's)
Presupposition: That which is supposed beforehand, required as an antecedent in
logic or fact. (Webster's) Cannot be demonstrated as true or false by empirical methods of
Worldview: A way of looking at and interpreting the world. It is made up of
presuppositions about the basic nature of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics
Assumption: The supposition that something is true; a fact or statement taken for
Naturalism: A theory denying that an event or object has a supernatural
significance; the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena.
(Webster's) This term can also be used to refer to a worldview that excludes any kind of
Extrapolation: To project, extend, or expand known data or experience into an area
not known or experienced so as to arrive at a usually conjectural knowledge of the unknown
area by inferences based on an assumed continuity, correspondence, or other parallelism
between it and what is known. (Webster's)
Philosophy: l. orig, love of, or the search for, wisdom or knowledge 2. Theory or
logical analysis of the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature
of the universe; included in philosophy are ethics, aesthetics, logic, epistemology,
metaphysics, etc. (New World)
Critical Thinking Exercises
- How is science limited in what it can know objectively (through the five senses)?
- How might a scientist's worldview determine how he views evidence?
- How might a scientist's ideas about epistemology (how do we know what we know? what are
the limits of our knowledge?) affect his hypotheses and theories?
- Does scientific investigation imply a belief that truth can be known?
- What are some of the underlying assumptions of evolutionary theory? (Life from
non-living material; natural processes operating at a uniform pace over vast periods of
time; accumulation of positive mutations and genetic variations; random and undirected
natural processes; etc¼) See Appendix for evolutions seven basic assumptions. How
might the theories change if one or more of these presuppositions changed?
- How has the theory of punctuated equilibrium evolved from change in the assumption of
- Can a scientist who has a non-naturalistic philosophy still observe and test the
physical, natural world and come to valid scientific conclusions?
- If there is a supernatural dimension to reality, can a scientist who has a naturalistic
philosophy come to valid conclusions?
- How does scientific methodology (forming hypotheses, designing experiments to test and
verify them, sharing information with other scientists, testing each other's theories)
help scientists with different philosophies contribute together to the body of scientific
- Give some examples of important contributions to science by people with different
philosophies, or beliefs.
- How can two scientists look at the same physical evidence and come up with different
theories based on their presuppositions, or philosophies? How might different theories
give rise to new, different hypotheses? How can their different views result in greater
amounts of scientific knowledge?
How is a law different from a theory? In what sense could each of them be called
theories? In what sense are these more than theories (how have they been verified by
repeatable testing, experimentation, measurement)?
If something is a hypothesis, does that mean it is not true? Are theories necessarily
true, or untrue? Why is it important to know how far something is proven, and what would
prove an idea conclusively? Are there things we believe without knowing exactly what the
facts are about them, or how they work? How can a hypothesis that is disproved still be
helpful in the accumulation of scientific knowledge?
Why is macroevolution called a theory and not a fact? What useful and dependable
predictions does the theory make about the natural world? How would it be possible to
observe, or test the theory? Does the theory's failure to predict some phenomena discredit
it? If a competing theory also makes useful and dependable predictions about the natural
world, is it important for some scientists to proceed to test that theory, too? If
scientists are pressured not to consider alternative explanations, or test competing
hypotheses, how will scientific knowledge be limited, or reduced? What might be the danger
of only one philosophy being considered valid as the starting point for scientific
× Look for information about the Law of Biogenesis, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and
the Law of Gravity.
Is Natural Selection the Mechanism by which Species Originate?
Darwin proposed, and modern day Neo-Darwinists support, the idea that species originate
through the process of natural selection. Sometimes this theory is referred to as
'survival of the fittest'. The idea is that the traits which best equip an organism for
survival are most likely to be passed on in succeeding generations. Organisms with an
advantage of some kind in behavior, or physical attributes that gives them greater success
in reproduction will reproduce and replicate their traits with greater frequency in the
population. As genetic reshuffling, or mutation of genes produces such advantages; and as
these advantages, one by one, accumulate over long periods of time, creatures will emerge
with vastly different organs, structures, and body plans from the 'ancestor' on the
'family tree', and be identified as a different species and eventually a different taxa
Who questions this theory, and why?
1. Scientists who propose the punctuated equilibrium (PE) theory of evolution, while
agreeing that macroevolution has occurred, disagree that gradual natural selection of
traits over long periods of time could account for the phenomenon. Observing clear gaps in
the fossil record between species, they propose that 'hopeful monsters' emerged with
greatly variant traits already formed in combinations that would work together to give
them a distinct reproductive advantage over others in their species. Although PE
scientists do not yet propose a mechanism for the increase in genetic information required
to produce these new types, their theory is one way of accounting for the fact that many
interrelated physical changes must have occurred simultaneously for any one of them to
have functioned successfully; and for the fossil evidence that species appear 'intact'
with no transitional forms (such as part snake/part bird). If macroevolution always
occurred in rapid leaps, there would be no such forms expected in the fossil record.
2. Animal breeders disagree that changes in organisms due to genetic reshuffling, or
mutation could be the mechanism of macroevolution. Whether or not they think
macroevolution has occurred, their experience with cultivating such changes shows a
distinct limitation in the plasticity of species (the range of their ability to change
from the original pattern). They can develop new characteristics in successive generations
of animals, within clear boundaries (the horse, for example, is still a horse). If
returned to their natural habitat, bred animals revert to characteristics typical of the
3. Some geneticists disagree that natural selection could be the mechanism of
macroevolution. Their studies of quickly-reproducing organisms, such as fruit flies,
enable them to observe the effects of induced and natural mutations upon thousands of
generations. They conclude that the DNA programs a species to remain what it is - no new
species emerge and many mutations are actually detrimental to the organism, rather than
beneficial in terms of its ability to survive and reproduce. Mutations often leave the
organism unable to reproduce, or create a hybrid creature, which cannot reproduce. The
geneticist may agree, or disagree, that macroevolution has occurred, while agreeing that
gradual accumulation of traits via natural selection could not be the mechanism by which
4. Some biochemists and molecular biologists disagree that gradual accumulation of new
traits could have resulted in entirely new species. Their arguments often hinge on the
astounding level of interdependency of mechanisms at the anatomical, or cellular level,
which is called 'irreducible complexity'. They observe, as do the punctuated equilibrium
scientists, that multiple changes would have to have occurred simultaneously for organisms
to have survived at all. For example, for the transformation of a reptile into a bird,
modifications of the digestive, nervous, respiratory, and skeletal systems must occur. A
being with partial feathers, or an unperfected skeleton, could not fly or crawl and
thus, would be unfit to survive. In another example, it is not enough for the neck of an
ancient giraffe to have gradually lengthened over time. A sophisticated circulatory system
would have to have evolved simultaneously, in synchronization with the lengthening of the
neck. Without perfect blood pressure regulation, the giraffe with the longer neck could
not have survived the raising and lowering of his head. Examples abound of irreducibly
complex systems which, if any one component is absent, cannot function: blood clotting,
electron transport, photosynthesis, bacterial flagellum, etc. Since natural selection
theory depends on the ability of organisms to function at each intermediate step in their
development, scientists may conclude that it could not produce macroevolutionary changes.
5. Some mathematicians conclude that the statistical improbability that accumulated
mutations could result in new species renders the natural selection hypothesis impossible.
Critical Thinking Exercises
- Investigate the arguments for and against the theory that macroevolution occurs by means
of Natural Selection. Present a report giving a summary of the evidence for and against
this particular mechanism as the agent of evolution of new species. Another idea may be
for you and classmates to research opposite positions and present a debate to help other
students understand the thinking of modern scientists on this issue. (Remember, you are
not arguing whether or not macroevolution occurred, but whether or not natural selection
is the mechanism of change from one species to another.). Research the ideas of scientists
who propose alternative possibilities for the mechanism of evolutionary change. What are
the weaknesses and strengths of their hypotheses? Describe the experiments they are
conducting to test their theories.
- Show how the unclear use of the word 'evolution' for the concepts 'microevolution' and
'macroevolution' contributes to confusion about what natural selection is known to
accomplish, and what it is thought to have accomplished.
Critical Thinking Exercises Questions Still to Be Answered About
1. If natural selection is discredited as the mechanism of macroevolution, what else
could account for the appearance of various species? If gradual macroevolution did not
occur, is punctuated equilibrium the only alternative explanation? What might be the
mechanism of macroevolution which occurred in rapid spurts?
2. If genetic recombination regroups existing DNA, and mutation reduces, harms, or
restructures existing DNA, how can the acquisition of entirely new genetic material be
3. If evolution explains the development of life, what explains the origin of life? (If
Francis Crick's theory that aliens 'seeded' the earth with life is true, what explains the
origin of alien life? OR, If humans engage in genetic engineering, is it plausible to
suppose beings higher than humans do the same?)
4. Do gaps (lack of transitional species) in the fossil record discredit Darwin's
theory of gradual macroevolution? Do they prove the punctuated equilibrium theory?
5. How does evolutionary theory explain the co-evolution of species which demonstrate
finely tuned systems of reciprocity, interdependence, symbiosis and cooperation between
animals, or between animals and plants? How do these systems fit into the idea that
species are engaged in a struggle against one another for survival?
6. If the possibility of a mutation resulting in positive change is quite low, what is
the likelihood of multiple positive mutations arising simultaneously?
7. What are the evolutionary advantages of sexual reproduction? Disadvantages? How
might a male and female hopeful monster have emerged simultaneously to reproduce?
8. If anatomical similarities seem to link two animals as near relatives on the
evolutionary 'family tree', but biochemical similarities show different relationships,
which should be used to describe the path of common descent? Does similarity of one kind
or another in organisms suggest their common descent from the same ancestor? Why?
9. How might macroevolutionary theory account for the sudden appearance in history of
complex human languages?
10. What problems are raised within evolutionary theory by the fossil evidence of a
Cambrian 'explosion' of life forms in a relatively short geologic period?
* Note that these are questions being addressed currently by scientists of various
opinions. Raising questions about evolutionary theory does not mean you do not believe in
it, or that you are negating scientific evidence. Scientists who believe macroevolution
has occurred, and those who are skeptical are all in the process of pushing forward our
understanding of the origin and development of life by seeking answers to these questions.
Critical Thinking Exercises Do Homologous Structures Indicate Common
The textbook, Biology, by Miller & Levine, defines homologous structures as "parts
of different organisms, often quite dissimilar, that developed from the same ancestral
body parts." The authors state that, "If organisms had arisen
independently of one another, there would be very little chance that they would have
similar structures and biochemistries." The text defines convergent
evolution as "phenomenon in which adaptive radiations among different organisms
produce species that are similar in appearance and behavior" and divergent
evolution as a "pattern of evolution, also known as adaptive radiation, in which
one species gives rise to many species that appear different externally but are similar
internally." Several intriguing questions arise with regard to such similarities.
1. How do we distinguish whether a similarity indicates common descent or convergent
evolution? Is similarity a proof, in itself, of common descent? What other explanations
might there be for similarities between species?
- The wings of a bird and a bat perform similar functions, but have different internal
structures. They are presumed to have evolved independently of one another.
- The eye of an octopus is remarkably similar functionally to the human eye, but no common
ancestor is hypothesized because of other dissimilarities between them.
- The internal structures of vertebrate fore- and hind-limbs are similar, but are thought
to have evolved separately from pectoral and pelvic fins of fish. (Homologous structures
evolving from different body parts.)
- How might various species have independently evolved the ability to fly?
2. Is the link between organisms to be based on appearance, on function, on internal
structure, or on biochemistry? Can it be determined whether gross anatomical similarity
(structural similarity), or similarity at the cellular level is a better indicator of
common ancestry? Is there a hierarchy of importance in grouping animals as related by
homologous structures, which is applied to all such classifications and which is used to
resolve conflicts posed by similarities at different levels?
The red panda has been reclassified with raccoons instead of with bears, because of
biochemical similarity. The structural similarities of the red panda and giant panda (most
notably, the 'thumb' with which both strip bamboo) is currently considered less compelling
evidence of their relatedness. The giant panda is thus linked to the bear. If number of
chromosomes were considered more substantial evidence, the red (lesser) and giant panda
would be more closely linked than the bear and giant panda. The human arm, whale flipper,
dog forelimb and bat wing are homologous structures said to indicate common descent from
an ancient animal (Biology, page 284, Figure 13--17) The bear, dolphin, snake, bird
and alligator are shown to have evolved from a common ancestor (Biology, page 309,
Figure 14-21) If the internal structure of the dog and bear forelimb were shown to be more
similar than the dog forelimb and whale flipper, how would the 'family tree' need to be
changed? If the blood chemistry of the human is as similar to the snake as to the dog,
does this prove independent evolution of species, or a new line of common descent?
3. How shall we classify animals which seem to possess elements of different groups?
Are these interesting creatures examples of convergent, or divergent evolution? Are they
linked by common descent, or independently evolved, or remaining true to an original form?
- The North American wolf and extinct Tasmanian tiger possess similar skeletal features,
but the tiger had an offspring pouch common to marsupials like the kangaroo. Is a link to
a common ancestor proved, or disproved by either similarity? How would the two animals
have been classified according to the system of Carolus Linnaeus?
- The platypus has a beaver-like tail, a duck-like bill, a reptilian shoulder girdle and
mammalian warm blood. It lays eggs, suckles its young, and the ability (in males) to
inject poisonous venom. What is the best way to classify it?
4. Is any system of classification of life forms entirely objective? How can we
discover what evidence is available for an hypothesized series of links between members of
an evolutionary 'family tree', or what types of similarities were considered conclusive
evidence of their linkages? Is it possible that a presupposition about relatedness between
life forms could affect a scientist's perception of their similarities? (If we believe two
organisms to be closely related, and see similarities between them, this is proof of
common descent. If, however, we believe the two species to be unrelated, their
similarities are examples of convergent evolution.)
5. Some of these issues are discussed in the text (Pages 320-325). The authors state
that "Today, evolutionary theory proposes that living species have evolved from
earlier species. This unifying biological principle thus provides both a purpose and a
guiding philosophy to modern classification systems. For this reason, taxonomists attempt
to group organisms in ways that show their evolutionary relationships." Is there
any circularity of reasoning if macroevolution is presumed before animals are grouped
together by similarities, and then said to be proven by the existence of such
similarities? If the purpose of classification is to show that living species may have
originated from earlier species, then could someone invent a system of classification
which discredits the theory of common descent? If the evidence can be used to prove either
guiding philosophy, should it be acknowledged that our presuppositions affect what we
believe to be proven by scientific evidence? If a scientist set out to prove his theory
that humans descended from the octopus, what evidence could he show of similarity between
them? If a scientist wanted to show that the red panda descended from a different ancestor
than the giant panda, would he place structural, or biochemical similarity higher in the
hierarchy of classification?
Note to the Student: Scientists may disagree on what the evidence proves about
evolution and still learn a great deal from each others' observations of structures,
biochemistries, and behaviors of organisms. Scientific data, results of experiments and
tests, and new hypotheses about the origins and development of life can all be shared to
mutual advantage among scientists with different presuppositions and thoughts about
Handling Problematic Study Questions
This worksheet is an accompaniment to a review of Prentice-Hall's Biology, by
Miller & Levine. One of the problem areas noted by reviewers was the presence of
student study and review questions which either lead the student to supply only one of
several possible answers, or are ambiguous as to whether the student is being asked for a
factual vs a belief-oriented response. Because study questions are normally an
important component of the methodology by which textual material is learned and
reinforced, teachers should recognize the type of question which could be misleading, or
have a tendency to promote indoctrination rather than education. Here are some examples.
Page 282 - "1. Why is the fossil record incomplete?"
The student might answer, as the text has specified, that it is incomplete because many
organisms die without a trace, because conditions are not always right for fossilization
of remains, or because fossils may have been eroded with soil layers. He may answer,
however, that it is incomplete only if one presumes that some organisms must have existed
between fossilized species. A student who does not believe macroevolution occurred would
perceive the fossil evidence as consistent with his expectations - a complete record of
many species emerging in history practically simultaneously. Such an answer should be
given respect and the opportunity taken to point out that the interpretation of the
available evidence, or lack of evidence, is a matter that involves philosophical
presuppositions and beliefs extraneous to the study of the evidence itself.
Page 285 - "1. What is the most plausible explanation for the structural and
biochemical similarities that exist in living organisms?"
According to the text, the student's answer should reflect the authors' belief that
homologous structures are explained by, and proof of, the theory of common descent. If,
however, a student believes they are insufficient proof for the theory, he may assert that
the best explanation is the existence of a common creator, or that a plausible explanation
has yet to be formulated. This student's reply must not be ridiculed, or dismissed in the
classroom. If the teacher is uncomfortable with the introduction of such divergent
responses, he could rephrase this question, "What do macroevolutionary scientists
believe to be the best explanation for structural and biochemical similarities in living
Page 285 - Critical Thinking - "4. How does biochemistry support the idea that
all living things evolved from common ancestors?"
This is, in itself, a fair question. Since it is listed as a Critical Thinking
question, however, it is particularly important that it be amended as follows: "What
evidence from biochemistry supports the idea that all living things did not evolve from
common ancestors?" Students can be directed to Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical
Challenge to Evolution, by university professor of biochemistry Michael Behe, for
further research, as they will find no reference in the text to the existence of such
scientific evidence, or of alternative scientific interpretations of biochemical evidence.
(This type of omission illustrates the tendency of such questions toward indoctrination
rather than education.) A teacher could also use the rephrasing method to clarify that the
beliefs of macroevolutionary scientists are being called for here, rather than facts,
student beliefs, or the conclusions drawn by non-evolutionary scientists.
Page 291 - Journal Activity
Students are advised to write about evolutionary theory and the controversy
surrounding it. This is a highly commendable exercise. The text correctly points out
that many people have strong opinions about evolution, while few actually understand what
it is. Our recommendation to the teacher: be sure your students have access to a variety
of scientific opinion and research. If students were expected to outline the 'truth' about
the evolution controversy from this text alone, it would be tantamount to a catechism
exercise in received doctrine, rather than an educational exercise.
Page 298 - Critical Thinking - "3. Explain how natural selection might produce
a modern giraffe from short-necked ancestors."
Students should also be allowed and encouraged to explain how natural selection might
be an implausible mechanism for the gradual development of a long-necked giraffe. For this
research, they might consult Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, or the
works of various punctuated equilibrium proponents. The inclusion of such scientific
information would actually make this an exercise in critical thinking.
Page 789 - "2. Give three examples of convergent evolution among mammals."
The student unwilling to give any examples should not be penalized. This is an example
of the subtlety by which evolutionary beliefs are translated into doctrinaire assertions
of fact in this text. The fair teacher could also rephrase the question, "Give three
examples of what macroevolutionary scientists believe to be instances of convergent
evolution among mammals." In this way, the student can convey his understanding of
macroevolutionary theory without compromising his belief that it did not occur.
TO THE TEACHER:
This sampling of problematic student questioning should adequately convey the types of
problems found with this text which are fairly easy to rectify with clarifications and
amendments from you. In summary, we recommend:
1) Invite the students to research and present scientific views of evolution which may
contradict, or be incompatible with the text's presentation
2) Provide research materials of a non-religious nature that present other theories on
3) Rephrase any questions (for tests, homework, or classroom discussion) which call for
answers presenting the beliefs of macroevolutionary scientists rather that those of the
student, or of non-evolutionary scientists.
4) Respect the divergent scientific answers to questions which are open to
Secondary Problems - Appendix 1
Problems of Missing or False Information in the Text
I. Omission of problems with the creation of life experiment.
Life has never been created in the test tube nor have we come close. The text (p.
343-4) does not fairly portray the problems of the experiment produced by Miller and Urey.
In fact, not one negative is even mentioned about the specifics of the experiment. In all
fairness, at least three problems should be taught.
A. They excluded oxygen from the experiment and used a reducing atmosphere. They knew
oxygen would oxidize the amino acids they were trying to manufacture. However, it is a
problem if one cannot get life to evolve with oxygen or without oxygen.
B. They filtered out the product produced by the spark because it was thousands of
times more likely to be destroyed than to be produced. In actuality, the product would not
be protected from future lightning strikes. (The resulting product was 85% tar, 13%
carboxylic acid (both toxic to life) and just 2% amino acids. Only 2 were created of the
twenty needed for life.)
C. The probability of forming even one protein randomly is extremely
low. Amino acids exist in right and left handed configurations in roughly equal numbers.
Proteins are composed only of left-handed amino acids and must carry 70-100 in precise
order. Also, amino acids bond in many ways. Proteins use peptide bonds only.
D. Finally, proteins are millions of times more likely to unbond in water, and if the
process began in water, this would nullify the process.
II. Vestigial Organs - False Information
Page 284 uses vestigial organs as proof of evolution because it is an
organ or structure that used to be of use but "whose main function is no longer
valuable." It states that humans miniature tailbones at the end of the spine,
muscles that move the ears and the appendix are all vestigial organs. This is outdated,
misinformation. The nine muscles attached at the small end of the tail bone are needed for
reproduction in humans, and the appendix has been found to be very helpful with digestion.
We may just not know how the ear muscles aid in facial movement as of yet.
"The existence of functionless vestigial organs was presented by
Darwin, and is often cited by current biology textbooks, as part of the evidence for
evolution . . . . An analysis of the difficulties in unambiguously identifying
functionless structures and an analysis of the nature of the argument, leads to the
conclusion that vestigial organs provide no evidence for evolutionary
theory." S.R. Scadding, "Do Vestigial Organs Provide Evidence
for Evolution?" Evolutionary Theory, vol. 5, No. 3, May 1981, p. 173.
III. Misinformation about the horse and its evolution.
Figure 13-5 p. 281. Othniel C. Marsh invented the horse evolution in the 1870's. The
entire idea was discredited years ago. Modern horse skeletons have been uncovered in
layers older than the four-toed ancestor. An animal nearly identical to the Hyracotherium
("Dawn Horse") is a small, four-toed, meat-eating animal in South America today.
"By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the
fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be
discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information what appeared to be a
nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much
more complex and much less gradualistic." Dr. David M. Raup (Curator of Geology,
Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago), "Conflicts between Darwin and
Paleontology." Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 50 (1),
January 1979, p. 25.
IV. Misinformation regarding "Peppered Moths: Natural Selection in Action"
(p. 297). Teachers need to state that after further study it has been found that this
experiment does not account for natural selection. The text details Kettlewells work
and says, "Today Kettlewells work is considered to be a classic
demonstration of natural selection in action." p. 298. Unfortunately, Kettlewell
did not use integrity in his scientific research.
The following article can be found at
April 5, 1999 Alberta Report Moth-eaten Darwinism A Disproven Textbook Case Of
Natural Selection Refuses To Die
The peppered moth: Predators may not be the answer.
The London Daily Telegraph headline proclaimed, "Scientists pick holes in
Darwin moth theory."
"Evolution experts are quietly admitting that one of their most cherished
examples of Charles Darwin's theory, the rise and fall of the peppered moth, is based on a
series of scientific blunders," read the March 14 story. But the real news is that
these quiet admissions have taken so long to reach the press. "Even though the study
was discredited 10 years ago, it is still taught,"says Jonathan Wells, a
post-doctorate biology researcher at the University of California in Berkeley, who has
just finished an article on the subject.Scientists coined the term "industrial
melanism" to describe the variation in British peppered moth populations. In the
early 19th century, peppered moths were predominantly white with dark specks. Their
colouring made them difficult to see on lichen-encrusted tree trunks, but as industrial
pollution decimated the lichen growth, dark-coloured, or melanic, moths gained the
advantage of superior camouflage. The number of melanics, which had previously been small,
soared until anti-pollution legislation was introduced. Then the lichens grew back and the
white colouring regained precedence.Or so went the theory advanced in the 1950s by Bernard
Kettlewell (1907-79), an Oxford lepidopterist who studied the moths by releasing hundreds
of each colour in Birmingham, England, and then counting the percentage of each that could
be recaptured. Nearly every introductory biology textbook, including the standard high
school textbook for Alberta students, Nelson Canada's Biology, includes
Kettlewell's work as proof of natural selection.
But there are problems with the moth research. Experiments during the 1970s showed that
melanic moths made up 80% of the population in an unpolluted area, even though white ones
were better camouflaged. Inconsistent correlations between lichen cover and moth colour
appeared in more and more studies. Biologists tried to reproduce Kettlewell's results,
breeding moths for colour in the lab and releasing them, but the survival rates of
melanics and non-melanics did not seem to follow the theory.In the early 1980s
lepidopterists pointed out that moths do not normally rest on tree trunks. In fact, they
usually perch under horizontal branches. Many science textbooks are thus saddled with
misleading illustrations that show dead moths of various colours pinned to tree trunks.
"We were aware of the questions when we wrote the text," says Bob Ritter, who
was a teacher at Austin O'Brien High School in Edmonton when he helped write Biology in
1993. "You have to look at the audience. How convoluted do you want to make it for a
first-time learner? We want to get across the idea of selective adaptation. Later on, they
can look at the work critically...Grade 11 students are still very concrete in the way
they learn," says Mr. Ritter, who is now vice-principal of Edmonton's Archbishop
MacDonald Catholic High School. "The advantage of this example of natural selection
is that it is extremely visual."However, the myth is alive and well in university
introductory courses as well. Its "advantages" as a teaching tool-that it is
simple, visual and memorable-have made it perhaps the best-known modern-day
"proof" of evolution by natural selection. "It's interesting that the story
continues to be told, even though it's false," says biologist Wells. "The only
other examples of gene frequencies affecting survival are bacterial resistance to
antibiotics or insect resistance to insecticide. If you want to look at a visible trait,
you are virtually without examples."
"This does not disprove Darwinism," stresses Mr. Wells. "But it removes
an important piece of evidence." He compares the moths to Ernst Haeckel's classic
series of embryo drawings, still used in many textbooks, which illustrate the similarities
between reptile, bird and mammal embryos. "The drawings were highly stylized to
illustrate common ancestry," he notes. "The Journal of Anatomy and Embryology
compared them to more accurate drawings last year, and the differences were
evident."But Mr. Wells is doubtful that accurate information will be popular any time
soon. "[My article] is currently under review for a biology journal," he says.
"But frankly, I think they're going to bury it, because it goes too much against the
Darwinian current."-- Carla Yu
V. Omission of History and Misinformation contained in drawings of
the "embryological stages" showing the "similarities of development."
Figure 13-16 p. 283 in the student text shows the similarities between fish, chicken,
rabbit and human in the embryonic stage. The Guide for Reading asks, "How do
similarities in embryo development support the concept of common descent?"
In 1874, famous embryologist Wilhelm His, Sr. exposed Ernst Haeckels
embryonic similarity drawings as fraudulent. While the text doesnt promote the
"gill slits that Haeckels false drawings did, it does promote the same
thing for which Haeckel altered the pictures proof of common descent. It also uses
the false drawings that Haeckel fabricated. The texts drawings have been compared
with modern, recent, accurate photographs of the embryonic stages of the fish, chicken,
rabbit and human. They are significantly different, showing the text used Haeckels
falsified drawings to promote Darwinism. (The modern photos originally appeared in M.K.
Richardson et al., footnote 15, c Springer-Verlag GmbH & Co., Tiergartenstrasse, 69121
Heidelberg, Germany. Enclosed are the recent photos, found on pg. 87 from the book Refuting
Evolution, by Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.)
It is widely accepted that Haeckels drawings are falsified and do not belong in a
competent teaching text:
"This generalization was originally called the biogenetic law by Haeckel and is
often stated as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. This crude interpretation of
embryological sequences will not stand close examination, however. Its shortcomings have
been almost universally pointed out by modern authors, but the idea still has a prominent
place in biological mythology." Paul R. Ehrlich and Richard W. Holm, The
Process of Evolution (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), p. 66.
Note that in the teachers text, p. 283, the sidebar has "Content Development
Using the Visuals." Again, this teaching support uses the same falsified picture to
make its point, so this sidebar (at minimum the first three questions and answers) should
be marked in the teachers text and pointed out to the student as invalid. The last
question and answer in the sidebar is not accurate in that it does not tell the student
how harmful 98% of mutations are, and so it is a misguiding question and answer as well.