Parents for Objective Science and History

Biology Text Review



Form 410.4 (a)

Citizen's Request for Reconsideration of

Library and/or Instructional Material

Author: Miller/Levine

Title: Biology

Publisher: Prentice-Hall

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 'evolution'

        A. Case 1 - 'Evolution' = minor variations and adaptations

        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

            3. Alternative 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 Text: Appendix

2. What do you feel might be the result of using this material?

  1. Students will fail to learn the importance of defining terms carefully when attempting to think logically.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 questioning.
  4. 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).
  5. Student’s 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 teachers’s 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 worksheets.

  1. We recommend that no religious material be presented in this context, but that religion and philosophy be kept out of the science classroom.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. We recommend that the district adopt the following statement formed by the Science Education Commission of the American Scientific Affiliation:
  5. "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 presentations."

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 ignorant.)

P. 303, "Evolutionary change occurs around us constantly. Scientists today have observed many examples of evolutionary change that have occurred in living organisms."

(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 taxa.

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.

Proposed Solution:

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 body plans.

B. Case 2 - 'Evolution' = major innovations of species, structures, organs, and body plans

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 science.

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.)

Proposed Solution:

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 conclusion."

(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, remember this."

(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 investigation.)

Proposed Solution:

Concepts included in Worksheet #3 (attached) will help teachers and students differentiate between scientific fact, scientific theory and philosophical or religious belief.

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 evolutionary scientists.

Proposed Solution:

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 his/her beliefs.

Please Note:

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




Worksheet #1

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.

1) Microevolution

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 traits:

l. They have limits. (Insects can become resistant to pesticides, but not a sledgehammer.)

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.)

2) Macroevolution

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

  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 "MACRO."

  2. 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.'



Worksheet #2

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.



Worksheet #3

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, Miller/Levine)

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 former. (Webster's)

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 science.

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 granted. (Webster's)

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 design.

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

  1. How is science limited in what it can know objectively (through the five senses)?
  2. How might a scientist's worldview determine how he views evidence?
  3. 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?
  4. Does scientific investigation imply a belief that truth can be known?
  5. 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 evolution’s seven basic assumptions. How might the theories change if one or more of these presuppositions changed?
  6. How has the theory of punctuated equilibrium evolved from change in the assumption of uniformitarianism?
  7. Can a scientist who has a non-naturalistic philosophy still observe and test the physical, natural world and come to valid scientific conclusions?
  8. If there is a supernatural dimension to reality, can a scientist who has a naturalistic philosophy come to valid conclusions?
  9. 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 knowledge?
  10. Give some examples of important contributions to science by people with different philosophies, or beliefs.
  11. 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?
  12. × Look for information about the Law of Biogenesis, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the Law of Gravity.

  13. 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)?
  14. 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?
  15. 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 investigation?

Worksheet #4

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 altogether.

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 original stock.

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 it operates.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Worksheet #5

Critical Thinking Exercises Questions Still to Be Answered About Evolution

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 accounted for?

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.



Worksheet #6

Critical Thinking Exercises Do Homologous Structures Indicate Common Descent?

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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?

  1. 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?
  2. 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 unifying philosophies.



Worksheet #7


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 organisms?"

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.



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 this subject.

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 non-macroevolutionary responses.




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 Kettlewell’s work and says, "Today Kettlewell’s 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 Haeckel’s embryonic similarity drawings as fraudulent. While the text doesn’t promote the "gill slits’ that Haeckel’s 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 text’s 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 Haeckel’s 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 Haeckel’s 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 teacher’s 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 teacher’s 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.






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