RNCSE 18 (1)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Articles available online are listed below.

California Science Standards Raise Serious Questions

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
California Science Standards Raise Serious Questions
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
4
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In 1989 the state of California adopted the California Science Framework (CSF), which has been a model to other states developing science curriculum standards. Anticipating the well-known Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the more recent National Science Education Standards (NSES) published by the National Academy of Science in 1996, the CSF emphasized that the goal of science education should be deep understanding of major scientific concepts, rather than memorization of numerous facts. The inclusion of evolution as a major concept in the CSF — which represented a victory over strong political opposition — has also influenced education in other states. Because California is one of the largest markets for textbooks, the inclusion of evolution has made it possible for schools all over the country to use textbooks that cover the subject.

California is now in the process of writing Academic Standards to provide the basis of statewide assessments in all subject areas. For 1998 the Academic Standards Commission has assigned committees to concentrate specifically on developing standards in science and social studies. Each committee will develop a draft for review by the full commission, which will then submit a proposal to the State Board of Education. Each step of the process presents new opportunities for opposition to evolution.

Even before the science committee released a first draft for public comment, they had been visited by Commissioner LaTanya Wright who "encouraged the committee not to dismiss the issue of creation. She contended... both [evolution and creation] should be included (or excluded) from the standards... [and] that creation be included in the standards 'on a parallel track'." Committee members responded by discussing both legal issues and the nature of science, then passed a motion (with 8 "yes" votes and 2 abstentions) to exclude any aspect of creationism in the standards. The draft released for public comment in the last week of April included evolution at the middle and high school levels and in biology and geology. Many NCSE members wrote to the committee or attended public hearings to express their support for the inclusion of evolution in the standards.

NCSE anticipates struggles in the months ahead. The presence of a "creation science" supporter on the commission is just one cause for concern. Another is that, while the Science Committee has thus far included evolution, it has disregarded important features of the existing curriculum framework. In her April 27 letter to the Standards Commission, NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott commented, "It appears that little from either the CSF and other model state standards, or the national Benchmarks and the NSES has seeped into the Draft Content Standards." Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Science, told the commission that the current standards fail to discuss "the methods of scientific inquiry and reasoning," and do not "meet or exceed" national standards. If the Science Committee can abandon the conceptual approach of the California Science Framework, the full commission and Board of Education could go further and yield to political pressure against evolution.

NCSE will continue to work with other science educators and concerned organizations to advise the Academic Standards Commission on the importance of evolution education.

[See a full report of the March 17 meeting of the Science Committee at http://www.ca.gov/goldstandards/Meetings/Minutes/SciMinutes/Mar17.html.]

The Legacy of Frank T Awbrey

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The Legacy of Frank T Awbrey
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
5–6
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Frank T Awbrey, Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University (SDSU), avid supporter of NCSE, and champion of the accurate representation of science, died of cancer on May 31, 1998. Until shortly before his death, Frank was actively pursuing research in bioacoustics, studying the sounds made by animals and the effects of human-caused sound on animal adaptation and survival.

Besides maintaining an active research program even after his retirement from SDSU in 1997, Frank devoted part of nearly every lecture he gave to explaining how science works. For Frank, the presentation of scientific facts and conclusions was a means toward the end of showing the workings of scientific methods and logic. In the syllabus for his introductory course he wrote, "Science is not just a body of facts; it is a process for understanding and explaining facts of nature.This science course, therefore, emphasizes critical thinking and understanding of basic concepts rather than accumulation of facts."

He was convinced that the primary purpose of science education is to protect against the harm done by pseudoscientific claims. We were fortunate to have someone who thought and taught as Frank did, when "scientific creationism" arose in the 1970s. Frank took an early and active interest in this movement and became one of a small circle of scholars who devoted considerable time and energy to investigating the science of creation "science". He helped found the journal Creation/Evolution and contributed many articles on topics as diverse as thermodynamics and "dust on the moon" as well as such biological topics as "kinds" vs species, and creationist biochemistry. His article, "Yes, Virginia, there is a creation model" laid out the essence of young-earth creationism on page 1 of the very first issue of Creation/Evolution.

In 1995 he shared with William Thwaites the American Humanist Association's "Humanist Contributions to Science" Award for his efforts to combat creation "science".

Frank Awbrey was a formidable anticreationist debater—one of the few scientists successfully to confront the professional debaters from the Institute for Creation Research. Thwaites and Awbrey pioneered the only debate strategy that has any hope of success: attacking creation "science" head on by analyzing and refuting the specific statements of creationists. Awbrey and Thwaites wrote in their 1993 Creation/Evolution article, "Our last debate: Our very last" that they began studying creation science hoping "there might be some small chance that a creationist would dig up a real biological paradox, one that would prove to be an interesting brain-teaser for the scientific community." Although they studied creationist literature for years, they never found one. But their efforts resulted in Frank's amassing an impressive series of over 1000 slides on creationism.

The collection contains hundreds of creationist claims along with their logical extensions and comparisons with original sources and data. Shortly before his death Frank donated this collection along with its associated database to the NCSE. Earlier, at the time of his retirement, he had donated his papers and creation/evolution library to NCSE's archives.

His long-time friend Bill Thwaites writes, "I know that I am only one among many who will sorely miss Frank's advice, seemingly infinite knowledge, counsel, and boundless good humor. I suspect that the more perceptive of creationists will also miss him."

Donations may be sent to NCSE in Frank's memory.

[NCSE Executive Director Eugenie C Scott and long-time NCSE member William Thwaites contributed to this obituary.]

Changing the Public's Perception of Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Changing the Public's Perception of Evolution — Christian Origins of Evolutionary Thought
Author(s): 
Karen Bartelt
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
12–15, 18
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Defining the Problem

Evolution, declares a self-proclaimed "creation-science-evangelist" is "just a pagan religion that has been mixed in with science for nearly a century" (Hovind 1993). A college student responds to a biology lecture on evolution by editorializing in the college newspaper, that "to say that humans evolved from primates is not in accordance with Genesis and is unfriendly to Christian teachings" (Elmendorf 1995). At the same college, another student abruptly leaves a lecture when the human fossil record is discussed.

The evangelist, the students, and often the general public, harbor two misconceptions concerning evolution. First, they believe that the theory of evolution was a recent event precipitated by the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species. Second, they see the theory of evolution as solely the work of atheists, and consistent only with a naturalistic philosophy. Young earth creationists exacerbate the situation with their own misinformation; in Men of Science, Men of God, Henry Morris states that in the eighteenth century "geology was beginning to lead people back to the long-age concepts of ancient pagan philosophies" and evolution, "though long out of fashion among scientists, had been advocated by various liberal theologians... and it was beginning to creep back into the scientific literature" (Morris 1982: 51).

While I agree that such rhetoric flourishes in the atmosphere of scientific illiteracy, there is an ignorance of history here as well. The general public knows very little about the theory of evolution beyond the knee-jerk reaction that it makes them uncomfortable. Most are unaware that the theory of evolution has had a long history, and many Christian — often creationist — scientists contributed significantly to the development of the theory of evolution. They are unaware that the entire worldview of unchanging, specially-created species, a creation event lasting six 24-hour days, and a 6000-year old earth had already been abandoned by even religious scientists in the years prior to 1859 — the publication date of Darwin's Origin of Species.

A Possible Solution

I propose that we can improve the public's perception of evolution by presenting a more complete picture of its development, emphasizing the contributions of Christian — often creationist — scientists from the pre-Darwinian era. I recently presented this information to a general college audience. To assure that the young-earth creationists who attended would agree that I picked "Bible believing scientists", I concentrated on those scientists whom creationist Henry Morris describes as having been a "professing Christian (any denomination) who... believed that the universe, life, and man were directly and specially created by the transcendent God of the Bible" (Morris 1982: 14). To make events and names easier to follow, each person in attendance received a timeline complete with significant dates (Figure 1).



Introduction

Many of the scientists of the 15-1800s adhered to a belief in special creation because there was little evidence to support evolution (Diamond 1985:83). Additionally, because there was no method of determining the age of the earth except from literary sources, and because the Holy Scriptures were thought to be among the most ancient literary sources, biblical chronologies were used as a method of estimating the age of the earth (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 4). The Bishop Ussher date — creation in 4004 BC — was only one of many estimates of the earth's age using biblical chronologies (Dalrymple 1991:14).

Difficulties with the Genesis Account

Many hundreds of years before the publication of Darwin's Origin, data that challenged the scientific authority of Genesis began to accumulate in at least four areas that impacted upon the theory of evolution. First, the processes that shape the earth were studied, and scriptural accounts were called into question. Second, exploration of new continents led to the discovery of new animals and plants, many more than were described in ancient texts. Third, it became possible to estimate the age of the earth. Fourth, the geologic column was explored and the fossils were systematically analyzed. New questions arose: Was the earth shaped by catastrophes? Was the Flood of Noah the catastrophe? What were fossils? Was there a relationship between fossils and sedimentary strata? How did modern species originate?

Contributions from Scientists Prior to the 18th Century — A Worldwide Flood?

Even today many Christians believe that God once flooded the entire world and that fossils are evidence of life destroyed by this Noachian Flood. Prior to the year 1700, at least four devout Christian men were not convinced by this literal interpretation of Genesis and proposed alternate scientific explanations.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) observed that the fossil shells in the Alps were frequently found in pairs and rows and stated, "if the shells had been carried by the muddy deluge they would have been mixed up, and not in the regular steps and layers, as we see them now in our time" (quoted in Gohau 1990: 34). Leonardo noted that the Alpine strata showed no evidence of a single violent episode of deposition (Newell 1985: 3&7), and in 1508 rejected the idea of a universal flood (Dean 1985: 95). Though Morris features Leonardo as one of his "men of science, men of God" and discusses his contributions to art, engineering, architecture, anatomy, physics, optics, biology, and aeronautics, Morris makes no reference to Leonardo's theories concernmg fossils or his rejection of the Genesis flood!

Nicolaus Steno (1638-86) described many fundamental geological principles including the process of sedimentation and the law of superposition. Morris asserts that Steno "interpreted the strata — unlike modern evolutionary stratigraphers — in the manner of flood geologists, attributing formation in large measure to the Great Flood" (Morris 1982: 41). In fact, Steno stated that the strata of earth were laid down as sediment from seas or rivers (Geikie 1905: 55). He ruled out the "Great Flood" as a means of depositing fossils although he felt that the Flood was a factor in the folding and disruption of strata (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 22).

Robert Hooke (1635-1703), another of Morris's religious scientists, did not doubt that the Flood of Noah was a real event, but did not believe that it was responsible for the deposition of strata. He thought that the sea would have had to have been in place much longer than the one year implied in Genesis to deposit the thick sedimentary strata seen in England (Geikie 1905:69). Hooke did not consider the Noachian Flood responsible for the placement of fossils either and suggested earthquakes as a possible factor (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 25). A statement from his "Discourse on Earthquakes" portends the concepts of extinction and evolution: "there have been many other species of Creatures in former Ages, of which we can find none at present; and 'tis not unlikely also but that there may be divers new kinds now, which have not been from the beginning" (cited in Faul and Faul 1983:42).

One of the earliest theories of the formation of the earth came from Thomas Burnet (1636-1715) who Morris says, "took the scriptural account of creation and the Flood as providing the basic framework of interpretation for earth history, showing it to be confirmed by known facts of physics and geology" (Morris 1982: 47). In Sacred Theory of the Earth (1681), Burnet depicted the Noachian Flood as the defining event in planetary history (Geikie 1905: 66). However, he realized that the volume of water needed for a universal flood was much greater than that present in the oceans, and his solution was to place much of the water in the atmosphere or under the crust and to dispose of it in underwater caverns (Newell 1985: 37). In Burnet's account, a smooth, sealess, mountainless, paradise world was destroyed as it collapsed into the waters below. The deluge ruined the world, and the earth's axis tilted due to the uneven distribution of debris (Faul and Faul 1983:49). Burnet is important to this historical perspective because he was one of the first scientists whose explanation of the earth's origin and geophysical features abandoned a literal reading of Genesis — a sealess perfect sphere, for example, does not square well with the Genesis creation accounts. His theory was certainly not literal enough for one Bishop Croft, who called Burnet "besotted with his own vain and heathenish Opinions" (cited in Faul and Faul 1983: 50).

At the end of the 17th century the Flood of Noah was considered by many scientists to have been a real event, but was not universally accepted as the defining geological event, and certainly not responsible for depositing fossils. Even the religious scientists of the era proposed theories of the origin of the earth that did not adhere to a literal reading of Genesis.

The 18th Century — A Crowded Ark and an Ancient Earth

The explorations of the American, African, and Australian continents posed severe problems for those who believed that modern species were descendants of those animals rescued from the Flood by Noah. When the kinds of animals were restricted to those found in Europe and the Near East, it was not inconsistent to propose that all of them had fit into the Ark. When the Ark became crowded with koalas, llamas, and bison, scientists of this era were forced further to amend the Genesis account of the origin of species.

One of these scientists was Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the son of a Lutheran minister and one of the founders of modern taxonomy. He is described in creationist literature as "a man of great piety" who "attempted... to equate his 'species' category with the 'kind', believing that variation could occur within the kind, but not from one kind to another kind. Thus he believed in 'fixity of species' (Morris 1982: 49). Other biographers disagree. An investigation of Linnaeus' prolific writings shows that his creation account did not come directly out of Genesis, and his views on the fixity of species changed with time.

Linnaeus proposed that the Garden of Eden was an island near the Equator in the middle of an ocean and that the earth was covered by "the vast ocean with the exception of a single island... on which... all animals could have their being and all plants most excellently thrive" (cited in Hagberg 1953: 198). In time the seas receded and this small Eden became a large mountain with all types of climates . The plants and animals slowly made their way to an appropriate environment first at the time of creation, and again after the Noachian Flood.

Linnaeus believed that fossils were not products of a supernatural flood, but formed naturally in the open ocean. He proposed a unique process to form the sedimentary limestone and shale layers: large mats of sargasso in the ocean prevented wave formation and thus allowed limestone to precipitate. Later on, the sargasso decomposed and was converted to shale, in which fossils were trapped. This was but one of the gradual mechanical processes that Linnaeus thought were responsible for shaping the earth: a "temporis filia, child of time" (quoted in Frangsmyr 1983:143).

Early in his career Linnaeus insisted that each species was a separate creation, stating "We count as many species as there were different forms created" (quoted in Frangsmeyer 1983: 86). Doubts began to arise in 1744 as Linnaeus described a type of toadflax which he called Peloria (malformation). It had been produced from Linaria, but was so extremely different from the parent plant that he assigned it not to just a new species or genus, but to a new class (Frangsmeyer 1983, p 94-5). He was forced to consider the concept of evolution, and by 1751, produced a list of plants, Plantae Hybridae, which were assumed to have two different species as parents, stating, "It is impossible to doubt, that there are new species produced by hybrid generation" (cited in Glass 1959: 149). In Fundamenta Fructificationis (1762) Linnaeus proposed that at creation there were only a small number of species, but that they had the ability to fertilize each other — and did (Frangsmeyer 1983: 97). By 1766 the words "no new species" were removed from the 12th edition of Systemae Naturae. In a comment published posthumously Linnaeus asserted that "Species are the work of time" (cited in Glass 1959: 150). After his death, Linnacus was accused of atheism by the German theologian Zimmerman, to which his son replied "He believed, no doubt, that species animalium et plantarum and that genera were the works of time: but that the ordines naturales were the works of the Creator; if the latter had not existed the former could not have arisen" (citted in Hagberg 1953: 200).

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), made significant contributions to biology and geology, but perhaps his greatest contributions were a mechanism to determine the age of the earth, and an estimate for the age of the earth that differed significantly from the 6000 years or so calculated from biblical chronologies.

In Epoques de la Nature (1778) Buffon proposed that the earth had cooled from a molten state, and suggested that earth's age might be deduced by determining the time it took to cool to its present temperature. By constructing a series of iron spheres, heating them to a near molten state, then measuring the cooling times and extrapolating these data to a body the size of earth, he deduced that the earth was in excess of 75 000 years old, with an unpublished manuscript proposing a 3 000 000 year age for the earth (Gohau 1990: 94). Buffon's method of escaping the literalism of Genesis 1:11 was to interpret creation "days" as indefinite periods: "The sense of the narrative seems to require that the duration of each 'day' must have been long, so that we may enlarge it to as great an extent as the truths of physics demand" (cited in Geikie 1905: 91).

Lest one suppose that Buffon was increasing the age of the earth to promote evolutionary theories, one has only to look at his contributions in the area of biology to show that this is false. Though by 1753 he considered the possibility of evolution and even saw some supporting evidence, he concluded that "...production of a species by degeneration from another species is an impossibility for nature..." (Lovejoy 1959: 99). Buffon offered three lines of argument against evolution (some of which are still used by young-earth creationists): 1) no new species were known to have occurred within recorded history; 2) hybrid infertility was a barrier to speciation; 3) no "missing links" between groups had been discovered. However, by the 1778 publication of Epoques, Buffon no longer mentioned the simultaneous creation of all species, adopting the notion of gradual appearance instead. (Lovejoy 1959:98-103). Ernst Mayr wrote: "Even though Buffon himself rejected evolutionary explanations, he brought them to the attention of the scientific world" (Mayr 1982: 335).

Buffon's early belief in special creation did not prevent him from getting into trouble with the theology faculty at Sorbonne. In 1751, after studying Histoire Naturelle for two years, the faculty noted the discrepancies between his text and Genesis, and demanded that he retract. Though there is good reason to doubt his sincerity, Buffon replied that he "had no intention to contradict the text of the Scriptures" (cited in Gohau 1990: 93). Twenty-five years later, Buffon found himself in front of the same faculty for his treatment of the age of the earth in Epoques, but he was older, richer, more politically connected, and never did get around to recanting (Faul and Faul 1983: 77).

Before the birth of Charles Darwin, the concepts of a 6000-year-old earth and the special creation of species were being questioned and rejected by scientists who creationists themselves describe as devout Christians.

The 19th Century — Fossils and the Geologic Column

The industrial revolution and the steam engine contributed much to the elucidation of the earth's structure early in the 19th century simply by exposing more of it during mining and the building of canals and roads (Newell 1985: 92). Some contemporary creationists claim that the geologic column was constructed after the publication of Origin to bolster the theory of evolution. In fact, the geologic column was deciphered early in the 19th century, by contributors who were either ignorant of the concept of evolution or opposed to it.

William Smith (1769-1839) was a land surveyor and civil engineer who participated in building projects all over England. He constructed a geological map of England in 1799, observing that England was constructed of strata which were never inverted, and that even at great distances "each stratum contained organized fossils peculiar to itself, and might, in cases otherwise doubtful, be recognized and discriminated from others like it, but in a different part of the series, by examination of them" (cited in Geikie 1897: 233). His results, published in 1816 in Strata Identified by Organized Fossils, demonstrated that fossils were not randomly buried, as in a flood, but always occurred in a definite order in the geologic column. Marine species were often found between strata containing terrestrial species — a real blow to flood geology. Smith never formulated a theory of fossil deposition and was, in fact, a literal creationist. "Neither Smith nor [Rev Joseph] Townsend [a publisher of Smith's results] grasped the idea that time was involved in laying down the successive strata, and thought they had contributed support to Mosaic cosmogony" (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 248).

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), was a French Lutheran anti-evolutionist and founder of comparative anatomy. He is described by Morris as the "chief advocate of multiple catastrophism, believing the Flood to be the last in a series of global catastrophes in earth history" (Morris 1982: 57; italics added). Cuvier was aware of the sequential nature of the fossil record from his own research on the geologic column of the Paris Basin. His paper comparing present day elephants to fossil elephants from Siberia provided evidence that fossils were the remains of extinct animals. Nevertheless, Cuvier was convinced that "species were fixed, immutable and independent" on the basis of scientific observations, not scripture. He examined a number of mummified creatures filched from the graves of Egyptian pharaohs, and found these 3000 year-old specimens to be taxonomically identical to living species (Faul and Faul 1983: 139). To reconcile the obvious changes seen in the fossil record with his belief in fixity of species, Cuvier proposed that the sequential nature of the fossil record was the result of five localized catastrophes. These "revolutions", to use his (time appropriate) word, were caused by the influx of ocean water or transient floods. He further believed that animals were replaced in a flooded area by migration from other areas (Gohau 1990: 131-3). Cuvier never suggested that the floods were global, and it was Jameson's translation into English which suggested that the final catastrophe was the Flood of Noah (Strahler 1987: 190). Out of Cuvier's doctrine of abrupt extinctions and successive "revolutions" his students, especially D'Orbigny, inferred the necessity of up to 27 special creations (Lovejoy cited in Glass 1959: 386).

Cuvier objected to evolution for two reasons. He believed that species were designed for a particular environment, a specific place, until a "revolution" occurred. He also pointed out the lack of transitional forms: "If species have changed by degrees, we should find some traces of these gradual modifications; ...This has not yet happened" (cited in Mayr 1982: 368), and "Fossil man does not exist" (cited in Milner 1990: 105). Both of these statements were accurate during Cuvier's lifetime. The theories proposed by Cuvier and his students were hardly in line with a literal view of Genesis, but instead lent scientific support to both "gap-theory" and "day-age" creationism.

William Buckland (1784-1856) was an Anglican priest and author of the 6th Bridgewater Treatise. He is described by Henry Morris as a "strong creationist" who "did accept the geologic significance of the worldwide Flood" (Morris 1982: 64). Bueldand mounted attacks on earlier evolutionary theorists and was a diluvialist early in his career; his first lecture at Oxford was a defense of the Noachian Flood. His book Relics of the Flood described evidence supporting a universal deluge: fossil bones found in the Andes and Himalayas, river gorges, huge boulders obviously not transported by rivers, and large gravel deposits. Eventually, his own research on the alluvial deposits in caves forced him to reconsider his position on the timing of the Flood. He was disturbed not to have found human remains in caves and so moved the date of the Deluge to before the creation of humans (Hallam 1983: 41-3). By 1840, Buckiand accepted Louis Agassiz' theory of continental glaciation as an explanation of the gravel deposits and "erratic" boulders previously attributed to the Noachian Flood. His proposed 1840 revision of his earlier work was to have had the title Relics of Floods and Glaciers, and all references to the biblical Flood were to have been omitted (Dean 1985: 90). Buckland became one of the early "gap theory" creationists after he gave up flood geology.

Conclusion

Long before Darwin dreamed of publishing Origin, devout Christians made fundamental discoveries concerning the classification of species, the formation and age of the earth, and the geologic column. In 1840 the publication of the book that would rock the belief systems of the Western world was nineteen years away from publication. Nevertheless, Genesis was no longer accepted as a scientific treatise, even by devout Christian scientists. The concept of fixed, specially-created species was laid to rest with the work of Linnaeus. Buffon and others estimated the age of the earth to be greatly in excess of 6000 years. Scientists like Cuvier and Buckland, who opposed the theory of evolution, saw the Genesis Flood as, at most, a regional event. The geologic column was in wide use, not because it supported evolution, but because it was useful in industry. A literal reading of Genesis was, to paraphrase Daniel 5:27, "weighed and found wanting," and like any scientific theory, it was modified to accommodate new evidence.

The contributions of these real scientific creationists were pivotal to Darwin as he considered the evidence for evolution. Perhaps if the general public learns more of the history of evolution — that the theory of evolution has Christian underpinnings as well as secular and that it is not tied to a particular philosophy — they will be able to appreciate the science of evolution on a less emotional level.

References

Dalrymple GB. The age of the earth. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Pean P. The rise and fall of the deluge. Journal of Geological Education 1985; 33:84-93.

Diamond J. Voyage of the overloaded ark. Discover 1985 June; 82-92.

Elmendorf J. The right side. The Pegasus 1995 April; 27: 3.

Faul H, Faul C. It began with a stone: A history of geology from the stone age to the age of plate tectonics. NY: John Wiley, 1983.

Frangsmeyer T. Linnaeus: The man and his work. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Geikie A. The founders of geology. London: MacMillan, 1897.

Geikie A. The founders of geology. 2nd Edition. London: MacMillan, 1905.

Glass B. Heredity and variation in the eighteenth century concept of the species. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959. pp 144-72.

Gohau G. (Carozzi A, Carozzi M, translators). A history of geology. New Brunswick (NJ): Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Haber F. Fossils and early cosmology In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959. pp 3-29.

Haber F. Fossils and the idea of a process of time in natural history. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimorc: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959. pp 222-64.

Hagberg K. Carl Linnaeus. NY: EP Putton and Company, 1953.

Hallam A. Great geological controversies. NY: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Hovind K. Letter. Peoria Journal Star 1993 July 20:A4.

Lovejoy A. Buffon and the problem of species. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959, pp 84-103.

Lovejoy A. The argument for organic evolution before the origin of the species, 1830-1858. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959, pp 356-414.

Mayr E. The growth of biological thought. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1982.

Milner R. The encyclopedia of evolution. NY: Henry Holy and Company, 1990.

Morris HM. Men of science, men of God. San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers: 1982.

Newell, N. Creation and evolution — Myth or reality? NY: Praeger Publishers, 1985.

Strahler A. Science and earth history. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1987.

When Creationists Visit Your School

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
When Creationists Visit Your School
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
20–21
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
RNCSE frequently reports on local controversies over whether to include evolution in science curricula, give "equal time" for "creation science", or discipline teachers who do — or don't! — teach evolution. Another recurring problem is school-sponsored assemblies featuring guest speakers who present "creation science" outside of the classroom, but on school premises.

According to federal law, student-sponsored religious activities occurring on public school premises during non-instructional time and without faculty participation are legal, while school-sponsored religious activities are not. Also, while schools may teach about religion, they may not advocate religious views, whether such views are presented by a guest or a school employee. Teachers or administrators sometimes believe they are complying with the law if they request parents written permission. In fact, just as a permission slip wouldn't make it legal to teach a child in an unsafe classroom, parents can't give permission for public schools to violate the First Amendment.

In some districts, the result of a school's sending home a permission slip has been that parents had time to react. In Albuquerque, New Mexico a parent whose child came home with such a permission slip consulted NCSE member Mark Boslough. Boslough obtained legal information from NCSE and explained the issues to the school's principal. As a result the assembly was canceled (NCSE Reports 1995 Winter; 15[4]: 16-7). There have also been cases in which a "creation assembly" couldn't be prevented and cases in which parents heard about it only afterward, as happened in the Moon Area School District near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the Moon-Area assemblies, a district employee made unarguably religious statements — for example, that rainbows represent God's promise not to cause another Great Flood. A lawsuit resulted and eventually the district agreed in an out-of-court settlement to stop holding such assembties (NCSE Reports 1994 Winter; 14[4]: 9).

A different course of events unfolded in Elma, Washington in May 1998, when the well-known "creation scientist" Walter Brown was scheduled to present "evidence against evolution" at a high school assembly. Though they received letters from both NCSE and the American Civil Liberties Union explaining why the assembly was neither educational nor constitutional, the superintendent and school board decided to go ahead with the assembly on May 8, on the grounds that only "scientific" arguments would be presented.

Since the assembly couldn't be prevented, and any lawsuit that might follow wouldn't correct the misinformation students received, biologist David Milne, who teaches at nearby Evergreen State College, offered to speak at a follow-up assembly Milne's presentation had two goals — to present authoritative information about evolution, and to help students evaluate Brown's "arguments against evolution". The information below is adapted from a letter Milne wrote to NCSE about his experience.

How to Set the Record Straight

Preparation is all important. Milne told NCSE that he spent at least 20 hours preparing for the assembly. He explained, "I reviewed a videotape of Brown's presentation. I also ordered his book by priority mail and studied as much of it as I could during the... [time] available.... I felt that... [I] had to address something he talked about, otherwise I would be perceived as dodging the issue." He also consulted scientists in other disciplines about some of Brown's arguments.

Suit the presentation to your audience. "I planned on talking for only an hour," Milne wrote. "Brown spoke for two; that's too much for high school students. I offered to return and spend another hour doing nothing but answering questions...." If you are making such a presentation, you should ask the advice of a teacher experienced with students in the grades you are addressing.

Stick to a few main points. "The keys were: Know what the creationist said and address that. Attack (with an example of evolution and an example of how bad creation science is). Don't let what the crcationist said determine your whole agenda. Address something big claimed by the creationist speaker head on, and also give some details about the creation model the crcationist will always avoid."

Choose "one really good example of how the fossil record shows evolution". Milne also told the students, "There are many more where that came from. I also told them how the creationists deal with that example." Using several slides, Milne explained fossil connections between the fish Ichthyostega and the amphibian Eusthenopteron. He pointed out that a transitional fossil exactly intermediate between two major groups — fishes and amphibians — is something that creationists say doesn't exist. This example also demonstrates macroevolution in the fossil record. He gave examples of creationist treatments of this information and "asked the students to compare mentally the detail I'd given them to the creationist treatment and suggested that the creationists really didn't want them to know the facts of this case.... The students were fascinated by the story, even to repeating the names of the fossil critters during the ensuing question period."

Give an example of bad creationist science. Milne offered Henry Morris's calculation of the age of the earth from carefully selected human population growth data. He told NCSE, "I hit on something that really made that point. I told them that the tide was rising that morning at about 2 feet per hour. If the average ocean depth is 12 000 feet, then 6000 hours ago, there was no water in the ocean at all; therefore the ocean was created at that time. I then went through Morris's population calculation which shows that there must have only been two people in the world about 4000 years before 1800. Interesting, but the same [calculation] gives no more than 600 people in the entire world when the Great Pyramid was built."

"I mentioned that in general, creationist math showing a young earth starts with unwarranted assumptions... and that it always leads to a conclusion ridiculous when you try to square it with other things we know, like the pyramid example.... This example wasn't as powerful as the first. The main value was that it showed that I was willing to tackle creationist 'science' head on."

Take an example from the creationist speaker's presentation, and take it apart. "Repeat what he said, what he didn't say (the part that he's embarrassed to reveal), then show why he's wrong." Milne gave a detailed, profusely illustrated rebuttal of Brown's treatment of the formation of the Grand Canyon, culminating with a comparison of aerial photographs of flood formations on Earth and Mars to photographs of the Grand Canyon. He told NCSE, "The climax was truly stupendous. Everyone sat staring at the slides thinking how obvious the marks were of the passage of the Spokane Flood and of the flood on Mars—and realizing, I think, that Brown had shown them no such things near the Grand Canyon."

After concluding by, "Telling 'em what I told 'em" — that creationists will always tell them that mainstream science is wrong about everything, don't believe them, check it out for yourself," Milne added a special twist. "I actually gave the students an assignment — comparing the evidence given by me and the other speaker and judging which seemed to be more credible." Milne gave the students copies of scientific articles from which Brown had taken quotes out of context. He circled the quotes, told the students to read the circled quotes and think about what they implied about the writer's views, then read the entire article and reconsider their earlier conclusions. Not only did this "evidence against misrepresentation" speak for itself, but it brought home the points of Milne's earlier presentation and gave students more time to absorb them.

"In the First Place, Do No Harm"

The students of Elma were lucky, not only because there was someone willing to "clean up" after a speaker who presented pseudoscience, but also because that someone was willing to spend hours of time preparing and to take advice from others in order to do a good job. If you hear about "creation science" being taught in your school district, NCSE may be able to help locate a good scientist who is comfortable with high school students and to help with preparation. But prevention is still the best cure, and if you hear ahead of time about a proposed "creation science" presentation, be sure to contact NCSE for information on how to keep it from happening — in the first place, or ever again.

[David Milne especially thanks NCSE member Pierre Stromberg for helping him obtain detailed information from many veteran "creationist watchers" and "especially, especially" thanks Richard and Dorothy Norton at Science Graphics for providing a complete set of teaching slides at short notice. NCSE thanks Eric Schuster Howard Pellett, and Patrick Pringle for sending background information used in this story.]

Outdated Advice Still Going the Rounds

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Outdated Advice Still Going the Rounds
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura, Netork Project Director
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
22
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In 1979 attorney Wendell Byrd, a long-time "creation science" advocate and associate of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), wrote a "Resolution for Balanced Presentation of Evolution and Scientific Creationism" that was published as Issue 71 of the ICR's Impact series. The full text of this resolution is still available, either by requesting this Impact issue from ICR, or by viewing this page of the ICR's website at http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-071.htm

The resolution reads in part:

Public school presentation of only the theory of evolution without any alternative theory of origins abridges the Constitution's protection of freedom of religious exercise for students and parents, because it undermines their religious convictions, violates their separatist practices, compels their unconscionable statements, and hinders religious training by parents....

Public school presentation of only the theory of evolution without any alternative theory also violates the Constitution's protection of freedom of belief for students and parents and in doing so hinders the purpose of education by impeding their search for truth, denying them academic freedom, and restricting scientific objectivity.
The resolution was offered "as a prepared resolution for local citizens' groups seeking to obtain a fair presentation of the creation/evolution question." The accompanying text also states, "Please note that this is a suggested resolution, to be adopted by boards of education, not legislation proposed for enactment as law. ICR has always taken the position that the route of education and persuasion on this issue is more fruitful in the long run than that of coercion" [emphasis in original].

These and other points of the resolution are contradicted by six federal and Supreme Court rulings made since 1979. Perhaps the best known is the Supreme Court's 1987 Edwards v Aguillard decision which struck down a "balanced treatment" law passed by the Louisiana legislature.

"Clarifications" of the resolution include the statement, "This Resolution does not require or permit instruction in any religious doctrine or materials" (such a requirement would violate many state constitutions as well as the federal constitution). However, such a "clarification" amounts to mere hand-waving, since courts have already determined that "creation science" is "religious doctrine" by definition. Moreover, districts that have attempted to provide "balanced treatment" have discovered that there simply are no instructional materials for teaching "creation science" that are free of religious overtones.

Even the footnotes present misinformation. For example, footnote 14 lists several "boards of education [that] officially require balanced treatment of evolution and scientific creationism." If they once did, they no longer do so. A school district in Texas is given as one example, but in 1984 the state of Texas and its districts abandoned "equal time" and disclaimer practices after the state's attorney general published an opinion that they were unconstitutional. Texas later went on to adopt its current curriculum standards which require teaching evolution.

This resolution may be of some historical interest, but it is truly unfortunate that it is still sometimes presented as a current alternative. Recently, parents from school districts in the northwest, worried about active discussion of the resolution in their districts, contacted NCSE. The greatest problem, though, is that the resolution, which was at best controversial when it was written in 1979, is now outdated.

While the ICR's stated preference for "persuasion" over "coercion" is laudable, the unfortunate reality is that when such proposals are presented in school districts, the resulting controversy can create a climate of intimidation for teachers. Parents and school board members who oppose evolution need not even be in the majority — just very vocal — to convince some teachers that the best way to avoid trouble is to avoid teaching evolution. If you hear that this policy is being offered to state or local school boards, don't hesitate to ask NCSE to help you look inside the "new bottle" to find out whether the contents are "old wine" that has turned to vinegar.

Scientific Expertise and the Media

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Scientific Expertise and the Media
Author(s): 
Kevin Padian, President, NCSE Board of Directors
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
27
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Each year NCSE officers and members are contacted by radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines to offer perspectives on science and to respond to statements made by "creation scientists". Perhaps no one is besieged by the press as much as our own Executive Director, Dr Eugenie Scott, and certainly no one that I know handles the requests so well. The challenge that she faces constantly is also one that we all must confront whenever we are called upon to "represent" evolutionary biology in a public forum.

How can one scientist deal with a well-credentialed adversary who maintains that evolution must be restricted only to small genetic changes in populations, that no major transitions between taxa are recorded in the fossil record, that a single flood can account for the world's geology, that the theory of plate tectonics is at odds with erosion rates, and that radiometric dating is flawed by the principles of physics? How do we approach these problems before the public?

The answer is that no one can deal with all of these charges, so no one of us should try to represent all scientific disciplines (see NCSE Reports 15[3]:23 and 14[2]:22). Your opponent is attacking science itself. The specific claims, which have no support in the scientific community, are only a vehicle to this end. Besides, it would take too long to defend all of science by trying to provide all the scientific background necessary for the average person to understand the misrepresentations in these arguments.

It is useful to clarify for an audience that, generally, claims of "creation science" are religiously based. Its proponents are grounded in religious, not scientific principles and thought — regardless of the specific "scientific" problem or issues they discuss or study. It is also useful to note for audiences that, although your opponent appears to be presenting a great deal of evidence against evolution, no valid scientific evidence has been presented in support of the alternative position, whatever it may be (and why isn't this position clear?) Is this position in fact religious, and not scientific?

With very few exceptions, "creation scientists" have thin scientific credentials, publish little in peer-reviewed journals, and/or are generally not trained in the fields they are disparaging. When they do publish acceptable scientific or technical work, it has nothing to do with evolution or any related science. This is not apparent to the audience which sees "credentialed" adversarial scientists as opponents who cancel each other's purported expertise. The real issue is what is the nature of the scientific credentials and what do these credentials mean? Is it the degree that makes the scientist or the dedication to "science as a way of knowing" about the world around us?

It can be tempting to dismiss the statements on evolution by an atmospheric chemist, but it is not logical (and will not win points with an audience) to do so merely because the person is trained as an atmospheric chemist. We must show that the views of evolution's opponents are not informed, miss crucial information, or have not been tempered through scholarly review by the scientific community — an essential task in doing science.

Recently, on a radio program, I tried the tactic of asking Dr X, a mechanical engineer, why he doesn't publish his theories about mechanisms of geologic change in peer-reviewed journals if they are scientific and don't require divine intervention. He could give only a weak response that creationists can't get things published in secular journals. I replied that there seemed nothing about his theory that is supernatural. He said that his theory is too long to publish in the short space that journals provide, but I replied that I had published papers of more than 50 pages in some journals. I further noted that a study had been done some years ago by Eugenie C Scott and Henry P Cole ("The elusive basis of creation 'science'. Quarterly Review of Biology 1985; 60:21-30) asking journal editors about creationist submissions. Those editors that could recognize them said that they got very few, but that reviewers rejected them not because of supernaturalism but because the papers were illogical, did not show awareness of the literature, did not perform scientific tests, and were poorly written.

The average person appears to distrust experts, but if their kids are sick they don't call a plumber, and if they have termites in the house they don't call a brain surgeon. The appropriateness of expertise and the limits of your own knowledge are important to express to an audience. (Personally, I would never feel comfortable expounding on mechanical engineering or atmospheric chemistry, but I have learned not to assume the same attitude in a "creation scientist" with whom I might be discussing paleontology.) An important question to ask is this: if your "creation-scientist" opponent has such a terrific scientific theory that will replace currently accepted ideas, why aren't Nature and Science clamoring to publish it? Why aren't the Nobel Prize people beating a path to his door? If the idea is valid and explains all the evidence better than any other, it will make his scientific career. People of all nations, creeds, races, and religions work comfortably within the scientific paradigm and include evolutionary theory as part of that. There is no division between "religious" and "scientific" scientists — only between those who proceed from religious assumptions and those who do not allow such assumptions to determine in advance the outcome of their investigations of nature.

I think that the issue of the credibility of "creation scientists" needs to be put more squarely before the public. When anyone reads an article in the newspaper about a scientific discovery, it almost always involves overturning or adding to something we thought before. You never see breaking news that says, "Theory of gravitation supported again!" Publication of results doesn't mean that they are necessarily right, or that this is the last word on the subject. It means that at least a couple of experts in the field have looked over the work and found it plausible at face value (and presumably, interesting enough to be published). Science is not afraid of challenges or of change; that's what it's all about. Dogmatism is the province of its critics. If we get this message out, we can expose pseudo-scientific charlatans for what they are.