Preface

Explore Evolution systematically misrepresents scientific facts and the scientific process. Its effect is to proselytize fringe ideas outside of science and to confuse students about evolution. Many of the errors that lace Explore Evolution are introduced in the preface.

p. v: “…the theory of evolution remains the focus of intense public controversy … [and there are] real (and more interesting) scientific controversies about evolution.”

Evolution is not scientifically controversial. To claim otherwise is simply wrong and, worse, unfair to students. Evolution is the fundamental, unifying principle of the life sciences, including medical and agricultural research, and recent advances in genomics and developmental biology.

Explore Evolution misleadingly equates the social controversy over evolution with past and present controversies over string theory, plate tectonics, and global warming. This serves only to confuse students. String theory is currently scientifically controversial, just as plate tectonics was controversial until the 1960s, and global warming was scientifically controversial until the late 1990s. There has not been a scientific controversy about whether life evolved since the 19th century. Social controversies are independent of scientific assessments--and are subjects best taught in social studies, rather than science classes.

p. v: “…scientists question key aspects of [contemporary Darwinian theory].”

These alleged “key aspects” are issues that are not scientifically controversial, yet for decades, creationists have claimed that they are. Biologists have reached a strong consensus about the validity of universal common descent, the power of natural selection, and the importance of studying fossils, embryology, biogeography, and homologous structures. Ongoing disputes about the details of evolution do not support the implication of Explore Evolution that there is scientific doubt of the underlying validity of evolution itself. This classic creationist strategy is simply false.

p. v: “The approach we are using in this book is called ‘inquiry-based’ education.”

The approach toward learning actually used in Explore Evolution is old-fashioned, and directly at odds with the inquiry-based approaches developed by leading science educators. Inquiry-based education provides students with appropriate background information and encourages them to formulate testable hypotheses. Explore Evolution does not do this.

p. vi: “[U.S. and U.K. national policies] call for teaching students about competing views of controversial scientific issues.”

Neither government treats evolution as scientifically controversial, nor do they recommend that students should be taught that they are. The “policy” statements from Congress and the United Kingdom cited in Explore Evolution are misrepresented and misquoted. The phrase “Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of views that exist” occurs nowhere in the No Child Left Behind education act, but in an addendum called a conference committee report. The NCLB does not even mention evolution, much less suggest how it should be taught. The sentence, from what is informally called the “Santorum Amendment to NCLB” is regularly used by creationists who justify their attacks on evolution by claiming it is policy or law. It is neither. Although creationists attempted to get wording inserted into NCLB that would weaken the teaching of evolution, they failed. But constant repetition of the Santorum Amendment language has led to belief in what has become an urban legend: that teachers have been directed by Congress to teach that evolution is a scientifically controversial topic.

The quote allegedly from the British national standards (“Pupils should be taught how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence [for example, Darwin's theory of evolution]”), is also false and misleading. It is not found in the National Curriculum, which was revised in 2006. It does occur in the decade-old 1999 National Curriculum for England, but it is not part of current British national policy. Where you will find the quotation in abundance is on creationist websites, where, as in Explore Evolution, it is cited to claim governmental imprimatur for teaching that evolution is scientifically controversial.

p. vii: “The main thing you need to know is that ‘the critics’ are not … the same from chapter to chapter.”

To further the misinformation that scientists seriously are debating whether evolution occurred, the authors suggest that a scientist might be cited in the “Case For” (pro-evolution) section in one chapter and in the “Case Against” section in another. A reader ought to know a good deal more about the “critics” cited throughout the book than that they might change from chapter to chapter. In fact, most of the critics cited are creationists, who have been repeatedly shown to misrepresent the facts and concepts of evolution and other sciences. We will illustrate this claim in the remainder of our analysis of Explore Evolution

Major flaws

Scientific controversy vs. social controversy: Explore Evolution consistently muddles the idea of controversy within the scientific community with societal disagreement about the political and moral implications of a scientific idea. Evolution is scientifically well-established and accepted by every major scientific society. The only controversy surrounding it comes from particular religious groups who object to evolution for reasons well outside of science.

Educational policy: Despite claims in Explore Evolution, neither the British nor American governments treat evolution as scientifically controversial, nor do they encourage social controversies to be taught in science classes.

Educational terminology: Inquiry-based learning is a new pedagogical system that holds great promise for the improvement of science education. Explore Evolution does not employ this pedagogical approach. Explore Evolution discourages inquiry and independent exploration of topics, especially evolution. Instead, Explore Evolution harangues students, confusing them with irrelevant and often erroneous information, and encourages them to give up on answering what questions it raises.

Scientific controversy vs. social controversy

In the first few pages, Explore Evolution misidentifies social controversy as scientific dispute, misdefines basic terminology, misrepresents scientists, and misunderstands pedagogical principles. The book’s religious agenda is misleadingly obscured. Papers and government policies are presented out of context and thus likely to be misunderstood. These errors are smoothly woven together like a conjurer’s words, misdirecting the reader from the mundane mechanics going on up the authors’ sleeves.

These errors are not random; they are all essential to sustain the premise of the book which is that under the guise of “critical thinking”, students should be encouraged to embrace creationist criticisms of evolution as valid science, and thus reject evolution in favor of intelligent design or some other form of creationism. That premise justifies the authors’ presentation of supposed “critics” of evolution, the identities and agendas of whom are masked. Under the guise of “presenting all sides”, the authors instead present information rejected by the scientific mainstream, obscuring from students the fact that ongoing research into evolution is scientifically uncontroversial. Current research and scientific debate focuses not on whether evolution happens and can explain the diversity of life, but which evolutionary mechanisms have dominated. Students reading Explore Evolution will not understand this key fact, and will be ill-prepared for more advanced science classes.

"Controversy" over evolution

Summary of problems:

Evolution is as well-established as a scientific theory can be. While scientists continue to investigate the importance of different mechanisms involved in evolution, the scientific community agrees that the descent with modification of living things -- the big idea of biological evolution -- accounts for the diversity of life on earth today. To claim or imply otherwise is simply wrong, and miseducates students about a critically important scientific idea.

Full discussion:

…the theory of evolution remains the focus of intense public controversy.
Explore Evolution , p. v
Indeed, the public debate over evolution waxes and wanes and takes various forums, and often is conducted with considerable heat. However, a few sentences later, the book refers to alleged “real (and more interesting) scientific controversies about evolution” (p. v, emphasis added). This implies the existence of a scientific controversy which does not exist.

In reality, evolutionary theory, the common ancestry of living things, is the core, fundamental, unifying construct of the life sciences. In the biomedical sciences, it has been a highly productive and powerful explanatory framework for research over the past five decades. In the last 10 years, the explosion of data in genomics and new insights in developmental biology have given evolutionary theory an even higher prominence and greater importance than it enjoyed before. It is for these reasons that the National Academy of Sciences recently wrote:

Biological evolution is the central organizing principle of modern biology.

The study of biological evolution has transformed our understanding of life on this planet. Evolution provides a scientific explanation for why there are so many different kinds of organisms on Earth and how all organisms on this planet are part of an evolutionary lineage. It demonstrates why some organisms that look quite different are in fact related, while other organisms that may look similar are only distantly related. It accounts for the appearance of humans on Earth and reveals our species’ biological connections with other living things. It details how different groups of humans are related to each other and how we acquired many of our traits. It enables the development of effective new ways to protect ourselves against constantly evolving bacteria and viruses.
National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2008) Science, Evolution, and Creationism. Washington, DC:The National Academies Press

Evolution, climate change, plate tectonics, and string theory

Summary of problems:

Explore Evolution equates alleged controversy about evolution with controversies over plate tectonics, climate change, and string theory. This elevates social and political controversies to the same level as scientific controversy. Whether evolution takes place and explains the diversity of life is no longer scientifically controversial; the remaining controversy derives from political and cultural concerns.

String theory is currently scientifically controversial, just as plate tectonics was controversial until the 1960s, and global warming was scientifically controversial until the late 1990s. Evolution was last scientifically controversial in the 19th century and that controversy ended by the 1870s. By that date, essentially all practicing scientists accepted that natural causes could account for the formation of new species and that all living things share a common ancestry.

Full discussion:

Explore Evolution describes these supposed controversies in this passage from the Preface:
Controversies in science are nothing new. As recently as the early 1960s, for example, most geologists accepted the “geosynclinal theory” as the explanation of how mountain ranges form. After a significant period of controversy, most scientists came to accept the theory of plate tectonics because it provided a better explanation for a larger number of scientific observations. Yet without understanding the arguments that led to the acceptance of plate tectonics, it is very difficult to understand the theory itself or its current standing in the scientific community.

Today we continue to have important unresolved scientific controversies in many branches of science. In climatology, for example, scientists disagree over what global warming is, whether it is a natural phenomenon or a man-made problem, how big a problem it presents, and what (if anything) should be done about it. In theoretical physics, scientists disagree over the meaning and importance of string theory.
Explore Evolution, p. vi

This passage conflates scientific controversies with social controversies, an error that runs throughout Explore Evolution. In general, theories are scientifically controversial until they can provide testable and well-tested explanations for phenomena. By that standard, string theory is currently controversial, but global warming and plate tectonics are not scientifically controversial today. Despite the cessation of scientific controversy over evolution or global warming, both concepts continue to generate social controversy over their implications for policy or for personally-held religious views.

String theory provides a powerful theoretical model for unifying our understanding of various physical forces. On the other hand, it has yet to yield testable predictions that can be measured on current equipment in a way that distinguishes them from results generated using the existing 'standard' theory (see Smolin [2006], The Trouble with Physics, for an excellent review of these problems). It is therefore unknown whether the novel aspects of string theory are correct. String theory may be right; it may be a dead end; science simply does not know yet. Improvements in our scientific instruments may someday allow physicists to validate or disprove string theory. At that time, some or most of the controversy over its validity will die down and physicists will shift to debates over details of string theory rather than to debates over its scientific status per se. Pangaea and Fossil Distribution: from United States Geological SurveyPangaea and Fossil Distribution: from United States Geological Survey

This scientific process for examining ideas was used for the now-accepted explanations plate tectonics, evolution, and global warming. When Alfred Wegener proposed that the seeming lock and key fit of the coastlines of South America and Africa could be explained by moving continents, he backed his proposal with significant paleontological evidence, but could not explain the mechanisms involved in continental movement. Later research showed evidence of new crust forming as molten rock rose from deep sea rifts, including one midway between the African and South American coasts. Geologists developed a model in which plates are pushed together and pulled apart, creating new crust and destroying old crust, and found that it explained not only the evidence Wegener provided, but other questions about the formation of mountain ranges and the occurrences of volcanoes and large earthquakes.

Once Wegener’s idea had a testable model and a literal mountain of supporting evidence, it was rapidly accepted by geologists and ceased to be controversial. It should be noted that, contrary to Explore Evolution’s claim, students have no trouble understanding plate tectonics without first learning about discredited ideas that preceded it.

In fact, a similar process took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries as scientists addressed Darwin and Wallace’s evolutionary ideas. The idea of common ancestry of living things was rather quickly accepted in the scientific community; Darwin's choice for the most important mechanism of evolution, natural selection, was slower to be accepted. A major problem was the lack of a mechanism for new variation to be replenished each generation after natural selection had whittled out the survivors, a problem that could be solved only with a clearer understanding of how characteristics were passed down from generation to generation. Critics rightly objected to the model of inheritance Darwin proposed in the Origin of Species, which involved simply averaging parental characteristics. Of course, none of Darwin's contemporaries understood how heredity worked either: it wasn't until the rediscovery of Mendelian genetics in the early 20th century that an accurate basis for inheritance became available.

Mendelian genetics resolved a key scientific controversy that surrounded natural selection, much as sea-floor spreading resolved a key scientific controversy about continental drift. As scientists integrated their new understanding of genetics with the existing evolutionary ideas, they produced a more comprehensive picture of evolutionary biology, often referred to as the Modern Synthesis. But during the debate about the validity of natural selection and the development of the Modern Synthesis, scientists were not seriously questioning whether evolution occurred or whether universal common descent was the most reasonable inference from the data. Those scientific questions had been resolved decades earlier.

More recently, climate scientists went through a similar transition regarding global climate change. The idea that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere might cause global warming was first proposed in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius. Until modern supercomputers, it was impossible to fully model the global climate or to predict the consequences of human interactions with the atmosphere. Without modern satellites and high-altitude measurements, it was impossible to test those models. When weather stations demonstrated a global trend of rising temperatures in the 1980s and 1990s, some scientists attributed that change to the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide measured globally, while others felt that the models available at the time were not accurate enough, and that the natural variability of the climate was too large relative to measured temperature changes to require anything but a natural explanation. In 1990, scientists with the non-partisan Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed that “there is a natural greenhouse effect,” that “emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases.” At the time, they concluded that “global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6° C over the last 100 years. The size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.”

However, by 1995, the IPCC report found that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate,” observing that “[s]ince the 1990 IPCC Report, considerable progress has been made in attempts to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic influences on climate.” In 2001, the IPCC's Third Assessment Report found “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities,” and concluded that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.” In IPCC reports, “likely” means that the scientists assess the likelihood of the statement being true at between 66-90% chance, while the 1995 statement about the “balance of evidence” refers to a chance slightly higher than 50%. When the IPCC released its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, the team of climate scientists concluded that “[w]arming of the climate system is unequivocal,” and that “[m]ost of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations." “Very likely” means better than 90% chance.

Between the third and fourth reports, a researcher on the sociology of science demonstrated the growth of a scientific consensus behind anthropogenic climate change. Dr. Naomi Oreskes published a paper in the December 3, 2004 issue of Science surveying publications about climate change between 1993 and 2003. Oreskes classified those papers as either accepting the 2001 consensus that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations," rejecting that statement, or taking no position on it. Of 928 papers identified in scientific databases which contained the phrase “global climate change,” 75% supported the IPCC consensus, 25% did not discuss it, and none explicitly rejected it. While such papers may exist, it is clear that there was not a vociferous debate between scientists in the field over whether humans are causing global warming. That consensus can also be demonstrated by statements from major scientific bodies, including the National Academies of Science, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, all essentially restating the IPCC assessment.

This is not to say that debate in any of these fields has ended. Just as geologists continue to make new discoveries about plate tectonics, and to debate those discoveries with intensity, evolutionary biologists continue to debate the relative influence of the various forces driving evolution, and climate scientists continue to disagree about the precise implications of current human activities for the future of Earth's climate. The era of controversy ends when the scientific community comes to accept that a particular theory is testable and offers superior explanations for known phenomena.

The era of controversy ended for evolution decades ago, and Explore Evolution's claims to the contrary are disingenuous. The current controversy surrounding evolution is not a scientific controversy. The comparison to global warming is instructive. Global warming is scientifically uncontroversial, but the question of whether society ought to make some effort to avert it, and what should be done in that event, are subject to intense disagreement. Thus, global warming is scientifically uncontroversial, but generates controversy because of its policy implications. Similarly, evolution is not scientifically controversial, but does generate social controversy because of people's disagreements about its philosophical, religious and metaphysical implications. Those controversies cannot be resolved based on empirical scientific evidence alone.

"Key aspects" of evolution

Summary of problems:

Explore Evolution asserts that "this book will help you understand … why many scientists find [contemporary Darwinian theory] persuasive, and why other scientists question key aspects of it" (p. v). The supposedly "key aspects" or "key claims" which Explore Evolution targets are issues that are not scientifically controversial, yet are persistent targets of creationist attack. Biologists have reached a strong consensus about the validity of universal common descent, the power of natural selection, and the importance of studying fossils, embryology, biogeography, homologous structures, etc. There is ongoing research and disagreements concerning the details in all these areas. However, Explore Evolution implies that any controversy or disagreements within evolutionary biology casts doubt on the underlying validity of the theory of evolution. This is a classic creationist falsehood.

Full discussion:

The preface states

We hope this book will help you understand what contemporary Darwinian theory is, why many scientists find it persuasive, and why other scientists question key aspects of it.
Explore Evolution, preface

If we assume that this statement is referring to scientists in fields with some relevance to evolutionary theory (e.g. biologists, geologists, anthropologists etc.), this statement cannot be supported. Nearly every relevant national and international scientific organization has taken a position in favor of the basics of evolutionary theory, and in opposition to creationism and intelligent design. This February 2006 statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest general scientific society in the world (serving 262 affiliated scientific societies and academies, with over 10 million members), is only one example of many.

Evolution is one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science. It is the foundation for research in a wide array of scientific fields and, accordingly, a core element in science education. The AAAS Board of Directors is deeply concerned, therefore, about legislation and policies recently introduced in a number of states and localities that would undermine the teaching of evolution and deprive students of the education they need to be informed and productive citizens in an increasingly technological, global community. Although their language and strategy differ, all of these proposals, if passed, would weaken science education. The AAAS Board of Directors strongly opposes these attacks on the integrity of science and science education. They threaten not just the teaching of evolution, but students' understanding of the biological, physical, and geological sciences.

Some bills seek to discredit evolution by emphasizing so-called "flaws" in the theory of evolution or "disagreements" within the scientific community. Others insist that teachers have absolute freedom within their classrooms and cannot be disciplined for teaching non-scientific "alternatives" to evolution. A number of bills require that students be taught to "critically analyze" evolution or to understand "the controversy." But there is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution. The current controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution is not a scientific one.

In contrast, the Discovery Institute lists only 700 scientists on their Dissent from Darwin statement. No scientific societies have signed on to that statement. Many of the signers do not have degrees or research interests in relevant scientific disciplines. Not surprisingly, the Dissent from Darwin list has many names of engineers and computer scientists, whose everyday work does not bring them in contact with modern evolutionary theory. This number of dissenters, even if they were all working in a relevant scientific field, is certainly small when compared to the hundreds of thousands of scientists affiliated with the scientific societies which have passed statements or resolutions supporting modern evolutionary theory. It is even small compared to the number of graduate students in science and engineering disciplines. According to the National Science Foundation, institutions of higher education in the USA alone produce over 20,000 doctoral graduates in science and engineering annually.

So while it is certainly true that "some scientists" question evolution, hardly any working scientists in the relevant disciplines find it to be controversial, and no relevant scientific society finds it to be controversial. The perception left by this statement in Explore Evolution is completely wrong.

It would fair to say that there are debates and controversies within evolutionary biology over questions such as the relative importance of natural selection and neutral mutations to evolutionary change, the role of symbiosis, or the nature of large-scale patterns of evolutionary change. These questions, though, are not the discussed in Explore Evolution. The supposedly "key aspects" of the theory which Explore Evolutionclaims to present "both sides" of are, in fact, simply repetitions of long-discredited creationist claims, as will be shown throughout this critique.

References

Ronald Numbers, The Creationists, pp.__

Bowler, The Non-Darwinian Revolution, pp.__

Matzke and Gross in Scott and Branch, NIOC.

S. Sarkar, Doubting Darwin? Creationist Designs on Evolution, Blackwell, 2007, pp. 163-166

Educational policy and terminology

In order to attract the attention of textbook-purchasing teachers and administrators, Explore Evolution claims it is utilizing the most up-to-date science pedagogy. "Inquiry-based" education is indeed an approach encouraged in most states' science education standards, and teachers should be encouraged to find ways for students to apply the scientific method in the process of learning science. An inquiry-based approach is one in which students, under the guidance of the teacher, actively construct an understanding of a scientific explanation. It involves active learning, rather than passive absorption of facts, and often utilizes hands-on exercises to help students learn to think like a scientist.

Unlike the claim made in Explore Evolution,inquiry-based education does not require students to evaluate "arguments scientists have had and are having, about current theories in light of the evidence." The purpose of a middle school or high school science classroom is to provide students with a sound understanding of the basics of a scientific discipline upon which (ideally) they can build a further understanding. It is not to encourage beginning learners to debate cutting-edge scientific research which they have inadequate background to evaluate. The supposed goals of inquiry-learning as presented in Explore Evolution bear little kinship to how this approach is understood by educators.

Similarly, Explore Evolution is incorrect that inquiry-learning assumes that "students gain a better understanding of a subject if they are taught about the arguments that scientists have in the process of formulating their theories." Students certainly can profit from looking at the history of the development of evolutionary biology, but this is not what the authors of Explore Evolution are proposing. Instead, they want students to investigate alleged arguments among scientists over the "truth" of evolution, an argument that takes place only in the creationist literature, not in the university science classrooms or professional scientific journals.

According to the authors, students will become better critical thinkers after undertaking the "critical analysis of evolution" presented in Explore Evolution. And yet students are never given the opportunity to develop and test their own hypotheses, and are rarely if ever given the information they would need to undertake such an exercise. On the contrary, the inaccurate information presented in Explore Evolution, would handicap any student actually trying to construct an understanding of evolution. Thus in this book, "critical analysis of evolution" is translated to "criticize evolution". Needless to say, this is far cry from true inquiry-based education.

The authors are partly correct when they contend that inquiry-learning makes science more interesting and enjoyable, and controversy may indeed pique student interest in a subject. But how much more appropriate it would be to use an actual scientific controversy within evolution, rather than a nonexistent one: evolutionary biologists are not debating whether evolution occurred, only the details.

Santorum Amendment and UK National Curriculum

Summary of problems:

Neither the United States Congress nor the UK's National Curriculum treat evolution as scientifically controversial nor do they recommend teaching about social controversies. The "policy" statements found in this section of Explore Evolution are misrepresented and misquoted. For example, the so-called "Santorum amendment", was actually removed from No Child Left Behind legislation before it was passed, yet EE quotes it, pretending it has the weight of policy or law. Even if it were the law of the land - which it is not - it only speaks to a political issue, not a scientific controversy. The authors of EE are once again attempting to blur the important distinction between public controversy and scientific controversy.

Full discussion:

Explore Evolution states,
United States federal education policy calls for teaching students about competing views of controversial scientific issues. As the U.S. Congress has stated, "[W]here topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of views that exist." [footnote in original: This statement occurs in the authoritative conference report language of the No Child Left Behind federal education act.] In the United Kingdom, the National Curriculum for Key Stage 4 Science now recommends that, "Pupils should be taught how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example, Darwin's theory of evolution)."
EE, p. ii

The Congressional "language" was in an amendment that was briefly inserted into the No Child Left Behind bill by a creationist Senator, Rick Santorum, but removed by the committee which unified the versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate. The passage EE cites was never approved by Congress, and was explicitly removed from the bill with the approval of both Houses. It cannot be construed as federal policy, let alone as a statement by Congress, and is not at all "authoritative". For more, see NCSE's discussion of the topic (PDF) for more background and analysis.

The treatment of the U.K.'s "National Curriculum" is equally contorted. The OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations board - the group responsible for evaluating students' comprehension of issues in the curriculum) explains that they do not regard evolution as a scientific controversy today, only at the time Darwin published:

At OCR, we believe candidates need to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre and post Darwin. In our Gateway Science specification, candidates are asked to discuss why the opponents of Darwinism thought the way they did and how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence. Creationism and "intelligent design" are not regarded by OCR as scientific theories. They are beliefs that do not lie within scientific understanding.

The authors of EE lifted some of the wording out of this statement regarding "social and historical context to ideas", deleted the reference to the past in "why the opponents of Darwinism thought the way they did", and added words to make their snippet grammatical. They put quotes around their patchwork and try passing it off as a recommendation found in the U.K.'s "National Curriculum".

The British Minister of Education, who supervises OCR, later explained that "The national curriculum programme of study for science at key stage 4 covers evolution. It sets out that pupils should be taught 'that the fossil record is evidence for evolution' and also 'how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction'." Clearly, the British standards contradict the statement in Explore Evolution that there are competing scientific views on evolution's validity and, in fact, affirm the importance of evolution in modern biology.

These two examples of egregious "quote mining" should dispel any notion that Explore Evolution embraces ethical scholarship.

Inquiry-based learning

Summary of problems:

The approach toward learning actually used in EE is directly at odds with the inquiry-based approaches developed by leading science educators. EE gives students incomplete and/or misleading information and provides canned questions and answers, rather than providing students with appropriate background information and allowing them to formulate testable hypotheses.

Full discussion:

In the inquiry-based approaches which are gaining acceptance in science education, the student is provided with appropriate background data, and then encouraged to generate a testable hypothesis, test it, and decide if the hypothesis should be accepted or rejected. These approaches reinforce the student's knowledge of the power and the limitations of the scientific method, and allow the student to arrive at a novel (to them) answer via their own efforts. Such "Eureka moments" can strongly reinforce the facts and concepts that are deemed pedagogically important by the instructors, and can even lead to insights that are unrelated to the immediate facts and observations. The power of this approach rests entirely on the notion that the student understands the background, poses the hypothesis, tests the hypothesis, and makes his/her own conclusions. The role of the instructor is very different in this model. As noted on the Duke University Center for Inquiry-based Learning site: "When using inquiry, teachers must bite their tongues. Too many hints, too many questions, and too many answers take all the learning out of the process. And all the fun, too."

Unfortunately, this description is completely at odds with the approach used in Explore Evolution. In every instance, students are led through exercises where the authors provide the questions. In every instance, the student is given incomplete or even misleading information in the sections labeled "Case For", and then this incomplete or misleading information is rebutted by the authors (not by the student) in the "Reply" sections. Even in the "Further Debate" sections, there is no attempt to add critical information (e.g. citations of recent publications), which might allow the student to generate hypotheses and test those hypotheses. There is no opportunity for the Eureka moment; the students are merely led down the path that the authors desire them to tread. So the claim that this book is "inquiry-based" fails on at least two counts. First, the information needed to promote genuine inquiry is never given; the authors set up strawman arguments rather than provide the necessary complete information. Secondly, the students do not generate their own questions, do not test their own hypotheses, and never get a chance to experience the joy of discovery that has been found to be critical in any truly inquiry-based endeavor.

The approach taken in this book is old-fashioned in terms of pedagogy, and radically different from the innovative and effective inquiry-based approaches developed in recent years. EE's method most closely resembles legal argumentation. The jurors (the students) are subjected to two presentations of opposite sides in a dichotomy, and asked to make up their minds. Jurors are not allowed to ask questions in a courtroom, and students are not allowed to ask questions in this book. Furthermore, just as might be the case in a courtroom, the jurors do not have access to all of the facts.

The phrase "inquiry-based learning" is exploited to promote the view that students should "debate Darwinism" in order to learn it. This is simply the Discovery Institute's latest strategy for insinuating and reinforcing doubts about the evolutionary sciences.

"Our goal in using this approach is to expose you to the discoveries, evidence, and arguments that are shaping the current debates over the modern version of Darwin's theory, and to encourage you to think deeply and critically about them."

No good teacher or scientist is against scientific debate or critical thinking. The authors of EE, however, use this ideal as a guise for promoting misleading, incorrect, and incomplete information about evolution. Unfortunately, anti-evolutionists have time and time again called for "critical thinking" or "critical analysis" of evolution, as a way to encourage students to criticize evolution and doubt its validity.

This statement is skillfully written to sound like good pedagogy. In reality, it deceptively uses the phrase "debates over the modern version of Darwin's theory" to insinuate doubt about the validity of evolution.

It is quite telling that Dave Springer, one of the administrators of Uncommon Descent, the blog of ID-proponent William Demsbki, recently wrote this on one of the threads there.

Why is it that chance worshipping (sic) biologists are continually surprised at what they discover but design advocates aren’t surprised at all?
DaveScot (Dave Springer, blog administrator) Uncommon Descent Discovery Institute website, August 15, 2007.

This question clarifies a distinction between the authors/publishers of EE and the scientific enterprise. The surprise of discovery is one of the best things about science. The smugness implicit in "I knew it all along", captured in this comment and fostered by the DI in this book, disdains surprises, and is the antithesis of inquiry-based learning. Scientists doing research actually do make unexpected discoveries; they are the lifeblood of real science. Surprises, discovery, and the joy of discovery are the incentives in inquiry-based learning. Explore Evolution is neither scientific nor inquiry-based. Instead, it reveals its revelation-based roots of neo-creationism, in stark contrast to the inquiry-based roots of modern science and modern science education.