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Anti-evolution Books Chosen in 1998
NCSE's Analysis of the Melvindale, MI Science Curriculum Sub-Committee Book Recommendations
Note: In 1998, the Melvindale - Northern Allen Park Public School Board in Michigain voted to purchase 19 anti-evolution books for each of the district's Middle & Senior high school libraries. A motion to include the books as references in science classes was defeated. The action was the culmination of 2 years of lobbying by a local assistant pastor, whose wife was on the School Board. The School Board President supported the purchase "...to make sure the district was not supporting the theory of evolution as a fact."Books were analyzed according to the following criteria, based on the policy statement adopted by the Board of Education on October 26, 1998 and other educational concerns:
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".The policy statement adopted by the Board of Education clearly requires that "Creationism will not be taught in science classrooms", and also that only resources which "do not present religious doctrine in disguise" may be used as references "for placement in the library or science classrooms." Therefore any book that presents creationism, creation science, or other religiously-based "alternatives to evolution" will not be recommended.
For this analysis, "creationism" is defined as "special creationism", or the idea that living things (and the whole universe) were created in essentially their present forms, by a supernatural creator. The most familiar form of special creationism is "young-earth" creationism, which adds the idea that the creation event occurred only a few thousand years ago, and that the universe is geologically young. The idea that God created through the process of evolution is "theistic evolution", which is neither philosophically nor theologically equivalent to special creationism, but is another religious view. Neither special creationist nor theistic evolutionist books, then, will be rated as acceptable in this evaluation.
In 1981, during litigation of the Federal District Court case, McLean v. Arkansas, an employee of the Arkansas state Department of Education was charged with finding instructional materials that would present creation science without advocating religion. She reported in court that all the material she found was religious in nature. Determining whether it is possible in 1998 to find a body of literature that is simultaneously antievolutionary and nonreligious is the goal of this analysis.
B. Books must be scientifically accurate, present current scientific positions, and express modern views of the nature of science.Because these books may be used by students, and may even be placed in classrooms, it is essential that the science presented in them be accurate and current. Issues of accuracy and currency go beyond the expense of purchasing inferior books: all school libraries are limited in the amount of space available; to insure the highest quality libraries, only scientifically sound books are worth cataloguing.
"Currency" refers to the recency of the information in a proposed book. One should not, for example, present scientific views or data that are years old as if they are currently being debated by present-day scientists. The science presented should reflect the current consensus. For example, for about 15 years the consensus among paleoanthropologists has been that the fossil Ramapithecus is not on the line leading to hominids, and any book presenting this as a viable theory — or as representing the scientific consensus — would not be current.
C. Books must accomplish the resolution’s requirement to "present evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution."There is a difference between presenting "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution" and evidence and arguments criticizing mechanisms (such as Darwinism) by which evolution takes place. Biological evolution is the idea that living things share common ancestry from earlier forms that differed from them. This "descent with modification" can be brought about through many different means, the most accepted being variants of Darwin’s idea of evolution primarily by natural selection.
It was apparent from the list submitted that many of the books were critiques of Darwinian natural selection or neo-darwinism rather than critiques of evolution per se. Strictly speaking, books focusing on arguments against Darwinism or any other mechanism of evolution would not meet the resolution’s third requirement. We thought it would be helpful to identify each book’s position to better assist the Board to meet the resolution’s requirements.
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.One would not want to put a high school level book in an elementary school classroom, and so where possible, we have attempted to indicate at which level the book could be used, and other pedagogical considerations.
E. Other criteria relevant for the consideration of instructional materials: availability, quality of binding, paper, general sturdiness, etc.
ProcedureWe first checked whether we had the book in our NCSE library, and checked for reviews in our files. If we did not have the book, we checked on its availability. When we consulted with the local library for listings in Books in Print, we discovered that the librarians use the Internet site, www.amazon.com because it is more up to date! So we also checked listings at this site, as well as the Library of Congress catalog, when necessary. If a book is listed as "out of print", we feel secure that this is indeed the case.
When we did not have reviews in our library, we also sought them on the Internet and some other library collections. Many of these books are reviewed in the religious press, but because the Board’s resolution focuses on the scientific content of these publications, we limited ourselves to scientific periodicals, and occasionally included educational publications when scientific review was unavailable (for example, with the textbook, Of Pandas and People). We include photocopies of reviews when we refer to them. We have not used reviews that were initially published in NCSE publications, except in two cases where reviews from other sources were inadequate.
Each book was analyzed according to two or more of the above five criteria. Criterion A is the most important. If a book completely failed to meet criterion A, in most cases the analysis did not proceed farther than criterion B. In some cases, a book might pass on one criterion and fail on another. The district will have to decide the relative weighting of the five criteria in deciding whether to purchase or accept a donation of a particular book. Within each criterion, we ranked the books "Unacceptable", "Acceptable with Reservations" or "Acceptable".
Analysis1. Behe, Michael, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, (NY: Free Press, 1996).
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Darwin's Black Box (DBB) is based on the "intelligent design" premise, which is a modern-day restatement of William Paley's "argument from design", a theological view developed in the early 1700s. The proposition is that complex structures (such as a pocket watch or the blood-clotting mechanism of mammals) couldn't have been produced naturally, but require some sort of special creation. Few actual references to religion occur in DBB, but like an elephant in the living room, it's hard to ignore. Unlike more familiar creationist references, DBB actually accepts a great deal of evolution: Behe feels that evidence for the descent of all living things from a common ancestor is "fairly convincing." He sees no difficulty with natural selection producing the vertebrate eye, or other complex structures, but feels that there is an "irreducible complexity" to biochemical processes that could not have been produced by the incremental process of natural selection. By default, therefore, they must have been produced by "intelligence."
As the reviewer James Shapiro reported in the conservative National Review,
Is this book a serious critique of orthodox evolutionary theory? Or is it a misguided attempt to bring religion back into biology? Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is yes. (This and all other reviews cited are appended to this overview.)Writing in the respected scientific weekly Nature, biologist Jerry Coyne writes,
The book jacket asserts that he is not a creationist, but believes in the scientific method. His argument, however, is a recycled version of the creationist notion that "complex design" implies an intelligent designer.Andrew Pomiankowski, writing in New Scientist, notes, "So what we have here is just the latest, and no doubt not the last, attempt to put God back into nature."
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable with reservations because it is not honest about its religious agenda, though far less blatant than some other books on the list.
B. Books must be scientifically accurate, present current scientific positions, and express modern views of the nature of science.The book has been both praised as a clear introduction to basic biochemical principles and severely criticized for misrepresenting basic ideas of evolutionary biology such as natural selection. Behe claims that biochemical systems are "irreducibly complex", yet other scientists dismiss his statements. (Coyne, in Nature, p. 227: "We have plenty of direct evidence for the evolution of molecules.") Behe also misstates the views of many researchers (several answer him directly in an exchange published at www.world-of-dawkins.com). As Coyne says in his review in Nature,
In the end, Darwin's Black Box is a work of advocacy whose creationist ancestry is revealed by both its rhetoric and its failure to deal honestly with the evidence for evolution. (p. 228).Robert Dorit, writing in American Scientist, states
...the case for intelligent design put forth in Darwin's Black Box is built on some deep misunderstandings about evolution, molecular organization, and ultimately, about the nature of scientific inquiry" (p. 474).As Dorit states, Behe's version of how science works is considerably at variance with that of other scientists. As Coyne explains on p. 228 of the Nature review, the "theory" of design cannot be tested ("This regressive ad hoc creationism may seem clever, but it is certainly not science.") Pomiankowski criticizes Behe for "[taking] irreducible complexity as a statement of fact, rather than an admission of ignorance".
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because it misrepresents the nature of science and the theories of evolutionary biology. Students are unlikely to know enough biochemistry and evolutionary biology to recognize why the statements are incorrect.
C. Books must accomplish the resolution’s requirement to "present evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution."This book primarily criticizes evolution by natural selection (neo-Darwinism), rather than the idea of evolution, or common ancestry. In fact, Behe accepts common ancestry for living things as a quite reasonable proposition, and agrees that natural selection can produce structures such as the panda's thumb.
Evaluation on criterion C: Unacceptable because it is not an antievolution book, but rather a book criticizing natural selection, a mechanism or process producing evolution.
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.The book's introductory chapters present a complex subject, biochemistry, reasonably well. The author uses good analogies in helping students understand biochemistry. Students who have had introductory biology from a textbook with a solid biochemistry core would probably understand most of it. Others would have problems. To permit the Board to evaluate the difficulty, we include a section of the book in which Behe explains the blood clotting cascade — an example that he uses throughout the book. (see pages 81-85, attached)
Evaluation on criterion D: Acceptable with Reservations because of the complexity of the subject matter discussed.
E. Other criteria relevant for the consideration of instructional materials: availability, quality of binding, paper, general sturdiness, etc.This book is published by a major publisher, Free Press. It is well-made. No problems.
Evaluation on criterion E: Acceptable.
Analysis2. Bird, W.R., The Origin of Species Revisited: The Theories of Evolution and Abrupt Appearance. 2 Vol. NY: The Philosophical Library, 1991) (original copyright 1987, renewed in 1988, 1989, and 1991).
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Only the first volume of this two volume set is relevant to the District's concerns. Volume 2 treats legal and philosophical aspects of the creation and evolution controversy. In Volume 1, lawyer Wendell Bird presents his "theory of Abrupt Appearance". This consists of the alleged scientific data supporting the idea that everything in the universe appeared suddenly in its current form, without predecessors. Abrupt Appearance is the doctrine of special creation without mentioning the Creator.
Bird, an attorney, is well aware that the First Amendment does not allow advocacy of religion in the public school classroom. In content, however, this book is indistinguishable from creation science, including the same arguments found in openly doctrinaire literature. It is a classic case of "presenting religious doctrine in disguise."
In a review of Origin published in Biology and Philosophy, William Provine makes it clear that the book advocates religion (page numbers of citations refer to the attached reprint of Provine's article, not the original publication)
In actuality the theory of abrupt appearance is simply a code word for "supernatural abrupt origin of natural kinds," in turn just another way of saying that God made natural kinds instantaneously, the typical creationist belief. (p. 4)The book is unavailable (out of print) through amazon.com, but listed in the 1995 bibliography of recommended young-earth creation science books at the web site of the Institute for Creation Research. This "Young-Earth Creationist Bibliography" (attached) includes only books that advocate "literal creationism, including the six-solar-day creation week and a worldwide cataclysmic flood." We assume that ICR is familiar with Bird and his work, as Bird has written extensively for them, and was the ICR's legal counsel for many years. Bird, in fact, argued the creationist side before the Supreme Court in the "two model" Louisiana Edwards v. Aguillard case in 1987. Even if the word "God" never appears in Bird's book, it is clear that the ICR considers the work to be creation science.
Evaluation on criterion A: Unacceptable because it is thinly-disguised creation science, or "religious doctrine in disguise".
B. Books must be scientifically accurate, present current scientific positions, and express modern views of the nature of science.Unlike books by Behe and Johnson, Bird's book was almost ignored in the scientific press. We found only two reviews in scientific journals, and one in a free-thought publication.
In Biology and Philosophy 8:111-124, 1993, Provine criticizes the book for scientific inaccuracy.
They were not making the ridiculous argument that the entire fossil record was excellent. It is not, and only by deliberate violation of context can Bird convey the impression that these paleontologists believe that the whole fossil record is excellent. (p. 6)Provine, a philosophical materialist, supports giving equal time to creationism and evolution, as a means of stamping out religion. Yet, though he says, "Good reasons exist for discussion in the science classrooms of supernatural origins (for me and many evolutionists, eradicating them)...", he does not recommend this book, because, "I cannot use Bird's volumes in my evolution class because of their intellectual dishonesty...." (p. 11)
There is no evidence that the 1991 edition differs from the 1987, which makes the book more than 10 years out of date. In a fast-moving field like evolutionary biology, this is a very long time. The book further suffers by copiously citing out-of-date publications from well before its own date of publication in the late 1980s. Statements about primate evolution made in 1959 and 1963, for example, are presented as reflecting current scientific thought in the field. Statements made in 1937 about the human fossil H. erectus are presented as definitive although scores of additional specimens have been discovered since that date. Neanderthals are dismissed as human ancestors based on statements from 1953 and 1970. The book was not current when written, and has fallen even further behind in the interval. Students would not be given an accurate presentation of evolutionary biology.
The book has an authoritarian flavor to it, relying on long quotations from "eminent evolutionists", as if statements from famous scientists were to be accepted regardless of their accuracy. Students will be misled about the purpose of scholarly citation: it is to give credit for a point of view, not to "prove" the accuracy of a statement. There are other ways this book sets a bad model for students: in presenting a scholarly argument, it is not acceptable to selectively cite any source that appears to support one's view, as with above-noted reliance upon out-of-date citations. It is also unfair to use citations in a way that distorts the position of the individual being cited.
The only other scientific review of Origins we found was by K.J. Hsu, writing in American Journal of Science, 290:1091-1092. This was also a negative review, accusing the author of resorting to strawmen to prove his argument, and other examples of poor scholarship. Hsu stated in reference to volume 1: "It is not a scientific assessment" (p. 1090). Later, he remarked,
I do think the "Theory of Abrupt Appearance" should be shown for what it is. One learns what good science, good logic is by studying case histories of bad science, bad logic. ... Biology teachers should not be forced to give equal time to good science and bad science. (p. 1092)Geologist Arthur Strahler reviewed the book in the freethought publication, Free Inquiry. It is a logical analysis of the book, which we have appended.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of the scientific inaccuracies, poor scholarship, and out-of-date information.
Because the book was found to be unacceptable on the first two criteria, no further criteria were considered.
Analysis3. Cohen, I.L., Darwin was Wrong: A Study in Probabilities. (Greenvale, NY: New Research Publications, 1984)
We do not have this book in our library, and although it is still in print, we were unable to obtain a copy. The Library of Congress does not list a printing later than 1985. We were unable to find reviews of it in the scholarly literature.
Considering it was published fourteen years ago, it may not be a good choice. It also appears that the argument that evolution and probability theory are at variance may have been made moot by the growth of a new area of scientific research, mathematical biology. See the enclosed article by Fagerstrom et al reporting on a 1996 symposium concerning work in this area, and its relevance to evolutionary biology.
Analysis4. Coppedge, James F., Evolution: Possible or Impossible? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973)
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".This book is typical creation science, and is replete with religious references, as would be expected from a book published by the religious publishing house, Zondervan Press. See attached excerpts.
Evaluation on criterion A: Unacceptable because of straightforward promotion of creationism and religion.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable.
Analysis5. Davis, P., and D.H. Kenyon, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins. 2nd edition (Dallas: Haughton Publishing Company, 1993)
Of Pandas and People is a textbook supplement published by a small Texas publisher, Haughton (not major publisher Houghton-Mifflin.) It is rare for textbooks to be reviewed, thus it was difficult to find reviews of this book in the scientific literature. We had to look in the educational literature, and we also found a handful of references in news articles in Scientific American and the Wall Street Journal. We include an issue of Bookwatch Reviews, formerly published by NCSE, because of the paucity of external reviews. We also include a research report on the scientific acceptability of the main premise of Pandas, published in NCSE's journal. We also felt that a legal review of Pandas, published in the Stanford Law Review, would be of interest to the Board, and we include it with the other articles and reviews.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Pandas is an "intelligent design" textbook. It tries very hard to omit any discussion of religion from its pages, and almost succeeds. God or a Creator are very infrequently encountered. Unfortunately, the "intelligent design" argument is inherently religious, as it posits an "intelligent designer" as the producer of living things. As Gerald Skoog, former president of National Science Teachers Association, says in The Science Teacher, April, 1990, "Clearly, Pandas is being used as a vehicle to advance sectarian tenets and not to improve science education." A textbook review magazine, The Textbook Letter, is even blunter: "It disguises the biblical God as a nameless "intelligent agent" whose only evident function is to make organisms in a non-evolutionary way.'"
As is usual with textbooks, the book was ignored in the scientific literature, and few reviews of any kind exist. News articles from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Scientific American report views of the book attributed to others, which are "reviews" of a sort. According to the WSJ article, the philosopher of science Delos McKown said, "The purpose is to get God into public education without using the word G-O-D." Phillip Johnson, the Berkeley law school professor who is a proponent of intelligent design, is reported in the WSJ as believing that "...a bit more candor about the nature of the designer might be in order. 'You're playing Hamlet without Hamlet if you don't say something about that,' he says." The Scientific American news piece ironically notes the same Hamlet quip, and also notes that "Kevin Padian of the University of California at Berkeley, wrote that the book was 'fundamentalism in disguise.'"
The reviews available clearly indicate that the textbook promotes a religious view.
Evaluation on criterion A: Unacceptable because the text promotes a religious view, "intelligent design".
Perhaps one of the most useful reviews is provided by the public school district in Vista, CA, a copy of which is attached. The text was reviewed by a teachers committee which concluded that for many reasons both scientific and pedagogical, the book was unsuitable for use in their public school district. In answer to the form's question, "Does the book provide accurate, reliable, scientific information?" the teachers answered, "Carefully selected scientific information is refuted using philosophical rather than scientific arguments." The teachers did not feel that it presented scientific theory, but "...the unproven assumption of intelligent design." They had other objections of a pedagogical nature which will be addressed under "D" below.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because it misleads students about the nature of science, and also because of its inaccurate presentation of evolutionary biology.
C. Books must accomplish the resolution’s requirement to "present evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution."Yes. This is a genuinely antievolutionary book, as opposed to many on the list which merely object to Darwinism, or evolution by natural selection.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.Here we turn to the Vista Unified School District teachers' committee review of Pandas. They found the book has serious shortcomings: "The book contains no opportunities to experiment with any topics. There are no activities, literature selections, math questions, discussion questions, etc." Concerning experiential education, the teachers reply, "This text is purely discussion. It does not involve the learner in activity-based experiences. Even the teacher's guide (from a previous edition) is a standard testing device that does not challenge the student with higher- order, open-ended questions."
In summary, the teachers stated, "The committee could find no positive aspects of introducing this book into the science curriculum."
Evaluation on criterion D: Unacceptable
Additional consideration."Intelligent Design theory" is proposed as a legitimate, nonreligious, scientific viewpoint. One way to test this is to investigate whether scientists are using the concept in their research. Dr. George Gilchrist, a zoologist at the University of Washington, searched scientific databases to investigate whether "intelligent design theory [is] actually used by scientists." In an article included with this evaluation, he concluded that it is not. Gilchrist noted:
Any school board considering adoption of the Pandas text needs to question why science teachers would be expected to bear false witness in the classroom. Until intelligent design theory can be shown to have any status as a scientific theory of biological organization, it has no place in a biology curriculum.Gilchrist's easily-replicated research is reported in his article, "The Elusive Scientific Basis of Intelligent Design Theory", in Reports of the NCSE, May/June, 1997.
Another concern is the legality of teaching "intelligent design theory." We have included an article by lawyer Jay D. Wexler, "Of Pandas, People, and the First Amendment: The Constitutionality of Teaching Intelligent Design in the Public Schools", published in the Stanford Law Review, January, 1997. Mr. Wexler notes that the book contains no mention of "God", or a "Creator", instead referring to an unnamed "intelligent agent." But the characteristics of this "intelligence" are identical to that of the Christian God:
It is the God-like nature of the postulated intelligent designer that compels the conclusion that Pandas teaches religion, not science, and thus, cannot be taught in American public schools. (p. 454)In the following section III, "Why Pandas is Unconstitutional", Wexler discusses the Supreme Court's treatment of the Establishment clause, and concludes,
Despite the lack of specific facts, the language of Pandas itself and the context in which it has arisen are sufficient to compel the conclusion that teaching Pandas in any public school scenario would be unconstitutional. Moreover, despite its muddled Establishment Clause jurisprudence, the Court has consistently applied the most exacting scrutiny in the context of public schools and would surely strike down any attempt to communicate a religious belief in the public school classroom. (p. 456)
Analysis6. Denton, Michael, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. (Rockville, MN: Woodbine House, 1986). (Our library copy was published in the US by Adler and Adler, Bethesda, MD, 1985. Originally published in Great Britain by Burnett Books Ltd, 1985.)
Denton's book was virtually ignored in the scientific press, though we were able to find a review by a scientist in Zygon, a journal of science and religion. We also found a short note by a scientist in Library Journal. Also appended is a review by a distinguished molecular biologist published in a popular newsletter, the Bay Area Skeptics Information Service.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Although Philip Spieth's Zygon review states, "The book belongs to the 'creation science' genre", he makes it clear that "he [Denton] does not actively espouse the creation science claim for a scientific basis in Genesis. The book, therefore has the appearance of being strictly a book on biology."
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable.
...he misunderstands or willfully misrepresents the nature of a cladogram as opposed to a phylogeny. Much of the book reads like creationist prattle, but there are also some interesting points.Spieth's Zygon article expresses a low opinion of the scientific accuracy of Theory in Crisis. He says,
As a serious piece of biology, however, the book could not pass the most sympathetic peer review. In its approach, methods, and style it is straight out of the creation science mold. Abuses typical of creation science literature abound: evolutionary theory is misrepresented and distorted; spurious arguments are advanced as disproof of topics to which the arguments are, at best, tangentially relevant; evolutionary biologists are quoted out of context; large portions of relevant scientific literature are ignored; dubious or inaccurate statements appear as bald assertions accompanied, more often than not, with scorn.We recommend a full reading of the Spieth review for specific examples of how evolutionary biology is incorrectly presented ("Its scope ranges from paleontology to molecular biology, with excursions into the history and philosophy of biology. No area escapes misrepresentation and distortion.") Denton's view of molecular evolution is cited in a number of creationist and intelligent design publications, including Phillip Johnson's books, and Of Pandas and People, so it is worthwhile understanding why scientists consider his interpretation to be so faulty. Thomas Jukes gives a detailed analysis of Denton's misunderstanding of molecular evolution in the enclosed BASIS of January, 1991.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of its distortion and misstatements of evolutionary biology theory.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.The reviewer in Library Journal feels the book is suitable "For informed readers." Spieth also feels that the book is inappropriate for nonscientists: "If this were simply a book written for scientists it could be ignored. However, it is not; it is clearly intended for laypersons, whose interest is most likely motivated by philosophical and theological issues. Such an audience cannot be expected to have the necessary expertise to avoid being deceived by the book's manifold abuses of evolutionary biology."
Evaluation on criterion D: Acceptable with reservations The book should only be assigned to students who have had a solid background in not only biochemistry, but also evolutionary biology. This would include graduates of some AP Biology courses, but not all.
Analysis7. Johnson, Phillip E., Darwin on Trial (Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1991.) (originally published by Regnery Press)
Because Johnson is a professor at a prestigious secular university, his books have been taken more seriously than many antievolutionary/creationist books. There are scores of reviews of Darwin on Trial in the religious and popular press, including magazine and newspaper articles. We have confined ourselves to reviews evaluating his books from a scientific perspective, with one exception, indicated below.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Johnson is a proponent of "intelligent design theory", which a court of law has treated as a synonym of "creation science." Darwin on Trial (DoT) thus suffers some of the same problems that Pandas and People suffers when it comes to religious advocacy: there is a religious subtext to the idea that an intelligent designer (that is, God) created the universe, even if the terms "God" or "Creator" are infrequently used. Although DoT seldom mentions God, reviewers noted that a religious agenda was not very deeply hidden.
Writing in the Journal of Molecular Evolution, Thomas H. Jukes notes, "Obviously Johnson intends to curry favor with creationists and their 'creation-science'." Philosopher David Hull, writing in Nature, says,
He is not a creationist in the sense that he thinks God miraculously created all species in six days some ten thousand years ago, but he does believe that any purely naturalistic explanation of the creation of life on Earth and the emergence of human beings is inadequate. Instead, as a "philosophical theist and a Christian" he believes that God brought all living things into being to further His own purpose, possibly by creation from nothing, possibly in the way that contemporary evolutionists claim.The American Journal of Science review describes Johnson as an "old-earth creationist — a person who believes, 'that the earth is billions of years old and that simple forms of life evolved gradually to become more complex forms including humans ... [and]... that a supernatural Creator not only initiated this process but in some meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose'" (p. 865).
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable with reservations because, although the book does promote a theistic view, it is not as obvious as in many other books submitted.
The term "caricature" is also employed by David Hull when he writes in Nature: "In his discussions, he presents the usual caricatures of evolutionary biology only to take them back after they have had their effect, a ploy that seems to be common in courts of law." The Journal of Molecular Evolution review castigates Johnson for misrepresenting molecular evolution theory. The most positive review is that from the American Journal of Science, suggesting that the book
...highlight[s] how theories supported largely by indirect evidence may be open to criticism. It is a thorough articulation of the old-earth creationist objections to a purely materialistic origin and diversification of life. Although these objections have been raised before by creationists, they are laid out clearly here and might provide a useful focus for a graduate seminar in biology or paleobiology on what scientists accept as evidence and why. (p.866)
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of its erroneous treatment of both the nature of science and of the facts and theories of evolutionary biology.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"Only in a manner of speaking. The book is definitely anti-Darwinism, and more or less anti-evolution as well. Although (as indicated by one of the reviewers, cited above) Johnson allows for a theistic evolution of sorts, he is not enthusiastic about common ancestry for living things. His position seems to be that if Darwinism is wrong, then evolution didn't take place, which does not reflect the scientific view which separates the issue of whether something happened from its (possibly varied) causes or mechanisms.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable, with reservations.
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.The book is conversational in tone, and should be understandable by high school students.
Evaluation on criterion D: Acceptable
Analysis8. Johnson, Phillip, E . Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. (Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1997)
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".The purpose of this book, written for high school and college students, is not only to discourage them (and others) from accepting the secular ideology of philosophical naturalism, but also to discourage them from accepting the religious doctrine of theistic evolution. In his introductory chapter Johnson writes:
God is our true Creator. I am not speaking of a God who is known only by faith and is invisible to reason .... I speak of a God who acted openly and who left his fingerprints all over the evidence. Does such a God really exist, or is he a fantasy like Santa Claus? That is the subject of this book. (p. 23)He then repeatedly contrasts Christian and materialist views, for example:
To use words that Jesus taught us, what is the foundation of solid rock, and what is the foundation of sand? The Christian says that the rock is God, and we should trust in the goodness of God all the more when the presence of evil and suffering inclines us to doubt. The materialist says that the rock is matter, and that we should never move from an unshakable faith in science and materialism.... (pages 66-67)On p. 91-92 he writes, "If we understand our own times, we will know that we should affirm the reality of God by challenging the domination of materialism and naturalism in the world of the mind."
Summarizing his goals in writing the book, he states on p. 92,
Second, I wanted to redefine what is at issue in the creation-evolution controversy so that Christians, and other believers in God, could find common ground in the most fundamental issue — the reality of God as our true creator.In an extended section beginning on p. 92, Johnson speaks of the "wedge" strategy of attacking "scientific materialism" by first attacking the theory of evolution. The book itself is actually rather light on science, repeating summaries of criticisms of evolution discussed at greater length in Darwin on Trial, but mostly focusing on suggestions for how students should think about philosophical issues.
Evaluation on criterion A: Unacceptable because of its promotion of sectarian (Christian) religion.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unable to evaluate because there is hardly any science in the book, given its emphasis on philosophical and religious issues.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"Not much of it! It assumes that evolution (the theory of common ancestry) is only accepted as true by scientists because it reflects their supposed philosophical materialist bias.
Granted that the materialist mechanism has to be discarded, what does this imply for what scientists call the "fact of evolution," the concept that all organisms share a common ancestor? Universal common ancestry is as much a product of materialist philosophy as is the mutation/selection mechanism. (p. 94)
Evaluation on criterion C: Unable to evaluate because although the book is antievolutionary as well as antidarwinian, there is not much scientific evidence presented or discussed.
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.Although written for high school students, some of the philosophical discussions may be difficult. For good readers.
Evaluation on criterion D: Acceptable, with reservations because of complexity of subject matter and vocabulary.
Analysis9. Kerkut, G.A. Implications of Evolution (Elkins Park, PA: Franklin Book Company, 1960)
We were unable to find a copy of this book to examine. It was not listed on amazon.com, even as an "out of print" selection. The Library of Congress Catalog also does not list it. We called the publisher (215-635-5252) and were informed that the book comes from a British series of monographs in applied biology originally published by the British Pergamon Press. They acquired American publication rights in 1960, but have subsequently lost those rights, and they do not know if anyone is publishing the book at this point. It is unlikely, since there is no reference to it that we can find.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Unable to evaluate
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because the book was published in 1960, thirty-eight years ago. It would be impossible for it to be current, and thus it would not be accurate, either.
Analysis10. L vtrup, Soren, Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth (New York: Croom Helm, 1987)
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".This is a book by a scientist who objects to neo-Darwinian mechanisms of evolution. There is no religion in it.
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable.
This book is richly marbled throughout with errors, distortions, crucial misconceptions, and the lack of logical rigor that L vtrup so bitterly denounces in others. (p. 501)Numerous examples of misstatements and misunderstandings are given in the review, in a passage from page 502-503, highlighted in the attached copy.
Keith Stewart Thomson, reviewing the book in American Scientist, says, somewhat tongue-in-cheek,
Many of the sacred cows that L vtrup wants to slaughter are either long since dead or merely made of straw. It is tedious constantly to see Darwin and his followers taken to task for failing to be as smart as we are now. (p. 394)Two other reviews, while making similar points, were on the whole more accepting of L vtrup's iconoclastic view. Hobart Smith writes in Evolution:
In enthusiastically embracing much of the book, I view some statements as patently untenable or questionable. One of the greatest errors, in my opinion, is including the reality of evolution as one of its own four theories. If anything deserves to be accepted as fact, rather than theory, it is the reality of evolution. To lump the fact of evolution with its theories (e.g., theories concerning pattern [phylogeny] or mechanisms [epigenesis and ecological phenomena such as isolation, dominance, and natural selection] is a major conceptual disservice to proper perspective. (p. 700)David Lambert writes in New Scientist:
Having said that there is a great deal about this book that is stimulating, I need to add that I personally remain unconvinced by L vtrup's alternative, macromutation. To attempt to explain the evolution of the diversity of life by reference to any spontaneously arisen genetic forms is to me simplistic, and does not recognize the variety of biological processes. However, the theory of macromutation is not likely to go away, since Goldschmidt there have been a string of authors who have defended this theory in its numerous versions. It deserves to be discussed. (p. 66)
Evaluation on criterion B: Acceptable with reservations because of dated arguments (even for 1987).
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"No. The author accepts evolution, but rejects Darwinism. The author prefers epigenetic macromutation to natural selection as the main engine of evolution, but he definitely accepts descent with modification. Writing in Evolution, Hobart Smith comments:
Despite the provoking (if not frightening) title, evolution is not the object of L vtrup's refutation: had such an eminent scientist rejected the concept of evolution, a most severe blow would have been dealt to biological thought and the philosophy derived from it. No, the author acknowledges that all educated people are aware of the concept and most accept it. (p.699)In the British journal New Scientist, David Lambert writes,
L vtrup makes a host of very relevant criticisms of neo-darwinism. But L vtrup is different: he does not regard Darwin's theory as false, or unfalsifiable, because it regards natural selection as the evolutionary agent, as do many modern critics. He rejects darwinism and neodarwinism because they are micromutationist theories. (p. 66)
Evaluation on criterion C: Unacceptable because the book presents arguments against Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism) rather than arguments against evolution.
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.It is highly doubtful that high school students would be able to understand much of the technical vocabulary presented in this book. (How many readers of this review can define "epigenetic macromutation"?)
Evaluation on criterion D: Unacceptable because of high technical level and vocabulary.
E. Other considerations.The book is described by its reviewers as well produced, but expensive. Smith writes,
Another most unfortunate aspect of the book is its forbidding price, effectively eliminating its use as a course textbook and severely limiting its informative potential among scientists and the interested public. (p. 699)Our sources also reported it as out of print.
Analysis11. Leith, B., The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinism, (no publisher given, 1982)
Our research found that this book is published by a British publisher, William B. Collins and Sons. The Library of Congress does not list any editions later than 1982, and this date is also listed at amazon.com.
We were unable to evaluate this book because we did not have it in our library, and we were unable to find any reviews of it in the scientific (or any other) press. A 1982 book, however, is not likely to be very current in its presentation of the science of evolution, since a tremendous amount of new theoretical and empirical research has appeared in the last 17 years.
Analysis12. Macbeth, Norman, Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason. (Boston: Gambit, 1971).
As the author says, "The reviews of the book in professional journals were few in number and mostly unfavorable in tone." There is a "secondary" review of this book included in the review of Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial by Stephen Jay Gould, wherein Gould only faintly "praised" Darwin Retried as being superior to Johnson's book:
In a "classic" of antievolutionary literature from the generation just past, lawyer Norman Macbeth (1971) wrote a much better book from the same standpoint, entitled Darwin Retried. Macbeth ultimately failed (though he raised some disturbing points along the way) because he used an inappropriate legal criterion: the defendant (an opponent of evolution) is accused by the scientific establishment and must be acquitted if the faintest shadow of doubt can be raised against Darwinism. (As science is not a discipline that claims to establish certainty, all its conclusions would fall by this inappropriate procedure.)
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Not religious.
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable
This omission is probably beneficial to students, because Macbeth does not seem to understand much of what he reads. Thus he dismisses Simpson's clear statement about the nature of the common ancestor of modern apes and humans:
Simpson has a curious passage on this subject: "Apologists emphasize that man cannot be a descendant of any living ape — a statement that is obvious to the verge of imbecility — and go on to state or imply that man is not really descended from an ape or monkey at all, but from an earlier common ancestor. In fact, that common ancestor would certainly be called an ape or monkey in popular speech by anyone who saw it." This reminds one of the learned critic who asserted that the author of the Odyssey was not Homer but another poet with the same name.In the original citation from Simpson's This View of Life, Simpson went on to say, "Since the terms apes and monkeys are defined by popular usage, man's ancestors were apes and monkeys." Is it possible that Macbeth does not understand the difference between technical and scientific vocabulary, or that he doesn't understand the fundamentally branching nature of evolution, in which living species share common ancestors in branching hierarchies through time? Or is he employing the legal trick of trying to cast doubt on the defense, hoping no one will notice a non sequitur?
This is a curious book from the standpoint of science. As lawyers do, the author presents arguments he thinks will support his case, and ignores those refuting his case. But unlike lawyers, scientists must consider and discuss evidence that contradicts their explanation: it cannot be simply ignored.
Macbeth also shades his argument in his favor, even if supposedly supporting data points a different way. For example, it is a hallmark and a strength of science that interpretations can be changed with new data and new methods of interpreting data. Thus the old view of horse evolution as a "straight line" path from small, many-toed, species with low-crowned teeth to today's large, single-toed, equids with high-crowned teeth is no longer supported by the data. Horse evolution has been shown — by paleontologists, using evidence — to be less linear, with many side branches; and, because of the nature of speciation events, it is highly improbable that we have many, if any, fossils of the actual species that gave rise to modern horses. This is not disturbing to modern paleontologists (nor was it distressing to paleontologists in 1971), but Macbeth almost sneeringly presents the demise of "straight line" horse evolution as a great "embarrassment" to the profession. A scientist can only ask, "Huh?"
But of course the biggest problem with this book is that it is so terribly dated. What little science is actually presented has little to do with today's evolutionary biology. The most recent book cited (a non-scientific book!) is from 1970; the most recent scientific citation is based on research done 30 years ago. There has been an explosion of information relevant to evolution in the field of molecular biology. A field that Macbeth dismisses as irrelevant to evolution, embryology, is now one of the hottest research areas; "evo-devo" is the nickname of the emerging sub-field of evolution and development. Students would not be well-served by being offered 30 year old data as if it were modern.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of 30-year-old, out of date information.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"No. As the author states, this is a book critical of Darwinism (evolution by natural selection), not evolution per se:
So let the following points be nailed down at once. I am not denying evolution in the large sense. I am not discussing genetics. I am not defending fundamentalism or propounding any other theory. I assert only that the mechanism of evolution suggested by Charles Darwin has been found inadequate by the professionals, and that they have moved on to other views and problems. In brief, classical Darwinism is no longer considered valid by qualified biologists. (p. 6)
Evaluation on criterion C: Unacceptable.
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.The book has a very readable style and should not be difficult for high school students.
Evaluation on criterion D: Acceptable.
Analysis13. McCann, L.J. Blowing the Whistle on Darwinism (self-published, College of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN 55215)
This book is privately published, and does not appear to be commercially available. It is not listed in amazon.com, though it has a Library of Congress catalog number. The book is poorly made; the copy in our library is so poorly bound that merely opening it cracked the binding and pages fell out. Copying pages guarantees page loss.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".Not obviously. Some references are made here and there towards the end about "design" but this is primarily a book critical of Darwinism (evolution by natural selection.)
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable
This book is replete with errors large and small, from Darwin's wife being identified as "Hannah", to a mangling of the principle of "Darwinism".
Darwinism tells us that the body of any organism can be an unwitting recipient of spontaneously produced changes, which are important enough to have species-forming potential. (p. 23)What this means is obscure, but any plausible interpretation is only distantly related to Darwinism or neo-Darwinism. McCann also errs in writing
Darwin got this idea not from viewing nature, but from looking at the kinds of variations in size and markings which are visible to anyone seeing the differences among litter mates in our domestic animals. (p. 23)Darwin derived the idea of natural selection from decades of observations of nature, both preceding and following the voyage of the Beagle. Perhaps the author is confusing Darwin's use of artificial selection as a metaphor for natural selection (in The Origin of Species) with the principle of natural selection itself. However, it is also clear that McCann does not understand natural selection, either:
In summary, modern Darwinism can be looked upon as having a two-pronged definition. It deals with explaining the origin of life under primitive earth conditions and occurring within a strictly physico-chemical framework. ... The other phase of modern Darwinism is sometimes termed neobiogenesis, or speciation. This aspect more closely resembles Darwin's parent efforts. It has to do with explaining the production of new species from pre-existing species. (p. 24)Neither modern evolutionary theory nor Darwinism (evolution by natural selection) is especially concerned with origin of life, which is a fascinating and fast-moving research specialty unrelated to the descent with modification that occurred after life began. Speciation is a process related to evolution, but independent of natural selection.
Some rather unusual attitudes , towards genetics and , cell b, iology are expressed in the book, such as in this suggestion of thinking protoplasm:
The cell would probably come nowhere near being large enough to accommodate all the necessary genetic material if genes were responsible for all cellular activities. For this and other reasons it is necessary to subscribe to protoplasm the ability to perform meaningfully by virtue of its own built-in intelligence. (p 117)These are just a few of the most obvious errors found on three pages. The rest of the book similarly confuses ideas, misdefines concepts, and generally shows a lack of understanding of principles of evolution.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable due to an excessive number of scientific errors.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"This book focuses on anti-Darwinism, not anti-evolution. But because evolution is never defined, it is not entirely clear whether the author wishes to throw out descent with modification along with Darwinism.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable with reservations due to the possibility that the author accepts evolution.
Analysis14. Milton, Richard, Shattering the Myths of Darwinism, (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1997).
This book has not been widely reviewed in the scholarly literature. We could, in fact, find only three reviews, counting one in Library Journal. The author is a British journalist who has something of a reputation as a crank. In his more recent book, Forbidden Science, he expressed enthusiasm for "Kirlian" photography, spoon- bending, Velikovskianism, cold fusion, and other oddities (a review is attached for your further information).
The full title of the book is The Facts of Life: Shattering the Myth of Darwinism and the actual date of publication is 1992, not 1997.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".No. As the geologist E. G. Nisbet writes in Nature:
Most authors who attack the fabric of geology are creationists, mostly fundamentalist Christian but some Islamic; Milton, in contrast, is a secular writer who states that he holds no religious belief. His work is a work of journalism, in the British tradition that puts opinion on the front page, giving only one side of the debate and placing the judgment of the writer foremost. (p. 391)
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable
...the age of this planet, the geological column with its fossil record, and even the biological relationship between the great apes and our own species. He ignores most of the recent evolutionary literature (especially in paleaoanthropology and primatology) and his chapters are full of dated illustrations, misleading generalizations, and glaring errors, e.g., "the evidence for humankind's own evolution is actually nonexistent" and "Today, 'Java man' is thought to be an extinct, giant gibbon like creature and not connected to humans."It is summarized in this review as a "morass of falsehoods." Nisbet, writing in Nature, notes other errors:
What the book does say about isotopes, for instance about radiogenic helium, is hilarious or irrelevant, and the book evades the rigor of Dalrymple's evidence by the simple device of ignoring it. At least the fundamentalists, on occasion, attempt to meet geochronology squarely; not so here, as the work leaves out virtually all the facts. (p. 391)Writing in the more popular publication New Statesman and Society, Richard Dawkins points out:
Milton misunderstands the first thing about natural selection. He thinks the phrase refers to selection among species. In fact, modern Darwinians agree with Darwin himself that natural selection chooses among individuals within species. Such a fundamental misunderstanding would be bound to have far reaching consequences; and they duly make nonsense of several sections of the book. (p.33)It is because of these many egregious errors that Dawkins states earlier in the review,
It is true that an occasional lonely figure, originally written off as loony or at least wrong, has eventually been triumphantly vindicated (though not often a journalist like Richard Milton, it has to be said). But it is also true that a much larger number of people originally regarded as wrong really were wrong. To be worth publishing, a book must do a little more than just be out of step with the rest of the world. (p. 33)
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of scientific errors.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution"?Yes.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable.
Analysis15. Moorhead, P.S. and M.M. Kaplan, eds., Mathematical Challenges to the Neo- Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution. (Philadelphia: Wistar [not "Winstar"] Institute Press, 1967).
We do not have a library copy of this very old book, and we were unable to obtain one. On the advice of a reference librarian, we checked amazon.com where the book was listed as "out of print." According to the Library of Congress, the copyright is 1967, and there is a 1985 reprint. As a thirty-two year old collection of papers presented at a symposium, it is unlikely to be very relevant, especially since so much research subsequently has been done on mathematical modeling in evolution.
Evaluation on criterion B: Likely unacceptable because of early publication date in a rapidly-moving field.
Analysis16. Shute, Evan, Flaws in the Theory of Evolution (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1997)
We question whether the Committee was given accurate information about this book. This book is not listed in Books in Print; the publisher is not listed there, nor in a library database listing 10.5 million businesses. Also, there is no "Craig Press" listed in the Nutley, NJ telephone directory. NCSE has a copy of this book, published in 1961 (the Library of Congress lists the same copyright date, and an 8th printing in 1980.) It is very unlikely, then, that there is a 1997 edition of this book, unless it is self-published.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".The publisher's introduction, attached, clearly states the religious purpose of the book, and a selection of explicit references to the Creator is also attached.
Flaws in the Theory of Evolution is a valuable weapon in the arsenal of the "Creationists", proponents of the Biblical position who in this generation are becoming more vocal and numerous. (front leaf)There are numerous references to a "Creator" in the index, and frequent references throughout the book to the "Grand Designer" and the "Creator"; some examples are attached. Clearly, this book promotes religion.
Evaluation on criterion A: Unacceptable because of extensive promotion of sectarian religion.
The treatment of the Cambrian fossil record in Chapter 1 is another case in point. Not only are the many pre-Cambrian unicellular and metazoan fossils not even mentioned, but the author does not understand the expectations of evolutionists regarding the early fossil record. It is not a mystery that phyla or classes have not evolved since early periods of geological history! It is precisely what evolutionary scientists would predict! And yet this is presented as a serious challenge to evolution.
The author likewise misleads the reader into thinking that the early Cambrian fossils are equivalent to modern representatives of the invertebrate phyla. They are not: they are primitive echinoderms, sponges, and worms, not identical to modern derived forms. In fact, the early Cambrian forms are more primitive than the late Cambrian forms, yet this book, in a manner typical of creation science, persists in presenting the Cambrian as the source of "fully developed" modern phyla. The Cambrian fossils are indeed modern types of invertebrates, but by no means are they identical to modern invertebrates.
The book also includes considerable non-scientific musings, such as a chapter on why color and "beauty" (of course, as perceived by human beings) exist in nature. It concludes that color and beauty must arise from the hand of the God, because evolution would have no reason for producing such phenomena.
Finally, why should evolution... produce the greatest visual beauty in the flower, even the parasitic orchid, or in the coral or the goldfish or the canary or the coral snake or the shell of the Nautilus — and not in the "higher" forms, for example man or ape or cow? ... The answer is still the same — incomparable design by the Great Designer as he wills, and not for the utility that Evolution demands so consistently and inexorably, but with futility. (p. 90)The author seems ignorant of the fact that what human beings might perceive as "beautiful" or "colorful" are likely to be perceived considerably differently (or not perceived at all) by other organisms. For example, the pollinating bee's compound eyes perceive the "beautiful" colors of a flower very differently from the way a human eye perceives them. The whole chapter is a remarkable admission of ignorance of basic biological fact.
Another chapter on the "species problem" further illustrates ignorance of basic biological principles, and is 40 years out of date. Indeed, there has been considerable discussion in the scientific literature about the definition of species, but ironically, this is because species have been produced through evolution! Species are reproductively isolated groups of organisms. Conceptually, this definition works well, though in the field, it may not. The definition has been modified for viruses and some other forms that plant, animal, and microscopic life have taken — again, because evolution has taken place. The chapter actually supports evolution, because if each species had been made according to a created "kind", the "species problem" would not exist!
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of dated material, and inaccurate presentation of scientific fact and theory.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"Yes, this book attacks both evolution and Darwinism.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable.
Analysis17. Spetner, Lee M., Not a Chance! Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution. (Brooklyn, NY: Judaica Press, 1997.)
We could not find any reviews in the scientific literature of this recent book, published by a Jewish theological press. NCSE's library does not have a copy. All we know about it is a description written by the author himself and "published" on amazon.com (this description is attached). A telephone call to Edward Simon, a biologist at Purdue University who was quoted in this "review", provided some additional information.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".It does not seem to be. Arguments (especially the focus on "information" in the genome) are reminiscent of "intelligent design theory", however. Dr. Simon stated that the author, though from a religious background, "didn't want to write a creationist book", so he concentrated on empirical arguments.
Evaluation on criterion A: (Probably) Acceptable
The author's summary suggests a fascination with genetic "information", claiming that point mutations (mutations at the nucleotide base level), cannot "add" information to the genome, but only decrease it. Without a clearer definition of "information" this statement is vacuous. It suggests a conception of genes as little batteries that store "information" used by the cell, which is not how scientists understand the functioning of genes. "Information" arguments are often used by intelligent design proponents as a way of working God into evolution. It is not clear whether this is the usage being promoted in this book.
Dr. Simon of Purdue University stated that the book takes an unorthodox approach to modern biology, and that its conclusions doubtless go beyond the data, but that by and large the information presented is accurate.
Evaluation on criterion B: (Probably) Acceptable.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"In his summary, the author seems to confuse evolution (common ancestry of living things) with the origin of life. He also states, "There is, however, evidence that some evolution has occurred. How did it occur? In Chapter 7 of my book, I suggest that although significant evolution cannot occur by random mutations, it could occur by nonrandom mutations." Later he says, "Since my book has been published I have seen that biologists are beginning to acknowledge the importance of these nonrandom mutations in evolution." This makes it appear that the book is more an anti-darwinian tome than anti-evolutionary.
Evaluation on criterion C: (Probably) Acceptable
D. Books must be pedagogically appropriate to the level at which they will be used.The author describes the book as "a bit technical in spots, but I have tried to write it in a form that a layman could follow, even if it takes some effort. I had to make it somewhat technical because I attack a paradigm to which most biologists declare allegiance." This may make it difficult for high school students without much science background.
Evaluation on criterion D: Unable to judge
Analysis18. Sunderland, Luther D. Darwin's Enigma, El Cajon: Creation Life Publishers. 1998
We question whether the Board has been given accurate information regarding this book. Knowing that Luther Sunderland died shortly after revising Darwin's Enigma in 1988, we called the publisher (now known as "Master Books") and asked if the book had been revised posthumously. The 1998 date given to the Board is incorrect. What the publishers currently sell is a reprint of the 1988 book, not a revision. This is important, as an evolution book published in 1998 would certainly be more accurate than one published in 1988.
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".As might be expected of a publication by Master Books, the publishing arm of the Institute for Creation research, Darwin's Enigma is classical creation "science." It has been a mainstay of the creationist movement since its first publication in 1984. Like some other creation science books, it does not explicitly mention God, but the imprint of creation science is unmistakable. For example, in reporting the alleged falling-away of scientists from support for evolution, Sunderland states, "They have discovered that their previous conclusions, once held so fervently, were based on very fragile evidences and suppositions which have since been refuted by new discoveries" (p. 8). In science, we speak of evidence in the singular; a hallmark of creation science is to speak of evidences in the plural. "Evidences" is a term from Christian apologetics which is improperly imported into discussions of science.
Creation science typically divides explanations of "origins" into 1) evolution or 2) creationism. Sunderland dichotomizes explanations of "origins" into 1) evolution and 2) "abrupt appearance". He claims that each explanation can include either mechanistic or supernatural causes. Evolution could be caused by God ("theistic evolution") or could occur naturally. "Abrupt appearance" ("various different forms first appear abruptly on Earth") could occur naturally through "panspermia", or supernaturally through creation. The theory of panspermia suggests that early components of life traveled through space to become the raw material of evolution. "Abrupt appearance", however, requires the sudden appearance of fully-formedorganisms, which makes it incompatible with panspermia. Thus "abrupt appearance" actually equates to creationism, and is therefore "religion in disguise." This and other logical errors are an effort to disguise the ultimately religious alternative to evolution that Sunderland is proposing.
In fact, on p. 12 of the book, he explicitly offers a "Supernatural Power" as an alternative to evolution.
Evaluation on criterion A: Acceptable, with GRAVE reservations because although it is not manifestly a religious tract, the religious agenda is never far from view.
Sunderland frequently juxtaposes information in a way that will lead students to erroneous conclusions. For example, in a discussion in Chapter 2 about his attitude towards religion, Darwin is quoted as saying, "I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation....Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete." The next passage describes Darwin going on board the Beagle, where he began to develop the ideas that later culminated in The Origin of Species. By this juxtaposition, the reader is led to believe that Darwin first became a disbeliever, and then went on the voyage of the Beagle to develop atheistic evolution. The accurate history is that Darwin lost his faith in Christianity much later in life, as a middle-aged man, grief-stricken after the death of his favorite daughter.
Darwin's Enigma will give students an incorrect picture of how scholarship is conducted. It consists primarily of "short excerpts and summaries of the replies to [questions]" asked of five natural history museum directors or scientists. Although the author claims that "typed verbatim interview transcripts" are available on the educational database ERIC, they were unavailable in October of 1998 when we searched for them. But whether or not the "short excerpts and summaries" reflect the actual words of the scientists interviewed, in general they fail to communicate the complete positions of the scientists. What results is the equivalent of unscholarly, out-of-context citations, and the book is replete with them. It is, unfortunately, a pattern familiar to anyone conversant with creation science writings.
For example, on p. 46, Sunderland asks, "How did Dr. Raup explain the sudden so- called explosion of very complex life forms in the Cambrian? Are all major phyla including chordates, subphylum vertebrates, found in the Cambrian?" Raup is quoted as saying, "In the Upper Cambrian perhaps. There is no question that the major invertebrate faunas come in with a rush." Raup, a knowledgeable scientist, knows that only very primitive vertebrates (lacking vertebrae, in fact!) appear at the end of the Cambrian, and in fact, the invertebrate phyla of this early time also display only a small portion of the diversity found today.
Sunderland's implication is that there was an "abrupt appearance" of all living "life forms" long ago in the Cambrian, much as one would expect if special creation rather than evolution produced living things. The Cambrian fauna appear "in a rush" from a geological perspective, but it still took at least 30 million years! Chordates are the phylum to which we and other vertebrates belong, but the group also includes invertebrates, which are actually similar in some respects to certain other invertebrates from other phyla. Sunderland wishes the reader to infer that because "chordates, subphylum vertebrates" occur in the Precambrian, that we could go to those strata and find examples of modern vertebrates like bears, mice, rodents, and primates. In fact, the best preserved chordate of the Cambrian is a small, worm-like invertebrate, and there are no modern vertebrates in the Cambrian at all.
Students would also be confused by the discussion of "ancestors" vs. "transitional fossils" in chapter 4. Because of their unfamiliarity with the subject matter, they would not be able to recognize that statements from Niles Eldredge and others are not denying that evolution occurred, but instead are referring to a different issue. At the time the statements were made (the early 1980's) paleontology was embroiled in a controversy over how to interpret evolution. The argument was being made (and eventually prevailed) that looking for actual ancestors is not as important as looking for structural transitions in the fossil record. As is typical of creation science literature, Darwin's Enigma recasts legitimate arguments among scientists over how evolution occurred as actually nonexistent arguments over whether evolution occurred.
There is another respect in which students will receive an incorrect picture of how scholarship is conducted. The thrust of the book is authoritarian, as if to say, "If famous scientist X says it, it must be true." By quoting iconoclastic paleontologist Colin Patterson as saying that "he agreed with the statement that neither evolution nor creation qualified as a scientific theory since such theories could not be tested" (p. 27) Sunderland gives a naive student the impression that Patterson speaks for all scientists — whereas his is a minority view. In the section following this quote, the author claims that the British Museum of Natural History (at which Patterson works) was condemned by scientists for its 1980 display that "included the statement that evolution was not a scientific theory in the sense that it could not be tested and refuted by experiment". Sunderland had made this same claim in works published before Darwin's Enigma. According to correspondence (appended) from the Director of the British Museum, this statement was false — but the claim remains uncorrected by Sunderland in Darwin's Enigma, even though this book was published after the Director's statement. This is not how we wish to model scholarship.
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of poor presentation of the methodology of science, and errors of fact and theory.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution"?Yes. This book is both antidarwinian and antievolutionary.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable.
Analysis19 . Wilder-Smith , A.E. The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution
The Library of Congress Catalog does not list any edition of this book later than 1981, when it was published by Master Books, an imprint of Creation-Life Publishing. According to amazon.com, the book was reprinted in 1992 by Answers in Genesis, a Kentucky-based organization whose Mission Statement is "To bring reformation by restoring the foundations of our faith which are contained in the book of Genesis."
A. Books must not present creationism, and not "present religious doctrine in disguise".This book is, in the language of the resolution, "religious doctrine in disguise." A primary argument of the book is the "intelligent design" argument phrased as a supposed conflict between "teleonomy" or "external teleonomy" (that is, "plan" or "information" "added to matter"), or "logos", with "evolution [by] mere chance mutations." The author comments on p. 4 that "[logos] was always associated with 'spirit' (or 'God')," and asserts on p. 5 (enclosed) that, "Darwinism declares such problems [as God's creation of a world with war] to be meaningless .... Chance as the creator destroys morality."
Evaluation on criterion A: Unacceptable because of "religious doctrine in disguise."
Errors are abundant, which is typical of "creation science" literature. Evolution is inaccurately described as "rapid upward development" (p. 121), which implies both rate of evolution and "progress." On the same page, Wilder-Smith claims that evolution requires "a high rate of mutation", which is nonsense. On pp. 149-150 he offers the purported "Seven Main Postulates of the Theory of Evolution" which are a mishmash of illogic, error, and occasional partial truths. For example, in number 3 he claims that, "The different viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are all descended from one another." For these four different forms of life to have all descended "from one another" is logically impossible. Postulate number 5, "The vertebrates are all phylogenetically inter-related" is for some reason juxtaposed with the seemingly identical postulate number 7, "All vertebrates are phylogenetically interrelated."
As is common in creationist literature, evolution is said to fail when it does not provide evidence that it never claimed existed. So, for example, on p. 131, Wilder- Smith says, "We know of no intermediate stages between invertebrate octopus and squid types and genuine vertebrates." No evolutionist ever claimed that there is a direct evolutionary transition between cephalopods and vertebrates. As the review printed in Reviews of Creationist Books states, "One could equally well say we know of no intermediates between oak trees and man, but this hardly bears on evolutionary concepts."
There is the usual creation science confusion about whether natural selection is a tautology (p. 127). It isn't, unless one uses Wilder-Smith's incomplete definition of natural selection. Students will be confused about the true nature of heredity and evolution upon reading a statement like that on p. 126: "The rare favorable mutation would then be responsible for biological upward development which would thus be due to chance." Wilder-Smith, like most creation science proponents, equates evolution with "chance", and special creation with design. Of course, if natural selection is the main engine of evolutionary change, then evolution is not produced by chance at all. Natural selection, as adaptive differential reproduction, is the antithesis of chance.
This fixation on chance leads to many other errors. On p. 151 the presence of bilateral symmetry is presented as a major problem for evolution, again because Wilder-Smith equates evolution with "chance." Modern developmental biologists have a pretty good idea of how bilateral and radial symmetry are laid down embryologically; this, like the rest of evolution, is hardly a matter of "chance."
The supposed "man and dinosaur tracks" in the Paluxy river area in Texas are assumed to be valid in a discussion on pp. 96-100. Even researchers from the Institute for Creation Research have rejected these tracks as "proving" simultaneous existence of humans and dinosaurs. Some creation scientists promote the Paluxy river "mantracks" to support the argument that because all species were created at one time, they all were wiped out by Noah's Flood. Thus sediments should include humans, dinosaurs, mammoths, trilobites, and so on, as they all perished in the Flood. Of course, there are no data to support this view, and much against it.
The discussion of methods of radiometric dating makes the claim (unusual outside of creationist literature) that half-lives of isotopes are not constant — that rates of decay of the same element will change through time. This is unusual physics, indeed. (See Dalrymple, B., The Age of the Earth, Stanford University Press.)
Evaluation on criterion B: Unacceptable because of copious scientific errors.
C. Presents "evidence contrary to the scientific theory of evolution?"The book concentrates more on "biogenesis" or origin of life criticisms than the theory of common ancestry, but it is indeed an antievolution book.
Evaluation on criterion C: Acceptable with reservations because its focus upon evolution is secondary to its focus on origin of life.