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Evolution

Misdefining science is a critical component of the modern creationist strategy, and a necessary precondition for their attacks on evolution. While its definition of science would sweep phenomena like astrology into science classes, EE sticks to the usual creationist focus on evolution. Though acknowledging that "the process of teaching requires a precise, unambiguous use of language," EE introduces three definitions for the term "evolution" which range from the erroneous to the irrelevant. One definition introduces a false distinction between microevolution and macroevolution (the seed of later confusing treatment of basic concepts). The next definition wrongly treats common descent as if it were independent of the mechanisms that produce evolutionary change, and the third definition simply ignores major evolutionary mechanisms, mechanisms central to major research programs in evolutionary biology. In arguing that these definitions are truly distinct, EE obscures a critical component evolutionary biology: the way that evolutionary mechanisms produce biological novelty, and the way that understanding evolutionary mechanisms today produces testable predictions about the past. Far from being totally disparate concepts, the three definitions of evolution offered by EE are three aspects of the same concept.

The author's incomplete description of evolutionary mechanisms extends throughout the rest of the chapter, and of the book. The authors treat natural selection and evolution as if the words were synonyms, ignoring important evolutionary mechanisms like neutral drift, recombination and population processes like gene flow. Treating limits on natural selection as if they represent problems for evolution is not accurate, and serves no valid pedagogical or scientific purpose. In order to make this invalid point, EE's authors misrepresent, misquote and miscite professional scientists.

The pattern of misrepresenting scientists' views repeats in the next section, and indeed throughout the book. A misrepresentation of current thinking about universal common descent is set against a dolled up creationist model of life's history and diversity ripped from the Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism. They claim that this view of life is backed by real scientists, and justify that claim with citations to scientists who actually reject these ideas vociferously. Along the way, the authors make errors in basic biology (e.g., treating evolution as a process occurring within an individual, rather than within a population), and reduce ongoing scientific dialog about the nature of the very earliest life to a petty creationist caricature. The research they cite is part of ongoing studies that draw on molecular biology, biochemistry, ecology and evolution, and students in a high school biology class have nowhere near the background needed to understand that research, let alone serve as judges in that discussion. Scientific questions are not resolved in the high school classroom, but in the laboratory and through learned dialog. Yet again, the presentation in Explore Evolution misrepresents not only the details of science, but the nature of science itself.