Explore Evolution The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism

Response to the National Center for Science Education’s Review of Explore Evolution

In 2007, Hill House Publishers (Melbourne and London) published the first edition of Explore Evolution: The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism. Designed as a supplementary text for High School AP Biology courses and freshman college biology courses, Explore Evolution was co-authored by two state university biologists, two philosophers of science, and a science/technical writer. Prior to publication, the book was peer-reviewed by a number of scientists and educators in various fields, and the book is currently used in a number of secondary schools and colleges. Praising Explore Evolution as “surprisingly rich for so concise a treatment,” the reviewer for Kirkus Discoveries lauded the book for covering “an impressive amount of terrain… in a colorful and lively fashion” and for providing “substantive food for thought about natural selection and universal common descent.”

The goal of Explore Evolution is to enable teachers and students to examine the evidence for and against Neo-Darwinism, the modern version of Darwin’s theory. As might be expected, those who favor a dogmatic Darwin-only approach to teaching evolution have attacked the book. Unfortunately, their criticisms largely consist of straw-man arguments and ad hominem attacks that either misrepresent the actual content of Explore Evolution or the current state of biological science. Nowhere can this be better seen than in the online critique of Explore Evolution drafted by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a pro-Darwin lobbying group that has a record of misrepresenting the facts when it comes to criticisms of modern Darwinian theory and of smearing those who disagree with Darwin.

In the late summer and fall of 2008, the NCSE started posting a hodge-podge of articles on its website attacking Explore Evolution. Although available through the search box on the NCSE’s website, the NCSE’s articles attacking Explore Evolution had yet to be highlighted on the NCSE site by September of 2009. (Indeed, the table of contents page for the articles was still labeled “TempCritique.”) By January 2010, the “TempCritique” label had been dropped. Unless otherwise noted, the responses below are to the NCSE articles as they originally appeared from the fall of 2008 through mid-September 2009.

Preface and Introduction

The “Creationism” Gambit

Evolution and Testability

The Definition(s) of “Evolution”

Universal Common Descent

Anatomical Homology

Anatomical Homology and Circular Definitions

Molecular Homology

Molecular Data and Phylogenetic Trees

Universality of the Genetic Code


Haeckel, Darwin, and Textbooks

Genetic Toolkits


The NCSE’s Biogeographic Conundrums

The Creative Power of Natural Selection

Misrepresenting the Gálapagos Finches

Fact and Fiction about the Peppered Moth

Antibiotic Resistance Revisited

Response to the NCSE’s Reply to Explore Evolution on Natural Selection

For additional information, see the Response to John Timmer.

Reference Cited

National Center for Science Education (NCSE). 2008. Critique: Explore Evolution, available online at https://ncse.com/creationism/analysis/explore-evolution.

The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism