Explore Evolution The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism

Casey Luskin

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

By Casey Luskin, M.S. (Earth Sciences), J.D. Introduction In its response to the textbook Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (EE), the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) claims that natural selection can be understood as having served as the primary adaptive force driving “the diversification of life as we know it over the course of several billion years.”1 Despite the NCSE’s bold assurances, scientists have encountered many problems when trying to explain how natural selection acts upon populations to generate complex new biological features. In his Princeton University Press volume Natural Selection in the Wild, biologist John A. Endler writes that “[t]here are six major gaps in our knowledge and understanding of natural selection,”2 namely: (1) Why Read More ›

The NCSE’s Biogeographic Conundrums: A Defense of Explore Evolution‘s Treatment of Biogeography

By Casey Luskin, M.S. (Earth Sciences), J.D. Introduction In its response to the chapter on biogeography in the supplementary textbook Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (EE), the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) asserts that EE “mangles the tiny fraction of biogeography covered.”* If anything is mangled, it is the NCSE’s response, which hops in a scattered fashion from issue to issue, repeatedly misrepresents the arguments of EE, and relies on double standards in order to nitpick over trivial matters. Additionally, the NCSE cherry picks data to make it appear that biogeography consistently supports universal common descent. The NCSE has adopted the shotgun approach to attacking EE, using any argument, however weak, that comes to hand. What Read More ›

Response to Brian Metscher’s Book Review in Evolution & Development

The Darwinists clearly are not happy about the supplemental textbook Explore Evolution (EE), and given their showing thus far, they’re getting increasingly desperate to find ways to attack it. The latest review attacking EE was published in the journal Evolution and Development by Brian Metscher, a biologist in Austria. Employing what ID historian and rhetorician Thomas Woodward calls the “sledgehammer” approach, Metscher makes the grand sweeping conclusion that “[e]very talking point in the book has been dealt with already.” Metscher doesn’t specify precisely what those “talking points” are, but if EE is so wrong, surely Metscher can give us a scholarly refutation of the book. Instead Metscher cites to TalkOrigins and an internet Darwinist named Lenny Flank, who offers some Read More ›

Antibiotic Resistance Revisited

[Note: This response is co-authored with Explore Evolution co-author Ralph Seelke, Professor of Biology at University of Wisconsin-Superior.] In its rebuttal to Explore Evolution (EE) on antibiotic resistance, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) calls EE “incoherent,” “deeply confused,” and asserts that it “significantly misrepresents” the data.[1] But this appears to be little more than harsh rhetoric: the NCSE cites papers that demonstrate trivial degrees of evolution and when read carefully, actually validate EE’s arguments about fitness costs associated with antibiotic resistance. The NCSE’s rebuttal to EE with regards to antibiotic resistance contains many misstatements about EE and the data, and the entire rebuttal makes only one valid point—a point which when properly understood actually strengthens the case against macroevolution in Explore Evolution. Moreover, the NCSE makes multiple assertions about Read More ›

When Did “Neo-Darwinism” Become a Dirty Word?

John Timmer objects to Explore Evolution’s subtitle, “The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism,” claiming that “[d]uring the roughly 20 years I was directly involved in biology research, I’d never come across the term ‘Darwinism.’” EE’s subtitle actually uses the word “neo-Darwinism,” not “Darwinism,” but regardless, Timmer’s complaint reveals more about his own ignorance than it does about any inaccuracy on the part of EE. Terms like “Darwinism” and “neo-Darwinism” (or similar cognates like “Darwinian,” “neo-Darwinian,” or “Darwinist”) regularly appear in both the technical scientific literature and textbooks about evolution, and they are repeatedly employed by contemporary scientists and philosophers of science. In a book published just last year, for example, University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne repeatedly labeled the modern theory of evolution as “neo-Darwinism”: The Read More ›

A Mis-Aimed Critique of Inquiry Based Learning

John Timmer calls Explore Evolution‘s use of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) a “sham” because he asserts the textbook “abdicates the responsibility for reasoning entirely.” But his criticism is bogus. EE contains multiple sections that encourage students to weigh the evidence and consider open-ended questions about the evidence like, “Which picture best illustrates the history of life?,” “Do all living things, past and present, share a common ancestor?,” “Can natural selection produce fundamentally new organisms from pre-existing ones?,” and “Are there other similarities that point to common ancestry?” A comparison to other textbooks quickly shows EE‘s use of IBL is vastly superior to most mainstream biology textbook treatments of evolution, which tend to force rote memorization of Darwinism, and offer little meaningful IBL on Read More ›

Double Standard on Textbook Treatments of Evolution

John Timmer repeatedly attacks EE for allegedly trying to “divide and conquer” evolution because it discusses the different lines of scientific evidence (i.e. fossil, anatomical, molecular) regarding common descent in separate sections. Timmer’s criticism reveals either his gross ignorance of how contemporary biology texts cover evolution, or that he’s using a blatant double standard.  EE was written to complement the coverage of evolution in standard biology textbooks, and so it follows the approach used by most biology textbooks, which divide the evidence for common descent into separate sections dealing with fossils, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, embryology, and biogeography. (See for example, Campbell, Reece, and Mitchell, 2003, pp. 260-263; Mader, 2007, pp. 224-227; Raven & Johnson, 2005, pp. 460-466.) If Timmer wants to argue for a Read More ›

The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism