Explore Evolution The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism

Responses to Major Reviews

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 evolution. 

For example, in Miller & Levine’s treatment of avian evolution, students are asked “Why do you think that birds evolved from dinosaurs?,” and “What are the two alternative explanations for the evolution of modern birds?” (Miller and Levine, 2008, p. 807) Students are never encouraged to think outside of the evolutionary box created by the text, and in all questions, an evolutionary reptile-to-bird transition is taken as a given. Likewise, Campbell, Reece, and Mitchell’s textbook Biology: Concepts and Connections, forces students to think only within the Darwinian box: “Write a paragraph briefly describing the evidence for evolution,” it asks. (Campbell, Reece, and Mitchell, 2003, p. 279)

Other textbooks like Raven & Johnson’s Biology don’t even ask questions allowing students to evaluate the evidence, and instead just make dogmatic claims like, “the evidence for Darwin’s theory has become overwhelming” because “information from many different areas of biology—fields as different as anatomy, molecular biology, and biogeography—is only interpretable scientifically as the outcome of evolution.” (Raven, Johnson, Losos, and Singer, 2005, p. 453)

Holt’s Life Science asks students to only consider how “organisms can be compared to support the theory of evolution” or “how fossils provide evidence that organisms have evolved.” (Holt, 2001, p. 176, emphasis added) Likewise Sylvia S. Mader’s 2007 edition of Essentials of Biology carefully steers students away from any meaningful critical thought over evolution, asking students to “Explain why evolution is no longer considered a hypothesis.” For students who cannot regurgitate from the text, the proper “answer” is given directly below the question — up-side-down, so students don’t have to hunt too hard for the “correct” answer: “Evolution is supported by many diverse and independent lines of evidence.” (Mader, 2007, p. 225) 

Many more examples could be given, but sadly, these textbooks are only following the proscription of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences which recently charged that schools should teach no evidence against evolution because “[t]here is no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution,” which is “so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter” it.

If anything is a “sham,” it is this kind of IBL which stifles creative and critical scientific thinking, and forces rote memorization of the “overwhelming evidence” showing only “support” for the “fact” of evolution, never encouraging students actually engage their minds to consider that some scientific evidence might challenge neo-Darwinism. A comparison between EE and other textbooks shows the great need for textbooks like EE that actually do encourage students to engage in real critical thinking over evolutionary biology.

References Cited

Neil A. Campbell, Jane B. Reece, Lawrence G. Mitchell, and Martha R. Taylor, Biology: Concepts and Connections, Benjamin Cummings, 4th Ed., 2003.

Holt Science & Technology, Life Science: California Edition, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 2001.

Sylvia S. Mader, Essentials of Biology, McGraw Hill, 2007.

Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph Levine, Biology, Prentice Hall, 2008.

Peter H. Raven, George B. Johnson, Jonathan B. Losos, Susan R. Singer, Biology, McGraw Hill, 7th Ed., 2005.

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 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 ›

The Catechism Versus the Data: A Reply to John Timmer’s Review of Explore Evolution

The following articles respond to a review of Explore Evolution by biologist and science writer John Timmer at arstechnica.com. Introduction: The Catechism Versus the Data The “Fact” of Evolution When Did “Neo-Darwinism” Become a Dirty Word? A Mis-Aimed Critique of Inquiry-Based Education Double-Standards on Textbook Treatments of Evolution Macolm Gordon and the Origin of Tetrapods Monophyly vs. Polyphyly and Christian Schwabe Reference Cited Timmer, John. “A biologist reviews an evolution textbook from the ID camp.” September 24, 2008. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2008/09/discovery-textbook-review/.

The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism