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Creation Vs. Evolution: In the News

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It's not Just Students who are Failing

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

For as long as educators have used a grading system, there always have been students who did not pass certain core requirements—thus, they would receive a failing grade for their performance. We are all familiar with horror stories of students who walk into classrooms and hear those dreaded words—“Pop quiz time“—and then walk out with an “F ” on the quiz. But how many of us have heard about textbooks that receive failing grades? The Discovery Institute—a scientific organization that promotes Intelligent Design—recently analyzed the treatment of evolution in eleven biology textbooks that are being considered for adoption by the Texas State Board of Education.

The importance of the decision made by the Texas selection committee is critical. Due to the size and population of Texas (and California), textbook manufacturers cater to their desires, knowing that those two states’ decisions will affect other states, as well as the publishers’ financial bottom line. To summarize the Discovery Institute’s findings:

  • Four of the textbooks (BSCS Human Approach, Raver, Biggs, et al., and Starr and Taggart) received an overall grade of F for their serious and repeated misrepresentations of the scientific evidence.
  • Six of the textbooks (Purves, et al., Raven and Johnson, BSCS Ecological Approach, Mader, Johnson and Raven, and Miller and Levine) received an overall grade of D or D- for their misleading and inadequate presentation of the scientific evidence.
  • One textbook (Campbell and Reece) received an overall grade of C- for its minimally acceptable presentation of the scientific evidence.
  • One textbook (Raver), in addition to receiving a failing grade for its misrepresentations of the scientific evidence, also was noted for making several egregiously false statements about the history of science.

To see how grades were determined, and to find complete analyses of each textbook, please visit the Discovery Institute’s Web site at http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/TexasPrelim.pdf. The investigators noted that the textbooks were examined for their coverage of the following topics (among others):

(1) the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment that produced chemical building blocks of life from a simulated primitive atmosphere of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water vapor; (2) the Cambrian explosion, in which the major groups of animals appeared relatively suddenly in the fossil record rather than branching off from a common ancestor, as Darwin’s “tree of life” implies; (3) drawings or pictures of similarities in vertebrate embryos that are likewise used as evidence of common ancestry (Ernst Haeckel); and (4) drawings or pictures of peppered moths resting on tree trunks, used to illustrate experiments demonstrating natural selection (Discovery Institute, 2003, pp. 2-3).

There was not a single textbook surveyed that did not misrepresent at least two of those scientific topics. And several misrepresented all of the topics! In completing their analysis, the Discovery staff noted books that contained material so factually misleading that it actually ignored the scientific literature. The Discovery researchers nremarked: “[U]nless they are substantially revised they may be totally unsuitable for use in biology classrooms.” In just a matter of weeks, the Texas State Board of Education will be making its decision regarding which textbooks will be adopted for use in Texas public school classrooms. Chances are, the decision also will affect the books that your children and grandchildren use. Unless we speak up and let our voices be heard, students will continue to be exposed to scientifically erroneous material used in support of Darwinian theory. We encourage you (no matter where you live) to contact the Texas selection committee and let the members know that you want your children and grandchildren studying from books that make a passing grade!

REFERENCES

Discovery Institute (2003), “A Preliminary Analysis of the Treatment of Evolution in Biology Textbooks Currently Being Considered for Adoption by the Texas State Board of Education,” [On-line], URL: http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/TexasPrelim.pdf.

CONTACT INFORMATION

For a complete listing of the National Association of State Textbook Administrators for every state please visit their Web site http://www.nasta.org/members.htm. To contact the administrators in Texas, send correspondence to:

Dr. Robert H. Leos
Director, Textbook Administration Division
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
Phone (512) 463-9601
Fax (512) 463-8728

or

Mr. Charles E. Mayo
Assistant Director
Textbook Administration Division
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
Phone (512) 463-9601
Fax (512) 463-8728




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