Comic Strips and Biology Teachers
Almost every week we receive newspaper clippings of evolution-related stories from some of our faithful supporters. Frequently, these clippings are articles that appear in local newspapers, and that are authored by evolutionists. While we cannot always review and rebut every one we receive, we feel that some deserve a response. One example is an article written by Scott Hatfield, a biology teacher at Bullard High School in Fresno, California. The title of his article was “Don’t Learn Your Science from the Comic Pages.” The comic strip in question was “B.C.,” by famed cartoonist Johnny Hart. Mr. Hatfield did not appreciate the strip that appeared in the March 14 issue of the Fresno Bee, which featured a dialogue between a father and son clam (a strip that I have attached to a small bulletin board in my office, by the way).
Hatfield described himself as one who “enjoys” teaching evolution, even though he noted that many of his colleagues do not share his enthusiasm because they are “afraid of being hassled by students or parents with different views.” He states that he “respects the diversity of beliefs” expressed in his classroom, but firmly corrects “misconceptions on the basis of scientific evidence rather than personal conviction.” I would be interested to know whether or not Mr. Hatfield has, in fact, been completely forthcoming with his students regarding all the scientific evidence. Has he mentioned to them that evolutionary theory depends on spontaneous generation—life coming from nonlife—and yet for the last four centuries, scientists have been unable to demonstrate this. In fact, all scientists acknowledge a principle known as the law of biogenesis, which states that “life comes only from other life of its kind.” Has Mr. Hatfield explained to his impressionable biology students that evolution cannot explain the Cambrian explosion—complex life forms appearing suddenly in the fossil record? Has Mr. Hatfield “firmly corrected the misconceptions” in the students’ biology textbook regarding Ernst Haeckel’s forged embryos, English peppered moths that were artificially glued on trees to enhance the idea of natural selection, the fallacy of the “vestigial organs” concept, the erroneous stories (and lack of scientific evidence) regarding horse and whale evolution, or the perpetuated myth regarding Archaeopteryx being anything more than a bird? Surely, if his teaching is based on scientific evidence and not “personal conviction,” then he has been forthright and honest regarding these widely known evolutionary hoaxes.
I am sure that Mr. Hatfield has also been honest with students regarding some of the other scientific problems with evolutionary theory. For instance, the theory cannot explain why many animals reproduce sexually, when, from a purely evolutionary viewpoint, asexual reproduction would be preferred. In fact, does Mr. Hatfield discuss the problem that sex and gender pose to the evolutionary theory? How do animals “evolve” with different sexual organs, all the while requiring them to be able to reproduce? I’m also sure Mr. Hatfield spent several weeks discussing the problem that language and communication present for the evolutionary theory. I also hope he took time to remind his students that, scientifically speaking, humans are the only creatures on the planet that have both the neurological connections and anatomical components necessary to make speech possible. And surely in this modern day and age when information is so readily accessible, this biology teacher spent some time discussing the problem that irreducible complexity poses for evolutionary theory. And I personally would be interested to know how Mr. Hatfield firmly corrects questions on the origin of the brain, mind, and consciousness.
Additionally, I am sure Mr. Hatfield has fully informed his class of the problems of the Big Bang theory. First, how do we explain the initial matter that exploded out of that Big Bang, and whence did it originate? Has he mentioned that the most distant galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field show insufficient evidence of evolution, with some of them apparently having higher redshifts than the faintest quasars? Did he mention that the ages of globular clusters appear older than the Universe—a major problem for the evolutionary timeline? Has he shared with his biology class that element-abundance predictions using the Big Bang require too many adjustable parameters to make them work?
Ah, but I digress. Mr. Hatfield’s complaints with the comic strip begin with what he views as a misleading statement regarding common descent. He noted: “Like many people, Hart seems to be under the impression that evolution is progressive, moving from ‘lower’ forms of life (like Papa Clam) to ‘higher’ forms, with man ultimately at the top…. Evolutionary biologists do not see life as a ladder with man at the top rung; the preferred metaphor is that of a tree, with our species occupying but one of the more recently formed branches.” That being the case, could Mr. Hatfield provide scientific evidence for his beloved evolutionary tree? Since he corrects misconceptions with scientific evidence, then maybe he could share with everyone exactly what is at the bottom of the tree, and how the tree initially got started. He also should give the locations and specimens for each of the transitional fossils that provide various branching points on his tree—if we are going to keep this strictly scientific. Otherwise, one might be led to believe this was simply a poorly supported theory upheld by individuals who “have a personal conviction.”
Mr. Hatfield went on to state: “After all, scientists can measure the DNA of clams and other mollusks, and they can tell you that, for example, the lineage that led to mollusks is different from the one that led to starfish.” Obviously, it would have been nice if Mr. Hatfield provided a reference for that particular information, but other simpler, more relevant questions come to mind. For example, how does evolution explain a creature that builds a hard shell, but then links it through this “tree of life” to creatures covered in fur, skin, scales, or feathers? It’s one thing simply to say “this evolved from that,” and then draw pretty little lines in a textbook; it is entirely another to actually give scientific evidence for such a transition. Furthermore, has Mr. Hatfield honestly shown the students in his class how many times this alleged evolutionary “tree of life” has been pruned, rearranged, and/or spliced? That is a scientific fact that can be documented by history, not personal conviction.
Hatfield then moved on to what he called the “true agenda.” He berated Hart because “his real aim is to debunk the idea [of evolution] in general.” After chastising Hart for ending his comic strip with the son clam asking: “What are we doing on Mount Everest?,” Hatfield noted: “Clams are found on Himalayan peaks not because a flood put them there, but because the lineage of claims is much older than the mountains themselves!” What was that he said earlier about scientific evidence and personal convictions? How do you know Mr. Hatfield? Were you there? What scientific evidence do you possess that allows you to make such a bold claim? Could it be that you have a “true agenda” Mr. Hatfield?
In his closing statements, Mr. Hatfield tried to land one last blow by observing: “However, it’s worth posing the question: Doesn’t it seem strange that a comic strip populated by cavemen and dinosaurs seems intent on debunking evolution?” And yet the sad part is Hatfield “doesn’t get it.” Hart purposefully puts men and dinosaurs together because he believes—as do I—that God created both men and dinosaurs during the same creative week, and thus they coexisted. (And believe it or not, we have scientific evidence that supports such a concept!)
I can accept biology teachers explaining evolutionary theory in their classrooms—as long as they remember that it has not been proven, and that it is still a theory. I even acknowledge that microevolution (changes within limited parameters) occurs in nature. But I have a problem with a biology teacher who advocates evolution as a “fact of science,” and who then refuses to share with them some of the problems of the theory. Mr. Hatfield is doing exactly what he accused Johnny Hart of doing—i.e., bringing his personal convictions into his workplace. For a cartoon writer, that is acceptable. For a biology teacher, it is not. For all you students out there who may run into Mr. Hatfield, or other teachers like him, let me warn you: Do not learn your science from a biased teacher!
Hatfield, Scott, (2004), “Don’t Learn your Science from the Comics Pages,” Fresno Bee, March 14.