June 23, 2005

Do Biology Textbooks Pit Evolution Against Theism? - A response to Jonathan Wells

Introduction

On May 12th 2005 the CNN program "Lou Dobbs Tonight" devoted a segment of its broadcast to discussion of issues regarding the origins of life, creationism, and "intelligent design." The guests included Florida State Philosophy of Science Professor Michael Ruse, Dr. Jonathan Wells, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, and Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Santee, California. The moderator was longtime CNN financial anchor, Lou Dobbs.

These panel discussion treatments of the complicated scientific, philosophical and political elements that make up the national debate on evolution and biological origins are often frustrating for both audience and guest. The issues are explored in spare detail and follow-ups or rebuttals, when possible, are insufficient to allow for any depth of argument. This episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight offered no departure from that expectation.

It did, however, include a short stretch of interaction between Michael Ruse and Jonathan Wells which led to Wells making the claim that is the subject of this essay. Here is the pertinent section of the show’s transcript,
RUSE: No, I think that you people are being deliberately anti- Christian, anti-religious. You are made in the image of god, then you're supposed to use your reason fearlessly to find out about god's creation. And I think that you two are just too scared to do that.

RUSE: You know, I think...

WELLS: I fine it odd that you are accusing us of being anti- Christian. I have at least a dozen (INAUDIBLE) books.

RUSE: Like, well...

DOBBS: You have at least what? I'm sorry.

WELLS: I have a dozen biology textbooks at home that explicitly use evolution, misuse evolution, as an argument against theism, belief in god, Christianity, and so on.[1]
My initial reaction to Wells’ claim was that it must be false. I felt it flew in the face of reason, and after having researched this a bit, that impression has become even stronger. I am convinced that Wells owes everyone involved a retraction.

After hearing the charge I emailed Dr. Wells asking for a list of the offending texts and at the same time began searching through the introductory biology and evolutionary biology books on my shelves at home. These include,
  • Campbell, N. A. 1993. Biology (3rd Edition). Benjamin/Cummings Pub. Co.
  • Raven, P. H. Johnson, G. B. 1991. Understanding Biology (2nd Edition). Mosby Year Book.
  • Starr, C and Taggart, R. Biology, The Unity and Diversity of Life (5th Edition) 1989. Wadsworth Pub. Co.
  • Freeman, S. Herron, J. C. 2004. Evolutionary Analysis (3rd Edition). Pearson, Prentice Hall.
  • Futuyma, Douglas. 1986. Evolutionary Biology (2rd edition) Sinauer, Assoc., Inc.
  • Ridley, Mark. Evolutionary Biology. 1996 (2nd edition) Blackwell Science, Inc.
I checked the contents, glossaries, and indices of these books for any hints of discussion of the sort Wells alleged. What little I discovered turned out in each case to be something along the lines of 'creation' or 'creator' in the indices. This was to be found, not unexpectedly, in an introductory section that discussed the history, or cultural influences, of evolutionary theory. Consequently, I read those sections in each book in their entirety. I noted nothing which could be reasonably construed as using evolution to argue against "theism, belief in god, Christianity." Of course only one of these texts could be considered a recent edition (Freeman, Herron) and when I finally did receive a partial list from Wells I was not surprised to see that none of my editions were cited. Wells list included seven texts, four that he alleged supported his initial claim,
  • Douglas Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology 3rd edition (Sinauer, 1998), pp. 8-15.
  • Teresa Audesirk, Gerald Audesirk & Bruce Byers, Life on Earth 2nd edition (Prentice Hall, 2000), pp. 8-9.
  • Cecie Starr & Ralph Taggart, Biology: The Unity & Diversity of Life 10th edition (Thomson, 2004), p. 15.
  • Joseph Raver, Biology: Patterns and Processes of Life 1st edition (LeBel, 2004), pp. 99-101.
along with three that he said "Somewhat less directly…tell students that human beings were not created by design,"
  • Neil Campbell, Jane Reece & Lawrence Mitchell, Biology 5th edition (Benjamin Cummings, 1999), pp. 412-413.
  • Peter Raven & George Johnson, Biology 5th edition (McGraw-Hill, 1999), p. 14
  • William Purves, David Sadava, Gordon Orians & H. Craig Heller, Life: The Science of Biology 6th edition (Sinauer, 2001), p. 3.
After I gathered photocopies or transcripts of the appropriate material I set about researching Wells’ charges. Prior to discussion of the textbooks in question, however, it seems important to consider some context.

The Lou Dobbs Tonight program is broadcast nationally by CNN. Dr. Ruse was representing the mainstream biology point of view, Jonathan Wells the "intelligent design" position, and John Morris that of "scientific creationism." Additional context to consider is that Dr. Wells is well educated (he possesses two PhDs, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University [2]) and has written and spoken extensively on these issues. As such he is clearly an intelligent individual, aware of the nuances of personal responsibility and contextual suitability regarding public discussion of complex issues. Dr. Wells was perfectly aware that he was speaking to a national, not limited, demographic and representing "intelligent design" in its broadly understood context, not relying upon personal definitions of terms such as evolution and theism that might be unrecognizable to most listeners.

In other words, the claim made by Wells, that he has textbooks which "...explicitly use evolution, misuse evolution, as an argument against theism, belief in god, Christianity..." is quite clear and requires that the books in question commit the proposed misdeeds unambiguously and with obvious intent. It is on this basis that I proposed to review his list.


The Textbooks

For each text I made or acquired photocopies of the pages cited by Wells, and surveyed the indices and table of contents for other sections that might include applicable material. As it would be unwieldy to deal with all of the material in the body of this article, I quote representative statements, and include the complete text of relevant material in an appendix at the end of this article. I can do no better than to assure the reader that if I missed anything that supports Dr. Wells’ charges in any of the texts it was not for want of effort in the search. However, given that Wells cited specific pages, I feel confident little, if anything, of consequence was neglected.

The following includes a discussion of each text in the order of the list I received from Dr. Wells, along with my comments regarding the pertinence of his charges.


► Evolutionary Biology (3rd). Douglas Futuyma. pp 8-15

In this edition pages 8 through 15 contain discussion of non-technical aspects of evolution and the material I found that appeared relevant was included in subsections entitled Philosophical Issues, Ethics, Religion, and Evolution and Summary. Applicable material includes the following,
p8 - It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that before Darwin, both philosophers and people in general answered "Why?" questions by citing purpose. Only an intelligent mind, one with the capacity for forethought, can have purpose. Thus questions like "Why do plants have flowers?" or "Why are there apple trees?" – or plagues, or storms – were answered by imagining the possible purpose that God could have had in creating them.

...The entire tradition of philosophical explanation by the purposes of things, with its theological foundation, was made completely superfluous by Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

...The profound, and deeply unsettling, implication of this purely mechanical, material explanation for the existence and characteristics of diverse organisms is that we need not invoke, nor can we find any evidence for, any design, goal, or purpose anywhere in the natural world, except in human behavior.

p9 - Without question, our knowledge of the history and mechanisms of evolution is completely incompatible with a literal reading of the creation stories in the Bible's Book of Genesis, as it is incompatible with the hundreds of other creations myths that peoples throughout the world have devised. A literal reading of some passages in the Bible is also incompatible with physics, as when "the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day" (Joshua 10:13), and with geology, which attests that there could not have been a worldwide flood upon which Noah might have piloted an ark.
...Evolution, and all the rest of science, cannot be reconciled with a literal interpretation of such biblical passages -- but does that deny the existence of a supernatural power or powers, of spiritual reality, of God and a human soul? On these questions, science, including evolutionary biology, is silent. By its very nature, science can entertain and investigate only hypotheses.

p15 - 4. ...The implications of this theory, which revolutionized Western thought, include (a) change, rather than stasis, is the natural order; (b) biological phenomena, including those seemingly designed, can be explained by purely material causes, rather than by divine creation; (c) no evidence of purpose or goals can be found in the living world, other than in human actions...
We can see from the page 8 material that Dr. Futuyma is suggesting that Darwin’s ideas have enabled us to ascribe mechanical explanations to things that previously were thought to have been the result of purpose, or independent creation. As Futuyma proceeds to point out, this is no different from the advance of understanding in other disciplines. Even the quite demonstrative statements ("The entire tradition...", "The profound, and deeply...") deal with the historical context of philosophical epistemology, one that, according to Futuyma, was dominated by theological explanation.

For any of this to be construed as the use of evolution as an argument against "theism, belief in god, Christianity" (hereafter – theism etc.) Futuyma would have to be making an assertion that evolution is a preferable explanation for phenomena normally addressed by theism etc., or that evolution stands as evidence for the invalidity of theism etc, or a part thereof. However, he makes it very clear that these are exactly the kinds of inferences he is hoping to avoid. There is nothing ambiguous about his statement on page 9, "On these questions, science, including evolutionary biology, is silent." Science does not deal with matters of spirituality or the supernatural. Nor can science be repressed if findings of fact run counter to any particular article of faith. Science offers explanations for natural phenomena and in so doing does at times allow that purpose need not be invoked. But this is not equivalent to an argument against possible agents of such purpose.

The statement from page 15 must be read in the light of Futuyma’s words, "The implications of this theory..." It is clear from the list that follows that Futuyma is considering empirical implications. He is speaking from the perspective of scientific methodology and distinguishing that which we can know from that which cannot be tested. To consider the observation - there is a lack of material evidence of purpose in nature - equivalent to a denial of theism stretches and perverts the term to the degree it has little meaning.

Futuyma ends his Ethics, Religion, and Evolution section with this statement – "The steady expansion of the sciences, to be sure, has left less and less to be explained by a supernatural Creator, but science neither can deny, nor affirm, such a being." This leaves little doubt that it is not his intent to argue against theism etc. To claim otherwise is to imagine hidden meanings in his words. Throughout this text, Futuyma is unequivocal, - evolution cannot logically be used as an argument against theism, etc.


► Life on Earth (2nd), Audesirk, Audesirk and Byers. pp. 8-9.

There was very little on these pages that seemed to meet Wells’ criteria. The most applicable comments I could find include,
p9 - The principle of natural causality has an important corollary: The evidence we gather about the causes of natural events has not been deliberately distorted to fool us. This corollary may seem obvious, yet not so very long ago some people argued that fossils are not evidence of evolution but were placed on Earth by God as a test of our faith.

Some people believe that all different types of organisms were individually created at one time in the past by the direct intervention of God, a philosophy called creationism. As scientists, we freely admit we cannot disprove this idea. Creationism, however, is contrary to both natural causality and uniformity in time. The overwhelming success of science in explaining natural events through natural causes has led almost all scientists to reject creationism.
The first quote barely requires comment. It cannot be mistaken for an argument against theism etc. It is an argument that we can believe in the reality of that which we observe and measure, and take from this data the confidence to develop scientific explanations. It does not even deny the possibility of deliberate distortion (the Omphalos argument [3]) but merely suggests that this kind of explanation has no scientific utility.

In the next statement there is once again the observation that some explanations do not satisfy scientific standards. The authors are definitely not arguing against theism etc., they are arguing that creationism, to the degree it makes claims that are contrary to empirical data, is not consistent with contemporary biology. They even take pains to admit that science "cannot disprove this idea." This is therefore barely an argument against creationism. And it is certainly not an argument against theism etc., unless Wells wishes to claim that 'creationism,' as Audesirk et al (and most others) use the term, is synonymous with theism, or belief in God, or Christianity. In this case, then, the fact that staggering numbers of non-creationist theists exist (many of whom are scientists) would seem to be the first bit of contrary data he needs to address before making claims about textbooks.

Audesirk et al clearly do not use evolution as an argument against theism etc. In fact, as with Futuyma, they take pains to acknowledge the incommensurability of the scientific and theological approaches. Wells is again wrong in his claim.


► Biology: The Unity & Diversity of Life (10th). Cecie Starr and Ralph Taggart, p. 15

Half of page 15 in this text concludes a section on experimental design. The other half is taken up by a discussion of the nature of scientific questions and the cultural consequences of their answers. As with the other books I had difficulty imagining which passages Wells could have interpreted as arguing against theism etc., but nevertheless I pulled a few representative quotes.
p15 - Beyond the realm of science, some events remain unexplained. Why do we exist, for what purpose? Why does any one of us have to die at a particular moment? Such questions lead to subjective answers.

...subjective answers do not readily lend themselves to scientific analysis and experiments.

Every so often, scientists stir up controversy when they explain something that was thought to be beyond natural explanation – as belonging to the supernatural. This is often the case when a society’s moral codes are interwoven with religious narratives. Exploring a longstanding view of the natural world from the scientific point of view might be misinterpreted as questioning morality, even though the two are not the same thing.

This doesn’t mean that scientists who raise the questions are less moral, less lawful, less sensitive, or less caring than anyone else. It simply means one more standard guides their work: The external world, not internal conviction, must be the testing ground for scientific beliefs.
It seems evident that what Starr and Taggart are trying to do here is to bound the respective questions and modes of insight so that there is no necessary conflict to be found in their conclusions (“Beyond the realm of science, some events remain unexplained”). Although, to me, the digression into sociological and psychological explanations is a bit out of place for a biology text the message they are attempting to convey is clearly not that which Wells seems to have derived.

Like most of the other authors, Starr and Taggart are hoping to deflect any interpretation of the information they present as standing opposed to religious beliefs. Dr. Wells may not agree with what they have to say, but they certainly do not say anything that warrants his charges.


► Biology: The Unity & Diversity of Life (9th). Cecie Starr and Ralph Taggart. pp. 4,13

[Review of this book was included as part of the original version of this paper because Starr and Taggart’s 10th edition was not available. While I have been able, thanks to outside help, to add the correct Starr and Taggart above, I kept this section for two reasons, 1.- there was no possibility of checking pages in Starr and Taggart’s 10th that were not cited by Wells, and 2.- it is further evidence of the inculpability of biology textbooks as regards Wells’ charges.]

I should reiterate that this edition (9th) is not the one cited by Wells (10th) and while I did check page 15 (where Wells found the offending material in the 10th edition) I saw nothing there that applied to this discussion. I then searched elsewhere in the book for relevant text. Selections from that search follow,
p4 - ...The shift has taken a long time because it required abandoning many components of an earlier worldview. The pre-Darwinian view held that the world was young, and that organisms had been divinely created in their current forms.

The first life must have come from nonlife.

p13 - Religion is not science either. Religious beliefs give us meaning and spiritual guidance, and they form a basis for establishing values.
All of these books deal with the history of evolution as an idea at some point, they are instructional texts after all. This is obviously what the authors are discussing in the first quote. It has nothing to do with an argument against theism. The second is an hypotheses, and to my mind a bit out of place in an introductory biology text. However looking at the quote in context (Appendix, #3) it can be seen that this is part of an introduction into the chemical origins of life itself. In context, then, this statement is meant to offer the only scientific (testable) hypothesis we have for the origins of the first organisms.

The last quote is a similar attempt to those in the previous textbook (Audesirk) to establish that science is not in competition with religion or faith. It is an observation that science and religion occupy differing realms of investigation and deal with different kinds of phenomena. As with nearly all of these textbooks, the authors here bend over backwards to avoid just the sort of conflict Wells claims they rouse.


► Biology: Patterns and Processes of Life. Joseph Raver. pp. 99-101.
p99 - But if conditions change, a once-favored trait could become a danger instead of an asset, as in the history of the peppered moth shown in Figure 4.16.

p100 -As we begin the twenty-first century, evidence for the theory of evolution continues to mount. Since the theory was first proposed, no other scientific idea has been developed that better explains the diversity of life and changes evident in fossils.

In Chapter 6 we will examine human fossils, which show steady change from very ape-like ancestors that lived more than 3 million years ago, to our modern form.
While the first quote may seem rather innocuous it was the most incendiary statement I could find on page 99. Even granting that the peppered moth is an “icon” with which Wells takes exception, there is no conceivable connection between this work and an argument against theism etc. I could find nothing relevant on page 101 (Appendix #5).

On page 100 a discussion of the fossil record takes place which includes a short description of the bottom-up process of development of scientific theory (“After many years of observations and experimentation on a particular topic, a large-scale pattern often emerges”). Evolution is cited as a vibrant and well supported example of this concept and mention is then made of human evolution. Although this text was not one of those cited by Wells as telling students they were not the products of “design,” I’m going to assume these are the grounds upon which he objected (it is the only statement on the three pages that can be construed, however dubiously, as having anything whatsoever to do with religion).

Surely Dr. Wells must acknowledge that the vast majority of hominid paleontologists recognize the development of the human species in the fossil record, that human descent from common ancestors is the current scientific consensus. If we can assume that reliable presentation of accurate information (current consensus) is an appropriate mission of textbook publishers and authors (and I think we can), and if we can assume that these authors have followed through on this (they appear to have), then the “truth” value of the information (from Wells personal perspective) is irrelevant. What matters is whether or not they have distorted information so as to present a partisan message, such as an argument “against theism, belief in god, Christianity.” If all they have done is present the appropriate information as accurately as possible, then they cannot be responsible for misinterpretations of that information by others.

If Wells has interpreted these passages as telling students they were not “designed” then the burden is his to provide evidence that this is the author’s intent. It is certainly not manifest in his words. Raver has presented no argument against theism etc., nor has he dissuaded the reader from a belief in design.



This covers the four textbooks charged by Wells as misusing evolution "as an argument against theism, belief in god, Christianity, and so on." On the basis of these reviews there appears to be no support for Wells’ claims.

There remain three other books cited by Wells as telling "students that human beings were not created by design." We should note here that this is not what Wells claimed on the CNN program. That charge is already refuted. Yet if this somewhat mitigated claim were to be accurate it would still cast science education in an unfavorable light. I continued my reviews.


► Biology (5th). Campbell, Reece and Mitchell, pp. 412-413

Pages 412-413 of Campbell et al’s 5th edition are devoted to an interview with Richard Dawkins. The book notes that Dawkins can be a controversial figure, stating "Richard Dawkins is among the very few scientists who can stimulate thoughtful debate and research in a scientific field at the same time as he engages and challenges nonscientists." The introduction makes it clear that the authors consider Dawkins a person who often challenges conventional science. As such, no one could make the mistake of assuming that whatever Dawkins says in this interview is endorsed without qualification by the authors.

That being said, there is barely a hint of anything controversial here. We find Dawkins at his least confrontational, he even complements William Paley quite unashamedly, and says almost nothing that could possibly support Wells’ first charge. He does, however comment on the notion of independent creation of humans.
p412 - So the only thing Paley got wrong, which is quite a big thing, was the answer to the question. And nobody got the right answer until Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century.

Humans are fundamentally not exceptional because we came from the same evolutionary source as every other species. It is natural selection of selfish genes that has given us our bodies and our brains.

p413 - ...The phenotypes of most memes are behavioral, such as religious traditions.
After praising William Paley for having "put the question right" (Appendix, #5) Dawkins makes the first statement above. This is a personal perspective on historical events (with which few disagree) and unless discussion of Paley can be forcibly interpreted as discussion of theism etc. there is certainly nothing here that needs defending.

The second quote is likely the one Wells found offensive. But it is important to remember that all Dawkins is saying here is that the evidence indicates humans evolved just as have other species (well, that plus a plug for his selfish gene concept). It is possible that familiarity with Dawkins personal philosophy might lead the reader (or Wells) to see something in these words that is not here. We all know what Dawkins believes, but we can only address what he says. What he says here deals with empirical reality, not philosophy.

Consider also that the notion that humans might be exempt from the natural processes affecting all other earthly biota does not appear to be a feature of "intelligent design" theory. Michael Behe has stated that he has no quarrel with common descent.[4] William Dembski has conceded that "intelligent design" can accommodate plenty of evolutionary change and some natural selection.[5] If Wells thinks Dawkins assertion that humans came from "the same evolutionary source as every other species" is an argument against "design" then perhaps he needs to refresh his understanding of the concepts he was supposed to be representing.

The last quote is included in an attempt to avoid leaving out anything relevant. Here Dawkins is talking about the cultural transmission of religious philosophy. This is not an argument against theism etc., and neither is anything else Dawkins has said in these pages. Even as Wells has reduced his complaints to a bit less strident charge, that these textbooks tell students humans "were not created by design," there is still an alarming absence of evidence that Wells’ claims have merit.


► Biology (5th), Peter Raven and George Johnson. p. 14

The Raven and Johnson text, despite the fact that Wells cited only page 14, had quite a lot of relevant material. I include some below along with that to which I suspect Wells has taken exception.
p8 - Although his theory did not challenge the existence of a Divine Creator, Darwin argued that this Creator did not simply create things and then leave them forever unchanged. Instead, Darwin’s God expressed Himself through the operation of natural laws that produced change over time, or evolution.

p14 - This bothered Darwin, because the evolution of all living things from some original ancestor would have required a great deal more time. Using evidence obtained by studying the rates of radioactive decay, we now know that the physicists of Darwin’s time were wrong: the earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

Figure 1.14. Homology among vertebrate limbs. – [An illustration of homology comparing the skeletal forelimbs of a human, frog, bat, porpoise, and horse.]

p15 - Human embryos, for example, go through a “fish-like” stage with gills, a “tadpole-like” stage with a tail, and even a stage when the embryo has fur!

p64 - Many take a more extreme position, accepting the biblical account of life’s creation as factually correct. This viewpoint forms the basis for the very unscientific "scientific creationism" viewpoint discussed in chapter 21.

For example, recently discovered suggestions of fossils in rocks from mars, and the discovery of liquid water under the surface of Jupiter’s ice-shrouded moon Europa might lend credence to this idea. However, because this hypothesis cannot even in principle be disproven (sic), it is no more scientific than the biblical account of creation.

Most scientists tentatively accept the hypothesis of spontaneous origin, that life evolved from inanimate matter. In this view the force leading to life was selection of changes in molecules increased their stability and caused them to persist longer, these molecules could in… more and more complex associations culminating in the evolution of cells.

p420 - The confusion is not in the beliefs of the scientific creationists, which are religious beliefs that many people hold, but rather in their labeling of these beliefs as "scientific."
The material from pages 8, 64, and 420 is included as further example of the type of position these texts tend to take regarding "scientific creationism" and the proper purview of science. It can be seen once again that, while not retreating from the reality of what biological science has discovered regarding evolutionary processes, all of the authors try to be absolutely clear about what it is science can, and cannot, address. This position logically precludes them from arguing against theism etc. by use of evolution. Indeed, they have stated that this cannot be done.

I can only assume that the material with which Wells takes issue is the page 14 Figure dealing with homology, and although he did not cite it, the page 15 quote about human embryos. I have also included the statement regarding the age of the earth from page 14 but, frankly, it is a mystery to me how any of these examples could qualify as either using evolution to argue against theism etc. or telling students they were not created by design. The homology Figure compares the forelimbs of four mammals (including a human) and a frog. It is simply explicating anatomic data. And the statement on page 15, while perhaps being a bit overzealous in its descriptions of embryological development, certainly cannot be criticized on the basis that it makes any points, obvious or oblique, about theism or design.

These kinds of statements can only offend, in the way Wells suggests, if one takes the position that scientific inquiry should stop, or at least the resultant data should not be revealed to students, when there is a possibility that it might conflict with a particular philosophical predisposition. This is, of course, a wildly untenable request to make of either science or science education and I cannot believe that it is what Wells means to be calling for. But absent any direct use of evolution as an argument against theism etc. or even design, and there is so far nothing of that sort to be found in these books, it seems that all that is left is the complaint that scientific understanding, as imparted in these texts, conflicts with what someone wishes to believe. To suggest that - because empirical data runs counter to a personal belief system the researchers and instructors who purvey this data are somehow arguing against that belief system – would be perverse and self-centered in the extreme.


► Life: The Science of Biology (6th). Purves, Sadava, Orians and Heller, p. 3.
p2 - The shift has taken a long time because it meant abandoning many components of an earlier world-view. The pre-Darwinian view held that the world was young, and that organisms had been created in their current forms. In the Darwinian view, the world is ancient, and both Earth and its inhabitants have been continually changing.

Adopting this new view of the world meant accepting not only the process of evolution, but also the view that the living world is constantly evolving, and that evolutionary change occurs without any "goals."
The first quote is clearly not guilty of either of Wells’ charges, it is hardly provocative at all. I include it as yet another example of how delicately most of the authors try to deal with these issues.

The second is the most likely candidate I can find that Wells might interpret as telling students they were not "created by design." Again, it seems obvious enough that it should not have to be said, but this is another case of a science textbook discussing scientific attitudes toward investigation and data. This is not an evaluation of the theistic notion of "goals" or "purpose." It is an observation that the Darwinian view of biological change required explanation based upon the processes found in nature. It is natural for people to ask "How?" and wonder "Why?," and a worldview that includes special creation therefore obliges discussion of goals and purpose. Darwin’s insights helped move biological inquiry to a perspective that allowed empirical explanation of the "How?" and left discussion of "Why?" to philosophers and theologians. As biology became more of a disciplined science the recourse to a teleological view (goals and purposes) became extraneous, as it is with physics, chemistry, or any other scientific field.

This now completes evaluations of all of the textbooks cited by Wells as evidence for his claim of having "...a dozen biology textbooks at home that explicitly use evolution, misuse evolution, as an argument against theism, belief in god, Christianity, and so on." For the last three, that charge was re-shaped into an accusation that they "Somewhat less directly...tell students that human beings were not created by design."

There is no support for either of these claims to be found in the texts themselves.


Conclusions

Dr. Wells makes several mistakes with respect to his interpretation of these texts. He appears to have, in some cases, misread a methodological perspective to be philosophical intent. When a scientist, or a science text, suggests that there are certain inferences that are inadmissible as scientific explanation, it is merely an acknowledgment that science has a limited, well-defined utility within a strict context, that of natural processes. It is not a denial of the utility of a particular idea outside the purview of science.

As to his claim regarding using evolution against theism etc. For this to be true the textbook authors would have to be presenting scientific methodology as epistemologically equivalent to theology, and further, arguing that evolution invalidates theism in part or whole. However, we have seen that nearly all of the books take pains to separate scientific methodology from theological and spiritual inquiry. Additionally, where they deal with the relationship of evolution to a particular belief system that may be related to theology (such as creationism) they strictly limit the discussion to any purportedly scientific claims attributed to the belief system. If Wells is equating "...theism, belief in God, and Christianity,..." with the limited and flawed perspective of "scientific creationism" then he is flatly wrong (and would seem oddly suited to be representing the "intelligent design" community). If he is not doing so, then he has grossly, and apparently willfully, mischaracterized the content of not only these textbooks but, by extension, other biology textbooks.

A similar argument can be made regarding his charge that some of these books tell students they were not created by design. Several of the texts simply discuss objective mechanisms and evidences of human evolution. For an anatomical comparison of human and horse forelimbs to be guilty of this charge, Wells would have to be using "design" in such a way as to functionally separate humans from the rest of the biological world. How does this square with "design" as employed by most "intelligent design" advocates? More importantly, how does this square with the very real and voluminous biological facts in evidence? It does not. As with the first charge, Wells is guilty either of perverse redefinition and use of terms (e.g. theism, design) or gross misinterpretation of plain text.

I checked into close to fifteen biology textbooks, including the ones from the list sent to me by Dr. Wells. Not one of these texts uses evolution to argue against theism in any fashion. Not one of these texts tells students they were not created by design. All of them discuss the historical and cultural aspects of evolutionary thought in a manner that is measured and respectful. All of them attempt to present the most current information as accurately as possible.

This careless castigation of legitimate science texts by Jonathan Wells was an abuse of a national forum and will almost certainly have the effect of demagoguing the issue of origins. It seems likely that there were many theists in the national audience who heard Wells’ false charges who have accordingly adjusted their opinions on this issue - opinions that are, by most measures, already significantly misinformed about fundamental biological concepts (i.e. "it’s just a theory").

Jonathan Wells was wrong to make the claim that he did, and owes a retraction to biology textbook publishers and authors, to the CNN viewing audience, to the "intelligent design" community, and to the people on both sides of this debate who are trying to deal with the issues in a fashion that does not increase the amount of spurious "information" already in circulation.

This is a request to Dr. Wells that he set the record straight.



Appendix - Complete excerpts from the cited textbooks

(Thanks to Glenn Branch for contribution of the relevant text from Starr and Taggart’s 10th ed. and Raver. Thanks also to Chris Thompson and Tom Scharle for their help in gathering some of the other material.)

1) Douglas Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology 3rd edition (Sinauer, 1998), pp. 8-15.

p8
Philosophical Issues
...Darwin undid the essentialism that Western philosophy had inherited from Plato and Aristotle, and put variation in its place. He helped to replace a static conception of the world with the vision of a world of ceaseless change. Above all, this theory of random, purposeless variation acted on by blind, purposeless natural selection provided a revolutionary new kind of answer to almost all questions that begin with “Why?”
It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that before Darwin, both philosophers and people in general answered “Why?” questions by citing purpose. Only an intelligent mind, one with the capacity for forethought, can have purpose. Thus questions like “Why do plants have flower?” or “Why are there apple trees?” – or plagues, or storms – were answered by imagining the possible purpose that God could have had in creating them. The answers might be cast in terms of god’s beneficence to humans (He provided apples to feed us) or His chastisement for our misdeeds ( plagues and other disasters were created to punish humankind for Adam and Eve’s original sin – and for every sin thereafter). Or, God may have created some organisms and their characteristics to complete His scheme, lest there be gaps in an otherwise perfect creation. In Darwin’s time, eminent botanists, asked why the female flowers of certain plants should have sterile stamens, answered that they complete the orderly scheme of nature – like unused place settings on a dinner table, as Darwin remarked.
The entire tradition of philosophical explanation by the purposes of things, with its theological foundation, was made completely superfluous by Darwin’s theory of natural selection. The adaptations of organisms – longs cited as the most conspicuous evidence of intelligent design in the universe- could now be explained by purely mechanistic causes.
...The profound, and deeply unsettling, implication of this purely mechanical, material explanation for the existence and characteristics of diverse organisms is that we need not invoke, nor can we find any evidence for, any design, goal, or purpose anywhere in the natural world, except in human behavior.
It must be emphasized that all of science has come to adopt the way of thought that Darwin applied to biology. Astronomers do not seek the purpose of comets or supernovas, nor chemists the purpose hydrogen bonds, nor molecular biologists the purpose (as opposed to the function) of RNA...
The question then arises, what about religion and ethics? Do evolutionary biology, and science in general, necessarily render life, morality, and religious belief meaningless?

p9
Ethics, Religion, and Evolution
...Without question, our knowledge of the history and mechanisms of evolution is completely incompatible with a literal reading of the creation stories in the Bible's Book of Genesis, as it is incompatible with the hundreds of other creations myths that peoples throughout the world have devised. A literal reading of some passages in the Bible is also incompatible with physics , as when “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Joshua 10:13), and with geology, which attests that there could not have been a worldwide flood upon which Noah might have piloted an ark. Such passages must be read as the traditions of a prescientific, pastoral people, or as parables - allegories that tell spiritual truths but not literal scientific facts. The story of how Adam and Eve knew shame and sin when they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3) symbolically tells a truth, for there can be neither good nor evil, nor sin, unless there is knowledge, consciousness, self-reflection. It is a symbolic truth, not a history of literal events.
Evolution, and all the rest of science, cannot be reconciled with a literal interpretation of such biblical passages -- but does that deny the existence of a supernatural power or powers, of spiritual reality, of God and a human soul? On these questions, science, including evolutionary biology, is silent. By its very nature, science can entertain and investigate only hypotheses about material causes that operate with at least probabilistic regularity. It cannot test hypotheses of supernatural intervention – miracles – nor of the existence of immaterial beings. What science can do, and has done, is to posit and document material, natural causes for innumerable phenomena that were once ascribed to the direct actions of supernatural agents. In providing natural, material causes for the diversification and adaptation of species, evolutionary biology has done no more than the physical sciences did when they explained earthquakes and eclipses. The steady expansion of the sciences, to be sure, has left less and less to be explained by a supernatural Creator, but science neither can deny, nor affirm, such a being.

p15
Summary
4. ...The implications of this theory, which revolutionized Western thought, include (a) change, rather than stasis, is the natural order; (b) biological phenomena, including those seemingly designed, can be explained by purely material causes, rather than by divine creation; (c) no evidence of purpose or goals can be found in the living world, other than in human actions; (d) the characteristics of organisms can be fully understood only in the light of history…


2) Teresa Audesirk, Gerald Audesirk & Bruce Byers, Life on Earth 2nd edition (Prentice Hall, 2000), pp. 8-9.

p8-9
Natural Causality Is the Principle That All Events Can Be Traced to natural Causes
The first principle of science is natural causality. Over the course of human history, two approaches have been taken to the study of life and other natural phenomena. The first assumes that some events happen through the intervention of supernatural forces beyond our understanding. The ancient Greeks believed that the god Zeus hurled thunderbolts from the sky and that the god Posiedon caused earthquakes and storms at sea. In contrast, science adheres to the principle of NATURAL CAUSALITY: All events can be traced to natural causes that are potentially within our ability to understand. For example, until relatively recently epilepsy was commonly thought to be a visitation from the gods. Today we realize that epilepsy is a disease of the brain in which groups of nerve cells are activated uncontrollably.
The principle of natural causality has an important corollary: The evidence we gather about the causes of natural events has not been deliberately distorted to fool us. This corollary may seem obvious, yet not so very long ago some people argued that fossils are not evidence of evolution but were placed on Earth by God as a test of our faith. If we cannot trust the evidence provided by nature, then the entire enterprise of science is futile.

p9
The Natural Laws That Govern Events Apply Everywhere and for All Time
A second fundamental principle of science is that natural laws, laws derived from nature, are uniform in space and time and do not change with distance or time. The laws of gravity, the behavior of light, and the interactions of atoms, for example, are the same today as they were a billion years ago and will hold just as well in Moscow as in New York or even on Mars. Uniformity in space and time is especially vital to biology, because many events of great importance to biology such as the evolution of today’s diversity of living things, happened before humans were around to observe them. Some people believe that all different types of organisms were individually created at one time in the past by the direct intervention of God, a philosophy called CREATIONISM. As scientists, we freely admit we cannot disprove this idea. Creationism, however, is contrary to both natural causality and uniformity in time. The overwhelming success of science in explaining natural events through natural causes has led almost all scientists to reject creationism.


3) Cecie Starr & Ralph Taggart, Biology: The Unity & Diversity of Life 10th edition (Thomson, 2004), p. 15

p15
The Limits of Science
The call for objective testing strengthens the theories that emerge from scientific studies. It also puts limits on the kinds of studies that can be carried out. Beyond the realm of science, some events remain unexplained. Why do we exist, for what purpose? Why does any one of us have to die at a particular moment? Such questions lead to subjective answers. These come from within, as an outcome of all the experiences and mental connections that shape human consciousness. Because people differ vastly in this regard, subjective answers do not readily lend themselves to scientific analysis and experiments.
...This is not to say subjective answers are without value. No human society can function for long unless its members share a commitment to certain standards for making judgments, even subjective ones. Moral, aesthetic, philosophical, and economic standards vary from one society to the next. But they all guide people in deciding what is important and good, and what is not. All attempt to give meaning to what we do.
...Every so often, scientists stir up controversy when they explain something that was thought to be beyond natural explanation – as belonging to the supernatural. This is often the case when a society’s moral codes are interwoven with religious narratives. Exploring a longstanding view of the natural world from the scientific point of view might be misinterpreted as questioning morality, even though the two are not the same thing.
As one example, centuries ago in Europe, Nicolaus Copernicus studied the planets and concluded the Earth circles the sun. today this seems obvious enough. Back then, it was heresy. The prevailing belief was that the Creator made the Earth – and, by extension, humans – the immovable center of the universe. Later a respected scholar, Galileo Galilei, studied the Copernican model of the solar system, thought it was a good one, and said so. He was forced to retract his statement publicly, on his knees, and put the Earth back as the fixed center of things. (Word has it that when he stood up he muttered, “Even so, it does move.”) later still, Darwin’s theory of evolution ran up against the same prevailing belief.
Today, as then, society has sets of standards. Those standards might be questioned when some new, natural explanation runs counter to supernatural beliefs. This doesn’t mean that scientists who raise the questions are less moral, less lawful, less sensitive, or less caring than anyone else. It simply means one more standard guides their work: The external world, not internal conviction, must be the testing ground for scientific beliefs.

Systematic observations, hypotheses, predictions, tests. In all these ways, science differs from systems of belief that are based on faith, force, or simple consensus.


4) Cecie Starr & Ralph Taggart, Biology: The Unity & Diversity of Life 9th edition (Brooks/Cole?, 2001), pp. 4,13.

[Note: It should be remembered that Starr and Taggarts 9th edition was not one of those cited by Wells]

p4
Darwin provided a mechanistic explanation of biological evolution
By 1858, the climate of opinion (among many biologists, at least) was receptive to a new theory of evolutionary processes proposed independently by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. By that time, geologists had accumulated evidence that Earth had existed and changed over millions of years, not merely a few thousand years, as most people had previously believed.
…The shift has taken a long time because it required abandoning many components of an earlier worldview. The pre-Darwinian view held that the world was young, and that organisms had been divinely created in their current forms. In the Darwinian view, the world is ancient, and both Earth and its inhabitants have changed over time. Ancestral forms were very different from the organisms that exist today.

Life arose from nonlife via chemical evolution
The first life must have come from nonlife. All matter, living and nonliving, is made up of chemicals. The smallest chemical units are atoms, which bond together into molecules (the properties of these units are the subject of Chapter 2). The processes of chemical evolution that led to the appearance of life began nearly 4 billion years ago, when random inorganic chemical interactions produced molecules that had the remarkable property of acting as templates to form similar molecules

p13
Not all forms of inquiry are scientific
...If you understand the methods of science, you can distinguish science from non-science. Art, music, and literature, activities that contribute massively to the quality of human life, are not science. They help us understand what it means to live in a complex world. Religion is not science either. Religious beliefs give us meaning and spiritual guidance, and they form a basis for establishing values. Scientific information helps create the context in which values are discussed and established, but it cannot tell us what those values should be.


5) Joseph Raver, Biology: Patterns and Processes of Life 1st edition (LeBel, 2004), pp. 99-101.

p99
In summarizing Darwin’s ideas of the forces that have shaped the living, world, we could say that among the variety of organisms alive, some have survival advantages over others. These favorable traits, often adaptation to their environments, allow some individuals to reproduce more successfully than others. Since many, if not most, characteristics are the direct result of an organism’s genes, these favorable genes are then passed on to its offspring. As long as conditions are stable, the same trait might remain in a species for many generations. But if conditions change, a once-favored trait could become a danger instead of an asset, as in the history of the peppered moth shown in Figure 4.16. While you might not find the peppered moth to be particularly relevant to your own life, consider another example of organisms adapting to their environment, a topic that concerns us all – antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

p100
The Fossil Record
After many years of observations and experimentation on a particular topic, a large-scale pattern often emerges. Evolution was such a pattern suggested by both the geologists and naturalists of the nineteenth century. In the years following the publication of The Origin of Species, biologists and paleontologists continued to find evidence supporting the theory of evolution. As we begin the twenty-first century, evidence for the theory of evolution continues to mount. Since the theory was first proposed, no other scientific idea has been developed that better explains the diversity of life and changes evident in fossils. After two centuries of close scrutiny, the theory of evolution is a solid a scientific idea as the theory of gravity and atomic theory. As with any scientific theory, evolutionary theory is revised and updated as new data become available,. This section will elaborate on evidence for the theory of evolution, including evidence form fossils, geology, comparative anatomy and molecular biology.
…In Chapter 6 we will examine human fossils, which show steady change from very ape-like ancestors that lived more than 3 million years ago, to our modern form. Though transitional fossils have been found between many modern groups and their ancient relatives, large gaps still exist between most modern forms and their ancestors. Overall, enough transitional forms have been identified to suggest and support the theory of evolution.

p101
Figure 4.18 – (Fossil transitional forms)
Figure 4.19 – (Swim bladder and lung comparison)
Sidebar – (Discussion of development of resistance in bacteria and consequent inefficacy of antibiotics)


6) Neil Campbell, Jane Reece & Lawrence Mitchell, Biology 5th edition (Benjamin Cummings, 1999), pp. 412-413

Interview with Richard Dawkins – Mechanisms of evolution
p412
Introduction
...While making the beauty and power of natural selection accessible to nonscientists, Dawkins’ books have also stirred controversy among evolutionary biologists. Particularly provocative has been Dawkins’ argument that genes, not whole organisms, are the units of natural selection. ...Richard Dawkins is among the very few scientists who can stimulate thoughtful debate and research in a scientific field at the same time as he engages and challenges nonscientists.

One of your books, The Blind Watchmaker, argues the case for the cumulative power of natural selection in the adaptation of organisms. Tell us about the metaphorical title of that book.
…My reason for beginning the Blind Watchmaker was Paley. He really saw the magnitude of the problem of adaptation when most people just didn’t see how elegant, how beautiful, apparent design in life is. Paley saw that, and Darwin saw that. And Darwin was introduced to it at least partly by Paley. All undergraduates at Cambridge had to read William Paley. He at least put the question right. So the only thing Paley got wrong, which is quite a big thing, was the answer to the question. And nobody got the right answer until Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century.

Is it that answer that puts the “blind” in your book title?
The “blind” watchmaker is natural selection. Natural selection is totally blind to the future. It’s always just picking the best of available alternatives in the present. It can never say, “Well, if we tolerate a bit of unpleasantness for the next 2 million years, then that will set us up wonderfully to improve in 2 million years’ time.” Natural selection can’t do that. It’s always optimizing tin the short term, though it’s blind to the future.

In another of your books, The Selfish Gene, you argue that genes are the units upon which natural selection acts and that organisms are “survival machines” for genes. To what extent are humans exceptions to this mechanistic view of life?
Humans are fundamentally not exceptional because we came from the same evolutionary source as every other species. It is natural selection of selfish genes that has given us our bodies and our brains. However, the brains that natural selection gave us are exceptionally big brains, so big that they have done a rather unusual thing. Using language and culture, humans have formed societies in which there is something like Darwinian evolution going on, though it is not really Darwinian.

p413
Earlier, you mentioned that in human culture, there may be something like Darwinian evolution. Tell us more about that.
...The phenotypes of most memes are behavioral, such as religious traditions. So here we have memes that pass longitudinally down the generations.

7) Peter Raven & George Johnson, Biology 5th edition (McGraw-Hill, 1999), p. 14

p8
In Darwin’s time, most people believed that the various kinds of organisms and their individual structures resulted from direct actions of the Creator (and to this day many people still believe this to be true). Species were thought to be specially created and unchangeable, or immutable, over the course of time. In contrast to these views, a number of earlier philosophers had presented the view that living things must have changed during the history of life on earth.

...Although his theory did not challenge the existence of a Divine Creator, Darwin argued that this Creator did not simply create things and then leave them forever unchanged. Instead, Darwin’s God expressed Himself through the operation of natural laws that produced change over time, or evolution. These views put Darwin at odds with most people of his time, who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible and accepted the idea of a fixed and constant world. His revolutionary theory deeply troubled not only many of his contemporaries but Darwin himself.

p14
FIGURE 1.14 – Homology among vertebrate limbs
The forelimbs of four mammals and a frog show the ways in which the relative proportions of the forelimb bones have changed in relation to the particular way of life of each organism.

The Age of the Earth
In Darwin’s day, some physicists argued that the earth was only a few thousand years old. This bothered Darwin, because the evolution of all living things from some original ancestor would have required a great deal more time; Using evidence obtained by studying the rates of radioactive decay, we now know that the physicists of Darwin’s time were wrong: the earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

p15
Development
Striking similarities are seen in the developmental stages of many organisms of different species. Human embryos, for example, go through a “fish-like” stage with gills, a “tadpole-like” stage with a tail, and even a stage when the embryo has fur! Thus, the development of an organisms (its ontogeny) appears to go through stages that bear a resemblance to the evolutionary history of the species as a whole (its phylogeny).

p64
Ideas About the Origin of Life
...There are, in principle, at least three possibilities:
1. Special creation. Life-forms may have been put on earth by supernatural or divine forces.
2. Extraterrestrial origin. Life may not have originated on earth at all; instead, life may have infected earth from some other planet.
3. Spontaneous origin. Life may have evolved from inanimate matter, as associations among molecules became more and more complex.

Special creation. The hypothesis of special creation, that a divine God created life is at the core of most major religions. The oldest hypothesis about life’s origins, it is also the most widely accepted. Far more Americans, for example, believe that God created life on earth than believe in the other two hypotheses. Many take a more extreme position, accepting the biblical account of life’s creation as factually correct. This viewpoint forms the basis for the very unscientific “scientific creationism” viewpoint discussed in chapter 21.

Extraterrestrial origin. The hypothesis of panspermia proposes that meteors or cosmic dust may have carried life to earth, perhaps as an extraterrestrial infection of spores originating on a planet of a distant star. This hypothesis, which has a long and colorful history, cannot be rejected based on evidence currently available to science. AS the planets of our solar system become better known, this hypothesis becomes more attractive. For example, recently discovered suggestions of fossils in rocks from mars, and the discovery of liquid water under the surface of Jupiter’s ice-shrouded moon Europa might lend credence to this idea. However, because this hypothesis cannot even in principle be disprove, it is no more scientific than the biblical account of creation.

Spontaneous origin. Most scientists tentatively accept the hypothesis of spontaneous origin, that life evolved from inanimate matter. In this view the force leading to life was selection of changes in molecules increased their stability and caused them to persist longer, these molecules could in… more and more complex associations culminating in the evolution of cells.

p419
In sum, the evidence for macroevolution is overwhelming. In the next chapter, we will consider Darwin’s proposal that microevolutionary changes have led directly to macroevolutionary changes, the key argument in his theory that evolution occurs by natural selection.

p420
The Creationist Movement
Evolution is not the only way in which the diversity of life on earth has been explained. The clear distinction between science and religion sometimes gets muddled. Thus a number of individuals, mainly in the United States and starting largely in the 1970s, have put forward a view they title “scientific creationism.” This view holds that the Biblical account of the origin of the earth is literally true, that the earth is much younger than most scientists believe, and that all species of organisms were individually created and appeared at their creation essentially the same as they appear today. Scientific creationists are arguing in the courts that their views should be taught alongside evolution in classrooms. They argue that if both evolution and scientific creationism provide scientific explanation of biological diversity, then teachers have an obligation to present both views, taught side by side, so that students can choose knowledgeably between them.
This does not seem to be a bad argument if you accept the premise, which is that the view of the “scientific creationists” is indeed scientific. The confusion is not in the beliefs of the scientific creationists, which are religious belief that many people hold, but rather in their labeling of these beliefs as “scientific.”

Creationism Is not Science
Scientific creationism should not be labeled science for three reasons:
1. It is not supported by any empirical observations.
2. It does not infer its principles from observation, as does all science.
3. Its assumptions lead to no testable, falsifiable hypotheses.
-----------------------------
The hypothesis that species of organisms were created separately by a supernatural agency is untestable, and as such, lies outside the realm of science.

8) William Purves, David Sadava, Gordon Orians & H. Craig Heller, Life: The Science of Biology 6th edition (Sinauer, 2001), p. 3.

p2
Biology began a major conceptual shift a little more than a century ago with the general acceptance of long-term evolutionary change and the recognition that differential survival and reproductive success is the primary process that adapts organisms to their environments. The shift has taken a long time because it meant abandoning many components of an earlier world-view. The pre-Darwinian view held that the world was young, and that organisms had been created in their current forms. In the Darwinian view, the world is ancient, and both Earth and its inhabitants have been continually changing. In the Darwinian view of the world, organisms evolved their particular features because individuals with those features survived and reproduced better than individuals with different features.
Adopting this new view of the world mean accepting not only the process of evolution, but also the view that the living world is constantly evolving, and that evolutionary change occurs without any “goals”. The idea that evolution is not directed toward a final goal or state has been more difficult for people to accept than the process of evolution itself. But even though evolution has no goals, evolutionary processes have resulted in a series of profound changes- milestones- over the nearly 4 billion years life has existed on earth


References

1) Lou Dobbs Tonight. Bolton Wins Critical Senate Battle; Nuclear Challenge; Intelligent Design Versus Random Evolution. 5/12/05 - 18:00 ET.

2) Fellows. Jonathan Wells. Discovery Institute. Center for Science and Culture.

3) National Center for Science Education. The Return of the Navel, the "Omphalos" Argument in Contemporary Creationism

4) Michael J. Behe. Darwin Under the Microscope. New York Times, 10/29/96.

5) William A. Dembski. Is Intelligent Design Testable? Access Research Network. 01/24/01.

10 Comments:

Blogger darwinoid said...

Posted at my blog:
[quote]Hrm, can’t leave a comment on nightlight without an account. So, thank you to Mr. Camp for the carefully researched response.[/quote]

6:11 PM  
Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

I remember when I was having my doubts about Christianity and God, they both arose from being rather depressed and events in life like Stress, Grandfather dying and the like.

I don't recall any evolutionary or biology textbook causing me to dispute God in any way.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Anthony Perez-Miller said...

The third edition of Futuyma's text has been significantly reworked. In the first two editions, there were certain claims on the opening pages that cast serious doubt upon his ability to distinguish science from nonscience.

I'm not trying to defend Wells, but: anyone who claims that Marx supplied a "critical plank" underlying the culture of science badly needs a crash course in basic philosophy. I've written more on this here, and on Futuyma's ignorance of simple physics here.

6:16 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

Speaking as a convinced evolutionist and confirmed anti-Darwinian, I would like to know just what role a Creator of any description has or had in the neoDarwinian scenario. I am convinced that a Creator had to have been involved originally and to avoid grantng IT any personal characteristics choose to call IT the Big Front Loader or BFL for short. Granting that a Creator must have done the creating, I also ask at what point in the process did the Creator hand over the reins to Nature, that which had up to that point been created? Let me answer that very cogent question. Never.

"Evolution is in a great measure an unfolding of pre-existing rudiments."
Leo Berg, Nomogenesis page 406

"However that may be, the existence of internal factors affecting evolution has to be accepted by any objective mind.."
Pierre Grasse, The Evolution of Living Organisms, page 209

4:49 AM  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Futuyma's text is not used in high schools, so far as I know. Several others appear to be college texts, as well -- which means, basically, that any complaints Wells might make accurately are also off the mark, since these texts are not used in public schools.

But of course, Wells is wrong in his complaints against the text, too. Very good explication, Mr. Camp. Thank you.

1:16 PM  
Blogger BC8 said...

Recently, Casey Luskin (Discovery Institute) came out with some rebuttals to Chris Mooney. He provided some quotes from biology textbooks to 'prove' that biology textbooks pit evolution against theism. I don't know if they are taken out of context or not. Here's the text from Luskin's critique (link available at the bottom of this post):

For example, consider Mr. Mooney’s favorite example of Ken Miller. Miller’s own textbooks have promoted descriptions of evolution which even Miller admits challenge theism, as four editions of Miller & Levine’s Biology describe evolution as a purposeless, undirected process:

" [E]volution works without either plan or purpose … Evolution is random and undirected.72 "

At the Kitzmiller trial, Miller acknowledged that these words were unscientific, but claimed they were a “mistake” that existed only in the third edition of his textbook, which he immediately fixed.73 But the facts reveal that these words existed in all four editions of his textbook.74 Yet these are not even the most harshly anti-theistic language employed to describe evolution in Miller and Levine’s popular high school biology textbooks. Miller’s 1991 and 1994 editions of his Biology: Discovering Life state:

" Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its byproducts. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless--a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.75 "

Indeed, according to many popular biology texts used in the past 15 years, evolution is a “random,”76 “blind,”77 “uncaring,”78 “heartless,”79 “undirected,”80 “purposeless,”81 “chance”82 process that acts “without plan” or “without any ‘goals’”83 and requires accepting “materialism”84 because we are “not created for any special purpose or as part of any universal design.”85 While surely one can believe in evolution and God, the many theists who believe that some non-material personal God supervised or at points intervened in life’s history would probably feel that these statements conflict with their religious beliefs. Perhaps the most interesting quote comes from Douglas Futuyma’s widely used college text, Evolutionary Biology (which I used in college for an upper division evolutionary biology course):

" By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx's materialistic theory of history and society and Freud's attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin's theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism --- of much of science, in short --- that has since been the stage of most Western thought. "

Quoted from the "Error #10" section, link:
http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=1095

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