How biology texts mislead high school students
I have been a high school music teacher for over 40 years and recently retired from full-time teaching. Since then I have been casually employed as a supply and short-contract teacher, and had the opportunity to see the text books and lesson plans for a wide variety of school subjects. I have been appalled at the way evolutionary concepts (and humanistic thought-patterns) pervade a wide range of subjects and topics.
I recently had the opportunity to look closely at some senior biology texts.1 Where the objective scientific information is presented it is generally well done, and I will not comment further. But I noticed that evolutionary assumptions are constantly promoted, whether relevant to the topic or not.
For example, a chapter on excretory systems in fish (Biology One, p. 284) begins with the bald statement that ‘Life began in the sea’. It then ‘explains’ that therefore salt-water fish began with salt levels in their blood similar to that of the ocean, having no problem with salt and water balance until they migrated to fresh water, where they evolved more dilute body fluids which were subsequently a problem when they migrated back to the sea.
How’s that for a ‘just so’ story without scientific support? Evolution changes the dilution of fish body fluids over millions of years as they moved from salt water to fresh, but it ‘forgets’ to do the same on the return. Also, how is it that all of today’s bony fish descended from freshwater varieties? Did the sea dry up for a while?2
I wouldn’t have thought this series of events would have even been proposed in a scientific text book, but similar unfounded and irrelevant fairy stories occur at the beginning of other chapters. Surely the observed workings of biological systems can be presented without this kind of unnecessary and fanciful introduction, which sits in the minds of the students as a foundation through the chapter. Actually this is straight-out indoctrination, because it is repeated with variations ad nauseum and without qualification or evidence throughout the text.
What interested me most was the last two chapters of Biology Two, where, after pounding the evolutionary scenario as fact for the two-year course, the text presents ‘Evidence for Evolution’ and ‘Mechanisms of Evolution’ (two chapters out of twelve—a sixth of the Year 12 course). The chapters ‘interested’ me because I recognized, from the reading I had done, that the ‘evidence’ presented did not support evolution as the text-book had portrayed it in its chapter introductions. If this ‘evidence’ is the best evolutionists can do, they have no right teaching evolution as fact. I felt very concerned for the students because they should have been educated about the problems, the counter evidence and alternative arguments, especially since these concepts affect their world view and self-image.
Any change is evolution—not
The most glaring problem to anyone willing to think about it is the way the texts use a vague definition of evolution to justify the validity of the ‘evidence’ and ‘mechanisms’. The book says that ‘Evolution is a process of change’.
That’s it! Although the same paragraph explains that the theory of evolution proposes that all living things have a common ancestor, it does not expand the definition.
From there, any observed change represents evolution.3 What poor logic! The problem is that the small changes are going in the wrong direction. The small changes observed cannot cross the divide between phyla and other higher-order divisions, which the theory claims, but this is studiously ignored. Consequently, the term ‘evolution’ is applied so broadly that no one can argue against it.
This is most obvious in the ‘mechanisms’ chapter, where an almost laughable example involves the population of Pingelap Island. Here a chief with a genetic disease has, through his many children, ‘had an important evolutionary effect’ on the population through genetic drift (emphasis mine). I suspect eugenicists would cringe at the thought. Yes, the genetic disease is real, as is the effect on his children. But this is not the sort of change that will turn a fish into a falcon over millions of years. That needs new genetic information in order to specify new biological components.
Similarly, the text claims that ‘the Australian sheep blowfly has evolved chemical resistance to … dieldrin’. But then the text itself points out that the resistant strain already existed in the population before the introduction of dieldrin as an insecticide. The argument is that, because the resistant strain became dominant for a while (‘change’!), therefore ‘evolution’ has occurred. But there is no new genetic information.
The text does explain that selection produces no new genetic material, but then it promotes several examples of selection as examples of evolution, such as the hoary old peppered moth, and antibiotic resistance. The confusion arises from the poor definition of evolution—that ‘change = evolution’. Such appalling illogic from a science text! But as indoctrination it is highly dangerous because it is so subtle.
Pretty pictures and circular reasoning
The ‘Evidence for Evolution’ chapter presents nothing that cannot be easily demolished by someone with a little knowledge and a reasonable eye for indoctrination tricks. The first is a picture of your typical ‘ape-man’ plodding across a barren landscape with a volcano in the background. This evocation of a constantly-presented evolutionary scenario is evidence for nothing—you might as well have a picture of Jabba the Hut, trekking across a Star Wars landscape. Both are imaginary!
Next the chapter deals with the definition of evolution, which is so vague it is scientifically useless, as discussed above. Then come justifying statements like: ‘Comparing living organisms and fossils allows us to discover evolutionary relationships’. This, of course, ignores circular reasoning and the problem of interpreting data through a paradigm—where all evidence, no matter what, is evidence for evolution. No other possibility is considered. (The paradigm concept is discussed in the Year 9 text from this same publisher, but is ignored here, where it matters.)
No questions about fossils and dating
Photo by Joachim Scheven, LEBENDIGE VORWELT
Ginkgo biloba is an example of stasis, a major problem for evolution. (living, left; fossil, right).