Pharyngula

The various ID blogs are all atwitter over the new textbook the Discovery Institute is going to be peddling, Explore Evolution. I’ve seen a copy, but I’m not going to give an extensive review just yet. I will say that it’s taking a slightly different tack to avoid the court challenges. It does not mention gods anywhere, of course, but it goes further: it doesn’t mention Intelligent Design, either. The book is entirely about finding fault with evolution, under the pretext of presenting the position of evolutionary biology (sort of) together with a critique. The biology part is shallow, useless, and often wrong, and the critiques are basically just warmed over creationist arguments.

What it actually is is Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution rewritten and reworked as a textbook.

The chapters are:

  • Introduction
    • Defining Some Terms
    • Issues in Question
  • Universal Common Descent
    • Fossil Succession
    • Anatomical Homology
    • Molecular Homology
    • Embryology
    • Biogeography
  • The Creative Power of Natural Selection
    • Natural Selection
    • Natural Selection and Mutation
  • A New Challenge
    • Molecular Machines
    • Special Studies
  • Conclusion
    • The Nature of Dissent in Science

Each chapter is divided into “Case For”, “Reply”, and “Further Debate”. None of them are at all useful. The embryology chaper, for instance, has a “case for” that only talks about Haeckel, as if that were the most interesting and informative and sole example of modern developmental biology they could find. The “Reply” is a reiteration of Richardson’s demonstration of diversity in embryonic form. The “Further Debate” section is a summary collection of phony platitudes: “there is a wide range of debate on the merits of the case from embryology” (no, there’s not) and “No doubt the debate will continue” (which is true because creationists will continue to invent objections.)

I know the creationists are infatuated with Haeckel, but get over it, please. It’s an obsolete theory that was proposed about 140 years ago, was discarded in the 19th century, and is only mentioned to dismiss it in modern textbooks. They couldn’t find anything current and interesting in modern developmental biology to discuss, but had to go dig up that antique, again? Presenting modern development through the distorting lens of Haeckel is simply dishonest and misleading.

For another example, biogeography has two pages for, 2 and a half pages in reply, and one page of further debate. “For” basically says marsupials were found in South America and Australia, and the distribution is explained by plate tectonics. The rebuttal is that opossums are found in North America and fossil marsupials were found in China. It’s pathetic.

In general, the book presents the subjects superficially, cherry picks examples, and sets up shallow hypotheses that bear little resemblance to what scientists actually think about the subject, and then shoots down the examples in such a way as to cast doubt on entire disciplines. It’s a dirty, dishonest book in a slick package. It’s gonna sell like hotcakes to every lazy, stupid teacher who wants to substitute vacuous crap for an honest and serious examination of a difficult and important subject.

Now get ready, isolate your irony meters, and stand back in case your monitor explodes. I’m going to have to show you some weapons-grade, highly refined irony here.

Have you braced yourself? It’s a quote from John West of the DI.

Last warning: don’t read further if you aren’t thoroughly locked down, with a friend nearby in case resuscitation is needed. West is going to blow your mind.

DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any seizures induced by the following text.

“Sadly, the majority of biology textbooks in use today are ‘dumbed-down’ and do a poor job explaining evolution,” said Dr. John West of Discovery Institute, the book’s United States distributor. “Explore Evolution will improve the teaching of evolution by providing teachers and students with more information about evolution than they are likely to find in any other textbook written at the same level.”

Explore Evolution is a slender book, about 150 pages, with lots of filler and padding, and is about the same size as the old Of Pandas and People. Try comparing it to Miller and Levine’s Biology, which is marketed to the same age group: 1,146 pages.

This has got to be some kind of joke. The DI is sending that claim out as a press release: I hope some journalist somewhere gets a picture of Biology next to Explore Evolution to communicate the idea of just how pathetic that comparison really is.

I think the DI’s new strategy is to completely avoid that embarrassingly bad “intelligent design” nonsense altogether, and instead focus on driving out good textbooks with incredibly bad ones of their own—you could not teach evolution from Explore Evolution. And that’s exactly what they want.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?
    June 7, 2007
    This is the honorific title by which he is generally known in the scientific community in Europe.

    There is no “scientific community in Europe”. There is a grand total of one scientific communities in the world.

    Liars.

    It does not imply that his degrees involved doctorates, but is on account of his voluminous scientific achievements.

    Has a university bestowed an honorary degree on him?

    If so, they’d mention it with immense pride. Liars.

    if Dawkins didn’t exist, the creationists would have had to invent him

    They couldn’t, even if they tried.