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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Expose of Darwinist Textbooks “Five Years Old, Yet Still Packing a Punch”

Tristan Abbey, deputy editor of Stanford Review, notes that it has been five years since Jonathan Wells’s Icons of Evolution has been published. Icons exposed the rot in the textbook industry around the protection of Darwinism.

Few books set off a firestorm when they’re first published, but Icons of Evolution was about as flammable as an American flag at an anti-war protest in Berkeley . Of course, in earlier days when Wells was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and even went to jail to avoid the draft, setting Old Glory ablaze wasn’t a hugely radical endeavor. A radical Wells is, however, as he battles a scientific establishment that, he feels, is bent on censorship and the suppression of the truth.

Denounced by critics in peer-reviewed science journals ranging from Nature to The Quarterly Review of Biology, Wells seems to have quite a bit of fun writing up rebuttals. Serious critiques do not go unanswered and many are available to read on the website of the Discovery Institute, at which he’s a senior fellow. He has been attacked as a liar and a cultish religious crusader working for the Reverend Moon (yes, he really is a Moonie). Icons, his critics claim, uses the perennial strategy of quote-mining, combing through the literature, and picking out-of-context gems to cite. Wells has even been the subject of a libelous assault from the National Center for Science Education, a plain-sounding and faux-prestigious name for an ideologically-driven institution, which asserted Wells didn’t get any research published at Berkeley ; the professor Wells studied under has since contradicted this claim, but the record has not been righted. Wells, it should be noted, holds a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from Cal .

Wells examines an impressive list of reputable biology textbooks used in universities and high schools, including the widely-used Biology by Campbell, Reece, and Mitchell. Relying on an incredible amount of peer-reviewed articles published in the scientific field, Wells critiques the textbook claims about the origin of life, the fossil record, embryology, and a variety of other classic arguments used by neo-Darwinists. The Miller-Urey experiment, for example, is outdated, and later origins research hasn’t progressed very far; the Cambrian explosion is barely covered in textbooks, which means students aren’t taught that most animal phyla appear in the fossil record without precursors; and textbooks claim that the earlier in development, the more similar are embryos of different kinds of animals, a false statement that has often been buttressed by faked drawings from the 19th century.

Speaking for myself, I knew that Wells was on the money when I began to read the obsessive attacks on him posted by Darwinists. (I will undoubtedly have to remove some such attacks from this blog, because I do not allow obsessive attacks as a matter of principle.) Obviously, the Darwinists would be better to concentrate their efforts on cleaning up the mess, but that would involve retracting many inflated claims for Darwinism, which they do not, of course, want to do.

Textbook publishing is in a very bad state generally, principally because the textbook publisher is paid out of sequestered tax funds and the student is not a customer. Even the teacher is often not really a customer, because the decisions may be made by far-off committees. I personally know textbook editors who go to heroic lengths to defeat the crud, sometimes endangering their own livelihoods, unthanked and unheralded. But their efforts can only mitigate, not change, an overall system that promotes contented mediocrity and stifling political correctness.

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