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Friday, April 20, 2007

Textbook watch: Why pretend that textbooks have not gone well beyond the evidence in promoting Darwin's theory?

Recently, the following comment appeared in the combox for "Marsupial frogs: Another reason to check out of Darwinism", which I reproduce here for your convenience, and then provide a response from Jonathan Wells:
Lance Duval has left a new comment on your post "Marsupial frogs: Another reason to check out of Darwinism":
As for 1) Can you be clear exactly which homologous feature is (or is not) developing, I did not quite understand what your are trying to get at.

As for 2), that is not Darwinism, but Haeckelism. Haeckel believed that embryo development would "play" through the stages, i.e. that in a human embryo we would see a fish stage, followed by a frog, and then onto a mammalian stage. This nonsense was never considered mainstream biological science and has not appeared in any textbooks since the 1920s.

For more information about the way that the Discovery Institute has seized apon Haeckelism as a straw-man for modern evolutionary theories.

Enjoy this examination of Wells' poor scholarship on Haeckel's drawings.


Now, Jonathan Wells is possibly the most hated of the ID guys because his books, Icons of Evolution and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, catalogue many unsubstantiable claims in recent textbooks. So I asked Wells for a response, and here it is, unvarnished:
Lance Duval really should do his homework. Here are some quotes you might find useful (all of them in Icons of Evolution, 2000):
(a) Lance Duval: “that is not Darwinism, but Haeckelism.”

Charles Darwin: “It seems to me,” Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, “the leading facts in embryology, which are second to none in importance, are explained on the principle of variations in the many descendants from some one ancient progenitor.” And those leading facts, according to him, were that “the embryos of the most distinct species belonging to the same class are closely similar, but become, when fully developed, widely dissimilar.” Reasoning that “community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent,” Darwin concluded: “it is probable, from what we know of the embryos of mammals, birds, fishes and reptiles, that these animals are the modified descendants of some ancient progenitor,” and that early embryos “show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state.” In The Descent of Man, Darwin extended the inference to humans: “The [human] embryo itself at a very early period can hardly be distinguished from that of other members of the vertebrate kingdom.” Since humans and other vertebrates “pass through the same early stages of development,... we ought frankly to admit their community of descent.” (Origin of Species, Chapter XIV; Descent of Man, Chapter I)

(b) Lance Duval: "This nonsense was never considered mainstream biological science and has not appeared in any textbooks since the 1920s."

B. I. Balinsky, An Introduction to Embryology (1975), pp. 7-8: “Features of ancient origin develop early in ontogeny; features of newer origin develop late. Hence, the ontogenetic development presents the various features of the animal’s organization in the same sequence as they evolved during the phylogenetic development. Ontogeny is a recapitulation of phylogeny.” [emphasis in original]

Bruce Alberts, et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell (1994), pp. 32-33: “Embryos of different species so often resemble each other in their early stages and, as they develop, seem sometimes to replay the steps of evolution.”

Peter Raven & George Johnson, Biology (1999), p. 416: “Some of the strongest anatomical evidence supporting evolution comes from comparisons of how organisms develop. In many cases, the evolutionary history of an organism can be seen to unfold during its development, with the embryo exhibiting characteristics of the embryos of its ancestors.”

Will the real "poor scholar" please stand up...

This exchange reminds me of a similar claim by Flock of Dodos filmmaker Randy Olson that Haeckel's fraudulent series of vertebrate embryos d not appear in modern textbooks. As Discovery Institute's John West and Casey Luskin note,
Were Ernst Haeckel’s bogus embryo diagrams ever used in modern textbooks to prove evolution? Not according to filmmaker Randy Olson, who in his film Flock of Dodos portrays biologist Jonathan Wells as a fraud for claiming in the book Icons of Evolution (2000) that modern biology textbooks continued to reprint Haeckel-based drawings.

But it turns out that Olson is the one who is promoting a fraud. The diagrams in question were unquestionably used in modern textbooks, and Olson himself knows that fact.

[ ... ]

Olson’s botched coverage of Haeckel’s embryo drawings may have been due initially to ignorance and sloppiness. Although in his film Olson claims to have read Wells’ book Icons of Evolution, he shows little indication of having actually done so. Since Wells’ book provides extensive documentation of the textbooks that have recycled Haeckel’s diagrams, it would have been easy for Olson to have checked the relevant textbooks if he doubted Wells’ account. But the excuse of ignorance no longer applies. At a pre-release screening of Olson’s film at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography in San Diego in April, 2006, Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin confronted Olson with copies of recent textbooks that reused Haeckel’s drawings. Later Jonathan Wells sent Olson an e-mail providing a list of recent textbooks that have included the diagrams. Olson has been informed of the facts, but he has chosen to keep hoaxing his audiences.

The question that has always puzzled me is why, exactly? Why this cognitive dissonance about something that is so easy for others to discover the truth about? Clearly, these people need to believe that the textbooks do not mislead even when they clearly and obviously do.

Most doctors who have been in practice for more than 25 years probably studied from textbooks that are considered dated today. Think of "hormone replacement therapy" for example. Do doctors insist that the previous generation's protocols never at any time advocated it? Of course not. Medical science learns from its mistakes and moves on.

But Darwinists and their friends, as I have frequently had occasion to observe, are not defending a science, as the doctors are; they are defending a religion - the Book of Genesis of materialism. It is for precisely that reason that the textbooks that promote Darwinism must be holy writ, free of vulgar error (or the vulgar error must have been committed so long ago old that no one alive is likely to be misled by it). And if that's not factually true, the position must be maintained anyway as an act of faith.

No wonder there is an intelligent design controversy.

I put up a bunch of news items and such yesterday here.

(Note: Duval's comment may have been made some weeks ago. 50 or 60 comments were waiting for me when Google stealthily moved my blogs to New Blogger, and I found out about it Monday or so. Some of the messages were pretty old. I think I have got rid of most of the offers for weight loss, hair gain, and business partnerships with the widows of foreign thugs. I have embedded Duval's links to avoid margin width issues. New Blogger is actually quite nice. It automatically offers a tag, for example.)

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My review of sci-fi great Rob Sawyer’s novel, The Calculating God , which addresses the concept of intelligent design. Also, my reviews of possibly ID-related films, etc.

My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment will be accepted if I think they contribute to a discussion. For best results, give your name or some idea who you are and why we should care. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudesby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment will be accepted if I think they contribute to a discussion. For best results, give your name or some idea who you are and why we should care. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudesby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.

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