Education or Indoctrination?
Analysis of Textbooks in Alabama
Good integration of labs with text; heavily oriented toward application of biology to social problems. Evolution, change of living things through time, is one of 10 basic themes that form a framework for teaching the course. 153 pages, or 22%, of the book is devoted to evolution based on references to "evolution" in index.
F "Evolution is the source of all biological diversity and the one process that explains the unity in life." (p. 213)
F "Our own group, the hominids, is a subgroup of primates. Ancestors of both humans and apes radiated from early hominidlike primates, evolving into hominids and apes." (p. 594)
SA "The program [referring to China's population control program] encourages couples to postpone marriage and provides easy and free access for married couples to sterilization, contraception, and abortion.... The best lesson other countries, including the United States, can learn from China's experience is to curb population growth now through family planning and economic incentives..." (pp. 674-675. See Appendix B) In light of the text's tacit approval of China's method of birth control, how is the student to interpret these statements?
SA "The time for correcting our past mistakes is running out. ...Population growth can be controlled by decreasing the fertility rate of women through intensive family planning and increased access to inexpensive or free contraceptives." (p. 678)
SA "Most large scale measures to combat the global population and pollution crisis require legislation and worldwide cooperation." (p. 686)
A very average uninspiring book with no emphasis on "hands-on" in the text. This is a "terms" "definition" book. Evolution throughout taxonomy section presented as fact. 85 pages, or 9%, devoted to evolution as listed in the index. "...the text is easily adapted to a curriculum that stresses the teaching of biology from an evolutionary approach." (p. T33)
F First statement in text: "The Earth is like an island of life in the vast sea of space. From the first cells that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago, life has spread across the Earth's surface. Living things have changed over time into millions of different forms." (p. 1)
F "Billions of years ago, these materials came together and formed the first cells." (p. 221)
F Illustration 16.4. "All organisms, living or extinct, are descendants of the first cells. Because they all share a common ancestor, all organisms are related to one another no matter how different they seem." (p. 286)
F "The first animals with backbones to evolve were fish. From these early fish evolved all other vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, and even human beings." (p. 552)
A well done textbook with excellent illustrations and fine prose, but lacking an integrated hands-on approach. Pages 266-803 assume and present a naturalistic view of origins as fact. Index under "evolution" refers to 100 pages, or 10% of the text.
P "...all events in nature have natural causes...The goal of science is to understand the world around us." (p. 6) This is a naturalistic assumption treated as fact.
F "The small furry creatures chasing one another among the bones and squabbling over the last scraps of dinosaur meat may not seem all that impressive. However, they and their relatives were the ancestors of elephants, horses, whales, and other mammals. Some of their descendants became intelligent enough to contemplate the extraordinary diversity of life, theorize about the processes that formed many kinds of creatures from a single original kind, perform experiments to test theories, and imagine events that occurred millions of years ago." (p. 266)
P,F "The chancy process by which organisms are fossilized means that the fossil record is not as complete as we would like it to be. For every organism that leaves a proper fossil, many die and vanish without leaving a trace..." (p. 279) Contrast this statement with the following: "The fossil record shows that change followed change on Earth." (p. 281)
F "Evolutionary change is undeniable...For example, there is no question that if you jump into the air, you will end up on the ground below. It makes no difference whether you understand - or even believe in - gravity. What goes up must come down. Just as definitely, life on Earth evolves, or changes over time." (p.291)
P "Evolutionary theory is, in the minds of many biologists, the foundation on which all biological science is built. Only because all living organisms are related through common descent can be talk about universal characteristics of life." (p. 313) The whole system of classification, which is still in use today, was designed and operative long before Darwin. Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) developed the binomial nomenclature a hundred years before Darwin. It was based on the assumption that God had created an orderly universe that could be subject to classification.
P "But the influence of evolutionary thought extends far beyond biology. Philosopher J. Collins has written that 'there are no living sciences, human attitudes, or institutional powers that remain unaffected by the ideas . . . released by Darwin's work.'" (p. 313)
F "In many ways, each animal phylum represents an experiment in the design of body structures to perform the tasks necessary for survival. Of course, there has never been any kind of plan to these experiments because evolution works without either plan or purpose." (ibid, p. 658)
F "We can learn a great deal about the nature of life by comparing body systems among invertebrate groups and by tracing the patterns of change as we move from one phylum to another. As we do so, it is important to keep this concept in mind: Evolution is random and undirected." (p. 658)
F "The fossils of the earliest birds are rare, often poorly preserved, and very similar to those of many small dinosaurs. Because of this, there is much controversy over which fossils are those of birds and when birds first appeared on Earth. Although the fine points of bird evolution are hotly debated, one thing is certain - birds evolved from ancient reptiles." (p. 725)
F "We know, for example, that humans evolved from common ancestors we share with other living primates such as chimpanzees and apes." (p. 757)
Good human development photos. 18 pages or 3% of text listed under "evolution" in index. Evolutionary concepts are confined to these 18 pages unlike many other texts which use evolution as a theme. This is one of the least dogmatic texts with respect to evolution, and no social agenda is evident. However, in the evolution section several statements are inaccurate or poorly stated.
T "Nonscientists usually use theory to mean an idea or thought as opposed to a fact. Scientists use theory to describe an idea that has so much supporting evidence that it is almost certainly true." (p. 19)
E "Mutations are natural events. Mutations appear in every living thing. These changes in genes may be helpful, harmful, or have no effect at all." (p. 610) This statement gives a false impression. Virtually all mutations are either harmful or neutral, not beneficial.
F,E "New species are constantly appearing on Earth." (p. 611) Where?
F "Primates evolved about 45 million years ago into two main groups. One of these groups was the ancestor of apes and humans. Humans evolved about three million years ago." (p. 624)
This is a very poor book. The pages are cluttered with text and illustrations that detract rather than aid the reader. No real hands-on activities integrated into the program. 92 pages or 11% of book listed under "evolution" in index.
T "Common usage of the word 'theory' suggests a guess or an uncertainty... The opposite meaning is true in science. A theory is as close to a complete explanation as science can offer." (p. 42) No! A law is a complete explanation in science.
SA Of twelve individuals highlighted in the "History and Economics" & "Literature" sections of the "Interdisciplinary Connections", only one is a white male (Gregor Mendel). In the case of all but Mendel there is either a picture or a written description of the individual's diversity status. One wonders what the white male child has done to deserve no role models in the world of science.
SA "Active euthanasia has been performed in The Netherlands since the 1980's. Although it is illegal, the practice has been tolerated as long as doctors follow strict guidelines. A British medical institute recently published a report in which it appeared to endorse active, as well as passive, euthanasia. In the United States and elsewhere in the Western world, passive euthanasia is widely accepted. However, active euthanasia is a morally, politically, and legally debated issue. As the right-to-die movement becomes more widespread, laws no doubt will change." (p. 273)
I Under section "Dying with Dignity? Who Decides?": "Write a living will for yourself..." (p. 273)
SA "Problems of an Aging Population - An aging population could bring some difficult problems for the United States... Can America afford health care for both ends of the age spectrum?" (p. 780)
D "Change in organisms over time is the meaning of evolution." (p. 20)
F "So far, you have learned that there are millions of different kinds of life forms on Earth. They all evolved." (p. 306)
F "Like all other forms of life, humans are products of evolution by natural selection." (p. 352 & Diagram p. 353. See Appendix C)
F "Trace the evolutionary steps from the beginnings of increased brain size in southern apes to the development of complex language in Cro-Magnons." (p. 362) The student is expected to assume the truth of these evolutionary steps without any evidence being presented in the text.
Text is heavy on use of terminology. Evolution permeates the entire book. This is a course in evolution. 271 pages, or 26% of text, is listed under "evolution" in the index. This book raises fundamental questions, but then gives no real answer. On pages 233-235 the authors raise critical questions about the spontaneous origin hypothesis. One question, "Is Earth Old Enough?" (p.233), is never answered. Instead of addressing the question directly, the paragraph following the question is devoted to a detailed discussion about dating rocks. No mention is made about the probability of life arising within the time frame judged available by these dating techniques. In fact, the whole subject of the length of time necessary for the changes from a "microsphere" to a man is ignored. The paragraph concludes: "When it is done properly, radiometric dating is one of the most reliable and reproducible measurements scientists can make." Thus, no answer to the initial question is ever given. The following is an example from the same text of giving only the appearance of an answer to a significant question. The question posed is: "Is Life Too Complex to Have Arisen Naturally?" (p. 234) The conclusion of the answer is: "With variation and natural selection working together over billions of years, very complex life-forms could have evolved naturally." This answer is simply a restatement of the problem that gave rise to the question.
T "The word theory is used very differently by scientists and by the general public. To a scientist a theory represents that of which he or she is most certain. To the general public, theory implies a lack of knowledge, a guess." (p. 11)
F "Name two structures found in all cells. How do these structures underscore the role of evolution in biology?" (p. 51) Note how questions are used to indoctrinate.
SA "Discuss the kinds of obstacles that you think women scientists such as Rosalind Franklin and Barbara McClintock faced in the past. What kind of discrimination might they have had to overcome?" (p. 179) Note that this question does not deal with facts but with pure speculation. Such a question leads students to assume discrimination when there may have been none.
P,R "A belief in divine creation, however, is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested... The assumption that life began spontaneously can be tested by scientific methods" (p. 226) Both positions are equally untestable.
F "The evolution of apes and humans is diagramed in Figure 14-5." (p. 298)
F "Like all living things, the humans shown in Figure 14-14 are the product of evolution." (p. 308)
E,F "Flowering Plants Coevolved With Animals." (p. 537) There is no excuse for a 1996 textbook to ignore information available in 1993: "The great radiation of modern insects began 245 million years ago and was not accelerated by the expansion of angiosperms during the Cretaceous period. The basic trophic machinery of insects was in place nearly 100 million years before angiosperms appeared in the fossil record." (Insect Diversity in the Fossil Record, Labandeira and Sepkoski, Science, Vol 261, July 16, 1993, p. 310). "The view that the coevolution of insects and plants began with the proliferation of angiosperms 120 million years ago needs to be revised, Labandeira says." (Scientists Upset Insect Orthodoxies, Science News, Vol. 144, July 17, 1993, p. 28).
Large, readable text, beautiful illustrations, very appealing book. Illustrations well integrated into the text. 91 pages or 8% of the text, listed under "evolution" in the index. Evolution extends into plant and animal sections. However, the presentation of origins is less dogmatic than most of the reviewed texts.
F "...all of the structures, behaviors, interactions, and internal processes observed in the millions of species of organisms on Earth are the result of the process of evolution." (p.20)
F "But only since 1871 and the publication of Charles Darwin's book, The Descent of Man, have scientists realized the true evolutionary link between monkeys, apes, and humans." (p. 454)
F "Apes are our closest animal relatives." (p. 461)
Chapter 1 gives the impression this is a health rather than a biology course. Illustrations are well integrated into text. Very heavy on dealing with environmental problems. Evolution runs throughout entire text. 76 pages, or 9%, is listed under "evolution" in the index. Origins is presented as fact.
T "Theories are the solid foundation of science, that of which we are most certain. There is no absolute certainty, however, no scientific 'truth'... The word 'theory' is used differently by scientists and the general public. To a scientist, a theory represents that of which he or she is most certain; to the general public the word 'theory' implies a lack of knowledge, a guess... In biology, the theory of evolution is so broadly supported by evidence that biologists accept it with as much certainty as they do the theory of gravity." (p. 14) Note: the quantifiable law of gravity is equated to the nonquantifiable theory of evolution.
F "Evolution provides the vast diversity of species that exist on Earth." (p. 18)
F "To see how closely related chimpanzees, dogs, and rattlesnakes are to humans, scientists examined the sequence of amino acids in the protein cytochrome c..." (p. 183) Note: the conclusion of close degrees of relationship is assumed before the data is analyzed.
F "...your body has been shaped by natural selection. For example, the ability of your eyes to focus, the way your hands grip objects, your upright posture, your large brain, the color of your skin and numerous other characteristics are all results of evolution by natural selection." (p. 186)
P "Life's building blocks can form spontaneously." (p. 200) Note: No spontaneous (without human intervention) production of either building blocks or life has been observed. Note how this statement contrasts with the following: "Laboratory simulations cannot establish that the kind of chemical evolution that has been described here actually created life on the primitive Earth...The origin of life remains a matter of scientific speculation..." (Biology, Campbell, Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Addison-Wesley, 1993, p. 511)
F "Soon after the Earth's surface cooled, life arose in the ancient seas. The first organisms to appear on the planet were bacteria, which are single-celled prokaryotes. These early bacteria are the ancestors of modern bacteria and of all the many different kinds of organisms living today, including you." (p. 203)
F "Humans share a common ancestor with the living apes, but the apes from which humans descended are extinct." (p. 224)
F "Upright walking was one of the first adaptations to evolve among our ancestors after the human and chimpanzee lines diverged about 5 million years ago." (p. 226)
F "You are an animal, and share a common heritage with earthworms and dinosaurs, butterflies and sea stars. It is no accident that the fingers of your hand have bones like those in a bird's wing. In this unit you will discover how the animal body has been shaped by its long evolutionary journey, from the simplest sponge to worms, insects, and vertebrates. Evolution has molded animals to suit many ways of living, often altering their design to take advantage of new opportunities in the environment." (p. 453) This is the introduction to Unit 5, Animal Kingdom.
Copyright © 1995 Norris
Anderson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 12.22.95