Another approach creationists use is to propose that when evolution is taught, both "strengths" and "weaknesses" of the subject should be taught; sometimes the language used calls for teaching evidence for and evidence against evolution. In all cases, the content presented is the familiar creation science and ID claims that there are gaps in the fossil record, that natural selection cannot produce big changes like body plan differences, that the overwhelming complexity of even the simplest cell cannot be explained by natural processes but requires special creation, and so on.
State science education standards are often divided into process skills and content sections. Process skills include information students should know about science as a way of knowing—that science includes observation, experimentation, testing, and so on. The content sections outline the concepts and facts students should know within any discipline. Physics content standards, for example, usually include the requirement that students understand concepts of mass and density. Texas state science standards are known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS. They include in each discipline (physics, chemistry, biology, and other fields) a process skill that states the following:
(3) Scientific processes. The student uses critical thinking and scientific problem solving to make informed decisions. The student is expected to (A) analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.
Because process skill 3A accompanies the TEKS for each field of science, one might infer that the intent of the writers was that students should learn to be critical thinkers, a worthy pedagogical goal. A teacher could choose any of a number of scientific explanations to assist students in learning these skills. However, in 20022003, when biology textbooks were being considered for adoption, creationists on the state board of education lobbied to require the textbooks submitted by the publishers to include strengths and weaknesses of evolution—but no other scientific theory. Publishers were loath to rewrite their books to include a lot of bad science, but fortunately after much wrangling, the majority of the board voted to adopt the books largely as they were (Stutz 2003). Calling for strengths and weaknesses of evolution was again a contentious issue when the TEKS came up for revision in 2008 (Scharrer 2008).
During the 2003 hearings, creationists urged textbook publishers to include examples of alleged strengths and weaknesses of evolution from the Discovery Institute Fellow Jonathan Wells's book Icons of Evolution (Wells 2000). Wells himself spoke at the hearings about the various failings of the textbooks submitted for adoption. Without specifically mentioning intelligent design, Icons instead vigorously attacks evolution—the idea of common ancestry, as well as natural selection as a mechanism of evolution. Identifying commonly used textbook illustrations of evolution or of natural selection as "icons," Wells lambastes (among other examples) the Miller-Urey "sparking" experiments, which produced organic molecules from inorganic molecules; the concept of homology; the nineteenth-century embryologist Ernst Haeckel's drawings of vertebrate embryos; the peppered moth natural selection experiments; and the idea of humans evolving from apes. Ostensibly a critique of high school and college textbooks, the book uses the presentation of the alleged icons in textbooks as an excuse to attack the validity of evolution by natural selection itself. The book has been widely panned by scientists (Coyne 2002; Padian and Gishlick 2002; Scott 2001b), but it forms a template for the EAE approach. (A rebuttal to the claim of the supposed fraudulence of the peppered moth natural selection experiments is presented in the readings in chapter 11.)
A new book from the Discovery Institute, Explore Evolution, repeats many of these claims and is apparently intended for use as a textbook promoting the "critical analysis of evolution" or "strengths and weaknesses of evolution" approaches (Meyer, Minnich, Moneymaker, Nelson, and Seelke 2007).
Explore Evolution's chapters are organized into "Arguments For" and "Arguments Against" sections. Unfortunately, the "Arguments For" are strawman presentations of evolutionary biology, from which students will learn little about standard science. The "Arguments Against" are familiar creationist claims. About half of the book is devoted to challenging the common ancestry of living things, arguing instead for the barely disguised alternative of special creation to explain similarities and differences ordinarily explained by evolution. Because the goal is to have Explore Evolution used in the public schools, obvious creationist language is avoided. As is typical in ID publications, natural selection comes in for special attack as being inadequate to explain the diversity of living things. Again typical of ID publications, evolution is presented as an active scientific controversy, despite statements from a wide range of scientific associations that, on the contrary, evolution is considered mainstream science (Sager 2008).
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