Darwinism Education Evolution Intelligent Design

ID and school textbooks

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Theory of intelligent design making its way into Broward textbooks

By Chris Kahn
Education Writer

December 9, 2005

Broward County on Thursday narrowed its choices for high school Biology I textbooks to two finalists, both of which have been under scrutiny by Christian conservatives who want to change the way students learn about the origin of life.

Both have edited passages about evolution theory during the past few years after receiving complaints from the Discovery Institute. The think tank sponsors research on intelligent design, which argues life is so complicated, it must have been fashioned by a higher being. One of the books also has added a short section on creationism.

In the end, Broward teachers will have to decide which book works best based on their individual review of the whole textbooks, which include hundreds of pages of lessons, support materials and suggested activities.

District spokesman Keith Bromery said that regardless of the revisions, Biology: The Dynamics of Life by Glencoe and Holt Biology by Holt, Rinehart and Winston “shined through as better books.”

“We have an extensive review process,” he said Wednesday.

After spending months evaluating the books, a committee of science teachers on Thursday eliminated a third candidate, Prentice Hall Biology, which was chosen last week by Palm Beach County.

Broward’s high school biology teachers will vote in February on their book. The winning publisher will get a contract for 20,000 books worth an estimated $1.2 million.

A South Florida Sun-Sentinel review shows how Glencoe and Holt revised their texts as educators around the country fought about inserting religious concepts into science texts.

Many of the edits came after a tense four-month battle in 2003, when Texas educators chose their new science books.

During that debate, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute arrived in Austin with a 41-page report criticizing the two books and nine others that also were under review.

“This is a perennial problem,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, a not-for-profit group that fights to keep evolution in schools.

Though he doesn’t find anything alarming in what was changed — the books still devote numerous pages to Darwin and evolution theory — Branch said they’re classic examples of how special interests creep into public education.

“Contents will be changed to suit the concerns of people” in other states, Branch said.

For publishers, it only makes good business sense to do so, said Steve Driesler, executive director of the American Association of Publishers school division.

The $7 billion textbook industry is extremely competitive, Driesler said, and publishers have to think about how parents will react to the book.

“You’ve got to get sensitive to things like intelligent design,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure the books are socially and politically acceptable to the community that’s buying.”

John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said he considered the revisions a victory for his group. The revisions in Glencoe and Holt books are tantamount to an admission by “Darwinists” that evolution theory is flawed, he said. “This vindicates us.”

In general, Glencoe and Holt edited their origins of life explanations after written criticisms from the Discovery Institute. Glencoe also added references to a supreme being without any prodding from the group, according to West.

Divine origins

Since at least 1995, Biology: The Dynamics of Life, has told students about the origin of life.

In its 1998 national edition, Glencoe decided to add a few sentences about “divine origins.” However, authors warned students that “divine creation is a belief rather than a scientific theory, because it is accepted on faith.”

By 2004, the “origin of life” section on page 388 was changed again. The new wording added “some people believe that the complex structures and processes of life could not have formed without some guiding intelligence.”

It also removed the sentence that said creationism is not considered a scientific theory.

Glencoe spokesman Tom Stanton said in an e-mailed statement the publisher included references to intelligent design “because alternative ideas on the origins of life including RNA and meteorites are discussed in society….

“These references are found nowhere else in the 1,100-page text, and Glencoe offers no evidence in support of any of these opinions or beliefs.”

The 2006 Florida edition has this same wording about a divine origin. However, after the Sun-Sentinel wrote about the page, Glencoe called Broward and offered to cut the page out of the book.

Superintendent Frank Till said Thursday if teachers pick the book in February, he’d agree to cut the page and get rid of the controversy.

“I don’t think we should focus the adoption on one page.”

More changes

Some of the changes in Holt Biology began with the Discovery Institute critique, according to meeting notes on the Texas Education Agency’s Web site.

In Texas, Holt agreed to change a “student activity” and asked students to study “alternatives” to hypotheses about the origin of life using the Internet or library.

That revision was challenged by the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal watchdog group that said it would open the door to a discussion about intelligent design. Holt eventually changed the wording to “scientific hypotheses,” a phrase it still uses for the same activity on page 270 of the Florida text.

Texas records also show that Holt agreed to alter its explanation of the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment, which scientists have used to describe how life may have formed billions of years ago in the Earth’s early oceans. The experiment is a favorite target of creationists, who claim that flaws in the experiment make it useless.

After criticism from the Discovery Institute, Holt revised page 254 to say “scientists incorrectly hypothesized” the atmospheric conditions that existed on early Earth. That phrase was kept for the Florida edition.

On page 9, the Discovery Institute said, it also got Holt to tone down a phrase that credited Darwin’s theory for being “the essence of biology.” It was changed to say that it “provides a consistent explanation for life’s diversity.”

Holt spokesman Rick Blake said the publisher is always improving the text. When the Discovery Institute criticized the book in Texas, Holt’s editors took the complaints seriously.

“It doesn’t matter who made the comment,” Blake said, “if it’s legitimate.”

J.P. Keener, Broward’s science curriculum specialist, agreed. “It would bother me if changes were being made that weren’t supposed to be there. But all the changes here are scientific. It’s fine.”

The Discovery Institute didn’t pursue textbook changes in Florida this year as it did two years ago in Texas because it didn’t have enough money and local religious groups didn’t publicly oppose the books, West said.

In the future, West said, his group would lobby for changes in other states.

Students “should study Darwin theory not as dogma, but look at it as a theory,” he said. “And they should also understand criticisms against it.”

Chris Kahn can be reached at 954-356-4550 or cmkahn@sun-sentinel.com

11 Replies to “ID and school textbooks

  1. 1
    keiths says:

    From the article:
    “John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said he considered the revisions a victory for his group. The revisions in Glencoe and Holt books are tantamount to an admission by ‘Darwinists’ that evolution theory is flawed, he said. ‘This vindicates us.'”

    The revisions are hardly “an admission by ‘Darwinists’ that evolutionary theory is flawed”. They’re an admission by textbook publishers that they’ll make a lot more money if they throw a bone to the DI, thus making their books palatable to a broader constituency.

    As the American Association of Publishers guy said:
    “You’ve got to get sensitive to things like intelligent design,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure the books are socially and politically acceptable to the community that’s buying.”

    The only textbook change listed in the article that is an actual concession on a scientific issue is the rewording of the description of the Miller-Urey experiment. Ironically, that change may have been premature, since new research suggests that the assumptions of the Miller-Urey experiment might have been correct after all. Follow this link for details:


    Still, with the Dover opinion looming, it’s understandable that West is eager to claim every victory he can.

  2. 2
    Benjii says:

    Elsberry recently wrote:

    “William A. Dembski, mathematician, theologian, and philosopher, is also a heavyweight expert when it comes to self-promotion. So why is it, Steve, that Dembski has not himself boasted of the adoption of his particular methods by the NIH and NSF for “fraud detection”?

    My basic stance on this is skepticism until such time as an independently verifiable reference is provided. One does not have to look far to find ID advocates exaggerating grandly from mundane reality, so I take the claim that someone other than Dembski has figured out how to make Dembski’s methods work (when even Dembski has thus far failed at that task) with a dried-up Permian sea of salt.”

    How does one respond to this sham?

  3. 3
    tragicmishap says:

    Hey guys, there’s going to be a month-long seminar on ID taught at the University of Nebraska Lincoln next semester. I will graduate this semester, but I’ve been thinking about taking the class anyway just to keep the teacher honest. It sounds like he’s not very friendly to ID. His name is Ted Pardy.

    Here’s a link to an article about it in our student newspaper:


    For what it’s worth, here’s the class:


  4. 4
    Red Reader says:

    I read the article linked by keiths above to see what he meant when he said the “since new research suggests that the assumptions of the Miller-Urey experiment might have been correct after all.”

    No. The new research only shows that if your worldview is philosophical materialism and your theory of origins depends on certain physical atmospheric conditions (or it falls apart), then an experiment can be developed to produce the results needed to keep the theory on life support.

    Bruce Fegley used “computer codes for chemical equilibrium to figure out what happens when the minerals in [selected] chondrites are heated up and react with each other.” Press reports of the experiment breathlessly conclude the calculations show “that the early Earth’s atmosphere was a reducing one, chock full of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water vapor.”

    But several leaps of faith were taken to arrive at this conclusion.

    “Chondrites are relatively unaltered samples of material from the solar nebula.” Speculation.

    “…scientists have long believed [chondrites] to be the building blocks of the planets.” Speculation. (The classic “scientists believe” in reality means SOME scientists “believe” or suspect it while others neither believe it nor suspect it.)

    “We assume that the planets formed out of chondritic material…” More speculation.

    “…and we sectioned up the planet into layers…” Speculation about the composition of the layers. Kind of a “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

    What do geologists say about the presumed composition of the layers fabricated for this experiment?

    Well, uh, now we resume our connection to reasonable hypothesis based on actual facts: “A major contingent of geologists believe that a hydrogen-poor, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere existed because _they_ _use_ _modern_ _volcanic_ _gases_ _as_ _models_ _for_ _the_ _early_ _atmosphere_. Volcanic gases are rich in water , carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide but contain no ammonia or methane.”

    Back to the experiment….

    “…we used the composition of the mix of meteorites” (that we were able to fabricate in just the right way) “to calculate the gases that would have evolved from each of those layers….” Yes, we used a computer with special codes to literally peer back into time, to a “just so” composition and “see” exactly what “would have” happened (assuming we “designed” the experiment correctly).
    And: “…that would have EVOLVED?…” No secret what we’re looking for.

    And by golly, “We found a very reducing atmosphere for most meteorite mixes, so there is a lot of methane and ammonia.” MOST? not ALL? Still some glitches in the computer model; keep working on it, you will get ALL if you keep trying.

    “In a reducing atmosphere, hydrogen is present but oxygen is absent. For the Miller-Urey experiment to work, a reducing atmosphere is a must. An oxidizing atmosphere makes producing organic compounds impossible,” the writer of the article admitted. “a MUST” they say. It is obvious they are trying to resuscitate Miller-Urey! (You can almost hear the “CLEAR!” thump “CLEAR!” thump” of the CPR defibrillator.)

    Fegley says, “Geologists dispute the Miller-Urey scenario, but what they seem to be forgetting is that when you assemble the Earth out of chondrites, you’ve got slightly different gases being evolved from heating up all these materials that have assembled to form the Earth.” Geologist are FORGETTING? that when you manufacture an experiment with the results in mind you are after, regardless of whether ANY ACTUAL DATA supports the suppositions of the experiment, why then you will get entirely different outcomes than when you base your experiments on actual data!!!! Those silly geologists!

    “Our calculations provide a natural explanation for getting this reducing atmosphere,” said Fegley. Yep, “natural” explanations from a COMPLETELY UNNATURAL experiment. Now THAT is science.

    “Different compounds in the chondritic Earth decompose when they’re heated up, and they release gas that formed the earliest Earth atmosphere,” Fegley said. What “chondritic earth”? Oh yeah, the one you created out of thin air so to speak. I refrain here from making a comment using the “release gas” statement.

    Gee, why didn’t anybody ever try this experiment before?
    “I think these computations hadn’t been done before because they’re very difficult; we use a special code” said Fegley….

    Oh. A “special code”. Of course.

  5. 5
    Gumpngreen says:


    “The view we are taking now is that Earth’s crust, oceans and atmosphere were in place very early on, and that a habitable planet was established rapidly.”

    Is the reason they’re so willing to overthrow previous ideas is that this new historical narrative would give more time between a possible origin of life and the cambrian explosion? Unfortunately the news release contains mostly assertions and not much information on how they came to this conclusion. I suppose anyone interested could just email him: mojzsis@colorado.edu

  6. 6
    Gumpngreen says:

    Oh, and here is the list of errors Discovery was pushing to be fixed in the Texas textbooks:


    I think they’re being a bit anal with some things but otherwise I don’t see the need for the uproar over making these changes. I also don’t see a problem with briefly mentioning alternative models/theories not covered in the textbook (the students can look them up if they’re interested).

    As for the Miller-Urey experiment…it produced 85% tar, 13% carbolic acid, 1.05% glycine, 0.85% alanine, and trace amounts of other chemicals. Big whoop. If someone solves the homochirality problem then I’ll be interested.

  7. 7
    CharlesW says:

    We are winning against the evolutionists. We don’t need peer reviewed papers. We will win the hearts and minds of the public no matter how much the evolutionists and atheists try to stop us.

  8. 8
    Josh Bozeman says:

    No doubt the minds of most Americans are not with the neodarwinists. As for peer reviewed papers- that’s just a witch hunt waiting to happen, as we have seen with Sternberg, we saw it with Gonzalez after they all went after him, Dembski himself at Baylor, and too many others. Even non-IDers who are critics of NDE risk their careers and reputations from those in the Darwinian camp out to get anyone who doesn’t stick to the party line, so to speak.

  9. 9
    russ says:

    CharlesW wrote: “We are winning against the evolutionists. We don’t need peer reviewed papers. We will win the hearts and minds of the public no matter how much the evolutionists and atheists try to stop us.”

    Is this sarcasm? The people in charge of science have made it quite clear that the publishing of peer reviewed papers is forbidden. Yes, it’s still legal, but it will be a career-killer if they have anything to say about it. Apparently this is how scientific knowledge is advanced: Alternatives that disagree with conventional wisdom but are politically popular with the great unwashed are smashed by brute force.

  10. 10
    DaveScot says:

    Even if planetary scientists are wrong it really doesn’t matter whether the early atmosphere was similar to Miller-Urey’s or not. MU failed to produce all the requisite amino and nucleic acids. As well, it failed to produce any strings of nucleic or amino acids. MU is ridiculously far from showing how self-replicating strings of amino and nucleic acids could’ve formed even given the atmosphere it posits.

    Hypothetical abiogenesis is no more or less than wild speculation. No one has come even close to demonstrating a plausible scenario in any contrived laboratory environment to say nothing of doing it in a laboratory mockup of known natural environments.

  11. 11
    Mr Christopher says:

    Intelligent Design lost in Dover today. The entire ruling (139 pages) is well worth studying.

    Why no mention of the ruling here today?


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