Does Nothing in Biology Make Sense Except in the Light of Evolution?
|Author: Jerry Bergman
The dean of American biology, Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975), claimed that “evolution” is the cornerstone of biology and is central to an understanding of both living and extinct organisms. His statement that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” has been repeated in hundreds of articles arguing for a central place for Darwinism in all areas of science education, including medicine, agriculture and biotechnology (for example, see Antolin and Herbers, 2001, p. 2379). A Google.com search alone revealed over about 40,000 hits for this single quote. Consequently, Darwinists argue, evolution must be a central part of all public school and college life science classes. In the words of the National Academy of Science, evolution is “the most important concept in modern biology, a concept essential to understanding key aspects of living things” (1998, p. viii, emphasis mine). Why is this claim made? Prosser concludes that it is because
The Origin of Species has had more influence on Western culture than any other book of modern times. It was not only a great biological treatise, closely reasoned and revolutionary, but it carried significant implications for philosophy, religion, sociology, and history. Evolution is the greatest single unifying principle in all biology (1959. p. 539).
Dawkins notes that without Darwinism
biology is a collection of miscellaneous facts. Before they learn to think in an evolutionary way, the facts that the children learn will just be facts, with no binding thread to hold them together, nothing to make them memorable or coherent. With evolution, a great light breaks through into the deepest recesses, into every corner, of the science of life. You understand not only what is, but why. How can you possibly teach biology unless you begin with evolution? How, indeed, can you call yourself an educated person, if you know nothing of the Darwinian reason for your own existence? (2002, p. 58).
Although Darwinists often talk about the central importance of “evolution” in gaining a basic understanding of the natural world, my research reveals that the daily work of both scientific education (and in most scientific research), evolution is rarely mentioned or even a concern. This has been my own experience as a research associate involved in cancer research in the department of experimental pathology at the Medical College of Ohio and a college professor in the life and behavioral science area for over 30 years. As Conrad E. Johanson, Ph.D. (Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and Physiology and Director of Neurosurgery Research at Brown Medical School in Rhode Island) noted, in the world of science research on a day-to-day basis, scientists
rarely deal directly with macroevolutionary theory, be it biological or physical. For example, in my 25 years of neuroscience teaching and research I have only VERY rarely had to deal with natural selection, origins, macroevolution, etc. My professional work in science stems from rigorous training in biology, chemistry, physics, and math, not from world views about evolution. I suspect that such is the case for most scientists in academia, industry, and elsewhere (2003. p. 1).
The renown carbene chemist, Professor emeritus Dr. Philip Skell of Pennsylvania State University, did a survey of his colleagues that were “engaged in non-historical biology research, related to their ongoing research projects” and found that the “Darwinist researchers” he interviewed in answer to the question “Would you have done the work any differently if you believed Darwin’s theory was wrong?” found that the answers “for the large number” of those persons he questioned, “differing only in the amount of hemming and hawing” was “in my work it would have made no difference,” and some added they thought it would for others (2003. p. 1). Of interest is Molecular, Cell and Development Biology majors at Yale University graduate school will no longer be required to take courses on evolution (Hartman, 2003).
A Survey of Textbooks
Having taught biology, psychology and related courses at the college level for the past 30 years, I evaluated this claim by examining the content of the major textbooks that we have used in teaching science courses. Most of the biochemistry/molecular biology, genetics, and cell biology texts we have used never, or hardly ever, mentioned Darwinism. The only course that covers it in any detail is Biology 101 and Anthropology (and even in these classes, in my experience, many instructors skip this section). Even those chapters labeled “evolution” often spend much time covering non-evolution topics, such as basic genetics, human development, population genetics, and similar areas. None of the anatomy and physiology textbooks we have used ever mentioned evolution. The only reference to it in the microbiology texts we have used is the development of bacterial resistance (which is not a problem for creationists).
Table I: The College Natural Science Texts I Have Used in the Past 20 Years and their evolution coverage
|Text||Biological Evolution Content|
|1. Introduction to Biology|
|Biology (Sylvia Mader)
McGraw Hill 6th edition 1998.
|A total of 4 chapters cover evolution out of 51, occasionally mentioned in the other 47 chapters.|
|Life (Ricki Lewis, et al.)
McGraw Hill 4th edition 2002.
|One unit on evolution (5 chapters out of 45), occasionally mentioned elsewhere.|
|Essential Biology. Campbell, Reece, and
Simon. Pearson 2004
|Mentions Darwinism in almost every chapter, and one whole unit on evolution (unit 3, chapters 13 to 17 plus parts of chapter 18).|
|2. Anatomy and Physiology|
|Anatomy and Physiology (Hole, et al.)
McGraw Hill 10th ed 2003.
|Principles of Anatomy and Physiology
(Tortora and Grabowski) Harper Collins. 1996.
|3. Biochemistry/molecular Biology|
|Biochemistry, A Foundation (Peck Ritter)
Brooks Cole. 1996.
|A few sentences or very short paragraphs added, seemingly as an afterthought, in a few sections.|
|General, Organic, and Biochemistry
(William Brown and Elizabeth Rogers) Brooks Cole
|General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry
(Sally Solomon) McGraw Hill. 1987.
|Foundations of Life: An Introduction of General,
Organic, and Biological Chemistry. Third
Edition. (Feigl, Hill, and Erwin Boschmann)
|Fundamentals of General, Organic, and Biological
Chemistry. 2nd Edition. (McMurry and
Castellion) Prentice-Hall. 1996.
|The Microbial Perspective (Nester, et al.)
|Mentioned only in relationship to bacterial resistance.|
|Microbiology (Jacquelyn Black)
Wiley N.Y. 5th ed. 2002.
|Microevolution briefly discussed (such as in the section of the development of bacterial resistance).|
|Human Genetics (Ricki Lewis)
McGraw Hill 5th ed. 2003.
|Parts of 1 chapter out of 22, a few sections elsewhere.|
|College Zoology (Richard Boolootian and Karl
Stiles) Macmillan 10th edition. 1981.
|One chapter (chapter 41, pp. 664-686); also mentioned in a few other places.|
|Zoology (Hickman et al.)
McGraw Hill 12th edition. 2003.
|Parts of 1 chapter and short sections in several other chapters out of 38 chapters.|
|Anthropology (Ember and Ember)
Prentice-Hall 5th edition. 2003
|Parts of 5 chapters out of 22 chapters|
|Anthropology (Konrad Kottak)
McGraw Hill 10th ed. 2003.
|Major parts of 3 chapters and small sections of 2 other chapters out of 25 chapters|
|Fundamentals of Chemistry (Ralph Burns)
Prentice-Hall 4th ed. 2003.
|Chemistry and Society (Jones et al.)
New York: Saunders 5th ed. 1987
|Essentials of Geology (Chernicoff and Fox)
Houghton Mifflin 2nd edition. 2003.
|Rarely mentioned. Coverage mostly in last chapter.|
|10. Physical Science|
|Physical Science Principles and Applications
(Payne, Falls and Whidden)
Dubuque, IA: Wm. C Brown. 1992.
|None. (Mentioned only once on page 320 in reference to DNA.)|
Judging by these textbooks, Darwinism is often totally ignored in most science classes. Judging by my review of new textbooks, the content in especially introductory textbooks is increasing, probably in response to the intelligent design and creationist movements. Because I have much interest in the subject, I usually cover it in more depth than, in my experience, is usual. Many of the instructors at the colleges where I have taught totally ignore the sections on evolution, partly because there is too much other material that must be covered and something has to be cut—and most elect to skip evolution because it is one of the least-important subjects in most majors. How many health care workers need to understand Darwin theories? (No concern exists over development of antibody resistance, something I stress in my microbiology class.) In short, at least judging by the major textbooks used, the often repeated claim about Darwinism being central to natural science is not true.
If, as Dobzhansky stated, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (1972 emphasis added), why is it rarely, if ever, mentioned in most natural and physical science books? And we usually use the leading college texts in each area (for example, the A&P text we use is the 10th edition of Hole, a standard text). And why is it a minor topic even in most introductory to biology books that cover the subject in more depth than most all other courses except formal classes on evolution? Also, while developing a college-level course on evolution, I surveyed most 4-year colleges and universities in Ohio and many in Michigan. I found that, for biology majors, at most only one class in evolution was required (and all schools surveyed used the same text, that by Freeman and Herron, a fairly good text that I also considered for my own class, which is now being developed).
Coverage of Darwinism in my Science College Course Work
I also reviewed all of my graduate and undergraduate college course work in science to determine the amount of time spent on Darwinism. I found that during my biology/natural science education, which entailed over 8 years of full-time college, Darwinism was rarely mentioned. For my graduate work in biomedical science, it never came up except to note that a gene was “evolutionary conserved” (meaning only that the gene sequence is very similar in most life forms, both advanced and primitive). Because this is a topic in which I am very interested, whenever it was discussed, I listened attentively and would have remembered if it was discussed in the class. Even in the course that I took on evolution (I still have detailed notes taken in this class so can verify this) covered mostly the history of the creation evolution conflict, genetics, animal breeding and related topics.
The review includes course work taken at Wayne State University, Medical College of Ohio, Bowling Green State University, University of Wisconsin, Miami University (Oxford, OH), University of Toledo, University of California, Berkeley, and several other colleges. All hours were converted to quarter hours, and some classes are in process.
|Number||Course Title (Credits.)||Darwinism content|
|BIO 0161||Anatomy & Physiology I (5)||None|
|BIO 0162||Anatomy & Physiology II (4)||None|
|BIO 0151||General Biology I (6)||Some in chapter II of text (Kimball)|
|BIO 0152||General Biology II (6)||All of chapter VII (p. 540-614) but was not covered in class|
|BIO 0507||Genetics (4)||Mentioned briefly (the professor often mocked creationists)|
|BIO 0220||Introduction to Microbiology (4)||None|
|BIO 0271||Comparative Vertebrate Zoology (6)||Almost none|
|BIO 0509||Evolution (4)||Topic of class, mostly covered history, genetics, and other topics that did not review evidence for the theory|
|BIO 137||Surface Phenomena in Physical and Biological Systems (4)||None|
|PSY 0330||Psychophysiology (4)||None|
|HYG 0281||Individual Hygiene (3)||None|
|PER 0172||First Aid (4)||None|
|SCE 3561||Science in the Elementary Schools (4)||None|
|GEG 0652||Field Study (4)||None|
|GEG 0390||Directed Study (2)||None|
|PHY 0191||Physics and Astronomy (4)||None|
|GSC 0156||Physical Science/Chemistry (4)||None|
|GEO 0110||World and Regional Geography (4)||None|
|GEO 0210||Elements of Geography (4)||None|
|U420-100||General Geology (4)||None|
|U736-101||Introduction to Philosophy (5)||Discussed very briefly in several units|
|U224-103||General Chemistry I (4)||None|
|U224-104||General Chemistry II (4)||None|
|CHM 698.0||Organic Chemistry (3)||None|
|CHM 698||Topics in Biochemistry Technology (3)||None|
|20.879||Basic and Advanced Light Microscopy (4)||None|
|PSY 0490||Biology of Learning (4)||None|
|BIO 2805||Substance Abuse (3)||None|
|U694-132||Nutrition Today (4)||None|
|NV 0502||Topics in Nutrition (8)||None|
|BIO 0332||Nutrition and Health Habits (3)||None|
|BIO 0523||Studies in Literature (Biological Evolution) (4)||Topic of class|
|BIO 0507||Evaluation Concepts and Methods (Eugenics) (12)||Topic of class|
|BIO 0508||Biometry (12)||None|
|BIO 0515||Human Development (Brain & Communication) (8)||None|
|BIO 0521||Holism, Concept: Its Origins and Implications (4)||None|
|BIO 0522||Ecology (4)||None|
|BIO 0523||Health and Healing Perspectives (4)||None|
|BIO 0507||Parasitology (4)||None|
|BIO 0573||Neuroscience (4)||None|
|BIO 0503||Cell Ultrastructure (4)||None|
|BIO 0502||Cell Biology (4)||None|
|MM 0311||Materials and Methods (3)||None|
|MM 0512||Doctoral Supplement: Materials and Methods (1)||None|
|IS 0542||Ph.D. Diss. (noninvasive biology research/diagnostic Techniques) (12)||None|
|10.651||Basic Science Interdepartmental Seminar (1)||Mentioned briefly|
|03.521||Recombinant DNA Methodology (2)||None|
|156898.02||Computed Tomography (4)||None|
|03.673||Research in Biochemistry (14)||None|
|03.657||Readings in Biochemistry (2)||None|
|03.672||Current topics in Biochemistry (3)||None|
|03.672||Current topics in Biochemistry (2)||None|
|20.886||Transmission Electron Microscopy (5)||None|
|20.877||Scanning Electron Microscopy (4)||None|
|15.889.09||Radiology: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (4)||None|
|CHM. 698||Separation Science (3)||None|
|20.611.01||Human Genetics (3)||None|
|15.898.02||Computer Tomography (4)||None|
|20.673||Research, Biomedical Science (4)||None|
|50.699||Thesis Research (8)||None|
|50.699||Thesis Research (4)||None|
|10.672||Current Topics in Pathology (Cancer) (4)||None|
|IND1500||Structure and Function of Normal Body (12)||None|
|IND1699||Thesis Research (10)||None|
|CHM 699.7||Research in Chemical Education.(1.5)||None|
|NERS 856||Readings in Neural Science. (1.5)||None|
|DENT 656||Readings in Oral Biology. (1.5)||None|
|PUBH689||Independent Study in Environment Health. (4)||None|
|CHM 698.M||Risks and Choices (5)||None|
|OCCH 501||Occupational Health (4)||None|
|CHM 699V||Industrial Chemistry follow-up (1.5)||None|
|PUBH 601||Public Health Epidemiology (4)||None|
|OCCH 673||Research in Occupational Health (4)||None|
|PUBH 603.01||Advanced Epidemiology (4)||None|
|CHM 698.P||Foods and Flavors (3)||None|
|CHM 698.T||Science of Pyrotechnics (3)||None|
|PUBH 698||Capstone Seminar (4)||None|
|HEAL 6600||Health Behavior (4)||None|
|PUBH 605||Intro to Environmental Health (4)||None|
|PUBH 696||Public Health Internship (3)||None|
|CI 5950||Foundations of Grant Writing (4)||None|
|PATH 620.10||Principles of Toxicology (4)||None|
|PUBH 696||Public Health Internship (1)||None|
|CHM 689||Microscope (4)||None|
|PUBH 604||Public Health Administration (4)||None|
|PUBH 515||Principles of Environmental Health (4)||None|
|PUBH 550||Public Health Microbiology (4)||None|
|CHM 629||Chemical Aspects of Forensic Science (4)||None|
|CHM 628c||Pharmacology (4)||None|
|HEAL 6640||Issues in Public Health (4)||None|
|OCCH 561||Physical Agents (4)||None|
|OCCH 689||Independent Study (Mutations)(4)||None|
|OCCH 510||Human Systems and Occupational Diseases (3)||None|
|OCCH 640||Environmental and Occupational Health Law (3)||None|
|CHM 689||Safety (2)||None|
|CHM 689||Artful Chemistry (3)||None|
|OCCH 505||Principles of Occupational Safety (3)||None|
|OCCH 520||Air Monitoring and Analytical Methods (4)||None|
|CHM 627||Chemistry Research (5)||None|
|CHM 689||Chemistry of Corrosion (3)||None|
|OCCH 699||Thesis Research (4)||None|
|OCCH 535||Human Factors and Ergonomics (3)||Several sections alluded to evolution as being a reason for back and other health problems|
|OCCH 525||Chemistry of Hazardous Materials (3)||None|
|MAT 0151||Comparative Mathematics (4)||None|
|ELE 3315||Methods & Materials in Mathematics (4)||None|
|PSY 0310||Statistical Methods (4)||None|
|EER 6660||Field Studies in Research (4)||None|
|EER 9666||Directed Research (4)||None|
|EER 7661||Evaluation and Measurement (4)||None|
|EER 7664||Fundamental Research Skills (4)||None|
|EER 9668||Advanced Research and Experimental Design (4)||None|
|EER 7663||Fundamentals of Statistics (4)||None|
|EER 8663||Advanced Problems in Measurement (4)||None|
|ER 7665||Computer Use in Research (4)||None|
|EER 8664||Variance and Co-Variance Analysis (4)||None|
|EER 9666||Research Problems (4)||None|
|EER 9669||Doctoral Research (Evaluation and Research) (45)||None|
Total hours 549
In my experience, Darwinism is often discussed in non-science classes. For this reason I also evaluated my other course work, mostly of which is in the behavioral science area, in the same way as done above.
|EER 9669||Introduction to Psychology (4)||mentioned in several chapters|
|PSY 0340||Developmental Psychology (4)||briefly mentioned|
|PSY 0305||Psychology of Perception (4)||none|
|PSY 0335||Theories of Personality (4)||none|
|PSY 0310||Statistical Methods Psychology (4)||none|
|PSY 0460||Social Psychology (4)||briefly mentioned|
|EDP 3731||Introduction to Study of Child (4)||briefly mentioned|
|PSY 0330||Psychology of Adjustment (4)||none|
|PSY 0430||Abnormal Psychology (5)||none|
|PSY 0111||Industrial Psychology (3)||none|
|EDP 5745||Child Psychology (3)||none|
|EDP 7735||The Learning Process (3)||none|
|CP 7830||Environment and Child Psy. (6)||none|
|CP 6831||Intro. to Psychological Testing (3)||none except eugenics was covered unobtrusively|
|EDP 7741||Human Developmental Psychology (4)||briefly mentioned|
|EDP 5741||Mental Hygiene and Education (3)||none|
|EDP 7731||Advanced Educational Psychology (6)||none|
|EDP 5742||Juvenile Delinquency and Schools (3)||none|
|EDP 5745||Adolescent Psychology (3)||none|
|EGC 7701||Role of the Teacher in Guidance (3)||none|
|EGC 7704||Case Problems in Guidance (3)||none|
|EGC 7705||The Counseling Process (3)||none|
|EDP 7749||Terminal Master Dissertation (4)||was encountered in my research.|
|PSY 0303||Intro to Experimental Psychology (6)||briefly mentioned|
|PSY 0562||Psychology of Influence (4)||none|
|PSY 0628||Psychoanalytic Theory (4)||none|
|PSY 0330||Psychophysiology (4)||briefly mentioned|
|PSY 0480||Concept Dev. in Children (4)||none|
|PSY 0508||Behavior Pathology I (5)||none|
|PSY 0509||Behavior Pathology II (5)||none|
|PSY 0440||Social Issues in Child Dev. (4)||none|
|PSY 0580||Psy of Chiliastic Movements (4)||none|
|REH 0567||Community Approach to Counseling (4)||none|
|PSY 0682||Issues in EEOC Compliance (3)||none|
|REH 0558||Psychosocial Aspects of Disability (3)||none|
|SOC 0251||Introduction to Sociology (4)||none|
|SOC 0514||Social Stratification (4)||none|
|SOC 0541||Juvenile Delinquency (4)||covered briefly|
|SOC 0202||Social Problems (3)||discussed in connection with biological crime theory SOC 0506 The Family (4) covered in class, not in textbook|
|SOC 0600||Methods in Social Research (4)||none|
|SOC 0616||Industrial Sociology (4)||none|
|SOC 0508||Race Relations in the U.S.A. (4)||none|
|SOC 0550||Marriage & Family Problems (4)||none|
|SSC 0151||Foundation of Modern Society, I (4)||covered briefly|
|SSC 0152||Foundation of Modern Society, II (4 )||covered briefly|
|EDS 7621||Educational Sociology (3)||none|
|EDS 7623||Intergroup Rel. Comm. & School (4)||none|
|POL 0511||Public Opinion & the Political Process (4)||none|
|POL 0151||American Government (5)||none|
|SOC 0460||Social Psychology (4)||none|
|ECI 0251||Basic Economics (5)||social Darwinism covered briefly|
|ANT 0210||Introduction to Anthropology (5)||covered extensively in both reading and lectures.|
|SOC 0612||Community (4)||none|
|SOC 0680||Women and Institutions (4)||none|
|SOC 0670||The Sociology of Homosexuality (4)||none|
|SOC 0540||The Sociology of Education (4)||none|
|SOC 0561||Corrections (4)||discussed in connection with biological crime theory.|
|SOC 0599||Master’s Thesis (10)||none|
|SOC 0590||Juvenile Delinquency (4)||none|
|SOC 0544||Deviant Behavior (4)||none|
|SOC 0682||Issues in Criminology (4)||none|
|SOC 0570||Studies in Suicide (4)||none|
|SOC 0652||Collective Behavior (4)||none|
|SOC 0504||Development of Modern Sociology (4)||none|
|SOC 0680||Ethnic Groups in America (4)||none|
|SOC 0562||Criminal Law (4)||none|
|SOC 0523||Sociology of Organization (4)||none|
|SOC 0525||Demography (4)||covered as related to population problems.|
|SOC 0535||Proseminar in Social Psychology (4)||none|
|SOC 0680||Police and Community (4)||none|
|SOC 0580||Social Gerontology (4)||none|
|SOC 0580||World Poverty (4)||none|
|SOC 0580||Theories of Social Problems (4)||none|
|SOC 0580||Sociology of Sport (4)||none|
|SOC 0580||Applied Social Research (4)||none|
|SOC 0502||Modern Social Theory (4)||none|
|SOC 0460||Family and Sex Roles (4)||none|
|SOC 0660||Theories of Criminology (4)||none|
|SOC 0670||Male Sex Roles (4)||none|
|SOC 0660||Myth and Myth Making (4)||some coverage as related to world myths|
|ED 3015||Schools and Society (4)||none|
|SSE 4571||Methods Social Stud. Ed. (4)||none|
|SSE 4572||Student Teaching Seminar–High School (4)||none|
|ELE 3321||Literature for Children (4)||none|
|ELE 4312||Student Teaching (Elementary) (16)||none|
|SSH 4572||Student Teaching (Secondary) (16)||none|
|SPE 5404||Diagnostic Speech Improvement (3)||none|
|ELE 3317||Methods & Materials of Lang. Arts Ed. (4)||none|
|EDP 3601||Introduction to the Philosophy of Ed. (4)||covered both in the text and in class|
|LIB 0101||Introduction to Library (4)||none|
|LIB 0103||Introduction to Audio-Visual Material (5)||none|
|IT 5761||Technology in Education (4)||none|
|HIS 0201||American Democracy to 1815 (4)||none|
|HIS 0202||American Democracy 1815-1885 (4)||none|
|HIS 0110||The World and the West-Foundations (4)||covered briefly|
|HIS 0120||The World and the West 800-1700 (4)||covered rather extensively in both the text and classroom lectures.|
|HIS 0130||The World and the West-Modern (4)||covered in relation to the Scopes trial.|
|DRT 0111||Lay Out Drafting (4)||none|
|DRT 0112||Production Drafting (4)||none|
|ENG 0205||Composition and Literature (4)||none|
|ENG 151||English I (4)||covered indirectly.|
|ENG 152||English II (4)||covered indirectly|
|ENG 261||Public Speaking (4)||not covered|
|GER 0090||German Ph.D. Reading Requirement German (6)||not covered|
|GRK 0101||Elementary Greek (4)||not covered|
|ENG 0234||English Bible as Literature (4)||covered in class discussions|
|ART 0156||Art Appreciation (4)||not covered|
|PE 0134||Handball (1)||none|
|PE 0135||Archery (1)||none|
|PE 0136||Bowling (1)||none|
Again, the review of my own course work completed at 7 universities and 5 colleges conforms to my teaching experience. Except in courses devoted to evolution, such as my class titled evolution, the subject was rarely covered in science classes but was covered in other class, often it was assumed to be true and this world view dominated. Darwinism including naturalism was rarely questioned even in my Bible as literature class, but was assumed to be true.
My review agrees with Adam S. Wilkins, as published in the journal BioEssays, who flips Dobzhansky’s quote completely upside down. In Wilkin’s words
The subject of evolution occupies a special, and paradoxical, place within biology as a whole. While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’, most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas. ‘Evolution’ would appear to be the indispensible unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one (2000, p. 1051, emphasis mine).
Many Darwinists are aware of the fact that Darwinism is largely ignored in science instruction. One example is provided by Dawkins:
After lunching with the teachers I was invited to join their afternoon deliberations. Almost to a man and woman, they were deeply worried about the A-level syllabus and the destructive effects of exam pressure on true education. One after another, they came up to me and confided that, much as they would like to, they didn’t dare to do justice to evolution in their classes. This was not because of intimidation by fundamentalist parents (which would have been the reason in parts of America). It was simply because of the A-level syllabus. Evolution gets only a tiny mention, and then only at the end of the A-level course. This is preposterous, for, as one of the teachers said to me, quoting the great Russian American biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky …, Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’ (2003, p. 58).
This statement is ideologically only, not factual. Biology makes perfect sense without ever mentioning Darwinism. The problem is, as recounted in The Harvard Crimson:
Although the postmodern era questions everything else—the possibility of knowledge, basic morality and reality itself—critical discussion of Darwin is taboo. While evolutionary biologists test Darwin’s hypothesis in every experiment they conduct, the basic premise of evolution remains a scientific Holy of Holies, despite our absurd skepticism in other areas. Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins writes: “It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who does not believe in evolution, that person is either ignorant, stupid, or insane.” Biologists continue to recite the worn credo, “the central, unifying principle of biology is the theory of evolution.” But where would physics be if Einstein had been forced to chant, “the central unifying principle of physics is Newtonian theory,” until he could not see beyond its limitations? (Halvorson, 2003, p. 4).
Acknowledgments: I wish to thank Bert Thompson Ph.D. for his very helpful feedback on an earlier version of this article.
Antolin, Michael F. and Joan M. Herbers. 2001. “Perspective: Evolution’s Struggle for Existence in America’s Public Schools.” Evolution, 55(12):2379-2388.
Dobzhansky, Theodosius. 1973. “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.” American Biology Teacher, 35:125-129.
Freeman, Scott and Jon C. Herron. 2001. Evolutionary Analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ.: Prentice-Hall.
Halvorson, Richard T. 2003. “Confessions of a Skeptic. The Harvard Crimson, April. 7, 2003,p. 4.
Hartman, Noel. 1997. “MC&D Biology Eliminates Evolution Requirement.”www.yaledailynews.com. Published: Thursday, March 27, 1997.
Copyright © 1995-2003 Yale Daily News Publishing Company.
Johanson, Conrad. 2003. Personal communication to the author dated September 2, 2003.
Lewis, Ricki. 1992. “Metal Atom Vapor Chemistry: A Field Awaits Its Breakthrough.” The Scientist, 6(3):22, Feb. 03.
McGlinchey, M.J. 2003.Biography. http://www.chemistry.mcmaster.ca/faculty/mcglinchey/bio.htm. 2003.
Prosser, C.L. 1959. “The ‘Origin’ after a Century: Prospects for the Future?” American Scientist, 47(4):536-550, Dec.
Skell, Philip. 2003. Personal communication to the author dated September 3, 2003.
National Academy of Science. 1998. Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Wilkins, Adam S. 2000. “Introduction (issue on Evolutionary Processes).” BioEssays, 22(12):1051-1052, December.