Critical Analysis of Evolution

Critical Analysis of Evolution

Critical Analysis of Evolution is the name of both a proposed high school science lesson plan promoting intelligent design and a tactic to promote design using Teach the Controversy[1] promoted by the American think tank, Discovery Institute, originators of the intelligent design movement, as part of their campaign promoting intelligent design. It is an integral part and slogan[2] of the Teach the Controversy campaign the goal of which is to undermine the teaching of evolution in public school science curricula[3][4][5][6] and supplement it with intelligent design.[7][8]

A prime feature of the lesson plan is that it treats evolution as a theory which should be questioned in science classes.[3] The Discovery Institute's presentation of evolution stands in contrast to that of the scientific community, where evolution is overwhelmingly accepted.[9][10][11] McGill University Professor of Education Brian Alters states in an article published by the NIH that "99.9 percent of scientists accept evolution" whereas intelligent design has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community.[11] The American Association for the Advancement of Science has stated that there is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution.[4] Others have stated that Critical Analysis of Evolution is nothing but creationism and intelligent design relabeled, and therefore has no place in a science class.[5][6]


Details of the campaign

The Discovery Institute's primary method for achieving their goal is to delegitimize evolution and minimize its profile in science education public school curricula via textbook disclaimers and the language of state science standards. Describing the campaign, the Discovery Institute says

As a general approach, Discovery Institute favors teaching students more about evolution, not less. We think students deserve to know not only about the strengths of modern evolutionary theory, but also about some of the theory's weaknesses and unresolved issues. In other words, students should be taught that evolutionary theory, like any scientific theory, continues to be open to analysis and critical scrutiny. According to opinion polls, this approach is favored by the overwhelming majority of the American public, and it has also been endorsed by the U.S. Congress in report language attached to the No Child Left Behind Act Conference Report.[12]

The institute hopes to take advantage of the opportunity presented by some states currently revising or developing science standards in preparation for state-wide science exams required under the No Child Left Behind Act which must be in place by the 2007–2008 school year. Viewed as an opportunity to introduce Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plans, the institute implies it will benefit schools and students with the exams required under the act.[13]

The Discovery Institute insists that Critical Analysis of Evolution is not another attempt to open the door of public high school science classrooms for intelligent design, and hence supernatural explanations. Discovery Institute spokesperson Casey Luskin in February 2006 coined the term "false fear syndrome" of those who said it was, and said:

This is simply another instance of Darwinists attempting to oppose critical analysis of evolution by pretending that it is equivalent to teaching intelligent design. This is a political tactic based upon misinformation, misrepresentation, emotions, and false fears."[14]

In July 2006 on the blog of Discovery Institute Fellow and leading intelligent design proponent William A. Dembski, Dembski's research assistant and co-moderator of the site, Joel Borofsky, contradicted the Discovery Institute's statements:

My hope is that ID will be taught properly in Kansas. Having been born and raised there I would love to claim to be from the first state to teach ID. There is a lot of movement among science high school teachers to never teach ID, even if it becomes a law because "we don't know how to teach philosophy". It would be nice to see them learn. I worked in a school and grew tired of hearing them speak of how it's wrong to point out the weaknesses in Darwin's theory because, "even if it is weak, it's still the best theory out there."[15]

To the claim that the Kansas science standards had nothing to do with intelligent design but were only about teaching evolution in a "balanced" way, Borofsky responded:

It really is ID in disguise. The entire purpose behind all of this is to shift it into least that is the hope/fear among some science teachers in the area. The problem is, if you are not going to be dogmatic in Darwinism that means you inevitably have to point out a fault or at least an alternative to Darwinism. So far, the only plausible theory is ID. If one is to challenge Darwin, then one must use ID. To challenge Darwin is to challenge natural selection/spontaneous first cause...which is what the Kansas board is attempting to do. When you do that, you have to invoke the idea of ID."[15]

In response to the reception to his comments,[16][17] Dembski's research assistant felt compelled to issue a clarification that he was only voicing his personal opinion, not that of others in the movement, and that he is Dembski's "assistant on theological work, not necessarily the ID movement."[18] However, he later admitted that he does in fact sometimes work on ID-related work.[19]

A cornerstone in the Critical Analysis of Evolution campaign has been the institute's[20] "Stand Up For Science" website[21] and poll, which says is "dedicated to promoting objectivity in the public school teaching of evolution." Its poll is aimed at swaying the Kansas State Board of Education in favor institute-promoted science curricula standards that present what it calls "scientific criticisms" of the evolution, which do not exist according to the scientific community, and calls the efforts of the scientific community to maintain established and accepted science curricula as "censorship of scientific evidence in public schools."

History behind the campaign

The campaign and strategy was put forth by the institute in anticipation of legal challenges arguing that the teaching of intelligent design would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Such a case was the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, where Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents".[22] The Dover ruling also considered the practice of "teaching the controversy" and characterized it as part of the same religious ploy[23][24] citing testimony that evolution is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community and is a theory which every major scientific association endorses.[25]

Reception of the campaign

State education boards

Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plans have only been accepted in a small number of states as part of new science standards proposed by the Discovery Institute.[26]

In 2002 as Ohio reviewed its science curriculum it was intensively lobbied by the Discovery Institute, including Johnson and Dembski, to include "intelligent design theory". In December the State Board of Education approved standards including "Benchmark H" and "Indicator 23", requiring "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.) Intelligent design proponents then adopted a new "Teach the Controversy" strategy, and a model lesson plan was prepared including links to Discovery Institute websites and a reference to the book Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, an advocate of intelligent design. On March 10, 2004, the Board approved a set of model lessons for science including (with some revisions) "Critical Analysis of Evolution – Grade 10" which included brief sample "supporting" and "challenging" answers. It was described as providing "an opportunity for students to critically analyze Darwin's theory of macroevolution [descent from a common ancestor]." The lesson plan and associated benchmark and indicator were removed in February 2006 after an 11-4 vote by Ohio's board of education, at least partly in response to the ruling in the Dover trial.[27][28][29]

Martha W. Wise, the board member who proposed the removal motion, said, "It is deeply unfair to the children of this state to mislead them about the nature of science," and another board member who voted for removal cited the "Dover risk" (meaning the risk of a lawsuit) if the critical analysis lesson plan, benchmark and indicator were allowed to remain in the standards. Between March and October, 2006, a minority of the Achievement Committee of the board (especially Mrs Owens Fink, Mrs Grady, and Rev Cochran) considered alternative ways to include similar materials, including a "controversial issues" template or framework that would single out evolution, stem cells, and global warming for special critique, and a more general version that attacked the definition of science among other things. In October 2006 the entire State Board of Education rejected consideration of the framework and any further attempts to force the consideration of "teaching controversial issues."

The Discovery Institute's John West called the removal vote an effort "to use the government to suppress ideas you dislike," and "an outrageous slap in the face to the citizens of Ohio." Eric Rothschild, the plaintiffs' lead attorney in the Dover trial, before the board's vote declared

"When you see 'critical analysis of evolution,' you really need to look at what's behind that. Who? Why?" Rothschild asked, "Why is there this need for critical analysis of evolution? Why is there no call for critical analysis of plate tectonics?"[30]

Standards promulgated by the Discovery Institute were adopted by Kansas in 2005. New Mexico adopted strongly pro-evolution science standards in 2003, but because these standards happen to mention 'critical analysis' and evolution in the same sentence, the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design Network have since claimed (falsely) that New Mexico is "one of five states requiring critical analysis of evolution."[31]

Scientific community

The consensus of the scientific community is that Critical Analysis of Evolution is unsound teaching based on the Discovery Institute's flawed anti-evolution creationist premise, and scientists have overwhelmingly rejected the institute's proposals.

Early drafts of the Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plan referred to the lesson as the "great evolution debate"; one of the early drafts of the lesson plan had one section titled "Conducting the Macroevolution Debate". In a subsequent draft, it was changed to "Conducting the Critical Analysis Activity". The wording for the two sections was almost identical, with just "debate" changed to "critical analysis activity" wherever it appeared, in the manner in which intelligent design proponents simply replaced "creation" with "intelligent design" in Of Pandas and People to repackage a creation science textbook into an intelligent design textbook. In light of this, Professor Patricia Princehouse has said that "critical analysis is intelligent design relabeled, just as intelligent design was creationism relabeled."[5] Nick Matzke has written what he believes shows that Critical Analysis of Evolution is a means of teaching all the intelligent design arguments without using the intelligent design label.[32]

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society, comprising 262 affiliated societies and academies of science and some 10 million individuals, has consistently opposed the teaching of intelligent design, with or without language that calls into question the validity of evolution, saying in a policy statement that "the lack of scientific warrant for so-called 'intelligent design theory' makes it improper to include as a part of science education."[33] In its 2006 "Statement on the Teaching of Evolution" it called out the Critical Analysis of Evolution argument specifically saying:

Some bills seek to discredit evolution by emphasizing so-called 'flaws' in the theory of evolution or 'disagreements' within the scientific community. Others insist that teachers have absolute freedom within their classrooms and cannot be disciplined for teaching non-scientific 'alternatives' to evolution. A number of bills require that students be taught to 'critically analyze' evolution or to understand 'the controversy.' But there is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution. The current controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution is not a scientific one.[4]

External links


  1. ^ Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools by Eugenie Carol Scott, Glenn Branch. Beacon Press, 2006. Page 30.
  2. ^ "...'critical analysis of evolution' may be the new creationist battle cry." Ronald L. Ecker (August, 2006; updated July, 2007). "Critical Analysis of Evolution". (Or, What Will They Think of Next?). Hodge & Braddock. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  3. ^ a b What Are Darwinists So Afraid Of?, Jonathan Witt, World Net Daily, July 27, 2006
  4. ^ a b c AAAS Statement on the Teaching of Evolution American Association for the Advancement of Science. February 16, 2006
  5. ^ a b c Ohio Expected to Rein In Class Linked to Intelligent Design Jodi Rudoren. New York Times, February 14, 2006
  6. ^ a b Is Critical Analysis of Evolution the Same as Teaching Intelligent Design? FAQ prepared by The Discovery Institute
  7. ^ Forrest, Barbara (May,2007). "Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals. A Position Paper from the Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Center for Inquiry, Inc.. Retrieved 2007-08-22. .
  8. ^ Wedge Document Discovery Institute, 1999.
  9. ^ "ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community" Ruling, page 64 Kitzmiller v. Dover.
  10. ^ "Not a single expert witness over the course of the six week trial identified one major scientific association, society or organization that endorsed ID as science." Ruling, page 70 Kitzmiller v. Dover.
  11. ^ a b "99.9 percent of scientists accept evolution" as described in Finding the Evolution in Medicine, Cynthia Delgado, NIH Record, National Institutes of Health, Vol. LVIII, No. 15, July 28, 2006
  12. ^ Key Resources for Parents and School Board Members Discovery Institute, September 21, 2005
  13. ^ Minnesota Becomes Third State to Require Critical Analysis of Evolution Discovery Institute, May 17, 2004
  14. ^ False Fear Epidemic over Critical Analysis of Evolution Spreads to Wisconsin Casey Luskin. Discovery Institute, February 2006.
  15. ^ a b Radio Commercials Air in Kansas Supporting’s Approach to Teaching Evolution Joel Borofsky., July 29, 2006
  16. ^ Revealing slip of the keyboard. PZ Myers. Pharyngula, July 31, 2006.
  17. ^ Which Creationist is Lying? Jeffrey Shallit. Recursivity, August 1, 2006.
  18. ^ Am I really that important? Joel Borofsky. UncommonDescent, August 3, 2006.
  19. ^ Monday Madness: What would an ID research assistant do? August 16, 2006.
  20. ^ Stand Up For Science Discovery Institute, July 7, 2006
  21. ^
  22. ^ Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Conclusion, pages 136-138
  23. ^ "has the effect of implicitly bolstering alternative religious theories of origin by suggesting that evolution is a problematic theory even in the field of science." . . . The effect of Defendants’ actions in adopting the curriculum change was to impose a religious view of biological origins into the biology course, in violation of the Establishment Clause. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Conclusion, page 134
  24. ^ "ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID."Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, whether ID is science, page 89
  25. ^ "Moreover, Plaintiffs’ expert in biology, Dr. Miller ... provided unrebutted testimony that evolution, including common descent and natural selection, is "overwhelmingly accepted" by the scientific community and that every major scientific association agrees. (1:94-100 (Miller)). As the court in Selman explained, "evolution is more than a theory of origin in the context of science. To the contrary, evolution is the dominant scientific theory of origin accepted by the majority of scientists." Selman, 390 F. Supp. 2d at 1309 (emphasis in original)."Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, whether ID is science, page 84
  26. ^ Critical Analysis of Evolution - Grade 10 Discovery Institute model lesson plan. (PDF file)
  27. ^ Lenny Flank. "Creationism/ID, A Short Legal History". Talk Reason: arguments against creationism, intelligent design, and religious apologetics. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  28. ^ Melanie Elsey (2004-03-10). "Ohio State Science Standards - OHIO". Ohio Roundtable. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  29. ^ "Critical Analysis of Evolution – Grade 10" (pdf). Ohio State Board of Education. 2004-03-10. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  30. ^ Catherine Candisky, "Intelligent-Design Push," Columbus Dispatch, February 13, 2006.
  31. ^ The Lie: "New Mexico's Science Standards embrace the Intelligent Design Movement's 'Teach the Controversy' Approach New Mexicans for Science and Reason
  32. ^ No one here but us Critical Analysis-ists... Nick Matzke. The Panda's Thumb, July 11, 2006
  33. ^ AAAS Board Resolution on Intelligent Design Theory

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