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Education Reporter

Warning: 'Controversial Theory' Presented Here
Alabama adopts textbook insert
Stephanie Bell
Stephanie Bell
MONTGOMERY, AL - The Alabama Board of Education voted Nov. 8 to include in all biology textbooks a new insert cautioning students that evolution is "a controversial theory." The wording for this disclaimer (see Alabama Biology Textbook Insert) was taken almost directly from the preface of the Alabama Course of Study - Science. Board member Stephanie Bell introduced the motion to adopt the resolution.

"This is a very positive development," says Eunie Smith, president of Alabama Eagle Forum, one of several pro-family groups that strongly supported the disclaimer. "We were pleased and gratified that the insert was adopted and that there was so little opposition."

Textbooks submitted for consideration in Alabama are required to conform to the state-approved course of study. "Regrettably," writes educator and textbook reviewer Norris Anderson, "biology textbooks submitted this year fail to comply with this reasonable directive for the teaching of origins."

Norris Anderson
Norris Anderson
In his 17-page analysis, Education or Indoctrination 2001, An Analysis of Biology Textbooks Submitted for Adoption to the State of Alabama,* Anderson notes that "biology textbooks, knowingly or unknowingly, promote the philosophy of naturalism under the guise of 'science.' The evolutionary interpretations presented in the textbooks rest on the underlying unverifiable, philosophical, religious view of nature that the origin of all life forms, including man, is due to purposeless, random, and materialistic processes. This belief, that matter has the ability to organize itself into higher levels, is presented as factual scientific knowledge."

Textbook Indoctrination 
Examples of controversial statements uncovered by Anderson in the 14 textbooks eligible for adoption in Alabama include:

  • "Life is a magnificent continuation of the physical and chemical evolution of the universe, of galaxies and stars, and of the planet Earth." Biology Concepts and Applications, 4th Ed., 2000, p. 291

  • "Many people believe that a supernatural force or deity created life. That explanation is not within the scope of science." BCS Biology A Molecular Approach, 8th Ed., Everyday Learning Corporation, 2001, p. 446

  • "Your choice of the 'right' answer to the question of the morality of abortion will be just that - your choice." Biology Concepts and Applications, p. 666

  • "Witnesses in a court of law are asked to 'swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.' What are some of the problems inherent in the question? Can you think of a better alternative?" Ibid., p. 18

  • "Like all other forms of life, humans are products of evolution by natural selection." Biology Living Systems, Glencoe, 1998, p. 352

  • "Although this chapter looks at human evolution in detail, there is no basic difference between our evolution and the evolution of other species." BCS Biology A Molecular Approach, p. 519

  • "To understand the story of human evolution, we must understand both our ancestry and our relationship to our closest living kin." Modern Biology, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2002, p. 319

Anderson states that biology textbooks "are written in order to convince students that Darwin was right. They present Darwinian evolution as the most important central, unifying, and productive idea in biological science." Yet the most common examples used to "prove" evolution have been disproven, such as "Darwin's Finches." (See "Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher. . . ..")

The Alabama Department of Educa-tion's science expert, Robin Long, distributed a list noting erroneous inclusions in new biology textbooks to members of the state textbook committee. His list showed that 11 of the 14 adoptable textbooks contain the notorious "Darwin's Finches" example. Twelve books present the discredited "vertebrate embryos" as evidence of common ancestry, and all but one (Fearon's Biology, Globe Fearon, 1998) present at least two disproven "icons" of evolution.

Poll/Scientists Support Insert 
The results of a nationwide Zogby poll conducted this summer provided both overwhelming public support and impressive scientific validation for the Alabama textbook insert. The poll found that 71% of American adults agree with the statement: "Biology teachers should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it."

In addition, 100 scientists from across the United States and several other countries, representing the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, anthropology, and others, signed the statement: "I am skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." The signers included professors and researchers from Princeton, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Tulane, and the National Laboratories at Livermore, California and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Among Alabama's scientific community, 83 members supported the adoption of a "meaningful textbook insert," in light of current textbook deficiencies and presentations of discredited information.

Important Questions 
Although Alabama Eagle Forum, the Alabama Christian Coalition, and many of the state's scientists, parents and citizens are pleased with the textbook insert, they believe a better solution is scientifically-accurate textbooks.

"There are two important questions we need to be asking in this debate," asserts Eunie Smith. "First, why are there no transitional forms between phyla in the fossil record? Secondly, how did all living things come to possess such a complete and complex set of 'instructions' for building a living body? These questions need to be widely presented and thoroughly explored."

In 1996, Alabama became the first and only state to place a disclaimer sticker in public school textbooks warning students of the controversial nature of the evolution theory. However, the issue has been debated in other states as well, including Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

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