Shattering False Icons

"False facts," wrote Charles Darwin, "are highly injurious to the progress of science." There's an old American saying that makes the same point. It says, "It's not what people don't know that's so dangerous; it's what they know that just ain't so." Well, I've got some good news and some bad news for you. Generations of students have been taught facts about biology that just ain't so -- they're false facts. For decades, our kids have been soaking up untrustworthy, unreliable information, and their minds (not to mention science itself) have been injured in the process. That's the bad news. The good news is that there's a brilliant new book called Icons of Evolution that exposes these false facts for what they really are: myths of bad science. The sooner we can scrub these myths out of the biology curriculum, the better. And I'm convinced that Icons of Evolution may well provide a turning point for how we teach biology in this country. And that's very good news indeed. The author of this new book, Jonathan Wells, is a developmental biologist who was trained at Yale and Berkeley. While studying for his biology Ph.D. at Berkeley, Wells discovered that his textbooks contained a serious misrepresentation. Each textbook displayed a drawing comparing the embryos of various vertebrates, such as a fish, salamander, tortoise, chick, and human. The textbooks claimed that the drawing illustrated the fact that vertebrate embryos show descent from a common ancestor, because the embryos are increasingly similar at earlier stages of development. But, as the old saying puts it, that just ain't so. Wells knows what all well-trained developmental biologists know: At their earliest stages, the embryos of different types of vertebrates are actually very dissimilar. Actually, you don't even need to study developmental biology to discover this. Just go to your refrigerator, and take out a carton of eggs. Those chicken eggs are orders of magnitude larger a human egg, which is barely visible to the naked eye. The chicken egg also has a lot of yolk; human eggs have none. And so on. Contrary to what the textbooks claimed, early vertebrate embryos show wide differences -- differences hard to reconcile with common descent. Wells was deeply troubled by what he observed in the textbooks. Science is supposed to be a search for reliable facts; yet here were clear falsehoods being presented as genuine knowledge. What's worse, the misrepresentations went well beyond embryo drawings. In other areas, Wells found that the textbooks contained diagrams and drawings that were profoundly misleading. Take the famous Miller-Urey experiment, for instance, where (it's widely claimed) the building blocks of life were synthesized. The textbook diagram shows a flask containing elemental gases being sparked by an electrode. But, in fact, the gases in the Miller-Urey experiment probably never existed in combination on the early earth. Scientists know that, but textbooks still present this experiment as factual. Well, scientists have struggled for years to reconcile disagreeable facts with their secular presuppositions, but they've failed. Call us today for a list of good books that will give you ideas and material you can share with your neighbors. It's time to return science to what it was meant to be -- a search for truth, which is all God's truth. For further reference: Wells, Jonathan. Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2000.


Chuck Colson


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