Update on the "Teach the Controversy" Portion of the Science Standards
by Patrick H. Young, Ph.D.

It seems that a few major newspapers (Cleveland Plain Dealer and Columbus Dispatch) in Ohio have chosen to weigh in on some of the "teach the controversy" portions of the science standards. To date, they both have chosen to be biased towards an "evolution as fact" dogma. While this is a new twist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Columbus Dispatch has been this way from the beginning.

I requested from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, an opportunity to rebut the untruths that appeared in the editorial they ran about "teach the controversy." In the past, they have been receptive to my editorial writing. However, to date there has been no response on this specific subject. While they did print letters to the editor rebutting the editorial, these 200 word snippets are miniscule compared to the 700 to 900-word opportunity allowed in an Op Ed piece.

The Columbus Dispatch has never allowed an Op-ed piece or written and article supporting "teach the controversy," so it should come as no surprise that they would continue to be biased. They did allow one letter to the editor to be printed, but again, this type of response is insignificant compared to a full-length article or editorial.

Since these major newspapers appear not to be interested in providing a balanced forum on this subject, I will attempt to discuss it on my website.

Recently, I was chosen to be one of the people to critique the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" portion of the new science standards. The lesson is primarily focused on a debate of the most controversial portion of evolutionary theory, e.g. macroevolution.

One of the primary resources used for this section is Jonathan Well’s book, "Icons of Evolution." Although several militant evolutionists have valiantly tried to discredit Well’s book, to date they have failed miserably.

The "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson contains no references to religion. The lesson is designed to debate the fundamental weak points that exist in the theory of evolution (primarily macroevolution). The lesson easily demonstrates that teaching macroevolution as fact is pseudoscience because not only is there no mechanism for it to occur, but there is also no evidence it ever happened.

As part of my agreement to critique this lesson, a response was given to the writing committee with some constructive criticism where I believe their lesson could be improved. Below are the responses I gave to the committee. Generally speaking, the lesson I read was a good first effort and the members of the writing committee should be commended.

 

 

 

1. MICROEVOLUTION / MACROEVOLUTION

These definitions of micro and macroevolution used in this draft originate from a very biased website (talkorigins) that has little interest in truth. The promotion of this website should not be done as part of the Ohio Science standards because its purpose has little to do with the furtherance of science.

I propose more valid definitions of micro and macroevolution and will quote as my reference, a textbook that has been used in entry-level biology classes at Ohio State University.

"Microevolution is a generation to generation change in a population’s allele or genotype frequencies 1." pg. 420.

The Ohio State Board of Education has mistakenly approved this definition as a general description of biological evolution even though most Biology textbooks do not recognize it as such.

Most textbooks also include a separate definition that identifies macroevolution as a legitimate process that is different from microevolution. "Macroevolution is the origin of taxomonic groups higher than the species level. In other words, macroevolutionary change is substantial enough that we view its products as new genera, new families, or even new phyla 1." pg. 454.

Speciation and / or microevolution should not be construed as a proven pathway to achieve macroevolution. The microevolutionary mechanisms of adaptation and variation via mutation, genetic drift and gene flow can apply as viable conduits to a speciation event; however, macroevolution proposes the actual creation of new organs and radically diverse body plans that are considerably different than simple observations at the species level. If macroevolution occurs through the successive accumulation of numerous microevolutionary events then there should be clear evidence of transitional sequences in the fossil record and very long time spans between the appearance of new phyla. There is no evidence of this type of observation as part of any discovery in the fossil record all the way down to and including the pre-Cambrian layers.

There is actually mounting evidence supporting the idea that there are limits to what a mutation can do to the diversity of life. This has coined the new phrase called "stabilizing selection." In other words, it can be shown that when three or more characters are affected by each mutation, a single optimal genetic sequence may become predominant. The result is the suppression of large scale mutational variations and thus limiting diversity and squelching opportunities for macroevolution to occur 2,3. Further, the macroevolutionary pathway requires the addition of new information to the gene code. So treating speciation and / or microevolution as a mechanistic roadmap to macroevolution is not (at least at this point) scientifically valid. Observations of mutation, genetic drift, gene flow etc. do not add any information that would result in higher levels of complexity or the creation of new organs. Hence, the controversy to discuss, is how scientific observations should be evaluated if there is no evidences or known mechanism for macroevolution.

 

 

 

References

  1. Campbell, N.A. (1996) Biology, Benjamin / Cummings Publishing Co., Menlo Park, Ca.
  2. Waxman and Peck, 2002, Science, 279, 1210.
  3. Wagner, G. 2002, Science, 279, 1158.

 

 

 

2. MILLER UREY EXPERIMENT

Since the Miller Urey experiment is already a part of the "controversy" discussion, an "anerobic early atmosphere" should really not be discussed separately. I would propose that the idea of an anerobic early atmosphere be discussed as part of the Miller Urey experiment and Homology be added to the controversy mix instead (which I will discuss in a separate document).

The primary foundation of the Miller Urey experiment is that the early Earth atmosphere was oxygen poor. If this idea turns out to be untrue (or at least unproven) the whole experiment is in question.

Evolutionists will quickly state that "evolution does not care about how life began." However, an inspection of several evolutionary biology textbooks generally used as teaching guides proves that the above statement is basically false 1,2,3,4,5,6. A more accurate declaration would be that evolution cares about the origin-of-life from non-life (abiogenesis), but as of yet, is incapable of providing any explanation via known naturalistic processes.

What evolutionists readily accept is that every reasonable naturalistic mechanism for life to commence from non-life must first begin with an oxygen-poor (reducing) atmosphere. So the fundamental reason why evolutionists desire the early earth’s atmosphere be reducing, is to provide a mechanism that could possibly result in a prebiotic environment that may perhaps achieve life.

Evolutionists need the atmosphere to be devoid of oxygen because it is the only known environment that amino acids, peptides, etc. can be formed with any level of stability. An oxygen-rich atmosphere (such as we have today) or even a slightly oxidizing one, would be catastrophic to any theory of life evolving from non-life since the amino acids would be broken down by the excess oxygen as quickly as they form. However, just because scientists require an oxygen-poor atmosphere for the process of abiogenesis, it is not proof in itself that the Earth’s early atmosphere was reducing. Furthermore, abiogenesis under any condition has never been observed; so the complete hypothesis of life originating from non-life via a reducing atmosphere begins with a very generous leap of faith.

If we first assume for the moment that abiogenesis could occur via a Precambrian reducing atmosphere, there should be overwhelming evidence of anoxic materials such as sulfides in the form of pyrite (FeS2 ) and galena (PbS) in the perceived 1.9 billion year old Archean and lower Proterozoic strata. However, the data does not completely support this hypothesis. In fact, there is a great deal of information confirming the presence of fully oxidized sulfates such as barite (BaSO4) in Precambrian strata. For example, Lambert, et al. reported the presence of oxygen-rich sulfates in Archaean rocks from western Australia, South Africa, and Southern India7.

Banded Iron formations (BIF) are also touted by evolutionists as definitive evidence that the early Earth had a reducing atmosphere. BIF’s are usually found as alternating thin layers of iron ore primarily existing in the ferrous oxidation state. To achieve this oxidation state, evolutionists believe the BIF’s had to be formed in an oxygen-poor reaction medium. However, there are known Archean sediments which contain significant amounts of more highly oxidized iron materials (Red Beds) such as hematite (Fe2O3) and magnetite (Fe3O4) laid out contemporaneously with BIF’s 8,9. Furthermore, not only will an ever so slightly oxidizing atmosphere prevent the creation of any pre-biotic soup, it has been proposed that the formation these BIF’s does not even require an oxygen-free atmosphere 10.

The controversy surrounding the early Earth’s atmosphere can be summed up in the following quotation appearing in the March 1982 edition of Geology,

Geologic evidence often presented in favor of an early anoxic atmosphere is both contentious and ambiguous…Recent biological and interplanetary studies seem to favor an early oxidized atmosphere rich in CO2 and possibly containing free molecular oxygen. The existence of early red beds, sea and groundwater sulphate, oxidized terrestrial and sea-floor weathering crusts, and the distribution of ferric iron in sedimentary rocks are geological observations and inferences compatible with the biological and planetary predictions. It is suggested that from the time of the earliest dated rocks at 3.7 b.y. ago, Earth had an oxygenic atmosphere 11.

The Miller Urey experiment in itself has problems and should not be used as an example for life to originate from non-life.

 

References

 

  1. McFadden, C.H., Keeton, W.T., 1995, Biology: An Exploration of Life, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, p. 839.
  2. Norstog, K., Meyerriecks, A.J., 1983, Biology, Charles Merrill Publishing, London, pp. 33-46.
  3. Sherman, I.W., Sherman, V.G., 1989, Biology: A Human Approach, Oxford University Press, London, pp. 5-20.
  4. Solomon, E.P., Bera, L.R., Martin, D.W., Villee, C., 1985, Biology, Sanders College Publishing, New York, pp. 446-468.
  5. Patterson, C., 1978, Evolution 1st Edition, Butler and Tanner, London, pp. 153-171.
  6. Patterson, C., 1999, Evolution 2nd Edition, Comstock Publishing, Ithica, NY, pp. 124-139.
  7. Lambert, I.B., Donnelly, T.H., Dunlop, J.S.R., Groves, D.I., 1978, Stable isotope compositions of early Archaean sulphate deposits of probable evaporitic and volcanogenic origins, Nature, 276: 808.
  8. Moorbath, S., O’Nions, R.K., Pankurst, R.J., 1973, Early Archaean age for the Isua iron formation, West Greenland, Nature 245:138.
  9. Rutten, M.G., 1971, The origin of life by natural causes, Elsevier Publishing, Amsterdam, p. 276.
  10. Hough, J.L., 1958, Fresh-water environment of deposition of Precambrian banded iron formations, Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 28:414.
  11. Clemmey, H., Badham, N., 1982, Oxygen in the Precambrian atmosphere: An evaluation of the geological evidence, Geology 10: 141-146.

 

 

 

3. NATURAL SELECTION / COMMON ANCESTRY / HOMOLOGY

Below is Grade 10 Science Standard number 24.

24. " Analyze how natural selection and other evolutionary mechanisms (e.g. genetic drift, immigration, emigration, mutation) and their consequences provide a scientific explanation for the diversity and unity of past life forms, as depicted in the fossil record, and present life forms."

Due to the "evolution as fact" nature of this standard and several others, it is imperative that "teach the controversy" portions of the standard also reflect the actual controversy in science.

The evolutionary theory of natural selection is based on the observable fact that not all conceptions result in births -- only a certain percentage of animals that are born alive actually survive to adulthood and even less are successfully able to reproduce. The assumption of natural selection then proposes that species which survive to reproduce are better adapted to the environment and thus biologically superior.

The proposed evolutionary mechanism for natural selection is mutations. The occurrence of these slight variations may further result in new traits and thus add diversity to the gene pool. However, natural selection should be thought of as a constraint and not be interpreted as some type of creative mechanism. Natural selection can only select from existing traits because by definition, nature cannot select out anything that does not already exist.

This type of adaptation and variation within species is a well-documented observation where there is no argument between those who believe evolution is fact and those who do not. The argument begins when evolutionists proclaim there is no limit to the diversity achieved via mutations, and the mechanism of mutations can explain the origin of new complex organs, simplicity to complexity, and higher order animals from lower ones (e.g macroevolution).

The writers of this science standard are clearly attempting to introduce tenth grade students to one of the most controversial of all evolutionary theories. Without actually uttering it, the writers are striving through the phrase, "unity of all past life forms", to teach these students that common ancestry (unity) is provable via natural selection, genetic drift, immigration, emigration, or mutation.

While natural selection is a nice theory, presenting it as a fact to demonstrate "unity of all past life forms" is nothing more than pseudoscience. The evolutionist Niles Eldridge said,

Natural selection per se does not work to create new species. The pattern of change in so many examples in the fossil record is far more a reflection of the origin and differential survival (selection extinction) of species than the inexorable accumulation of minute changes within species through the agency of natural selection1 .

The evolutionist, Stephen Jay Gould also said, "…although I wear the Darwinian label with some pride, I am not among the most ardent defenders of natural selection2."

One of the most beloved perceived evolutionary evidences for common ancestry is the theory of homology. Homology is defined as similarity in characteristics resulting from common ancestry 3. The classic example evolutionists will use is a picture comparing the forelimbs of various mammals such as a human, cat, horse, and bat. While the similarities of these mammal’s forelimbs are striking, attributing their existence to a common ancestor via natural selection requires more imagination than science.

The above science standard leads one to believe that the fossil record can provide data demonstrating descent with modification and thus lay to rest any controversy about common ancestry. However, even if the fossil record were complete (which it is not), it would not establish that homology (similarity) is due to common ancestry 4.

Moreover, if homologous limbs are actually the result of a common ancestor, then it would seem logical that this homology would be traceable all the way back through the embryo and finally to the gene. Since evolutionists have concluded that these "unifying" morphological similarities are evidence for common descent (via the mechanism of mutations), an overwhelming amount of published data should be present in the literature confirming that these same similarities were also unified with a common developmental pathway of common cells in the embryo and common genes. However, scientific evidence demonstrates that this is not the case.

It has been confirmed that morphological structures defined as definitely homologous, such as the alimentary canal present in all vertebrates, can be formed from the roof of the embryonic gut cavity in sharks, the floor of the embryonic gut cavity in lampreys, and from both the roof and floor of the embryonic gut cavity in frogs 5. The evolutionist Gavin De Beer said, "correspondence between homologous structures CANNOT be pressed back to similarity of position of the cells of the embryo or the parts of the egg out of which these structures are ultimately differentiated (my emphasis) 6."

Homology in genetics does not provide any guidance either 7. De Beer again explains, "It is now clear that the pride with which it was assumed that the inheritance of homologous structures from a common ancestor explained homology was misplaced; for such inheritance cannot be ascribed to identity of genes. The attempt to find ‘homologous’ genes, except in closely related species, has been given up as hopeless 8."

It would seem that an obvious benchmark for the validity of natural selection or homology (similarity) to confirm common ancestry (unity) would be commonality in the embryo and gene. Since this commonality does not exist, the statement about "unity of past life forms" in the above science standard is not scientifically defensible via natural selection or any other known evolutionary mechanism. Natural selection as a theory only holds true for the observable process of adaptation and variation within species. It falls far short of the mark when attempting to justify the mythical process of macroevolution.

In Conclusion, common ancestry has been justified in the past via homology, but the data known for years about embryology and genetics does not support common ancestry through the evolutionary path of similarity. Without any evolutionary pathway via the embryo or genetics, there is no mechanism to conclude common ancestry (unity) via natural selection. However, the fact remains that there are tremendous morphological similarities in numerous species (for example, several marsupials and placentals) possessing no kinship whatsoever. If common ancestry is inept at explaining this, then the observations must point toward some as yet unknown process. Since the process is unknown, teaching it as fact is nothing more than pseudoscience.

 

References

  1. Eldridge, Niles. 1980. Natural History 89(7).
  2. Gould, S.J. 1977. Ever Since Darwin. W.W. Norton. New York. p. 39.
  3. Campbell, N.A. Biology. Benjamin/Cummings Publishing, Menlo Park, CA. p. 411.
  4. Wells, J. 2000. Icons of Evolution. Regnery Publishing, Washington, DC. p. 68.
  5. De Beer. G. 1971. Homology, An unsolved problem. Oxford University Press, London, p. 13.
  6. Ibid. p. 13.
  7. De Beer, G. 1958. Embryology and Homology. Oxford University Press, London. p. 147.
  8. Ref. 3. p. 16.

Patrick H. Young is a resident of Central Ohio. He has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and been employed in industry as a research chemist and materials scientist for over 17 years. He has a website at creationists.org/patrickyoung.html and his email address is patrickyoung@creationists.org.


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