One of the best things about having written WEIT is that I hear from various people with whom I’d normally not have any contact. I’m not referring to creationists, but to thoughtful people who write with their concerns about evolution. One of them emailed me about her difficulties teaching evolution to a homeschooled child:
Dear Dr. Coyne,
I am writing in light of your recent book, “Why Evolution is True” which my daughter and I are preparing to read. I have homeschooled my very science oriented daughter, who is now xxxx, since she was very young because the schools could not deal with or understand her dual exceptionality of profound giftedness and dyslexia. The greatest challenges we have faced in homeschooling is that all of the truly parent friendly materials for teaching science for homeschoolers take a Creationist stance. I thought you should be made aware of a growing problem in homeschooling, if you are not already.
There is a serious problem in homeschooling right now in that most homeschooling families find themselves using the Apologia series for teaching science because it is so parent friendly. However, this series was written with one purpose in mind and that was to debunk evolution in favor of Intelligent Design. While our family is religious, we are not Creationists and I have serious problems with the Apologia series. I find it dangerous because so many homeschoolers are using it. The author and owner of the company, Jay Wile, is so convincing he is turning many homeschooling families away from the real science of evolutionary biology to the pseudo science of Creationism even if they started out as evolutionists. These parents are turning to Apologia in good faith because there is nothing else out there that is parent friendly. We even used it ourselves at one point, but supplemented it with evolution videos and materials, but I refuse to contribute money to the company. Sadly, I have seen people that I know are intelligent and well educated fall victim to Dr. Wile’s very convincing arguments. I almost did myself, but was saved by more extensive research and my daughter’s level head.
I have written to various publishers of good scientific textbooks, urging them to come up with a homeschooling package that would be as parent friendly as the Apologia series. No one to whom I have spoken seems to think there is a viable market. This saddens me because Apologia continues to grow in popularity just as homeschooling continues to grow in popularity.
We have found various solutions because my daughter has had the opportunity to audit college classes and to work with mentors in science. However, most homeschooling families do not have that option.
I intend to promote your book within our local homeschooling circle, once we have finished reading it. However, I was wondering if you had any other ideas about how my daughter and I can fight what we see as a major problem within the homeschooling community. This seems to me to be a cause that might interest you.
I have looked over the Apologia website, and I am absolutely appalled. First of all, the organization’s formal name is “Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc.”, with the motto “Live, Learn, and Defend the Faith.” Of course that sets off alarm bells. The alarms get louder when you look at what they offer.
First, check out the store, with its suggested science curriculum. Here are the “supplementary readings” for “science oriented students”. Note that they are all about either evolution or Christianity:
These OPTIONAL supplemental readings for science-oriented students do not replace the main courses listed. They merely give your student additional science material to learn if your student is interested. Here are some suggestions:
- Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No!, Dr. Duane T. Gish, Master Books paperback ISBN 0890511128
- Reasonable Faith: The Scientific Case for Christianity, Dr. Jay L. Wile, Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc., Paperback ISBN 0965629406
- What is Creation Science, Dr. Henry M. Morris and Dr. Gary E. Parker, Master Books, Paperback ISBN 0890510814
- Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, Michael Denton, Adler & Adler, Paperback ISBN 091756152X
- Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe, Touchstone Books, Hardcover ISBN 0684827549, Paperback ISBN 0684834936
Environmental Overkill: Whatever Happened to Common Sense? Dixy Lee Ray, Regnery Gateway, Hardcover ISBN 0895265125, Paperback ISBN 0060975
The table of contents of the “Evolution Module” tells you that the kids are not in for good instruction in evolutionary biology:
MODULE #9: Evolution: Part Scientific Theory, Part Unconfirmed Hypothesis …. 261
Darwin’s Theory ………………………….264
Microevolution and Macroevolution……………………………..267
Inconclusive Evidence: The Geological Column……………………………………270
The Details of the Fossil Record: Evidence Against Macroevolution……..273
The Cambrian Explosion………………………………….280
Structural Homology: Formerly Evidence for Macroevolution, Now Evidence against It..282
Molecular Biology: The Nail in Macroevolution’s Coffin……..285
Macroevolution Today …………………………………….289
Why Do So Many Scientists Believe in Macroevolution?……..293
This could easily have been taken straight out of Jon Well’s attacks on evolution. Finally, if you look at some sample pages of their book, you see them reverting to the insane pastime of baraminology, in which creationists desperately (and fruitlessly) try to figure out which animals and plants correpond to the created “kinds” of Genesis. At least they recognize that this “field” is going nowhere:
As you will learn when we study the hypothesis of evolution in depth, there is precious little evidence for such an idea and quite a bit of evidence against it. As a result, it does not make sense to us to base a classification system on such a tenuous hypothesis. Instead, it makes more sense to base our classification system on the observable similarities among organisms. This is the essence of what Carrolus Linnaeus developed in the 1700s, and it has served biology well since that time. Since we have touched on a classification system that has been inspired by the hypothesis of evolution, we should at least mention a classification system that has been proposed by those who believe that the earth and the life on it were specially created out of nothing by God. This classification system, usually called baraminology (bear’ uh min ol’ uh jee), attempts to determine the kinds of creatures that God specifically created on earth. Indeed, the word “baraminology” comes from two Hebrew words used in Genesis: bara, which means “create,” and min, which means “kind.” Thus, baraminology is the study of created kinds.
Those who work with baraminology think that God created specific kinds of creatures and that He created them with the ability to adapt to their changing environment. As time went on, then, these created kinds did change within strict limits that we will discuss later on in the course. This led to a greater diversity of life on the planet than what existed right after creation. As a result, baraminologists think that all organisms we see on the planet today came from one of the many kinds of creatures that God created during the creation period discussed in the first chapter of Genesis. Baraminologists, then, try to define groupings called “baramins.” Any organisms that exist within a baramin came from the same originally-created organism. For example, some baraminologists place domesticated dogs, wild dogs, and wolves into the same baramin because they believe that God created a basic kind of creature called a “dog,” and the various forms of dogs and wolves that we see today are simply the result of that basic kind of creature adapting to a changing environment. Although we think that there is a lot of evidence in favor of this new classification scheme, we still do not think that it should be used in this course. It is still relatively new and not fully developed. We doubt that it will be fully developed for many, many years to come. As a result, we think that the five-kingdom system still provides the best overall means by which to classify the organisms of God’s creation, and we will limit ourselves to that system. Nevertheless, we will mention the other systems (the three-domain system and baraminology) from time to time, so it is important that you understand the basics of each.
It is ineffably sad that children, eager to learn, are having this nonsense stuffed down their throats, and that there seem to be few viable alternatives if you want to homeschool your child. I’ve given my correspondent some hints about what materials might be useful, but if any of you know of other ways to do this, or have experience homeschooling your children in genuine evolutionary biology, let me know.