This morning I received through the post a "review copy" of a "textbook" titled Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism, from Hill House Publishers. The publicity sheet accompanying it states the book "promotes enquiry-based based learning, encouraging students to participate in the process of discovery, deliberation and argument that scientists use to form their theories... The textbook is ideally suited for use in the classroom and for teachers who wish to increase their understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of modern evolutionary theory."So, it seems that the American creationists at the notorious Discovery Institute, in association with their British disciples at "Truth in Science" (you really need the inverted commas when you write their name), have adopted what we might call the "Adnan Oktar method" of sending your material to as many educational establishments as possible in the hope that a few of them might be gullible enough to place it in the libraries. Of course, it's to be hoped that most school librarians are as vigilant as the reader who emailed us, but as he says, it's still possible that some copies might slip through and this pseudoscience will end up in school libraries. So, let's make sure it's widely known that "Truth in Science" are using these tactics, so that schools know how to spot this kind of nonsense when it crashes through their letterbox – the British Centre for Science Education are aware of the matter, and are asking people to let them know if their local schools have been receiving the book.
The publicity sheet is produced by an organisation called "Truth in Science", based in Cambridge, UK. Intrigued, and suspicious, I Googled them along with the title of the book, to be directed to a website accompanying the book hosted as part of a "program" called The Centre for Science and Culture, hosted by the Discovery Institute. According to the website, the CSC, amongst other things, "supports research by scientists and other scholars challenging various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory" and "supports research by scientists and other scholars developing the scientific theory known as intelligent design". The Discovery Institute describes itself as a "nonpartisan public policy think tank", but in fact promotes a heavily right-wing libertarian agenda with Christian fundamentalist leanings.
Immediately all became clear. The "textbook" is in essence a vehicle for smuggling in the idea of intelligent design by the back door. The claim that it ‘increase[s] ... understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of modern evolutionary theory’ is, to put it politely, verging on the disingenuous.
As both a school librarian entrusted with helping teachers shape the minds of young citizens and promote critical enquiry, and as a citizen concerned with the quality of public education in this county, I am worried that this book, which will have undoubtedly been sent to other schools, might be taken at face value and find its way into libraries and classrooms.
I’d therefore be grateful if you could help spread the truth about this book, both to illustrate one of the underhand ways in which proponents of intelligence design – who include, it appears from the publicity sheet, some scientists holding senior posts in respectable academic institutions – seek to propagate their beliefs, and to assist librarians, teachers and others interested in promoting a proper understanding of science and society.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.
Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk
A few days ago we received an email from a concerned reader, who just so happens to be the librarian at a school in Wales. Here's what he had to say: