Is Sylvia Mader’s Biology Textbook “Biased” Towards Intelligent Design? Depends on Your Definition of “Bias.”

Keith Pennock

A recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes that a Virginia Commonwealth University biology professor Jim Sparks complained that a biology textbook by Sylvia Mader, “Essentials of Biology (McGraw Hill, 2007) “had leanings toward creationism and short-changed evolution.” Another article described Sparks’ view as claiming the Mader textbook was “biased toward creationism and intelligent design.” But how accurate was Dr. Sparks’ description of the textbook? Consider what the textbook actually says about intelligent design:

No wonder most scientists in our country are dismayed when state legislatures or school boards rule that teachers must put forward a variety or “theories” on the origin of life, including one that runs contrary to the mass of data that supports the theory of evolution. An organization in California called the Institute for Creation Research advocates that students be taught an “intelligent-design theory,” which says that DNA could never have arisen without the involvement of an “intelligent agent,” and that gaps in the fossil record mean that species arose fully developed with no antecedents.
Since no purely religious ideas can be taught in the schools, the advocates for an intelligent-design theory are careful not to mention the Bible or any strictly religious ideas. Still, teachers who have a solid scientific background are not comfortable teaching intelligent-design theory because it does not meet the test of a scientific theory. Science is based on hypotheses that have been tested by observation and/or experimentation. A scientific theory has stood the test of time–that is, no hypotheses have been supported by observation and/or experimentation that run contrary to the theory. On the contrary, the Theory of Evolution is supported by data collected in such wide-ranging fields as development, anatomy, geology, and biochemistry.
Sylvia Mader’s Essentials of Biology (McGraw Hill, 2007)

So where is the bias towards ID? Mader’s textbook claims ID is just religion, and that teachers with a “solid scientific background” don’t teach ID because it isn’t science. It also claims the only theory which should be taught is evolution. Unless we are living in Orwell’s 1984 where love is hate, it sounds like Jim Sparks was inventing a conspiracy to teach ID when there wasn’t one.

Keith Pennock