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How Does The NSF Evolution Readiness Project Dumb Down Students?

Casey Luskin

“Rabbits, cacti, bumblebees, jellyfish, penguins, sunflowers–all living things on the earth are the descendants of simple, single-celled organisms,” opens the book Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution. This short 40-page book is one of the primary resources that the NSF’s new “Evolution Readiness Projectrecommends reading to “young children” so they will “believe in” evolution.

In my prior post, we saw that the project justifies teaching students that “evolution by natural selection is the fundamental model that explains the extraordinary complexity and interdependence of the living world” because allegedly there is “universal agreement among scientists” on that point. The evolution readiness project justifies excluding dissenting scientific views from students by pretending they don’t exist.
The argument you’re likely to hear next from evolutionists is that many of the evolutionary debates among are scientists too high-level for fourth-graders. That’s certainly true. But if that’s the case, does that justify teaching young students a dumbed-down version of evolution that is false? Should the topic of evolution perhaps not be introduced until higher grades where students can at least learn about it accurately?

I’m all for teaching students more about science, and more about evolution, and I don’t think we have to resort to that. In my experience, students are always smarter than you, me–and especially the Darwin lobby–think they are. Whenever you want to start teaching evolution, this much is true: If students of any age can learn about the scientific evidence for some aspect of neo-Darwinian evolution, then there is no reason why they couldn’t learn about the scientific evidence against it.

Looking at Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution, we see a version of evolution that’s dumbed-down even for fourth graders.

Oversimplifying Life on Earth
The opening pages of Life on Earth present a highly simplistic view of chemical evolution. They first parody the opening verse of the Bible by stating “In the beginning,” and then suggesting that life may have “formed in a warm, shallow sea or a mud puddle. It might have developed first in sea spray, deep in the ocean, or underground.”

The implication is that you can get life if you just add water. Surely if fourth-grader students can be taught the offensively simple view that life may have formed from a “mud puddle,” they can also be taught that cells are full of language-based code and machines that need a lot more than water to arise. Surely they can learn that information, which forms the basis of life, is unaccounted for by unguided chemical reactions.

The overly simplistic version of “the story of evolution” continues on the next page, which asserts that “The first primitive, single-celled organisms appear. They are much simpler than forms of life that exist today.”

While technically this statement is true, it gives no appreciation for the bare complex nature of even the simplest known life. The “simplest” known bacteria still require hundreds of genes–entailing thousands of bits of genetic information–as well as an intact cellular architecture packed with micromolecular machines. But Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution gives no hint that even the “simplest” cell is more complex than humanity’s most advanced technology.

A few pages later the book states that “As life forms develop, many plants and animals become larger and more complex.” Not only would some Darwinian evolutionists sharply disagree with this statement, but it prevents students from appreciating the true complexity of life.

 

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.

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