Many years ago it was stated categorically that “nothing in science makes sense except in the light of evolution.” This was Theodore Dobzhansky in 1973.[1] This statement, the title of the article itself, represents several important concepts, two of which we address here. First it is not merely about science and evolution as stated on the surface. Rather it is about naturalism, the view that the physical world is all there is and all that matters when it comes to defining who we are and why we are here.

This is also a statement of orthodoxy. In it is the demand that scientific study of the natural world need proceed from one framework, and only from one framework. There is no room for alternative approaches as theistic representations are defined as inapplicable to scientific inquiry.

Since this was written in 1973 there have been many changes in both evolutionary theory and discussions of the mechanism of special creation. We should here note that 25 years before Dobzhansky penned this article Wilbur Smith noted in his apologetic work that we might do well to pass on the 6Ky age of the earth. Since the article there have come many who take similar positions, noting the need for a creator and at the same time dispensing with inadequate scientific theory.  So in the light of his times he makes this statement:

Antievolutionists fail to understand how natural selection operates. They fancy that all existing species were generated by supernatural fiat a few thousand years ago, pretty much as we find them today. But what is the sense of having as many as 2 or 3 million species living on earth? If natural selection is the main factor that brings evolution about, any number of species is understandable: natural selection does not work according to a foreordained plan, and species are produced not because they are needed for some purpose but simply because there is an environmental opportunity and genetic wherewithal to make them possible. Was the Creator in a jocular mood when he made Psilopa petrolei for California oil fields and species of Drosophila to live exclusively on some body-parts of certain land crabs on only certain islands in the Caribbean? The organic diversity becomes, however, reasonable and understandable if the Creator has created the living world not by caprice but by evolution propelled by natural selection. It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.

The problem with this is one of the fundamental issues with the Darwinian models. They cannot provide a suitable explanation as to how “natural selection” might actually accomplish anything. The core issue is a chicken-egg matter: Does selection and survival enhance genetics or do genetics enhance selection and survival? Without going into great detail here, we can leave with the principles that behavior does not create genes and there are not and have not been enough mutations happening to advance any living being to another level. Mutations are harmful; only accumulated, directional feature-related changes can accomplish this.

The attempt to answer these and other questions has taken Darwinism through its three stages, as noted in the previous post, Darwinsim, neo-Darwinsin, and for lack of a better term, directed evolution. The model structure is fluid because of its incapacity to deal with these questions so new models are regularly contrived in an attempt to circumvent these issues.

At this point we have noted one of the inadequacies of Darwinian evolution. There are many more model errors to discuss, but going further is not our goal. We are here to look at Common Core and see what it is about, at least with respect to science standards. The document, HSscienceMCAugust-2013.pdf, may be found at http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Academic-Content-Standards/Science.

The Biology section sets about to accomplish its goals in this way:

This course investigates the composition, diversity, complexity and interconnectedness of life on Earth. Fundamental concepts of heredity and evolution provide a framework through inquiry-based instruction to explore the living world, the physical environment and the interactions within and between them.

The approach to doing science is to be accomplished by this method:

Science Inquiry and Application

During the years of grades 9 through 12, all students must use the following scientific processes with appropriate laboratory safety techniques to construct their knowledge and understanding in all science content areas:
• Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations;
• Design and conduct scientific investigations;
• Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications;
• Formulate and revise explanations and models using logic and evidence (critical thinking);
• Recognize and analyze explanations and models; and
• Communicate and support a scientific argument.

The definition of evolution employed is:

Modern ideas about evolution provide a natural explanation for the diversity of life on Earth as represented in the fossil record, in the similarities of existing species and in modern molecular evidence. From a long-term perspective, evolution is the descent with modification of different lineages from common ancestors.

This statement expresses some of the desired outcomes

Expectations for Learning: Cognitive Demands
This section provides definitions for Ohio’s science cognitive demands, which are intrinsically related to current understandings and research about how people learn. They provide a structure for teachers and assessment developers to reflect on plans for teaching science, to monitor observable evidence of student learning and to develop summative assessment of student learning of science.

On the positive side one could say that a consistent curriculum provides a clear and consistent learning path to be shared among the various institutions. That is a good goal and few will argue with such a proposition. Others have raised “dumbing down” criticisms of Common Core, and these have value. Also of note was the political propaganda content identified in some of the language instruction. These are real and serious issues. The issue that I raise here is the demand for a certain orthodoxy. When one reads the Biology section it quickly becomes apparent that this is a course in evolutionary theory and not a course in biology. It appears not just that biology makes no sense apart from evolution but also that biology and evolutionary theory have become interchangeable entities.

The theoretical scientific method presented here goes past the traditional scientific method. In the past the method was one of empirical experimentation. This new method includes an understanding of models. Models however come with a certain level of abstraction which might be difficult to communicate at the secondary level.

Model theories are often accompanied by a distinct lack of empirical support. Evolution, for example, is first an explanatory model of history. History is not repeatable and testable. The processes may be replicated, but even that assumes that the process being employed is actually the same as happened in the past, and that it operates under all of the same constraints as it did in times past. The level of assumption employed to teach evolutionary models as though they might be presented as the only inescapable conclusion of “science” is at best ignorant and at worst deceptive.

Our students deserve a more intelligent approach to science.


[1] American Biology Teacher vol. 35 (March 1973) reprinted in Evolution versus Creationism, J. Peter Zetterberg ed., ORYX Press, Phoenix AZ 1983. Available online at http://www.2think.org/dobzhansky.shtml

12 comments
  1. You said: “Without going into great detail here, we can leave with the principles that behavior does not create genes and there are not and have not been enough mutations happening to advance any living being to another level. Mutations are harmful; only accumulated, directional feature-related changes can accomplish this.”

    I’m sorry, but you seem to be suffering from a comic book understanding of “mutation”. The vast majority of mutations are neutral. You yourself are a genetic mutant, carrying DNA mutated to be different from either of your parents. While most mutations are neutral, some are harmful and some are beneficial. We’ve WATCHED this happen, fully documented. In addition, your DNA contains a wonderful record of gene duplication, divergence, mutation and even some chromosome events that separated your branch of the primate tree from that of chimpanzees.

    This isn’t speculation – it is fact written in the same reliable language of DNA that we use to determine paternity, to determine identity and to determine guilt or innocence.

    And it is the job of our educators to teach these facts to our children, so they don’t repeat the mistake you’ve made here today.

    1. Rick,

      Thank you for the comments. For the sake of space I
      will leave a further pursuit of genetics for another time and simply
      suggest that you missed my point entirely.

      I am not
      questioning DNA. I am also not questioning scientific inquiry. I am
      not suggesting instruction in ID/IC. I am suggesting that this level of
      orthodoxy reduced inqiury. I am also questioning the establishment of a
      secular naturalistic orthodoxy that assumes the correctness of a model
      (neo-Darwinism) and does not encourage inquiry to challenge that
      orthodoxy. There is plenty of evidential challenge going on these days,
      contrary to all the Darwinian variant models. Teaching orthodoxy is
      not teaching inquiry.

      1. On the question of mind, Fodor/Piattelli-Palmarini & Thomas Nagel
        have raised questions, not about evolution specifically, but whether the
        Darwinian model is sufficient. It was not long ago that Polkinghorn
        raised questions regarding the calendar issue — not enough time for
        Darwin’s model to work.

      2. Your post had enough falsehoods and your problem seems to be your lack of comprehension of how evolution actually works.

        You say “They cannot provide a suitable explanation as to how ‘natural selection’ might actually accomplish anything.” That’s false – not only can we explain it, but we can demonstrate it (e.g. Lenski’s bacteria).

        You say: “Does selection and survival enhance genetics or do genetics enhance selection and survival?” That question is meaningless to someone who understands how the process actually works.

        You say: “there are not and have not been enough mutations happening to advance any living being to another level” That’s nonsense – you’re drawing conclusions that are directly contradictory to the overwhelming evidence – evidence that supports hundreds (thousands?) of biologists, paleontologists, and other researchers.

        Your ideology is directing your reasoning right through the door marked Dunning-Kruger. Would you like me to recommend some books so that you can learn about evolution for the next time you want to opine on it?

      3. Rick,

        Clearly you are coming with the predisposition that I am some young earth creationist who opposes evolutionary science (“ideologically opposed”). Your assumptions and errors are numerous. My primary concern is that “naturalism” is not science and it cannot be a conclusion of any legitimate scientific method. It is an assumption, a presupposition. If you believe it otherwise I look forward to a model rather than additional shallowness.

        Ad hominem remarks reflect more on the one making such comments.

        Don’t confuse the function of natural selection with a full and function definition of it. What drives it? That’s the question of many, not just me.

        The question is not meaningless if you examine the shift in evolutionary theory structures. Darwin had a system driven by behavior. Neo-Darwinists combined genes and behavior. James Shapiro proposes a system driven by the content of DNA itself. So it is not me who has created the dilemma. The question remains the divider between the various evolutionary schools. Yes, there are real Darwinists, real neo-Darwinists, and real determinists who remain divided.

        I trust that you’ve read evolutionary material critically and are willing to discern the differences and disagreements (Gould v Dawkins v Mayr v Darwin v Fodor v Shapiro). When you are able to question your own foundation then you are on the road to really thinking.

      4. “My primary concern is that “naturalism” is not science and it cannot be a conclusion of any legitimate scientific method. ”

        I’m sure you are concerned about that. Anyone who believes in supernatural forces SHOULD be concerned about the fact that every mystery of nature ever solved turned out to NOT be supernatural forces. Natural philosophers, most deeply religious, were dragged kicking and screaming to a naturalistic approach to science because it WORKS.

        The stunningly unbroken record of utter failure of supernatural causation, the stunning lack of success of “intelligent agents” to describe natural phenomena should be cause for concern for anyone who is anti-naturalism.

        The difference between Darwin, Gould, Dawkins, and Mayr don’t extend to their acceptance that evolution is a natural, unguided process. Fodor is unconvincing as his evolutionary conjectures lack support of evidence. I don’t know Shapiro.

        Evolutionary Theory has “evolved”, benefiting from ideas introduced by a wide variety of researchers, just like Atomic Theory. But none have raised even a remote challenge to the the simple concept that “natural phenomena have natural causes.”

        Declaring evolution a natural process is no more dogmatic than declaring that all matter is made of atoms. If you have some REALLY good evidence to challenge either of those declarations, bring it on. But it must be much stronger than the conjectures of a philosopher.

        Oh, and if you don’t want to be mistaken for a creationist, don’t write like one.

      5. “naturalistic approach to science … WORKS”

        You’ve confused the assumption with the function — metaphysical naturalism with basic physicalism. That’s just a simply logical fallacy.

        “As for your parade of names – the differences between Darwin, Gould, Dawkins, and Mayr don’t extend to their acceptance that evolution is a natural, unguided process.”

        It absolutely does. Darwin was unguided. All those who include genetics later have some sort of teleological problem because the content of genes sets a course. The teleological problem gets worse these days (Shapiro — I trust you’ve read him, and Wolfram) when genetic content and structure actually drives the process. Every step away from Darwin is a step toward a system with a different engine. Each of them maintains a different engine (except perhaps for Dawkins who makes a stronger appeal to Darwin than the others). They all accept evolution in the vague sense but when to comes to describing *how* it works the differences are significant. An appeal to “unguided” processes expresses some lack of scholarship in the area.

        ” Fodor is unconvincing as his evolutionary conjectures lack support of evidence. I’ve not read Shapiro, but he seems to attack a strawman definition of natural selection in the quotes I’ve seen.”

        Hardly a straw man. And how can you say that if you’ve never read him. An appeal to your own ignorance is again unproductive. It speaks of other concerns.

        What you’ve provided is evidence that orthodoxy is a problem. Clinging to Darwin despite the general rejection of Darwin’s engine of evolution (because oh, so few still suggest adaptationism as the engine) displays an unchanging mind.

        “REALLY good evidence”
        If the definition of a species relationship is that the features of one are inherited, please find a species now or in history past which has written books or made philosophical conjecture. If that trait is evolved, where is its history? To maintain the concept of mind as a mere physical entity does not explain its capacities and ignores the history required in evolutionary theory. This is not merely a lack of evidence on the evolutionist’s part. It seems to represent a faulty theory regarding what constitutes species and inheritance.
        Other models, whether theistic or not, which are non-materialistic and have the capacity of explaining the concept of mind would make better models than Darwin and his children.
        Clinging to Darwin and his progeny is like having a collection of pens, all of which are dry. Because having a dry pen is better than not having one.

      6. “You’ve confused the assumption with the function — metaphysical naturalism with basic physicalism.”

        No I haven’t. Since every mystery ever solved turned out to be not supernatural magic, then we (1) have to demonstrate an extraordinarily well-supported example of supernatural magic in action or (2) we have to work very hard to explain everything through natural forces. Because, as I said, natural forces are responsible for 100% of the natural phenomena that we understand.

        You can keep hoping that one of the existing gaps in our knowledge will accommodate your favorite supernatural agent. Finding a gap to shove God into has been a fool’s errand for centuries, but maybe you’ll be the lucky one.

        Re unguided processes – show me where Dawkins, Darwin, Gould or Mayr state that evolution has a goal, or is subject to a guiding hand other than survival and reproductive success.

        Shapiro portrays a strawman of evolutionary theory as soon as he states that DNA is read-only. I’ve never read an evolutionary biologist who claimed that genes don’t selectively express based on environment and developmental signals, or that symbiosis is somehow contrary to evolutionary theory, or that evolutionary theory prohibits horizontal gene transfer. In the “descent with modification” model, who has stated that random single-gene mutations are the only source of “modification”? Yet Shapiro, in his own words, indicates epigenetics, symbiogenesis, gene transfer, gene duplication and other such complexities are all problems for evolutionary theory.

        They’re only problems if you construct a shallow, rigid version of evolutionary theory – hence the strawman.

        “To maintain the concept of mind as a mere physical entity does not explain its capacities and ignores the history required in evolutionary theory.”

        To maintain the concept of mind is something more than the manifestation of physical factors is to ignore the fact that EVERY facet of “mind” can be altered through purely physical means – including the adding or subtracting of talents, of morality, of cognitive ability, of self-awareness…

        If you believe in dualism, fine. But your belief doesn’t constitute truth nor is it supported by the evidence.

        Finally, non-materialistic models explain nothing because nobody can explain the non-material part. But I’m eager to be enlightened – provide me a non-material model for the mind that definitively fills a gap in our understanding, and tell me how it is supported by the evidence.

      7. First, I’ve not provided any non-materialistic explanation. Again, not only a straw man but an outright lie. (I mentioned special creation but certainly did not write this as some sort of apologetic *for* that but instead *against* the proposed orthodoxy.) The materialism question that is raised here is whether radical materialism can account for mind. You’ve not responded to that sufficiently. But at this point there is no sufficient answer, so the question has gone unanswered for over 150 years, so I don’t really expect that you’ll do anything but dance.

        You also continue to think that a presupposition (methodological naturalism) can be the product of a materialistic test (basic physicalism). Sorry, but it just does not work that way. A test of the physical will only result in a physical-related conclusion. It can not in any way result in a metaphysical result.

        You’ve missed his fuller discussion of DNA in your quick, cursory read. He also says that systems are self-repairing so that DNA is maintained.

        Assuming that I hold to a mind-body dualism says again how much you enjoy presuming on others.

        “Re unguided processes – show me where Dawkins, Darwin, Gould or Mayr state that evolution has a goal, or is subject to a guiding hand other than survival and reproductive success.”

        Fascinating. Have you ever heard of directionality? It is key to *all* evolutionary theories and proposed specifically or implicitly by all. (Again, you exhibit your lack of scholarship in the field.) Directionality is a teleological question. It is that unknown metaphysical drive that moves species to get better. It is not only the theist who depends upon something metaphysical. Every evolutionary model has this dependency.

        “Yet Shapiro, in his own words, indicates epigenetics, symbiogenesis, gene transfer, gene duplication and other such complexities are all problems for evolutionary theory.”

        Oh, I don’t think Shapiro’s model is without fault. His is even more strongly teleological than his predecessors. Any perceived issue in Shapiro’s argument comes about by attempting to fill in some of the holes in the other models. In historical context his DNA-driven can be seen as a parallel to Wolfram’s mathematically driven meta-explanation.taking directionality one step further. And that is an even more serious metaphyical question.

  2. Common Core are mathematics and English/Language Arts standards, and literacy (reading comprehension) standards in other subjects. So the entire basis of this post in false. You clearly need to inform yourself on the subject matter before spouting out misinformation and fallacies.

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