Science in Christian Perspective



Some Problems In High School Biology*

From: JASA 13 (December 1961): 121-122.

At the start, I would like to point out that the teaching of high school biology can be very rewarding from the Christian view point even though the public law prohibits religious teachings. Although many evangelical church groups have strong feelings against such laws, I see them as worthwhile ones. In the teaching of science it is most important to remember that-"There is no place in science for beliefs not supported by facts" and that "scientific principles are accepted only if they check with all the known facts." These two sentences appear in the first chapter of the high school biology text' I have instructed from for four years. They certainly provide the framework for evaluating many phases of biology besides the evolutionary hypothesis. The text operates within this framework in showing the falsity of the theory of spontaneous generation and in showing that the earth is much older than the few thousands of years as indicated by Bishop Ussher.

The majority of the students in tenth grade biology know very little concerning evolution, but they feel that science verifies the belief that we came from monkeys even though they feel opposition to the idea. I have had many students who expressed a disbelief in the theory of evolution, but when we began discussing some of the proposed evidences they would bring up some of their former teachings that they thought supported it. This is particularly true in the discussion of embryology and vestigial organs. This view point of the students comes chiefly from their previous teachers rather than from the texts. In my six years of teaching science, I have yet to meet a teacher of science that actively opposes the theory of evolution in the high school, although I have personal acquaintance with five teachers from my own school who support it actively.

In addition to previous instruction favoring the evolutionary hypothesis, a number of students with religious instruction also come with ideas that "are not supported by facts." They have been taught Bishop Ussher's dating for man, that "after his kind" referred to species, that species hybrids can never reproduce, that most of the fossil finds for man are fakes, etc. Here I have the opportunity to point out that it is just as wrong not to accept information that apparently does check with the facts as it is to accept beliefs that are not supported by facts.

High school texts attempt to show that "according to the theory of evolution, fishes evolved from some primitive lancelot-like organisms which appeared some 425 millon years ago; amphibians evolved from fishes, rep-

*Paper presented at the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation held at Seattle, Washington, August, 1960,
**Mr. Bower is a Science Instructor at Beaverton (Oregon) High School.

tiles from amphibians, and birds and mammals from reptiles. In other words, according to the theory of evolution, all vertebrates evolved directly or indirectly from fishes. "2 Proofs of this theory are then discussed in the fields of comparative anatomy, embryology, vestigial organs, fossils, and from X-rayed organisms.

The 'evidence from comparative anatomy' is easily set aside as no evidence at all. It is used by the evolutionary group to show kinship and it is used by those who believe in the God Creator as evidence of His general plan for animals living under similar conditions.

In the study of embryology we bring in more facts to, show that only a very few of the characters recapitulate, while the many missing and the conflicting ones are not discussed in the texts. We also note that the embryological recapitulation is not even considered by botanists for the plant kingdom.

The third field of 'evidence' from vestigial organs is especially interesting. This part ties in nicely with the section on genetics that we have already covered. The texts ably show that the various organs are controlled by genes. Now under this section the f a c t s are disregarded and these vestigial organs are made a product of use-and-disuse. Then in the following chapter we find statements such as this., "The use-and-disuse theory would be a lovely theory if it were true." and "So the use-and-disuse theory must be considered false."

In the presentation of the material concerning fossils and X-rayed organisms the texts pay close attention to the factual record, but they tend to make sweeping assumptions. The pedigrees of the horse, the camel, and man are given to show the changes that have taken place. Then the assumption is presented that these animals all have had a common ancestor. By further investigation into the fossil record we find that the above mentioned animals have certainly changed, but within rather well defined limits, In man, even the ten million year fossils of Oreopithecus are described as human and not ape-like. One of the most significant things to point out to the students is-and the texts show this-that ten of the eleven major groups (phyla) of animals all leave fossil remains in the first layer of rocks that contains undisputed animal fossils.

The 'evidence from X-rayed organisms' again contains things that we can actually examine from our text and previous studies. We have learned that mutated genes do cause changes in the organisms and that a few may be beneficial under differing environments. Although these mutations may be beneficial, they still leave us with the same animal-just one that is a bit better adjusted for its environment. The evidence from these X-rayed organisms do not give support to the ideas as presented in the theory of evolution.

In summary of the text's so-called evidences, we find that three of them do not fit in the category of science as defined by the text in "sticking to the facts and all the facts." The real evidence from fossils and mutations certainly shows that the plants and animals have inherent ability to change-but within limits. So the students begin to see that the facts of evolution are entirely different from the assumptions of evolution.

Most of the high school texts have a section on the possible methods of animal evolvings following the section concerning evolution. The three theories presented are those of Lamarck-use and disuse, Darwin-survival of the fittest, and De Vries-mutations. Usually just a few paragraphs are devoted to the theories of Lamarck and De Vries and many pages to Darwin and his exploits on his trip around the world. Although the texts usually do indicate that each of these three theories is insufficient to explain the vast diversity of life we see today, they are not clearly explained so that the students can get the proper evaluation of these theories. The concluding paragraph is one from an older high school text that does give the proper evaluation and I capitalize upon this one.

"Thus each of the three major theories, which science has developed to answer the question of how we came to be as we are, seems to be inadequate in certain respects. The theory of natural selection seems not to account satisfactorily for origins of beginnings. The theory of inheritance of acquired characbm appears to have little or no experimental evidence to swupport it. The theory of mutations usually seems not tovany development in the proper direction, that is, towAQ C desirable adaptions . . . . Biologists are watch for an adequate theory. They are still looking f an unknown factor." 4

1. Smith, Ella Thea, Exploring Biology, 3rd edition, pages 6 & 7, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1952.
2. Smith, Ella Thea, Exploring Biology, 4th edition, page 465, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954.
3. Ibid., p. 473.
4. Bayles & Burnett, Biology For Better Living, page 608, Silver Burdett Company, 1944.