Biology Textbooks Worldwide Development and the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Secondary school biology textbooks are the central tool in the instructional process of teaching biological science in the American school systems. For example, Yager reported that "over 90% of all science teachers use a textbook 95% of the time; hence the textbook becomes the course outline, the framework, the parameters for students' experience, testing, and a worldview of science" (p. 578, 1983). The purpose of this article is to: (1) document the amount and nature of evolutionary content found in secular secondary school biology textbooks, (2) discuss the importance of understanding the difference between microevolution and macroevolution, (3) establish the connection between evolutionary theory and worldview development, and (4) discuss alternatives to the secular secondary biology textbooks.

Evolutionary content of selected secular secondary biology textbooks

Swarts (1991) analyzed eight widely used U.S. secondary biology textbooks for their evolutionary content. The evolutionary content was divided into 12 "Categories of Evolutionary Content," with proportions as follows:

Biology: An Everyday Experience                        Merrill    2.9%
Focus on Life Science Merrill 7.1%
Biology: Living Systems Merrill 7.4%
Life Science Scott, Foresman 8.5%
BSCS: An Ecological App. (GreenVersion) Kendall/Hunt 13.2%
BSCS: A Molecular App. (Blue Version) DC Heath 13.5%
Modern Biology Holt, Rinehart & Winston 13.9%
Biological Science: An Inquiry into
Life (Yellow Version) Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich 15.6%
Microevolution and Macroevolution and worldview development

Swarts use of 12 "Categories of Evolutionary Content" makes no distinction between that which is observable and that which is conjecture. But the distinction between microevolution and macroevolution is a must.[1] The connection with worldview development is noted by Silvius: Creationists who acknowledge the existence of microevolution agree with proponents of macroevolution that natural selection does cause "evolutionary change." Indeed, much of the discussion of macroevolution in modern writings is related to microevolution which is discussed accurately from a scientific standpoint, but then is used as evidence for the "great leap" of extrapolation to macroevolution. This most extensive "leap" appears when evolution is elevated to the worldview status of evolutionism. Evolutionism combines organic evolution, biological evolution, and societal evolution into one atheistic, naturalistic framework (Silvius, p. 341).

The implication is clear. Creationists are not opposed to teaching microevolution but rather to the teaching of macroevolution as fact.

Swarts showed clearly that very little content of the secular secondary biology textbooks is devoted to creationism or creation science. Most of these texts do not even mention these as an alternative. This is because the textbook authors do not consider creation science as an alternative model nor as a science. On the other hand, evolutionary theory including macroevolution is viewed as science, and the main component of a unified worldview.

Creationist content in secular secondary biology textbooks

The central role of biology textbooks makes it imperative that Christian teachers understand their content. This is true, not only for those concerned with the public school textbook content, but also those concerned with Christian schools, because secular high-school biology textbooks are used in some Christian schools.

The results of a 1995 ACSI textbook survey show that some educators in Christian schools are not overly concerned with the evolutionary content. Seventy percent of the schools use a Christian text. Most of the remaining 30% used standard secular secondary school biology texts, each evolutionary based. Two of these were analyzed by Swarts. They are: Holt and Rinehart's Modern Biology, and the Merrill's Biology of Living Systems. The Modern Biology text ranked second highest (in evolutionary content) among the eight U.S. texts analyzed (13.9%). The Biology: Living Systems ranked third from the bottom (7.4%). From a Christian creationist perspective, the use of Modern Biology is not acceptable. This evolutionarily based text presents evolutionary doctrine and dogma in more than one out of every eight pages read. The choice of Merrill's Biology: Living Systems is a bit better, but still a compromise.

Fortunately, there does seem to be a clear choice for those Christian schools which for some reason choose a secular text. This would be Biology: An Everyday Experience (Merrill). This text ranks the lowest (2.9%) in evolutionarily content and presents some other advantages in terms of the distribution of the evolutionary content. It is heavily concentrated with evolutionary content in two sections (based on dividing the text into ten equal sections). Eighty-nine percent of the 2.9% evolutionary content is found in the last two sections and 10.9% in the first section. This seems to indicate a lack of integration of evolutionary content within the rest of the text. This would allow the teacher to simply toskip the sections which are heavily laden with evolutionary religion if so desired.

A second reason that Biology: Living Systems is a better choice deals with its lack of emphasis on human evolution, which is not addressed. This leaves out the destructive religion which teaches that man evolved from animals.

As a comparison, Modern Biology has evolutionary content in every tenth section except the ninth and has 51.6% in a key area. Clearly the teacher would not have a choice in regards to skipping certain sections. In the Modern Biology main narrative, the idea of evolutionary theory as the main unifying theme of biology is taken to heart. The percentile breakdown indicates the integration of evolutionary content throughout the main narrative.

Creationist content of Christian secondary and college-level biology textbooks

Currently available Christian based biology textbooks at the secondary level are not fully creationist. This may be due to the fact that a number of Christians do not believe that the doctrine of creationism is truth or that it is relevant. According to Gary North, the reason—at least in part—deals with the fact that: Christians have not been shown clearly and decisively that Darwinism is a total worldview, and that by accepting any aspect of this worldview, Christians compromise and weaken the presentation of the Christian worldview, as well as risk disobeying God. They have not been shown how evolutionism spreads like cancer from the geology or biology textbook to every area of personal ethics and public policy. Worse, they have not been shown why and how six-day creationism leads to a fundamentally unique worldview that encompasses things other than academic topics like historical geology and biology. To win the battle with Darwinism, which is above all a comprehensive worldview justifying comprehensive power, six-day creationists must believe that the stakes are far larger than mere laboratory experiments or one-evening debates. Creation scientists must demonstrate to Christians that six-day creationism really makes a difference in every area of life.

According to North, six-day creationism should be the foundation for the modern-day Christian worldview. Even though many Christian thinkers have sounded the call for a renewed vigor and stance on six-day creationism, the current non-secular (Christian) textbooks do not fully support such a view.

There is, however, a good introductory college-level textbook written by John Silvius. Professor Silvius starts with the right foundation including an introductory chapter regarding the issue of belief system and the importance of the creationist perspective in the development of such a worldview. Dr. Silvius then proceeds to integrate within the text the concepts necessary to show the ties with creationism and true science as it would be practiced under a correct understanding of a creationist-based worldview.

The importance of worldview in biology curriculum development

Because of the lack of solid creationist-based biological textbooks at the secondary level, much work in the area of curriculum development needs to be done. From this author's perspective, the ICR tenets of Scientific and Biblical Creationism should serve as the starting point and unifying theme of biology textbooks and the development of biological science materials.[2] Use of the ICR tenets:

  1. Assists the curriculum developer in combating the tenets of false science and worldview of the National Association of Biology Teachers and other evolutionary groups.
  2. Allows for the development of a broad-scoped curriculum allowing the curriculum developer to show how science affects all areas of the life endeavor.
  3. Assists the creationist curriculum developer in showing clearly and decisively that the creationist worldview is a total and logically satisfying worldview.
  4. Allows the developer to integrate a creationist worldview throughout the text materials in response to textbooks such as Modern Biology.
  5. Would focus the content within a microevolution framework.
  6. Would focus the content on a correct view of the nature of man. Man would be viewed as a created being in fully human form right from the start.
Discussion and conclusions

The evidence is in and the battle lines are drawn. It is past time for the Christian community to make the choice to defend the Biblical creation-based worldview. Because biology textbooks communicate a particular worldview, it is difficult to imagine how the use of evolutionarily based texts in a Christian school can be defended. The informed Christian must understand this and the implications of choosing a particular textbook.

There are alternatives to the secular texts, but these alternatives are not complete in their presentation of a creationist worldview. Much needs to be done in preparing textbooks and other biological science materials that present our children with a correct perspective of God's world.

  1. Microevolution may be defined as: genetic change within limits (Silvius, p. 339), whereas macroevolution may be defined as the general theory of evolution which allegedly occurs with no limits to biological change. The later appears to be Swarts' definition of choice. There is no evidence for macroevolution while on the other hand, there exists abundant evidence for microevolution, or (better) variation within limits.
  2. See "The Tenets of Creationism," Impact article #85 by Dr. Henry Morris.

ACSI, "1995 Textbook Survey," (pp. 212-213). Association of Christian Schools International, P.O. Box 35097, Colorado Springs, CO 80935-3509.

Deckard, Steve, "Developing a Creationist Worldview" (In Press CRSQ).

Deckard, S.W. et al. (1995). "Methodology for Analysis of Science Teaching Materials From a Creationist Worldview." CRSQ, vol. 32.

North, G. (1988). Is the World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview. Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler Texas (pp. xiv-xv).

Silvius, J. (1994). Biology Principles and Perspectives. Kendall Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa.Swarts, F. (1991). Topic and inquiry analysis of the evolutionary content in secondary school biology textbooks. DIA #9214038. UMI Dissertation Services, Ann Arbor, MI.

Yager, R.E. (1983). The importance of terminology in teaching K-12 science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 20, 577-588.

* Dr. Deckard is Assistant Professor of the Science Education Department at ICR.

Cite this article: Steve Deckard, Ed.D. 1996. Biology Textbooks Worldwide Development and the Creation/Evolution Controversy. Acts & Facts. 25 (8).

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