A Failed Attempt at Student Brainwashing | The Institute for Creation Research
A Failed Attempt at Student Brainwashing

In recent years our youth have been overwhelmed with a sea of evolutionary propaganda. Sadly, the objective seems to be to program their young minds toward evolution only, so that they will believe, without questioning, that all kinds of organisms have evolved by natural processes and were not created by God.

Recent studies, however, are showing that these efforts even with all the media and money behind them, are failing. In spite of all the forcefeeding of evolution, the theory of evolution seems to be failing to survive among those who are free to think objectively.

Consider the results of a study published in the very prestigious Journal of Research in Science Teaching, a journal long noted for its accuracy in reporting research in science education. This recent (1990) research paper, by Beth A. Bishop and Charles W. Anderson, entitled "Student Conceptions of Natural Selection and its Role in Evolution" indicated that, in spite of intensive programming in a college "non-majors' biology" course, it is extremely difficult to get students to understand how evolution works. "Although the students in this case had taken an average of 1.9 years of previous biology courses, performance on the pre-test was uniformly low."

After taking the course, the students were tested again, but they showed no significant improvement in understanding evolution. As one can imagine, this experience would be particularly frustrating to evolutionists. Perhaps the most startling factor is that the focus of the study was on "natural selection as a mechanism for evolution." Now this does not seem like a terribly difficult concept to understand on its face, but it appears that the college students studied could not comprehend these long held and extensively taught concepts. Evolutionists have apparently made the concept of evolution so confusing that a thinking student isn't sure exactly what he is supposed to be learning.

In this study, the experimenters started out with the postulate that evolution is the unifying framework for modern biology. Without a complete understanding of evolution, they say a student cannot comprehend biology. With this idea as a foundation, the researchers set out to find reasons why the intelligent non-biology major in college cannot understand scientific evolutionary mechanisms. The three main purposes of their study were as follows:

1. "To describe, as completely as possible, the conceptions held by college nonscience majors concerning the mechanism of natural selection and the factors responsible for evolutionary change."
At the very outset, any knowledgeable person who has studied origins knows that there is much argument about the notion that natural selection has any effect at all on macroevolution (Lewin, 1980, 1982; Ayala, 1975; L.H. Matthews, 1971; Smith, 1982; Rifkin, 1983; Martin, 1953; Salisbury, 1969). An objective look at this purpose for the study immediately suggests a possible reason for an intelligent student rejecting, or not understanding, the rationale behind natural selection as a suggested mechanism for evolution. The experimenters should not have been surprised that programming a rational mind in this direction could be very troublesome.

2. "To assess the effects of instruction (including both previous high school and college biology instruction and our college non-majors' biology course) on the conceptions held by students."
This interesting purpose for the study indicates the intense concern of the evolutionist. Here they are, identifying those who do not comprehend evolutionism, so they can set them up for more intense programming procedures. This is exactly what a psychologist would do if he wanted to brainwash a mind away from undesirable ideas. This type of objective could well become the tool for future brainwashing techniques.

3. "To determine whether student conceptions of natural selection were associated with student belief in the theory of evolution as historical fact."
This objective clearly places the student on the line. Are they believers in evolution or are they not? If they are believers, do they know what they must believe about natural selection and its implications as a mechanism for evolution? If they are not believers, then what education practices and programming will make them believers? In other words, those who teach evolution are faced with the task of making instructional adjustments. Consequently, adjustments were made in this study that were designed to ensure that the student would come to believe that natural selection leads to the fact of evolution.

The study began by extracting what the researchers believed to be the essential content of evolution and natural selection from the lecture material and the required text (not named) of the course. After a series of pilot testing, the final criterion referenced test was selected for the study and reported on in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

A sample of part of the diagnostic test is given as follows:

1. Cheetahs (large African cats) are able to run faster than 60 miles per hour, when chasing prey. How would a biologist explain how the ability to run fast evolved in cheetahs, assuming their ancestors could run only 20 miles per hour?


2. Cave salamanders are blind (they have eyes which are non-functional). How would a biologist explain how blind cave salamanders evolved from sighted ancestors?


3. a) The trait of webbed feet in ducks: (1 = only left statement correct; 5 = only right statement correct; 3 = both statements equally correct)

Appeared in ancestral ducks because they lived in water and needed webbed feet to swim.
1-2-3-4-5 Appeared in ducks because of a chance mutation.
b) While ducks were evolving webbed feet:

With each generation, most ducks had about the same amount of webbing on their feet as their parents.
1-2-3-4-5 With each generation, most ducks had a tiny bit more webbing on their feet than their parents.
c) If a population of ducks was forced to live in an environment where water for swimming was not available:

Many ducks would die because their feet were poorly adapted to this environment.
1-2-3-4-5 The ducks would gradually develop non-webbed feet.
d) The populations of ducks evolved webbed feet because:

The more successful ducks adapted to their aquatic environment.
1-2-3-4-5 The less successful ducks died without offspring.

The researchers were diligent in pursuing their objective to determine how to convince these college students that evolution by natural selection was a fact, but the conclusion was understandably disappointing to both Bishop and Anderson. After all this effort, the researchers found that most students still had ideas about how and why evolution occurred that were much different from those accepted by standard biologists. These were called naive conceptions by the researchers. A comparison of students holding the "scientific" and "naive" understanding of the mechanism of evolution is given in the reproduced chart below.

It appears from this study that, no matter how intensive the instructional force toward correcting the naive view, these college students showed unsatisfactory gains in the understanding of evolution. In fact, non-believers appeared to understand evolution much better than did those students who believe in evolution! It was found, however, that intensified instruction can cause some change in students' "naive" conceptions. The study goes on to report, however, that "even the intensive revised teaching methods and materials were not sufficient to help a significant number of students."

From a creationist point of view, the most distressing part of this research lies in the development of a diagnostic test that focuses on a student's understanding of evolution. This kind of testing, relating to a concept that can never stand the test of scientific rigor, could become very dangerous to intellectual freedom. We could easily be on the threshold of developing brainwashed intellectual robots.

Relation between Belief in Evolution and Student Conceptions: Post-test

Scientific Conception Percent of Students Understanding Scientific Conception
(28 Students)
(15 Students)
(14 Students)

1. Origin and survival of new traits Random processes responsible for appearance of traits; natural selection accounts for survival or disappearance 50 73 64
2. Role of variation within populations Variable population essential for evolution 57 73 36
3. Evolution-
ary change
Involves changing
proportions of individuals with discrete traits
57 80 50


Inquiry is the heart of science and, from this study, it would be easy to predict that if this freedom were given to the college students in the study, the results would have been even more disastrous for evolution. Studies have shown that when students are given freedom to inquire and freedom of choice between the evolution and creation model, they tend to choose the creation model.

What is it, then, that drives the anti-creationist to want to brainwash our children in the public schools? The scientific enterprise has much to be concerned about in this blind thrust to promote a dead theory.


1. Ayala, Francisco J., "Scientific Hypotheses, Natural Selection and the Neutrality Theory of Protein Evolution in the Role of Natural Selection in Human Evolution," F.M. Salzano Ed., North Holland Publishing Company, 1975. pp.19-end of chapter.
2. Bliss, Richard B., A Comparison of Two Approaches to the Teaching of Origins of Living Things to High School Biology Students in Racine, Wisconsin, ERIC File no. Ed. 152-568.
3. Lewin, Roger: "Evolutionary Theory Under Fire," Science, 21 November 1980, pp. 883-887.
4. Martin, C.P.: "A Non-Geneticist Looks at Evolution," American Scientist, Vol. 41, p. 103.
5. Matthews, L. Harrison, D.Sc., FRS. Introduction to the Origin of Species, J.M. Dent and Sons, London, 1971.
6. Rifkin, Jeremy, Algeny (New York: Viking Press, 1983), p. 134.
7. Salisbury, Frank B., "Natural Selection and the Complexity of the Gene," Nature (Vol. 224, October 24, 1969).
8. Smith, Huston, "Evolutionary Mechanisms," Christian Century (July 7-14, 1982), p. 756.

* Former Director of Science Education, Unified School District #1, Racine, Wisconsin. Former Director of ICR's Curriculum Development.

Cite this article: Richard Bliss, Ph.D. 1990. A Failed Attempt at Student Brainwashing. Acts & Facts. 19 (9).

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