Saturday, June 25, 2005

Do Evolutionary Textbooks Erode Faith?

On a CNN program "Lou Dobbs Tonight" one of the leading ID advocates Jonathan Wells made a claim that numerous evolutionary textbooks attack theism and Christianity.
"WELLS: I have a dozen biology textbooks at home that explicitly use evolution, misuse evolution, as an argument against theism, belief in god, Christianity, and so on
Aside from being a ridiculous assertion, it's also been shown to be blatantly false by Nightlight, who literally eviscerates the claims by Wells.
"I checked into close to fifteen biology textbooks, including the ones from the list sent to me by Dr. Wells. Not one of these texts uses evolution to argue against theism in any fashion. Not one of these texts tells students they were not created by design. All of them discuss the historical and cultural aspects of evolutionary thought in a manner that is measured and respectful.

This careless castigation of legitimate science texts by Jonathan Wells was an abuse of a national forum and will almost certainly have the effect of demagoguing the issue of origins. It seems likely that there were many theists in the national audience who heard Wells’ false charges who have accordingly adjusted their opinions on this issue - opinions that are, by most measures, already significantly misinformed about fundamental biological concepts (i.e. "it’s just a theory").

Jonathan Wells was wrong to make the claim that he did, and owes a retraction to biology textbook publishers and authors, to the CNN viewing audience, to the "intelligent design" community, and to the people on both sides of this debate who are trying to deal with the issues in a fashion that does not increase the amount of spurious "information" already in circulation.

Although I doubt any retraction is on the way, I can say myself that I never had my faith challenged due to anything written in a biology or evolution textbook. Other things did certainly, such as generally difficulties in school (non science-related) and other factors. I doubt that evolutionary textbooks do much damage to Christianity, in the same way that weather forcasting doesn't destroy it or anything else that posits natural explanations for phenomena we see around us.