April 27, 2022 | Jerry Bergman

Evolutionary Indoctrination Works When Debate Is Forbidden

Proof that evolutionary indoctrination works
and that the evidence does not matter

 

 by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Surveys show that the number of Americans accepting evolution as the explanation for the origin of humans has progressively increased since surveys of the subject began. Elizabeth Barnes explains in a March 2022 paper,

Researchers have conducted hundreds of studies over the past 30 years to document low levels of evolution acceptance among students and the public, determine what causes low acceptance, and identify what can be done to increase evolution acceptance. [1]

What Do the Numbers Mean?

The first problem is the interpretation of these surveys. Differences in wording, the number of items, and range of answer choices, have all hindered researchers’ ability to compare findings across studies.  The most-often used survey, the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (MATE) designed to overcome these issues, suffers from numerous problems. This causes difficulty in making comparisons of the hundreds of articles that have been published based on this survey to evaluate the extent to which Americans accept evolution.[2] A study of the problems found that the MATE survey

has not been updated since its creation more than 20 years ago. … cognitive interviews with 62 students that revealed response process errors with the original instrument. We found that students answered items on the MATE based on constructs other than their acceptance of evolution, which led to answer choices that did not fully align with their actual acceptance.[3]

For example, MATE conflates understanding of evolution with its acceptance. The MATE survey asks for a choice between “The age of the earth is at least 4 billion years” and “The age of the earth is less than 20,000 years.” These survey questions appear to measure primarily a respondent’s factual knowledge about the age of the Earth, not necessarily their acceptance of the belief that evolution has occurred over an enormously long period of time.[4] Probably the most serious problem is with the term “evolution” which is not clearly defined in the survey, and could be referring to microevolution, macroevolution, or human evolution. The revised MATE defined ‘Acceptance of Evolution’ as “The agreement that it is scientifically valid that all species have evolved from prior species.” That leaves no room for opinions about God or any outside intelligence.

Click the image for the answer.

Furthermore, the MATE study was focused on measuring primarily human macroevolution, i.e., apes as ancestors. The results of using the original survey of 62 college students, of which 58 percent had high or median college exposure to evolution in their classes and 42 percent had low or no exposure to human evolution, found 75 percent were rated as having full acceptance of evolution. Of the sample, 53 percent self-labeled as ‘atheist, agnostic.’[5]

Interviews with the students who took the survey were very revealing. It was clear that, according to the interviews published, the majority of survey takers had little or no knowledge of the evidence behind human evolution. They often believed evolution on faith and not knowledge. This was indicated by the fact that many answered with vague over-generalizations, such as evolution is true because science has proven it true. When compared with the revised MATE tool, it was concluded that the original MATE tool greatly overestimated evolution’s acceptance among the respondents. Reasons include the fact that many students answering the questions used an incomplete definition of the theory, such assuming that evolution refers only to the microevolutionary processes. The concern of Darwinists is macroevolution, including human evolution.

Conclusions Based on These Imperfect Surveys

The headline of an article in Nature announces, “Good news: US classrooms are warming to evolution, thanks in part to scientist outreach”[6] adding “Advocacy works, but more must be done to protect against misinformation.” It was written by Ann Reid, the head of the aggressive anti-Intelligent Design organization The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California. She wrote:

a decades-long effort aided by the scientific community is bearing fruit. Results published on 10 June show that the proportion of US secondary-school biology teachers who present creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution fell from 32% in 2007 to 18% in 2019. And the amount of class time devoted to human evolution shot up by almost 90%.[7]

Reid says that evolution teaches children that they, and all living things, have the same common ancestors. The increase in the acceptance of evolution by biology teachers, she claimed, is the result of the fact that teacher groups and scientists have “united to advocate for education policies, advise on classroom resources and help rally public opinion.”

A Flawed Justification for Teaching Evolution

Reid then explains why this increased acceptance of evolution was important because, in 1995, she

began a long-shot project: trying to sequence the virus that caused the influenza pandemic of 1918 from preserved lung samples. We didn’t even know whether the viral genome could survive that long, or would still be present in preserved tissues. We did have an extremely powerful tool: evolutionary theory. Understanding evolution helped us to make educated guesses about how the virus might have changed between 1918 and the 1930s, when influenza viruses were first isolated.[8]

The virus that caused the 1918 pandemic influenza (CDC).

Exactly how understanding the “extremely powerful tool: evolutionary theory” helped her decipher how the virus may have changed between 1918 and the 1930s, she does not say. What will help her understand how the virus might have changed between 1918 and the 1930s is sequencing the genes and understanding the design of the intelligently designed genome, as well as her knowledge of the design of the reagents she used.

Reid continues by stating that this understanding of evolution has “enabled us to design reagents with the best chance of finding the killer virus. Once we had the entire sequence, evolution helped us to understand where the virus came from and how it moved between hosts.” But again, she does not provide a clue of how “evolution helped us to understand where the virus came from and how it moved between hosts.”

Understanding the design of the viruses compared, not evolution, is what allowed her to achieve the understanding that she published.[9] In her paper she used the term ‘evolution’ three times, none of which explained what evolution had to do with her research, or why evolution is important. These three uses of ‘evolution’ in her article are shown below. Italics indicate what contribution evolution was supposed to have made.

  • The nucleoprotein (NP) gene sequence, in particular, seems to have been acquired directly from a source that is similar to viruses currently found in wild birds at the amino acid level, but very divergent at the nucleotide level, suggesting considerable evolutionary distance between the source of the 1918 NP and the currently sequenced virus strains in wild birds.
  • This does not seem to be simply a matter of evolutionary time, as a region of a viral NP gene found in a strain isolated from a bird captured in 1917.
  • 20 years of evolution in pigs resulted in a similar number of amino acid changes as that seen between the 1918 N1 sequence and avian sequences, but only two-thirds as many synonymous changes (87 compared with 136).

In all three cases she is referring to genetic differences, a term that is preferable because it is related the data – not her interpretation of it.

The goal of the research which produced her paper was to determine the origin of the 1918 pandemic influenza strain, which she failed to do! She concluded that “The origin of the 1918 pandemic influenza strain remains mysterious.”[10] Ignoring the facts, she writes that “In 2014, my conviction [was] that understanding evolutionary theory is the core to scientific literacy” yet it did not help her solve the problem she set out to explain, and she never documented how it was supposed to have helped her.

Hospital treating those stricken with the 1918 flu virus. Recent study indicates that the virus itself, though more lethal than other strains, was not fundamentally different from those that caused epidemics in other years. Much of the high death rate was due to crowding in military camps and urban environments, plus poor nutrition and sanitation during wartime. Many of the deaths were due to bacterial pneumonias in lungs weakened by influenza.

Indoctrination by Censorship

Reid then related a 2005 federal court decision that found “‘intelligent design’ (like its ancestor, ‘creation science’) lacks scientific merit and is a religious belief. Hence, it cannot, constitutionally, be taught in science classrooms in public schools.” One result was that, in 2007, researchers at Pennsylvania State University

surveyed teachers to learn how evolution was being taught. The results were shocking: only 51% were unequivocally teaching the scientific consensus that evolution is a fact. Clearly, there was work to do. This week’s results are from a similar survey, which the NCSE commissioned last year. They show a rise not only in the time spent teaching evolution, but also in the proportion of educators emphasizing the scientific consensus (now 67%). Clearly, things are moving in the right direction.[11]

How this improvement was achieved, she explains, was due to the aggressive anti-intelligent design/anti-creationist activities of evolutionary scientists who, have been crucial to suppress any opposition to evolution by any means possible, ethical or non-ethical, including censorship by banishing “language challenging evolution…. [and deleting] language from teaching guidelines that challenged the validity of evolutionary theory,”[12] The result of the opposition to evolution by any means, ethical or non-ethical, including censorship was in spite of  “a creationist-friendly faction [that] had long held sway over the state board of education.” The creation supporters were ousted from the board because

professors wrote opinion pieces, testified to school boards and rallied colleagues. Similar scenarios played out in Arizona, Iowa, New Mexico, South Carolina and elsewhere. Scientists were key partners, often through scientific societies, in developing the NGSS, along with teacher groups, foundations and others.[13]

She concluded that because the coronavirus pandemic is now sweeping the globe that “evolution is again crucial to understanding a pathogen. It helps us to learn how the virus circulates, and to identify its vulnerabilities.” But evolution does not “help us to learn how the virus circulates, and to identify its vulnerabilities.” The empirical science of epidemiology, not evolution, helps us to learn how the virus circulates, and to identify its vulnerabilities.

Summary

The two studies covered here both illustrate the problem of terminology about evolution, and efforts used by evolutionists to suppress worldviews that compete with Darwinism. As shown, evolutionists use subtle (and not-so-subtle means) to do this. The second analysis shows the results of the suppression in causing fewer numbers of creation supporters. The claim by Reid to provide an example of the widely cited claim that Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,[14] totally fails, as do many other attempted examples.[15] Evolution, as defined and defended in the first study, “that it is scientifically valid that all species have evolved from prior species,” had nothing to with the study Reid completed. She was not attempting to determine the evolution of a new species, but the details of a new strain of the same virus species.

References

[1] Barnes, M. Elizabeth, et al., A revised measure of acceptance of the theory of evolution: Introducing the MATE 2.0.  Life Science Education. American Society for Cell Biology 21(1), https://www.lifescied.org/doi/pdf/10.1187/cbe.21-05-0127, March 2022.

[2] Barnes, et al., 2022, p. 1.

[3] Barnes, et al., 2022, p. 1.

[4] Barnes, et al., 2022, p. 5.

[5] Barnes, et al., 2022, p. 6.

[6] Reid, Ann, Good news: US classrooms are warming to evolution, thanks in part to scientist outreach,  Nature 582: 315, doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-01454-x, 11 June 2020.

[7] Reid, 2020.

[8] Reid, 2020.

[9] Reid, Ann H., et al., Evidence of an absence: The genetic origins of the 1918 pandemic influenza virus, Nature Reviews Microbiology 2: 909–914, 1 November 2004.

[10] Reid, et al., 2004.

[11] Reid, et al., 2004.

[12] Goldenberg, Suzanne. Creationists defeated in Kansas school vote on science teaching, The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/science/2007/feb/15/schoolsworldwide.religion, 15 February 2007.

[13] Reid, et al., 2004.

[14] Dobzhansky, Theodosius, Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, The American Biology Teacher 75(2): 87-91, https://doi.org/10.2307/4444260, 1 February 2013.

[15] Bergman, Jerry, An evaluation of the myth that ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’,” Answers Research Journal, 5:1-12, 2012.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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