Should BioLogos produce science textbooks for college use?


(Henry Stoddard) #1

I believe it is time that books be produced for Christian College use. Not all Christian colleges accept Young Earth Creation, e.g. Wheaton College and Regent University.


(Christy Hemphill) #2

At Wheaton we used regular science textbooks. There doesn’t always have to be a “Christian” one. I took an contemporary issues in biology ethics course, and some of the texts we used were written from a Christian perspective in that course. But mitosis looks pretty much the same, no matter who wrote your textbook.

BioLogos has provided some grants for people developing textbooks: http://biologos.org/what-we-do/grant-program/education/


(Henry Stoddard) #3

Christy, I think this is wonderful that Bryan College is developing such a text. It is wonderful news to me. Thanks again.
Oh, I see there are other schools too. I think that is grand. I believe we need these books since the secular ones were not like by me. I may try to get one when they come out. You went to Wheaton. I should have known. Wheaton is a grand school. My wife’s distant cousin, Dr. Billy Graham, received his BA in Anthropology there. My grandmother in law, Grace Webb, was originally Grace Graham. I have written many professors there on various issues, and they are truly nice people. God bless

PS: I met Dr. Ronald Numbers at Regent University and we became good friends. I have been made a member of the American Scientific Affiliation. I feel rather humbled. I didn’t think that would happen. Science and Theology are interesting, aren’t they? Oh, Billy and I disagree on eschatology. I believe in present-millennialism, also known as amillennialism, and Bill is a pretribulational premillennialist. I was a pretrib, however, I have trouble with the fact that they babies born before the rapture go to heaven; however, they cannot answer the question about babies after the rapture.


#4

Henry, I’d be interested in reading the reasons why you would like to see Biologos produce science textbooks for college use. (Your OP title was in the form of a question but then your first post makes clear that you’d like to see new textbooks produced. So I’m curious as to your reasons for that position.)

Long ago I taught science at a Christian evangelical university in the USA. After having previously taught at secular universities, I was delighted to integrate Biblical concepts into the classroom on many occasions, but it never occurred to me to expect the course textbook to do so. But perhaps you have other types of expectations for such science textbooks. So what do you believe is missing or deficient in current science textbooks which needs to be remedied?

If I am misunderstanding your post, please correct me. I certainly had my share of gripes about textbook publishers, especially in terms of copious errors in diagrams and captions which never seemed to get corrected, even after 2nd, 3rd, and een fourth editions. The sloppiness of the editing drove me nuts and I used to have to pass out errata handouts for many of the chapters of the textbook as we covered them in class.

As for me, I don’t expect a science textbook to teach philosophy or theology. But perhaps others do. That’s why I’m curious. (Frankly, if the best available textbook for my course had happened to include sound theology, I would not have hesitated to use it. But I’d certainly want to carefully read it in advance and watch out for propaganda masquerading as science. I well remember the Moody Science Films of a half century ago. Even though I largely agreed with their theology at the time, the misrepresentations of evidence concerned me even as someone who was a young earth creationist in those days.)

If anyone has specific complaints about the science textbooks they chose for their students, I’d love to read about them. Many years have passed but I can’t recall anything in the textbooks I selected from the major textbook publishers which struck me as inappropriate for use on a Christian university campus. (In fact, in many cases I chose the very same textbooks that I had assigned at a tax-payer supported state university in that same region of the country.)


(Henry Stoddard) #5

Dear Professor,

It is an honor to receive this from you. I always loved science until it came to the textbooks that denied the existence of God. I found that to be the case at Old Dominion University, a public university that was once part of the College of William and Mary. The science professors would even make Christians look stupid. I am talking about making Theistic Evolutionists look stupid. It does not really have to be a Christian science textbook. I have come to the conclusion that there should be a series of philosophy courses in Christian universities that support the concept of Theistic Evolution or a philosophy course that represents the Christian views on creation. Each student would be allowed to accept the view that he likes. I like the Moody Films and watch them in German. I am certain that we all here could learn a great deal from you. How do you feel about these philosophy courses, Old Timer? Also, were you ever a miner in them their hills?** :joy: Bad grammar in the last question was intentional.


#6

I never came upon a science textbook that denied the existence of God during my career. So now I’m even more curious. Would you happen to have details on a few of the most glaring examples? Citations of the most egregious examples could be very useful in some writing I hope to do on a future project.

I certainly have heard a lot of anecdotal reports from particular universities describing particular professors who were apparently obsessed with diverting classroom time to their petty biases and outbursts against theists and theism. (I assume that this has become more common recently than it was in my day. Yet, I’ve had former students recalling the 1960’s tell me that they had a lot of bad experiences on various California campuses from irate anti-theists. So I know that this has been a problem to some degree for a long time. I just don’t know the extent. I only have anecdotal reports, valid though I’m sure they are.)

That said, I’ve had a lot more difficulty finding instances of blatant anti-theism in science textbooks comparable to the classroom lectures of anti-theist bigots. Most of the textbooks examples I’ve collected over the years tended to be relatively casual and dismissive remarks against western Christianity, such as one of the myths that Carl Sagan repeats in his COSMOS book. (He claimed that Christians destroyed precious libraries and their knowledge all over Europe and North America, if I recall. I can’t remember whether it was in the book, the TV screenplay, or both where he repeated the claim that Christians burned down “the library of Alexandria”—which also has tended to perpetuate the myth that that ancient repository of knowledge was some grand public-works building which looked much like the public library in most major cities today. Of course, Sagan never footnoted his claims of that sort and the absence of credible citations is a common foible in a lot of anti-theist tomes.)

Could you explain why you’d prefer that it be done in philosophy courses rather than theology courses? (I’m actually a big proponent of requiring a least 3 hours of philosophy at Christian universities for all A&S students, so my question is certainly not dismissive of your idea. I’m just wondering why you would recommend a philosophical approach rather than hermeneutical/exegetical foci by the many faculty already well-prepared to teach such material.)

I would wish that this were taken for granted—but there are a disturbing number of academics (though still a small minority) who seem to want to enforce “thought control” and go beyond simply expecting students to understand the material. Every now and then one sees some academic pushing his adamant suggestion that “Any student who doesn’t accept _________ should not be granted a degree by the university.” Some have even written inane demands that universities “revoke” various degrees because of what some alumnus has said or written. That’s silly. And dangerous.

Any professor who plays mind-control games in the classroom which fall outside the publicly stated goals of the academic institution (whether that institution be secular or with an openly declared religious purpose) has committed a major lapse of professionalism. If that classroom is part of a taxpayer-supported public university in the USA, I’d be equally outraged at both the anti-theist and the Christian “anti-secularist” diverting classroom time to their personal ideological agendas.

I certainly learned a lot from them—because even as a very “militant” activist for “creation science” back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I was very embarrassed by some of their poorly presented science-bloopers. They opened my eyes to a trend for which I realized that I shared blame. And as I delved deeper into such topics, I began to see just how many lamentable pseudo-science whoppers filled my Young Earth Creationist conference presentations and campus debates.

Somewhere in my old notes I have a catalogue of some of the worst Moody Science Films’ failures of conveying accurate science and misleading misrepresentations of the evidence. At my age I can no longer easily recall my top ten. But I do still remember that I have the Moody Science Films to thank—along with a lot of whoppers told by Drs. Morris and Gish, especially when I’d challenge them privately off-stage—for getting my attention to where I started carefully re-examining a lot of the pseudo-science “creation science” arguments I was presenting to the public. One film that I can still visualize in part did an absolutely horrendous job of presenting an imagined statistical refutation of evolution. Not only did the film misuse the word “evolution” repeatedly and completely mangled the meaning of the Theory of Evolution, the statistical argument was so bad that an eighth grader who read a biology textbook could see through it. I say that because my nephew did exactly that after viewing the film. He recognized what every logic course student knows as the Argument from Personal Incredulity fallacy. Of course, that remains the primary argument of a great many YECs and Intelligent Design advocates to this day. Non-academics easily fall for it so it has become a favored propaganda tool. (e.g., Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt, a book also filled with science bloopers from someone who badly needs to take a few basic undergrad biology courses. Meyer is what you get when a philosopher thinks he understands science but never tried to master the evolutionary biology material—or even comparative anatomy and cell physiology. It’s embarrassing to all who follow Christ and actually understand the science. But Meyer and the Discovery Institute is what one gets when entrepreneurs try to eak out a living from preying off sincere but gullible audiences who are trusting the DI “experts” to tell them the truth and check out the facts for them. It is much the same routine that Drs. Morris and Whitcomb gave us in the 1960’s.)

I’d have to know a lot more about such a course before I could render an opinion. Yet, as much as I’d like to see undergrads at Christian universities have some background in philosophy, I’d first like to see them learn some basics of hermeneutics and exegesis that could broaden their understanding of the origins debate. I think that would have more immediate benefits for an informed student.


(Henry Stoddard) #7

My friend,

You understand quite well. I was not planning to come on the Forum today due to the fact that I have a serious eye infection and I am very ill. I like what you have written and perhaps I will be able to reply to you tomorrow. I feel I would have enjoyed your classes. Not all but most ODU science professors made fun of people of faith. The chemistry professors were fine. The phone is ringing. I will join you tomorrow.


#8

Henry, I’m outraged that you had that negative experience at ODU. Every campus probably has an occasionally “jerk” of a professor who uses the classroom as his personal ideology platform and way to express his negativity towards theists and/or religion in general. But I’m shocked when I hear of “most of the science professors” and entire departments engaging in such unprofessional behavior.

Needless to say, before retiring, my job was research and teaching. My contracts said nothing about INDOCTRINATION and personal ideology promotions. Reports of your negative experiences with such professors spikes my blood pressure. Nobody should have to listen to an anti-theist blowhard diverting time from the science topics of a science course.

May you heal soon. I visit here sporadically so if you have some question or topic you’d like to discuss, several of us who share an ex-YEC background in the early days of the creation science movement are involved with the Bible.and.Science.Forum on WordPress. Professor Tertius is taking a break after a series of strokes but some of us who were founding members still get notifications on comments posted under the articles there. (Of course, once you get my attention, I can always try to get back here to Biologos.)


(Henry Stoddard) #9

May God bless you, my friend. I wish to thank you for your kind response. I hope we will get to speak again soon. I wish to also say that I visited the Bible and Science Forum on WordPress. I like the articles I saw. Yes, I believe that the Deluge of Noah was a flood in Mesopotamia. I will read more during the coming week. God bless you.


#10

If a professor is in the habit of berating people of faith simply because of their faith, then it would be best to take your tuition dollars elsewhere.


#11

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#12

My name is Saito Singh and I should exert the mea culpa on this one:

Sadly, it is due to a programming glitch in the vision-assistance software I’ve adapted for two of our senior Bible.and.Science.Forum associates. (It can be hard for someone using combinations of audio-based and magnified-image-based reading/composing tools to use spell-checkers for the voice-to-text conversation and so the software sometimes intrudes with some bizarre results. In particular, we’ve tried to address homonym/homophone substitutions but those types of proofreading routines are still in a sorry state. The Hebrew-transcription algorithms looked promising for a while but are driving me nuts.) So I must apologetically step forward and take the blame on that one. I thank Mr. Molinist and OldTimer for their patience with me as I try to address some of these issues. Adapting such software to forums like Biologos is a complex process. ---- Saito Singh, BSF RA


#13

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#14

At least in my case, I have had no awareness of what Dr. Falk thinks of Meyer’s book.

Not only only were the copious science bloopers in Darwin’s Doubt outrageous enough for a well-read undergrad to get extremely frustrated, I’ve seen the many point-by-point refutations of paleontologist friends like Dr. Christine Janis (who co-wrote the comparative vertebrate anatomy textbook used at countless major universities worldwide) and Dr. David Levin, who teaches anatomy and evolutionary biology at Boston University’s medical school. Whatever “Honorable Mentions” Stephen Meyer might deserve for managing "to get some things right* in his book doesn’t impress me. I have higher expectations. When someone takes the position that the entire science academy is wrong and “a philosopher shall lead them”, I don’t have a lot of patience for embarrassing science bloopers every other page.

As they say, “your mileage may vary”. But as a Christ-follower, I find it embarrassing when an author like Meyer talks big but can’t deliver. If even someone like me (my grad degrees in science are in fields largely irrelevant to the topic) can mark up the biology and paleontology factual fails in Darwin’s Doubt with a yellow marker until I need a second or even third one, that is not good.

You can even find a lot of the error of fact compilations from various scientists posts under the Amazon reviews of Meyer’s books.

I won’t presume to speak for others on this—and not for my colleague,Old Timer, who has addressed this very topic on countless forums, including this one, I believe— but I can only say that I wish that were the case (that is, the “world of difference” aspect.) To me it is the same old strategies of arguments from ignorance and arguments from personal incredulity, and lots and lots of science bloopers as my colleague likes to call them. I’m not referring to the often confused propagandists who write the DI webpages, like those at EvolutionNews, although their articles are certainly groan-worthy enough. I’m talking about Behe, Meyer, and other of the DI senior associates or whatever titles they commonly use.

However, I do give a lot of credit to Stephen Meyer for joining his associates in fleeing Dover as fast as they possibly could when they saw what level of cross-examination awaited them from evidence-equipped attorneys who were skewering so many of the claims of the Discovery Institute’s amicus brief in the Dover Trial. They realized that if they allowed plaintiff’s attorneys to pick apart their science-defiant claims as carefully as they were already exposing Dr. Behe, the Intelligent Design movement would never recover.

Personally, it grieves me that a perfectly fine term like “Intelligent Design” has been hopelessly shamed beyond recovery. (It has become a virtual synonym for pseudo-science and propaganda—and certainly “creation science” in an updated wardrobe.) So I’m partial to the term introduced by some of my colleagues, “Ultimate Design” and under which God is, ultimately, the designer of everything. I believe God created a universe in such a way that life was inevitable and that evolutionary processes would over time diversify life on earth and constantly adapt life to changing environments. (And no, I don’t like the view that God “front loaded” the universe. To me, that doesn’t truly capture what ultimate sovereignty entails.) Of course, the fact that many of us are Molinists should make this anything but surprising. Much as with old-style “creation science”, I’m concerned that ID has become associated with a very small view of God. I find UD much more befitting the omniscient and omnipotent God of the Bible.

By the way, as to your bafflement at Saito Singh’s explanation of the vision-assistance software some of us are using, you may somebody discover first-hand why many of us older ones find such tools a necessity—although I certainly hope you are spared that indignity and inconvenience. (The software is definitely still in beta but Dr. Singh has done us a great service for which we are very grateful.)


#15

The fact that Dr. Falk or others found things worth defending in Meyer’s book does not change the fact that it is riddled with many, many errors of science fact. And that tends to undermine Meyer’s credibility on matters of science. It is as simple as that.

Now, I could certainly provide links to the many reviews of Darwin’s Doubt where scientists with far more knowledge and background in biology than Meyer list some of his more glaring errors. But what would that accomplish? Would it change your opinion of the book? I don’t know because only you can answer that question.

This is far afield from the OP question about science textbooks. I see no need for Biologos to produce them. And I certainly hope that Stephen Meyer and the the Discovery Institute do not produce them. I fear that such would only multiply the damage that poorly considered philosophy and theology marketed as science could do to confuse the Gospel message and the reputation of those who work to carry out the Great Commission.

Does Stephen Meyer have important things to say and to write which could receive better consideration if he were to enlist a co-author who could proofread and correct his science bloopers? Most probably.


#16

If you want to understand the “relationship” between The Discovery Institute/ID and the Altenberg conference, you simply must read Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk by Massimo Pigliucci. The author was the organizer of the Altenberg conference. Please read chapter four (“Blame the Media?”). The section is called “The Altenberg 16: Conspiracy Theories by and for the Media.”


#17

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#18

Sounds very interesting. Thanks!


#19

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#20

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