Origins of Textbook Insert
Thu, 4 Dec 1997 02:15:11 -0500 (EST)

In answer to Steve Schimmrich's query as to the authorship of the Textbook
The original insert, known as the Alabama Insert, was drafted by Norris
Anderson and others on the Textbook Committee in Alabama. Norris is author
of "Education or Indoctrination?: Analysis of Textbooks in Alabama,"
available from Access Research Network, e-mail: which is also
their Internet address.
Because of my position as co-author of "Teaching Science in a Climate
of Controversy" and Chairman of the Science Education Commission of the ASA,
Phil Johnson, Norris Anderson and others, often refer calls for help from
legislative and legislative advisory committees to me. I was unhappy with
the Alabama Insert and have begun a collaboration with Norris on developing
an improved version for several states and local districts.
The November 24, 1997 version is a generic version developed as a result
of reviewing three 1998 biology texts for a hearing in Texas with three days
notice. The three books are: Biology: The Living Science (Prentice Hall,
1998); Biology: The Dynamics of Life (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 1998):; and
Biology: The Web of Life (Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley, 1998). The reviewers
were Jonathan Wells (Developmental Biologist) who reviewed the sections on
embryology; Walter Bradley (Material Science) who should be familiar to you
all as an expert on the origin of life; and yours truly who reviewed the
treatment in these textbooks of whether the fallacy of equivocation was
employed with that manipulable word "evolution," whether a distinction was
drawn between natural selections' well established capability as a mechanism
for minor variation as opposed to major innovation; and the treatment of the
Cambrian explosion as the example of whether the students were being
presented with unanswered questions and unsolved problems.
I would like to mention that the three people above are not a formal
committee. They were at another meeting in Texas when a Texas School Board
member happened to walk through the lobby, recognized Walt Bradley, and
begged for help as the hearing on textooks was three days away. Walt nabbed
Jonathan and me and we went to work. Our draft was never used by the way but
since these situations are always rush rush, I thought it was an ideal time
to refine and improve the draft. I submitted it to Norris and the four of us
honed it a bit so that students could better comprehend it.
In any event, I welcome input from those who have analyzed textbooks or
can suggest better wording for student understanding. Ideally, there should
be an separate insert for each text, but we don't have the resources to
accomplish this yet.
I'm encouraged to report that we have made substantial progress in the
improvement of at least one Biology text as author Kenneth Miller has greatly
improved the Miller/Levine (Prentice Hall) text as a result of the Science
Education Commissions' sponsorship of his debate with Michael Behe at
Montreat, July 23, 1995. PTL!! In my opinion, it is now the best texton the
market, although still in need of further improvement.
I should like to close with saying that this insert business does not
have the official standing within the ASA. Nonetheless, some schoolboard
members and legislators are determined to do something and most of the
initial input and drive comes from our young-earth friends. I view my role
at present as one of attempting to steer the results in a more constructive
direction in line with ASA's 1991 Resolution "A Voice for Evolution AS
SCIENCE." Help will be appreciated, but please forgive me if I don't respond
in a timely fashion as, like all of you, my desk is piled high and I am
preparing to teach the Origins class in the Biology Department at Westmont
which begins in January. Your prayers will be appreciated.
John Wiester