Icons Of Evolution
- Are there any examples in textbooks and popular teachings where evolution is potentially misleading or misrepresented?
- Are there just a few rare examples are key examples subject to being problems?
- What would happen if the misrepresentations were removed from textbooks
If you are unaware of the recent book published by Dr. Wells (entitled: Icons of Evolution) then we have a strong recommendation for you! Please read this book!
Why this book? Simply put, there are a number of examples commonly used in favor of justifying the standard story for evolution. These are called the 'Icons' or key examples in support of evolution theory. What is not commonly known is that many of the icons are misleading and in some cases downright misrepresent scientific truth.
What is perhaps most exciting is the debate and controversy that has stemmed from Dr. Wells' writings. First, we'll introduce you to a list of the icons Dr. Wells has addressed in his book (see the list of ten questions below). Second, to look at the detailed discussion that followed the book's publication, we offer a link to a lengthy article that gives Dr. Wells response to his critics (link follows the ten questions below). It's very interesting reading and this is an article you might like to print and read off-line for your careful consideration.
If the icons are wrong then isn't removing them simply going to leave us with a negative spin on some of the evidence that supports evolution? The short answer is the icons described by Dr. Wells are the key cornerstone to most of what is used to represent Darwinian evolution theory. All this may come as a negative perspective ... but remember the WindowView provides many other perspectives that compliment or examine other sides of the view beyond the discussion on these icons alone.
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When Dr. Wells gives a personal presentation on his work, he may come with bookmarks to hand out to the audience. At Yale University, during the November 2000 symposium on "Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe," the bookmarks given out at that time listed the following:
TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK
TEACHER ABOUT EVOLUTION
By Jonathan Wells, Ph.D.
1. ORIGIN OF LIFE
Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life’s building blocks may have formed on the early Earth—when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?
2. DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE
Why don’t textbooks discuss the '’Cambrian explosion,’’ in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor—thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?
Why do textbooks define homology as similarly due to common ancestry, then claim that it is evidence for common ancestry——a circular argument masquerading as scientific evidence?
4. VERTEBRATE EMBRYOS
Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for their common ancestry—even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked?
Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds—even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it?
6. PEPPERED MOTHS
Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection—when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don’t normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?
7. DARWIN’S FINCHES
Why do textbooks claim that beak changes in Galapagos finches during a severe drought can explain the origin of species by natural selection—even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred?
8. MUTANT FRUIT FLIES.
Why do textbooks use fruit flies with an extra pair of wings as evidence that DNA mutations can supply raw materials for evolution—even though the extra wings have no muscles and these disabled mutants cannot survive outside the laboratory?
Why are artist’s drawings of ape-like humans used to justify materialistic claims that we are just animals and our existence is a mere accident—when fossil experts cannot even agree on who our supposed ancestors were or what they looked like?
10. EVOLUTION A FACT?
Why are we told that Darwin’s theory of evolution is a scientific fact—even though many of its claims are based on misrepresentations of the facts?
There is more to read past this point, but at this juncture we list a link to a lengthy article that Dr. Wells entitles: Critics Rave Over Icons of Evolution: A Response to Published Reviews
What's important here is the overall tone Dr. Wells takes as he considers the nature and content of his critics' writings about his book and related topics. Note his care in responding accurately and even with a bit of spirited rebuttals. Reading this article will give you some of the main points made in the book as well as a means to assess how others read and interpret what is in the 'Icons of Evolution.'
There are a number of misleading examples used in current textbooks. The following two figures were obtained from an elementary biology textbook published in 1924. The horse series illustrated in Figure 249 is not fiction. The skeletons are known data, but their interpretation is what is important. Aligned as illustrated is what is misleading—the actual historical sequence differs. This is something that Jonathan Wells addresses in his book Icons of Evolution (IC).
Other examples that are not only misleading, but false, include Piltdown man. This is something that also made its way into textbooks and resided there until problems with the 'fossil find' were exposed.
The important point here is not to gin up negative evidence against evolution. If that's what comes to mind, then think again. What we are asking is an accounting for as accurate a picture of life as possible. Where scientific principles apply and data exist to support a position, then all the better! Where misleading interpretations have created a false view, then it's time to reexamine and rework the explanations to reflect what can be known, not what one is led to inappropriately think or like would like to believe.
By Dr. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org
If you go hear Dr. Wells talk, in person, he will probably open a box full of very colorful bookmarks. He enjoys handing out these bookmarks for all to share. And, what you have just read above will be printed on both sides of this bookmark. At the bottom is listed the web address for Icons of Evolution. You can find this address on our web links page here at WindowView.
We recommend a reading of Dr. Wells’ book, entitled: Icons of Evolution. You can use the WindowView bookstore link below to purchase this title.
When you read the book, think of a very mild mannered, very considerate, intelligent individual who takes great care to clearly explain his points. Dr. Wells exemplifies a responsible presentation that is the foundation to the empirical process that so often gets heatedly excused as irrational creationism. The point is, biologists and all scientists at large need only study the evidence and report just what the evidence indicates… not more. Not bias, not assumption, but what does the evidence tell us!
Certainly concepts such as macroevolution (that is, all life comes from a common ancestor—and perhaps this having evolved from a prebiotic mix of random and simple molecules) should not be taught through bias or on unfounded assumption. From the empirical viewpoint, we aren’t claiming to know exactly how certain events came about, but we do ask the same of evidence used in support of evolution—especially when the evidence does not support the classical textbook descriptions so often presented as fact.
When school board members or the National Academy of Science members are emphatic that ''evolution is a fact.’’ Then we simply need to ask how they are so assured this is the case. The fact is, they have no assurances to give, but will not admit this fact publicly. We are humored by this and look forward to the many debates ahead.
I attended Dr. Wells’ talk on Icons of Evolution while at the Yale Symposium on evidence for design in our universe. A young fellow named Jeremy made a comment to Dr. at the end of the Icons presentation. Jeremy noted that he recently graduated from a major University in Texas. What he wondered—in light of the evidence and misrepresentations described by Dr. Wells—is that if his father paid big bucks to put his son through college, then why shouldn’t his father be demanding a refund for all the tuition paid over four years. First, the biology texts used all the assumptions described above. Second, materialistic assumptions used in many other courses were founded on Darwinian thinking. Dr. Wells simply nodded and agreed that this is an interesting question!
Another professor teaching at a smaller college asked Dr. Wells if there was any text today that was without the misrepresentations. If such a book was on the market then he could order for his students. The answer apparently is No. In fact, Icons of Evolution contains an appendix that offers suggestions for warning stickers that can be applied to textbooks that contain the misleading information!
[Director’s Note: We suggest a look at the companion text entitled: Of Pandas and People. This book is meant to be used in conjunction with standard texts to indicate conflicts and misrepresentations that in many ways address the problems indicated in Dr. Wells’ book.]
We may appear to be proving the negative case by saying icons used in favor of evolution are essentially toothless and vacuous examples. There is something gained by culling out and then assessing what remains. House cleaning should be practiced in science. Again, the discussion under consideration is only one of many perspectives offered within the WindowView. We hope this is not only interesting stuff, but helpful in clarifying something special about life. In the final analysis, we need to demand as truthful a representation of scientific evidence as can be made by any source. Counterpoint can be healthy and constructive. This web page is offered in that light.
Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org