Responding to Atheism in Science Textbooks

Swamidass you seen to be very unaware of recent American educational history.

and so on. This statement from the NABT was, at first, supported by representatives on the NCSE. Also notice Christian scientists were silent on this and only an ID theorist, a philosopher and a theologian initially complained.

As for textbooks

“Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless–a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.”
(Biology: Discovering Life by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller (1st ed., D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; (2nd ed… D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161; emphases in original.)


[E]volution works without either plan or purpose — Evolution is random and undirected.
(Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine (1st ed., Prentice Hall, 1991), pg. 658; (3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 1995), pg. 658; (4th ed., Prentice Hall, 1998), pg. 658; emphasis in original.)

(Yes that is the ‘Catholic’ Miller)

“The advent of Darwinism posted even greater threats to religion by suggesting that biological relationship, including the origin of humans and of all species, could be explained by natural selection without the intervention of a god. Many felt that evolutionary randomness and uncertainty had replaced a deity having conscious, purposeful, human characteristics. The Darwinian view that evolution is a historical process and present-type organisms were not created spontaneously but formed in a succession of selective events that occurred in the past, contradicted the common religious view that there could be no design, biological or otherwise, without an intelligent designer. The variability by which selection depends may be random, but adaptions are not; they arise because selection chooses and perfects only what is adaptive. In this scheme a god of design and purpose is not necessary. Neither religion nor science has irrevocably conquered. Religion has been bolstered by paternalistic social systems in which individuals depend on the beneficiences of those more powerful than they are, as well as the comforting idea that humanity was created in the image of a god to rule over the world and its creatures. Religion provided emotional solace. Nevertheless, faith in religious dogma has been eroded by natural explanations of its mysteries, by a deep understanding of the sources of human emotional needs, and by the recognition that ethics and morality can change among different societies and that acceptance of such values need not depend on religion.
(Evolution by Monroe, W. Strickberger (3rd ed., Jones & Bartlett, 2000), pg. 70-71)

The Dover case DID pressure many of the authors’ of these textbooks to remove this passages in later edition. But sadly there are creeping back.

1 Like

I’m aware. I might understand this history different than you do though. What exactly are you getting at?

Some standard textbooks for high school and undergraduate courses in biology have taken strong anti-theist stances. The NABT description of evolution was, if not quite atheism, pretty much as close as you can get. Even the Royal Society had a problem with a priest of the Church of England, Michael Reiss, as Director of Science Education, so much so that some (Kroto, Roberts, Salston (sp)) were about to start a campaign to get Reiss removed. Reiss “resigned”

Edit Sulston

1 Like

Yes, I know this history. What exactly is your point?

“What exactly is your point?”

Only that the ID, YEC and OEC are countering the atheist rhetoric in our classrooms and textbooks. None of the statements/events I pointed out above are ideologically neutral. Imagine if a biology textbook said that “Evolution is a planned, purposeful event guided by God”. The framers of a statement like this would be branded ‘creationists’ in seconds and their intelligence and integrity would be questioned. I would be the first one to say that such a statement should be removed. The framers of the “unguided” statement receive no such disparagement.

In the Reiss case ‘Christians in Science’ said nothing in Reiss’ defence. However many Creationist and ID groups did contact the RS to make it clear that Reiss was not one of them. Within the RS only Brian Josephson made a fuss. But this is always the problem with religious scientists, Biologos, CiS are really only interested in the science and getting themselves right with the major scientific organizations. They will put up with any bad treatment, vilify whoever are not science/scientific authority worshippers and think it is enough to say now and again that they believe in God/Christ (did you see Denis Alexander’s dialogue with Larry Moran - I have never seen a man separate himself from his faith so quickly) . Michael J Murray in the excellent “Analytic Theology” called this the ‘Doormat Love’ model of the science/religion relationship. You should be thanking ID’ers, YEC, OEC as they are doing the job that mainstream science and religion organizations are failing to do instead of contemplating if they are worth engaging in dialogue.

Great bit from Brian Josephson


I’m certain there is a better way than the Dover Trial and the Kansas Hearings.

I’m not sure if you know how BioLogos works. They are more interested in theology than science. They are not engaged on the science.

No thanks. I’d rather do it a better way.

1 Like

“No thanks. I’d rather do it a better way.” Then please do so. Biologos have said the same thing, has have CiS and individual religious scientists. However neither organization have ever criticized scientific organizations, or even atheist scientists. What is your way?


I have criticized atheist scientists. Most scientists also want to present science in a theologically neutral way. It is not that hard a sell.



Isn’t it obvious? By specifically allowing each side to embrace what they think is crucial… it makes it possible for BOTH camps to be more tolerant of the other.

A month ago I had a talk with a Creationist. I asked him where in the timeline he would put Adam and Eve if I held a position that before Adam and Eve a population of 10,000 humans had been crafted by God via Evolutionary mechanisms.

He said he would need A&E to be miraculously created about 7000 years ago.

I heard why he felt strongly about that time. And when he was done, I said: “you know, that works for me too!”

1 Like

All scientists must present science non-theologically as a requirement of publication and to be taken seriously by fellow scientists that they adhere to MN.

1 Like

Exactly, and that is the grounds to challenge anti-theist musings in science text books. Such theological speculation is outside of science, and should be kept out of science education. The answer is not to replace it with ID or Creationism, but to just kick it out with all the the other theological claims people want to make in scientific textbooks. Even most atheists agree with this.

Do errors happen? Absolutely. The answer is not to replace the negative discourse on theism with positive discourse, but to just cut it out. Those who insist on neutrality, and do so in a fair way, they are gonna win non-combatively over and over again.

I am all for removal of anti-theist (and theist) musings in science text books. The work of NCSE is central to that goal. Note that Richard Dawkins Foundations for Reason and Science sponsors Teachers Institute in Evolution Sciences (TIES):

Great resource for elementary school teachers. Take a look at the presentations. I wish they had that when I was in grade school.

1 Like

I was puzzled by this when I read it yesterday.

Coming back a day later, I am still puzzled. I do not see a problem in what you are quoting from textbooks.

Okay, granted that I am not religious. And maybe that seems a bias. However, I was a devout evangelical Christian in my teenage year, and also I was very interested in science. I would not have seen a problem in those quote back at that time.

I did learn something about evolution back then, though not in a formal class. I thought it interesting and I though that it would explain a lot. But I remained uncommitted at that time.

Looking at your last quote, I’ll grant that it suggests that biological organisms can arise by natural processes. But if God created those natural processes, then I don’t see how that is a problem for a Christian.