Still more on the AP article

Apologia has gotten all sorts of E-MAILs and calls regarding the AP article, and they are overwhelmingly positive. Apologia has sent me some of the E-MAILs, but I thought I would post excerpts from one of them, because it shows how even state-certified teachers understand the effectiveness of the biology book I co-authored.

The E-MAIL started off pretty normally:

I am a home schooling ninth grader currently using Apologia’s Biology book and looking forward to Chemistry next year.

The student went on to say what other Apologia courses she had taken and how much she enjoyed them. However, this was the part that was really interesting:

As my homeschool education is also state approved, my books must be looked over to ensure that they meet state standards, and my work must be also graded by state teachers. The teachers who looked over my Biology curriculum were “extremely impressed” with the quality of the material and the assignments that reinforce the material. They were also very pleased with the Physical Science curriculum and easily gave me an A for the work. I currently have an A in Biology as well.

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Dr. Coyne Won’t Debate

The AP article that tried unsuccessfully to discredit the biology text I co-authored as well as the biology text published by Bob Jones University Press is still causing a bit of a stir. This morning, a radio talk show host name Adam McManus sent an invitation to both me and Prof. Jerry Coyne to be on his show to debate the merits of the article. Of course, I agreed right away, since I have no fear of debating anyone on the creation/evolution issue. After all, the facts are on my side. Why wouldn’t I want to debate them?

Well, Dr. Coyne refused to be on the program with me. Mr. McManus then wrote him back trying to convince him that he should do the debate. Mr. McManus even implied that Dr. Coyne seemed afraid to debate. Dr. Coyne still refused, claiming that it wasn’t fear. He said he would be glad to appear by himself, but not with me, because that would give me an air of legitimacy that he does not want to give me.

I find that attitude very interesting. I am not sure why debating someone gives him or her an air of legitimacy. In fact, I think not debating someone gives him or her an air of legitimacy. After all, if you are willing to publicly debate someone, it generally means you think you have the ability to show that the person’s position is wrong. If you refuse to debate someone, it looks more like you are afraid of that person’s arguments. To me, that makes the person’s case look more legitimate and, in fact, superior to yours.

So….even though it is not going to be nearly as interesting, I will be on by myself on March 24th at 5:00 Central time. Dr. Coyne might be on after me or at some other time. I don’t know. The station is AM 630, KSLR.

Drawing Conclusions

I recently received an E-MAIL from a student who attended a March, 2009 debate between me and Dr. Robert A Martin. It reminded me of something that happened in that debate. During one of my rebuttals, I brought up Pakicetus, a supposed ancestor of modern whales. Its fossils were first found in 1983, and the researchers published their findings in the journal Science. The find consisted of parts of the skull, including some teeth. 1

The journal editors thought that the find was incredibly important, because it helped us understand the supposed evolutionary history of whales, so they put the artist’s conception of what Pakicetus looked like on the cover of that issue of the journal:

Cover from Science


This picture was the standard, accepted picture of Pakicetus until 2001, when a more complete skeleton was published. 2 The more complete skeleton showed that the “accepted” picture of Pakicetus wasn’t even close to correct.

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Monty Hall and Evolution

The “Monty Hall Dilemma” is a classic probability problem that stumps most people. Named after the original host of “Let’s Make a Deal,” it begins with three curtains. Behind one curtain is a car, and behind the other two curtains are goats. The participant chooses one curtain, and then one of the two curtains not chosen is lifted, and it always reveals a goat. The participant is then asked whether he or she wants to stay with the original choice or choose the other unlifted curtain. What should the participant do? Does he or she increase the chances of winning the car by switching or should the participant hold on to the original choice? Does it even matter?

The answer is that the participant definitely increases his or her chances of winning by switching the choice. When all three curtains were down, the participant had a 1-in-3 chance of winning the car and a 2-in-3 chance of picking a goat. Thus, the participant is more likely to choose a goat. Once a goat is revealed, however, one wrong choice is removed. If the participant stays with the original curtain, the chance is still 1-in-3. Thus, the curtain that is still down but unpicked must have the remaining probability for the car, which is now 3-in-3 minus 1-in-3, or 2-in-3. So the remaining unpicked curtain is more likely to have the car behind it, and this means the participant should switch. I have explained this to many, many people, and most would not accept the explanation, which is correct. 1

Well, it turns out that one of the people who did not believe my explanation rather sheepishly sent me the reference to a great article demonstrating that pigeons are better at people in figuring out this dilemma.

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Updates on the AP Article

If you read the comments on my previous entry, you know that an AP article recently mentioned me and a textbook that I co-authored. Well, there have been a couple of developments you might want to know about.

First, I received an E-MAIL from the author of the story (Dylan T. Lovan). In my reply to his E-MAIL, I mentioned the fact that he truncated my quote about the demographic of homeschooling. He replied with the following:

I had your full quote on the question of why the homeschool materials industry is dominated by Christian-based texts. I especially wish your last clever line about natural selection would’ve made it in.

“If I’m planning to write a curriculum, and I want to write it in a way that will appeal to homeschoolers … I’m going to at least find out what my demographic is. And that demographic is, according to most research, 85 to 90 percent conservative Christian. I think in the end if I were an evolutionist looking at that market I’d say, ‘I’m not going to waste my time on that nonsense.’ ” “If I’m a creationist looking at that market I’m thinking this is a place where my views will be received very well. So I think this is sort of a ‘natural selection.’ ”

So it was not his decision to truncate the quote to make it sound like I was saying something I clearly was not saying. It’s nice to know that, because Dylan does seem like a great guy. It also makes me wonder how much of the AP’s dismal record when it comes to bias and inaccuracies is not the fault of the reporters who write for the AP.

The other interesting thing I received as a result of the article is yet another E-MAIL talking about the spectacular success of a student who used our curriculum. A mother (Lori P.) wrote to say:

I just read the AP article attacking Apologia Educational Ministries and I had to drop everything and pray for you. According to The Associated Press, Coyne argued your books may steer students away from careers in biology or the study of the history of the earth. He also said, “If this is the way kids are homeschooled, then they’re being short-changed, both rationally and in terms of biology.” My “case study” does not involve biology or the history of the earth, but does involve a hard science. My son studied several of your books and is now completing his second year in mechanical engineering at a large university. He received “Student of the Year” both years of his pre-engineering academy, received 5 on every AP test he took, including calculus and physics, and received multiple scholarships and honors. He has a 4.0 GPA. He was just elected officer in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at his university and he is faithfully witnessing to the campus of the truth of the gospel. He was asked to give his testimony to the Point Man Conference, a national assembly of Navigators. He and I do not feel he was short-changed by Apologia. Instead we feel sorrow for the student who experienced “confusion” when she read your book which disputed Charles Darwin’s theory. Perhaps she is the one who was short-changed by not hearing the facts of the debate.

I strongly agree with this mother, and I am glad that the article inspired her to write to me to give yet another example of how successful a young-earth creationist education in the sciences can be. For more examples, you can go here, here, here, here, and here.

You might note that in the AP article, Dr. Jerry Coyne used his fervent faith in evolution to predict that my books “may steer students away from careers in biology or the study of the history of the earth.” Instead, the myriads of success stories clearly show that my books do exactly the opposite. Thus, while this is not a failed prediction of the theory of evolution itself, it is a failed prediction made by an evolutionist, based on his evolutionary faith. Not only does evolution produce lots of failed predictions, it seems that evolutionists do as well. Of course, that’s not surprising. If you base your view on unscientific ideas, you will come to unscientific conclusions!

Ida Thought They’d Have Learned by Now…

The history of evolution is filled with great pronouncements about how a new fossil find finally provides the “missing link” in some evolutionary transition. Of course, such missing links are generally found to be hoaxes or misinterpretations. Interestingly enough, however, the publicity related to the original announcement is generally significantly greater than the publicity of the fact that the original announcement was wrong. Darwinius masillae is probably the most egregious example of this general trend.

Ida, the fossil that created such a stir (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Darwinius_masillae_PMO_214.214.jpg)


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Slime Molds are Smarter than Me (at least when it comes to eating)

Anyone who has seen me in person knows that I am not very concerned about health. I am overweight because I eat a large amount of what I like, regardless of whether or not it is good for me. It’s not a smart way to live; I know. However, it is a fun way to live, so that’s why I do it. I was therefore rather surprised to learn that this slime mold:

This Organism is a Health Nut! (image in the public domain)


takes its diet more seriously than I do!

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Philosophers Without Gods

I read a lot of atheists, but the range is limited. I mostly focus on the writings of atheists who have a scientific bent (like Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, etc.). However, I ran across a review of Philosophers Without Gods (edited by Louise M. Anthony), and I noticed that I recognized only a couple of the contributors. Thus, I purchased it two years ago, and on the trip home from New Zealand, I read it. I am very glad that I did.

This book is a collection of essays from twenty atheists. The editor contends that atheists are a very misunderstood lot, and her hope is that these essays will help provide a more “just understanding” (p. x) of those who reject religious belief. I essentially agree with the editor’s premise. Most people who do not share a given group’s beliefs tend to misunderstand that group. Since most people in the world believe in some kind of “god” or “gods,” it is not surprising that most people in the world really don’t understand atheists. Of course, most atheists don’t understand those who believe in God, so the misunderstandings go both ways.

Obviously, I fundamentally disagree with the main premise of each of the authors, but that is no reason to avoid reading them. Indeed, early on in my scientific training I learned that some of my most enlightening discussions were the ones I had with scientists whose views were quite different from my own. Not surprisingly, then, of the books I read over vacation, this was my favorite. Mostly that’s because the editor has done a great job of bringing together a very diverse group of atheists, most of whom have coherent things to say.

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Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe

Simon Conway Morris is a Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology at the University of Cambridge. Some would call him a “theistic evolutionist,” while others would simply call him an evolutionist who is also a Christian. I would call him an evolutionist who thinks the laws of chemistry and physics were “set up” (by God) to produce evolution, which would end up producing people. While I have never met him, that is the impression I get from reading his book, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe.

The book presents his rather unique views on evolution in an interesting, entertaining way. Even though he says early on:

…if you happen to be a ‘creation scientist’ (or something of that kind) and have read this far, may I politely suggest that you put this book back on the shelf. It will do you no good. (p. xv)

On the contrary, this book did me a great deal of good. For example, it helped me see how uncertain virtually everything in evolution is. Some of it comes from Morris’s own frank descriptions of just how little is understood in the field of evolution. As just a sample, he says things like:

One such ambiguity is how life itself may have originated. As we shall see (in Chapter 4), there is no reason to doubt that it occurred by natural means, but despite the necessary simplicity of the process, the details remain strangely elusive. (p. 4)

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