CHALLENGE TO EDUCATION DEPARTMENT REGARDING THE TEACHING OF MACROEVOLUTION IN SCHOOLS
Mr Theo Tsourdalakis, an engineer and former teacher, has prepared a paper to challenge the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) on the deceptive teaching of Macroevolution as an established fact in schools in Victoria, Australia. Mr Tsourdalakis intends to take the matter further to the courts, if necessary. In his quest, he asked me to review his document to support his claim regarding the failure of DET in their duty of care towards school students and teachers.
I have not reproduced his document here, but my letter of support is totally self-explanatory and a good rebuttal to having the theory taught as fact. Mr Tsourdalakis welcomed me to share this on the web with readers.
Review of a Paper ‘Teaching of Origins Scrutinized’ by Theo Tsourdalakis (May, 2019)
By Charles Pallaghy, retired university Senior Lecturer in biology. BSc Hons (Melb), PhD (Tas), TAE40110 Cert IV Training and Assessment (2012). Mount Evelyn, Victoria. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The document in question, Teaching of Origins Scrutinized: The Case for Corrective Action
in Teaching Origins/Evolution in Victorian Schools’, was prepared by Mr Theo Tsourdalakis for submission to the Victorian Department of Education and Training. I was asked to review and comment on his submission.
Currently an employed engineer and past teacher, Mr Tsourdalakis is grieved that the science curriculum in biology grossly misrepresents the theory of Macroevolution as being factual rather than hypothetical, which indeed it is, in school texts.
In this document he demonstrates with supporting evidence that biology teachers present the highly speculative theory of Macroevolution as an accepted fact. In the classroom and textbooks Macroevolution is couched in terms that either directly or indirectly imply that Macroevolution can be safely considered to be an established scientific fact. This then becomes the springboard and backbone of all further teachings in biology which students must accept as the central paradigm of biology.
Mr Tsourdalakis contends that the Department of Education and Training fails in its stated goals and given public mandate to teach factual science. Moreover, Mr Tsourdalakis validly asserts that the current biology curriculum on evolution fills the minds of young students with significant and harmful false beliefs that will affect them throughout life, scientifically, socially and psychologically.
What is Macroevolution?
Macroevolution is the widely entrenched belief that complex organisms such as eagles, horses and humans are accidental descendants of the simplest self-reproducing organisms known to man – the bacteria. This excludes direct descent from viruses, mycoplasmas and prions because, like all obligatory parasites, they cannot replicate in the absence of organisms that have their own genetic and energy production machinery. Therefore, organisms much more complex than parasites must have existed prior to these if the theory of origins by evolution was to be true.
According to the theory of Macroevolution variations in the DNA genetic code, that directs the precise construction of an organism through all its developmental stages, arose accidentally over eons of time through random chemical and other environmental pressures placed upon the first replicating organic molecule causing it to become complex enough to interact with other similarly complex molecules to form the first living cell.
The paradigm forces students to conclude that life evolved gradually from an inanimate chemical milieu given the right aquatic and atmospheric conditions over millions of years even though comprehensive experimentations over the years have failed to produce evidence in support of a spontaneous origin of life.
Furthermore, over enormous spans of time, through quantum leaps in the blind and random process of Macroevolution, it is supposed that wingless animals somehow acquired wings and spore-bearing weeds developed into fruit-bearing trees and vines.
What are the Requirements that a Macroevolution Theory Must Satisfy?
The immense challenge placed on Macroevolution as an evolutionary process can be readily appreciated by considering the intricate phenomenon of metamorphosis in insects. What requirements does Macroevolution have to satisfy? We can understand the requirements by taking a closer look at the precisely regulated developmental process of a wingless caterpillar changing into a butterfly. We need to remember that according to Macroevolution each of the processes listed below must have occurred by undirected, blind and random mutations, or rearrangements, in the organism’s DNA code:
- A caterpillar is formed from a worm-like grub that emerges from an egg. The caterpillar that then forms possesses numerous stubby legs with claws, but has no eyes or reproductive organs. It spends its entire phase with a specially constructed and tough mouth part for chewing leafy tissues. It is a highly efficient eating machine.
- At a set stage internal signals instruct the caterpillar to spin and entwine itself in a robust case (the pupa) to prepare it for the next phase of development. The caterpillar instinctively entombs itself in the pupa. It is amazing to watch on video.
- In the pupa 75% of its body tissues begin to self-destruct through the action of digestive enzymes. The liquid pulp forms a rich source of organic and inorganic nutrients. The impervious pupa prevents the pulp from becoming infected by bacteria and fungi from the outside. The pupa is absolutely essential for the butterfly to form.
- The DNA in the caterpillar tissues that remain alive then orchestrate the mass of cells to draw upon the nutrients to construct a fully formed butterfly complete with eyes, six dainty legs, wings, a long curly proboscis to suck nectar and a reproductive system that can mate and lay eggs.
- On emergence from the pupa the mechanism by which the wings of the butterfly expand through blood pressure and then stiffen permanently as the blood congeals is an exquisite process.
- The entire system works like clockwork every generation as precisely dictated by the coded information of the DNA – the butterfly blueprint. How did all these precise instructions originate in the first place?
The macro-evolutionary paradigm presented in the classroom and in school texts demands that the precise instructions on the DNA for the intricate and step-wise metamorphosis of caterpillars to butterflies arose entirely by mindless random chance over eons of time. To want to believe that must take a lot of faith.
The Monarch butterfly, for example, contains a set of 16,866 precise instructions in the form of 16,866 protein-coding genes in addition to other instructional information on the genome. These instructions perfectly orchestrate the physiology, timing of hormonal signals, timing of master switches for organ development, metamorphosis, reproduction and the ability of long-distance migration of this species. This was elaborated in part in a scientific paper by researchers from the Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA and from Genome Project Solutions, Hercules, CA, USA. “The Monarch Butterfly Genome Yields Insights Into Long-distance migration” by Shuai Zhan, Christine Merlin, Jeffrey L. Boore, and Steven M. Reppert, published in Cell. 2011 Nov 23; 147(5): 1171–1185. The paper has been made available for public viewing by NIH Public Access (USA) on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225893/
That all this information arose by random chance processes of chemical/biochemical evolution stretches the mind beyond belief. The first living cell would have to be non-parasitic, self-reproducing, membrane bound and contain its own precise genetic machinery and energy production mechanisms. Any cell not possessing all of these properties simultaneously would not survive, but rapidly disintegrate again in the chemical milieu.
Yet this is the sort of Macroevolution taught uncritically in schools. The complex interactions and instructions required for metamorphosis and other developmental processes are not walked through in the classroom because they would raise too many questions even in young students. The partial self-destruction and reconstruction of the butterfly during its growth to maturity is not mentioned in schools on the premise that “Metamorphosis is pretty gruesome stuff involving flesh-dissolving enzymes and limbs, wings and genitals bursting through what’s left of all that tissue” (ABC science reporter Bernie Hobbs, May 2010). What is probably closer to the truth is that evolution fails to explain how complex developmental processes evolved in the first place. Potential questions that would arise in young minds are thereby stilled.
Macroevolution proposes that similar DNA codes of instruction occurred by chance events over eons of time to develop wings on grubs that formerly had no wings, or the human brain, more complex than the super computers of today, from assumed relatively simple things such as bacteria and amoeba.
In the 49th issue of ‘Alumni’, University of Tasmania, 2017, Associate Professor Tracey Dickson says that our brains are truly amazing, ‘Despite its humble appearance the brain truly is an amazing organ. How it performs many of its functions is still a mystery but we and others, around the world are working hard on this. The brain is made up of 100 billion nerve cells all connected in a complicated series of networks via 176,000 km of axons and 100 trillion specialized junctions known as synapses. With this level of sophistication it is no wonder that even the most advanced computer is still unable to come close to its’ abilities‘.
Associate Professor Dickson ought to know. She is the Deputy Director at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the leader of the Institute’s Neurodegenerative Diseases and Brain Injury research theme in Tasmania. She is a national leader in motor neuron disease research and, in 2017, received almost $1 million in research funding.
Minimal Genomes in Nature
However, biologists officially admitted in 2009 that even a simple bacterium without rotors and flagella is anything but simple (Daily newsletter in New Scientist on Life, 26 November 2009, ‘Simple’ Bacterium Shows Surprising Complexity https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18206-simple-bacterium-shows-surprising-complexity/). Therefore, bacteria and amoeba can no longer be thought of as simple organisms. There is in fact no such thing as a simple non-parasitic organism. Bacteria and amoeba were thought simple decades ago because according to the evolutionary mindset they were considered ‘primitive’.
“The smallest genome (DNA content) is that found in Carsonella ruddii, which encodes 182 genes from 158 kb (158,000 letters of DNA). As endosymbionts, they live in the cytoplasm of their host cells, piggybacking on functions of the host cell, like transcription. Thus, their own genetic machinery is redundant …” American Society of Microbiology USA, (https://www.asm.org/Articles/2018/September/Does-a-Minimal-Genome-Exist). Redundant they say? The Fact is that they have none nor is there any evidence that they ever possessed such machinery! They are obligatory parasites. How would the first non-cellular organism have ever evolved and reproduced?
Even this very ‘simplest’ of organisms is very complex because it requires 182 specific protein-coding genes for its existence, and not only that, but because it does not have its own genetic machinery it would not be possible for it to exist at all without being parasitic in a pre-existing complex cell. Even considering only Carsonella ruddii, how would this simple organism, and others like it, have acquired all that complex information (182 specific codes of information for 182 genes) by blind and random chemical interactions in an ancient chemical soup? Not only that, but how would it have survived if according to evolution more complex cells would not yet have existed? To believe in a slow gradual step-wise emergence of the first living cell would require an enormous step of faith no matter how much time was given for such a process to occur.
[In 2013 Nasuia deltocephalinicola was discovered to have the smallest genome with 112,091 nucleotides. It is also an endosymbiont which cannot multiply in the absence of a leafhopper because it has an energy production system missing. The problem for Macroevolution remains the same – note added in June 2019].
This is the point made by Mr. Tsourdalakis. Theories of Macroevolution and on the origin of life are matters of faith and not science. That being the case school texts ought to emphatically say so. Otherwise, students are being seriously misled which is currently the case. If all other faiths on origins are compulsorily excluded from biology texts and from discussions in the classroom then why should Macroevolution also not be excluded?
Protest on Teaching Methods
Mr Tsourdalakis validly asserts that teachers and textbooks dogmatically treat Macroevolution as scientific fact when it is a highly speculative component of the neo-Darwinistic view on the origin and complexity of living organisms. In contrast to Natural Selection which can be observed and scientifically proven Macroevolution is a philosophical and historical aspect of biology that attempts to explain the origin of the DNA code and the existence of complex organisms.
The document details evidence that many experts in neo-Darwinism and Macroevolution not only question the scientific validity of Macroevolution Theory, but have published that it can be readily falsified. It’s highly speculative and misleading nature has often been exposed by scientists, especially by formidable non-religious scientists proposing “Intelligent Design”, yet it continues to be perpetuated as fact in schools.
An additional factor in favour of Mr Tsourdalakis’ assertions that students are seriously misled is that many texts have dropped the word ‘theory’ to coerce the student to believe that Macroevolution is a scientific fact. Biological texts also falsely claim, either directly or by implication, that Macroevolution has been scientifically proven. Mr Tsourdalakis states that this is not true and quotes from scientific journals that have a strict requirement of peer review.
In the document submitted to DET Mr Tsourdalakis successfully argues that the evidence purporting to support Macroevolution is actually examples of natural selection. Darwin’s Law of Natural Selection is the ecological equivalent of artificial selection as employed by breeders. As the environment or local predators change over time new selection pressures are exerted on variants within the population. Successful variants can cope with the new conditions whereas other variants are disadvantaged and may even cease to exist. Variations in breeding populations occur by well-known genetic laws – such as the diversity observable even in the one litter of kittens.
Thus, it is the environment or invading competitors that determine the individuals within a given population that have the best survival value. The most suited variants live on while less suited members die out and are removed from the gene pool. It has nothing to do with a genetic change that produces an entirely new species. Animal and plant breeders are well aware how this works.
Charles Darwin was familiar with selection techniques employed by pigeon and dog breeders. During his world trips he recognized that the same processes that determine artificial selection back in England occur in nature except that the selection pressure is exerted by a changing environment rather than by an individual breeder. In this way the environment selects variants in a population that are reproductively the fittest and competitively best suited for that environment. This is all common sense.
A population therefore gradually changes in composition to contain variants that have the highest survival value given the current conditions. In such cases genes that give rise to the ‘weaker’ variants are lost to the gene pool at that location. In practice the local gene pool becomes impoverished and less complex rather than increased as evolution theories would hope. The ‘weaker’ variants might have been the ‘strongest’ variants had the environmental conditions been different in temperature or rainfall, for instance. This process is recognized as evolution through Natural Selection. It is an observable and demonstrable fact.
In some areas of biology scientists give the surviving variants new species names encouraging colleagues, students and teachers to believe that macroevolutionary processes have been at work. This encourages hopeful ideas such as the appearance of novel genes on the DNA code by random chance given enough time. The hope is that random mutations in DNA and natural selection might give rise to entirely new structures such as wings and feathers. Fanciful ideas, cloaked in scientific jargon, gradually become factual with each new biology text published. Dotted lines of supposed evolutionary pathways of one organism changing into another become factual solid lines in illustrations.
Summary: What is Factual and what is Speculative in Evolution Theory?
Natural Selection, random DNA mutations and interbreeding are the factual components of evolution theory. One of the world’s leading evolutionists, an embarrassed Professor Richard Dawkins, was asked on television whether he could think of a single case where random mutations in the DNA code led to beneficial results or a novel organ. For ten seconds he was desperately searching his brain for an answer then motioned for the camera to be turned off. As the incumbent University of Oxford‘s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008 and a leading proponent of evolution theory an answer should have been on the tip of his tongue. Evolution News and Science (September 26, 2007) apologized to their readers on behalf of Dawkins, ‘The question posed to Dawkins was, “Can you give an example of a genetic mutation or evolutionary process that can be seen to increase the information in the genome”? Dawkins famously commented that the question was “the kind of question only a creationist would ask . . .” Dawkins writes, “In my anger I refused to discuss the question further and told them to stop the camera”. In their disappointment Evolution Science and News commented ‘Dawkins’ highly emotional response calls into question whether he is capable of addressing this issue objectively’. But his response was motivated by more than just emotion because he honestly knew that no beneficial mutations existed.
Invariably, as is also the case for computer software, random mutations and errors are deleterious rather than producing something better or more complex information. Bacteria that undergo random mutations over millions of generations in the laboratory never change into anything else but to variants of the same bacterium.
Macroevolution is a philosophy to do with historical biology that cannot be retraced or observed nor can it be proven experimentally. No scientist would live long enough to see a supposed macroevolutionary change even if they existed. All experiments endeavouring to create the first living cell from inanimate chemicals have resulted in failure. Life can only be produced from pre-existing life.
The claimant, Mr Theo Tsourdalakis, asserts that the fallacies in Macroevolution are never brought to the attention of students in either their texts or in reading materials provided by science teachers. Students are therefore misled by reason of omission of scientific evidence considered unfavourable to the macroevolutionary paradigm.
Failure in Duty of Care of Biology Teachers and DET
In short, biology teachers and DET have failed in their duty of care towards students. As stressed by Mr Tsouradaklis the content of some components in biology seriously stray from the truth. Not only that, the content is presented in schools in a manner that gravely misleads and distorts the truth.
In this regard, www.dictionary.com defines ‘Misled’ as follows,
verb (used with object), mis·led, mis·lead·ing. To lead or guide wrongly; lead astray. To lead into error of conduct, thought, or judgment.
verb (used without object), mis·led, mis·lead·ing. To be misleading; tend to deceive: vague directions that often mislead.
Potential Effect on Students and Teachers
Having been schooled that we are the product of meaningless chemical and physical chance interactions leads to a meaningless existence and lifestyle. Mr Tsourdalakis provides some evidence that teaching Macroevolution as factual dogma depresses the human mind and self-esteem if everything that is important in life is dictated by mindless random chance, of which we ourselves are supposed products.
The notion that we are just another animal in the evolutionary chain implants in the brain a competitive lifestyle dictated by self-preservation and survival of the fittest. One of its dominant and logical outcomes is anxiety and the fear of death as the following article explains: “Terror management theory (TMT), proposes that a basic psychological conflict results from having a self-preservation instinct while realizing that death is inevitable and, to some extent, unpredictable. This conflict produces terror and the terror is then managed by embracing cultural beliefs or symbolic systems that act to counter biological reality with more durable forms of meaning and value….. Terror management theorists consider TMT to be compatible with the theory of evolution” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory.)
Charles Pallaghy, May 2019