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11 October 2005

Flying Spaghetti Monster says: This book is Evil!

Of Pandas and People
the high-school biology textbook
which promotes Intelligent Design

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins (ISBN 0914513400) is a controversial 1989 (2nd edition 1993) school-level biology textbook by Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon. It espouses the idea of intelligent design (ID) -- namely that life shows evidence of being designed by an intelligent agent (i.e. God; see creationism). This is considered to be pseudoscience by the scientific community at large. It presents various arguments against the scientific theory of evolution.


The book argues that "the origin of new organisms [can be located] in an immaterial cause: in a blueprint, a plan, a pattern, devised by an intelligent agent." It is non-committal on the age of the Earth, commenting that "Some [ID proponents] take the view that the earth's history can be compressed into a framework of thousands of years, while others adhere to the standard old earth chronology." It raises a number of common objections to the theory of evolution, such as the alleged lack of transitional fossils, gaps in the fossil record and the apparent sudden appearance ex nihilo of "already intact fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc." The book makes no reference to the identity of the intelligent designer.

Many of the book's arguments are standard creationist arguments which have been dismissed by mainstream scientists. [1] In fact, a comparison of an early draft of Of Pandas and People to a later 1987 copy showed how in several instances the word "creationism" had been replaced by "intelligent design", and "creationist" simply replaced by "intelligent design proponent".[2] Opponents of using the book in public schools point to this as evidence that the book is a trojan horse for teaching creationism in public schools.

Supporters of evolution have strongly criticized Of Pandas and People and have opposed its use in schools.


There are currently two editions of the book, the 1989 first edition edited by Charles B. Thaxton, and the 1993 second edition, which included a "Note to Teachers" by Mark D. Hartwig and Stephen C. Meyer. A forthcoming third edition is to be retitled The Design of Life. Jon Buell, the president of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, has said that a ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that intelligent design was religious would make the textbook "radioactive" in public schools and would be "catastrophic" for the marketability of both the present (second) edition and the forthcoming third edition, citing possible losses in the neighborhood of half a million dollars. The renaming of the book is viewed by some as way of mitigating this and at the same time distancing the book from past controversy.

Origins and promotion

The book is published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), a non-profit organization founded by Jon Buell in Richardson, Texas in 1980. The foundation was established for the purpose of "promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective," according to its Internal Revenue Service tax exemption submission. The FTE alluded in its submission to its first project, the publication of a book "showing the scientific evidence for creation."

The project was initiated in the mid-1980s after the FTE commissioned a poll of high-school science teachers in 1985 to show potential publishers that a market existed for a school textbook on creationism. The FTE sought a publisher for the book, telling a Boston firm that they could expect revenue of over $6.5 million in five years based upon "modest expectations for the market." If creationist teaching in schools was explicitly permitted by the Supreme Court of the United States in a case that was then ongoing, the FTE's founder Jon Buell wrote that "you can throw out these projections, the nationwide market would be explosive!" (Wall Street Journal, November 14, 1994)

The creationism case in question -- Edwards v. Aguillard -- was decided by the Supreme Court in 1987. The court determined that teaching creationism in public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the United States constitution, but that alternative scientific theories could be taught. While the decision ruled out any return to teaching traditional Young Earth creationism in science classes, it did offer an opening for those willing to recast creationist doctrine in the language of science.

According to documents released in a 2005 court case in Pennsylvania, the outcome of the case prompted major editorial changes to the book. It was initially focused entirely on creationism but was extensively edited to refer to "intelligent design" instead. The first draft was called Creation Biology (1983); the next was Biology and Creation (1986); the third, Biology and Origin (1987); and later in 1987, the authors settled on the final title, Of Pandas and People. [3] They also deleted more than 250 references to "creationism" and the "creator" and replaced them in the final version with "intelligent design" and "intelligent designer." [4]. FTE founder Jon Buell claims that the word creationism was a "placeholder term" whose definition "changed to include a religious context after the draft was written, so the writers changed the word." [5]

The book was eventually published by "Haughton Publishing Co.," the assumed name of Horticultural Printers, Inc., a printing firm in Mesquite, Texas which mainly served the agricultural industry. Its costs were met by donations to the FTE, who were told in a December 1988 fundraising letter that they would receive as a gift an enameled box with a panda on the lid. The box would "become a pleasant reminder to pray for our work," as Buell put it. (WSJ, November 14, 1994)

Following the book's publication in 1989, the FTE embarked on a lengthy campaign to get the book into use in schools across the United States. Previous creationist efforts to dilute or overturn the teaching of evolutionary theory had relied largely on legislative action but had repeatedly failed to survive court challenges. The FTE took a different approach, mobilizing local Christian conservative groups to push school boards and individual teachers to adopt the book and also to get themselves elected to school boards and local educational committees. Buell told supporters:

"Biology teachers are generally easy to contact, available for a meeting on short notice, and receptive. If you would like to be a part of this 'quiet army,' please let us know right away."

Those choosing not to enlist "may wish to support those who do by their prayers." (WSJ, November 14, 1994)

The FTE provided publicity materials to its supporters to assist them in pitching the book. These included a video of testimonials by pro-ID scientists and a promotional script, including "lines to take" on contentious issues. For instance, on the controversial issue of ID's perceived overlap with religion, the FTE's suggested response read:

"I agree that personal beliefs should not be taught in science classrooms, but intelligent design is not a personal belief; it is accepted science, a view that is held by many highly qualified scientists." (WSJ, November 14, 1994)


The FTE's activist approach has produced heated controversies in several US states as Christian conservatives and school boards sought to adopt Of Pandas and People in public schools, against the opposition of mainstream scientists, educators and civil liberties organizations. The book's supporters argue that it provides an unbiased alternative view of the development of life, while its opponents -- who include some theists -- argue that it is scientifically invalid and constitutes an improper introduction of religion into science teaching.

The book's main premise, the concept of intelligent design, is widely regarded within scientific circles as religiously-motivated pseudoscience rather than a valid scientific theory. In addition, critics assert that Of Pandas and People is filled with factual errors and misstatements, thereby misinforming students.

There have been several notable controversies involving the book over the last 15 years:

* Alabama, 1990: 11,800 people sign a petition which is presented to Alabama's school textbook committee, endorsing intelligent design and urging the adoption of Of Pandas and People. The book is eventually withdrawn from consideration following public criticism.

* Idaho, 1990: A public campaign is mounted to urge the state school board to adopt Of Pandas and People. However, the book is rejected by the board.

* Louisville, Ohio, 1994: Residents vote 121-2 to urge the local school board to adopt Of Pandas and People.

* November 1994: According to FTE figures published by the Wall Street Journal, 22,500 copies have by now been printed and teachers and curriculum buyers in 48 states have bought the book. Fifteen school districts have ordered quantities large enough to indicate classroom use, but have not been identified "for fear of embroiling them in controversy." (WSJ, Nov 14, 1994)

* Plano, Texas, 1995: Conservative members of the local school trust press for the adoption of Of Pandas and People as a supplement to the existing curriculum course materials. The district school board unanimously votes to bar the book's acquisition.

* St. Lucie County, Florida, 1995: Of Pandas and People is distributed by local school officials to every high school and one middle school in the county, without the knowledge of the school board. The book was acquired as a donation from the Civic, Business and Ministry Coalition, which purchased it from the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. It was reportedly "recommended by area churches as a good, science-based text appropriate for school children." (Times-Picayune, Jan 22, 1995)

* Charleston, West Virginia, 2000: The local science curriculum director selects Of Pandas and People as a textbook "that presents Darwin's Theory of Evolution as theory, not fact" following pressure from the local community and teachers. A committee of Kanawha County science teachers unanimously vote to purchase copies of the book, but ultimately decide to abandon the idea for fear of litigation. A Christian conservative legal group, the Thomas More Law Center, offers to represent the county for free if any litigation arises but its offer is rejected. (Charleston Gazette, April 4, 2000)

* Pratt, Kansas, 2000: The local school board waters down the teaching of evolutionary theory, but rejects a bid to adopt Of Pandas and People for educational purposes.

* Dover, Pennsylvania, 2004: The Christian conservative-dominated Dover Area School Board endorses Of Pandas and People as a reference book, with 50 copies donated to the district by an anonymous party. Amid an international controversy, the board also becomes the first in the US to mandate the teaching of ID in the classroom, sparking a lawsuit, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, by the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs. The FTE became involved in the Dover controversy when it became clear that Of Pandas and People would be a major focus of litigation. The foundation filed a motion to join the defending side in June 2005, arguing that a finding that intelligent design was religiously motivated could destroy the FTE's ability to sell its books to school districts. Were the motion granted, the FTE would have become a co-defendant with the Dover Area School Board, and able to bring its own lawyers and expert witnesses to the case. FTE's president Jon Buell implied that if allowed to intervene, FTE would bring William A. Dembski and Stephen C. Meyer as expert witnesses. In his decision on the motion, Judge John E. Jones III ruled that FTE was not entitled to intervene in the case because its motion to intervene was not timely, describing FTE's excuses for not trying to become involved earlier as "both unavailing and disingenuous." Judge Jones also held that FTE failed to demonstrate that it has "a significantly protectable interest in the litigation warranting intervention as a party" and that its interests will not be adequately represented by the defendants.


* "The Foundation for Thought and Ethics." NCSE Reports, 10(4) (July-August 1990), pp. 18-19. [6]

* "Darwinian Struggle: Instead of Evolution, A Textbook Proposes 'Intelligent Design' -- Who Did the Designing, It Doesn't Say; Critics See Disguised Creationism -- 'Agent' Who Hath No Name." Wall Street Journal (NY), November 14, 1994

* "Evangelism meetings not known to Fla. officials." Times-Picayune, New Orleans (LA), January 22, 1995

* "Group abandons 'creation' textbook: Federal ruling on 'intelligent design' changes minds of science teachers." The Charleston Gazette, Charleston (WV), April 4, 2000

* "Textbook publisher wants to join lawsuit: Says company is not a religious organization", The York Dispatch, York (PA), July 15, 2005 [7]

Pro-intelligent design

* A Report on the ASA Conference Debate on Pandas and People Textbook by Paul Nelson, Access Research Network.

Anti-intelligent design

* The Elusive Scientific Basis of Intelligent Design Theory, by George W. Gilchrist, National Center for Science Education

* Of Pandas and People: A Brief Critique by Kenneth R. Miller

* A Reader's Guide to Of Pandas and People by Richard P. Aulie, National Association of Biology Teachers.


* The Panda's Thumb, an article which explains the significance of panda evolution in the debate.

* Fundamentalists Launch Bogus "Supplemental Text" by William J. Bennetta, The Textbook League

* Of Pandas and People: Resources from the National Center for Science Education

Wikimedia Foundation

* This page was last modified 13:40, 7 October 2005.
* All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).


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