Friday, May 14, 2010

Who Asked Katarin MacLeod to Review this Book

Katarin MacLeod reviews a new book on evolution—one that's intended to educate children who lack an understanding of science [Evolution (Biology)-Juvenile literature].

According to the short bio at the end of her review ...
Katarin MacLeod is an Assistant Professor in Science Education at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS. Her areas of interest include physics educational research (PER), and the incorporation of science, technology, society and environment (STSE) outcomes into science courses at all levels to help students understand the relevancy of science, increase scientific literacy, and to promote citizenship.
Here's part of her review. You can judge for yourself whether she is competent to teach science education at St. Francis Xavier University.
Although the text is very good in describing the theory of Evolution, there are points in the book where the author makes comments that could imply that Evolution is more than a theory. For example, “…Charles Darwin revealed the solution to the mystery of evolution” (p. 7). He also makes the comment that Evolution is the most important idea in all of biology (p. 7). Such phrases may lead the reader into thinking that scientists completely understand the theory of Evolution which would be incorrect, else Evolution would be a principle or a law and not a theory. As well, it is a bit bold to claim that evolution is the most important idea in all of biology – biology is a huge field of study with other key discoveries.
Hint to Professor MacLeod. Before you review your next book on evolution you'd better brush up on the difference between a fact and a theory and learn that a theory can never become a law.

[Hat Tip: Richard B. Hoppe at Panda's Thumb]


  1. Is there a reason why concepts, definitions and their usage seem to vary so greatly between the biological sciences and physics?

    (Aside from the usual physicists are more prone to theology arguments, especially if they are from StFX...)

  2. biopunk,

    They don't. These are basic science terms.

  3. There are plenty of well-founded theories in physics that aren't laws, either, so I wonder why MacLeod doesn't know the difference.

    What does it mean to "promote citizenship"?

  4. I bought this book for my son (12). They skip evolution in school so I thought he could use a source in addition to me. This looked pretty good especially at being something easy to absorb without much effort.

    Of course, I thought he would delve in and suck it all up. But no, it spends most time forgotten on a shelf in favor of WoW and Sports Illustrated and PS3.

    He has opened it and dabbled a couple times. Once as a source for a report in language arts - I have no idea what he used.

    But then at least it is there as a source when he wants it.

  5. "As well, it is a bit bold to claim that evolution is the most important idea in all of biology – biology is a huge field of study with other key discoveries."

    Ow, just ow.

    I'm trying to think of another key discovery that could be more central to biology. About the only thing that comes to mind is the central dogma of molecular biology. Maybe cell theory, I could see that one being more important.

    But, I don't think it's overreaching to say that evolution is the most important idea is biology. Especially when you consider that there's no objective way to measure its importance, so it's going to be largely a matter of opinion. That segment of the review just strikes me as an attack on the importance of the theory more than questioning if it really is the most important aspect of biology or not.

  6. Many of the commentors on the Pandas' Thumb thread are proclaiming this woman to be a creationist. From reading her review, I don't think that that claim can be made, just based on the review. She is certainly remarkably ignorant of the meaning of terms such as theory, fact, law, hypothesis, etc. and doesn't appear to have have much of a background in biology, not surprising for someone who majored in physics (personal note, I am a PhD in physics and, until I became interested in evolution, I knew next to nothing about biology). However, in the absence of further information, I would would be loath to label her a creationist, just ignorant.

  7. Here is her StFx website:

    I am contemplating sending an email but also am trying to think of an appropriate manner to phrase it. I don't want to be rude but teaching things wrong is the worst harm you can do. She needs to be educated herself. Maybe someone other than a high school science teacher should do this.
    Her email can be found within that link. I didn't want to directly embed it.
    It concerns me that a 'leader' in science education can get something so incorrect.

  8. Just get off her guys. She's wrong, dead wrong, but chill out. You guys sound like a bunch of communists

  9. Oh looky, an anonymous accomodationist...

    Communist? Nope.

    Opposed to bad analogy? Yes.