Evolution Deception in California State Biology Textbook, Biology: Principles & Explorations, Chapter 12
by Rich Deem

Introduction

Biology: Principles & Explorations (2001) by George B. Johnson and Peter H. Raven, published by Holt, Rinehart, and WinstonThe state of California has adopted the textbook Biology: Principles & Explorations (2001) by George B. Johnson and Peter H. Raven, published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, as its official biology textbook for high school biology classes. Since my son was using this book in his class, I decided to see what the book had to say about evolution and the history of life on earth. As a result of examining this textbook, this page will reveal the bias and deception behind the descriptions offered in Chapter 12, "History of Life on Earth."
 

Section 12-1

Biology: Principles & Explorations: Chapter 12 History of Life on EarthSection 12-1 begins with a question, "How Did Life Begin?" It sounds like a reasonable question, although the text never even hints at an possibility that life did not originate naturalistically, or even that life might have originated elsewhere in space. As we shall see, these two alternative hypotheses are actually more likely than the one proposed in the textbook.

The chapter begins with a description of the formation of the earth and how the earth's age is measured. In discussing the age of the earth, the example of potassium-40 dating is given, even though this method of dating is not used to determine the age of the earth. At least the authors could have described the uranium-lead isochron dating method, since it would have been a much better example.

Deception #1: Life arose over a period of 1 billion years

Spontaneous origin is the process through which life is thought to have developed when molecules of nonliving matter reacted chemically during the first billion years of Earth's history.

Chapter 12-1In stating "nonliving matter reacted chemically during the first billion years of Earth's history" the text gives the impression that there were one billion years for life to have arisen through naturalistic means. Although there is evidence for the presence of water acting on certain minerals (Small mineral crystals consisting of zirconium silicate (ZrSiO4).zircons) as early as 4.3 billion years ago,1 any organic molecules generated during this time would have been completely destroyed by the period of extreme meteor activity 3.9 billion years ago, known as the "A period of time approximately 3.8 to 4.1 billion years ago during which a large number of impact craters were formed on the Moon and planets of the inner solar system.late heavy bombardment." According to Richard Kerr, writing in Science magazine:

"A few of these impactors were probably 500 kilometers in diameter--big enough to create a superheated atmosphere of vaporized rock that would in turn have vaporized the oceans for 2700 years and sterilized even the subsurface, say Sleep and Zahnle."2

So, we know that more than half of the billion years could not have contributed to the formation of biomolecules.

Deception #2: First life arose 3.5 billion years ago

However, measurements of Earth's age and discoveries of 3.5-billion-year-old fossils indicate that life began much earlier.

Chapter 12-1 Page 254Although acknowledging the existence of fossils from as early as 3.5 billion year ago, the text does not say that those fossils do not represent the first life forms. In fact, there is chemical evidence that demonstrates that complex bacterial life (oxygenic Relating to the process of photosynthesis, a metabolic pathway that converts light energy into chemical energy through the fixation of carbon dioxide into sugars utilizing the energy from sunlight.photosynthetic organisms) existed as early as 3.7 billion years ago.3 So, now we know that life arose really, really fast–in the time between 3.9 and 3.7 billion years ago. Of course, this fact is conveniently left out of the discussion.

Deception #3: Lerman's bubble hypothesis

In 1986 the geophysicist Louis Lerman suggested that the key processes that formed the chemicals needed for life took place within bubbles on the ocean's surface

Chapter 12-1 Page 255Although the textbook rightly rejects Miller's spark experiment as a valid means of generating A group of 20 different kinds of small molecules that link together in long chains to form proteins. Often referred to as the "building blocks" of proteins.amino acids on the primordial Earth, it supports an even more ridiculous hypothesis–Lerman's bubble hypothesis. According to this model, gases from undersea volcanic vents combined in bubbles forming organic compounds on their way to the surface. Although the atmospheres in the bubbles would be reducing, it would not be expected that merely bubbling gases through ocean water would produce any important biomolecules. In fact, this model has never been tested for efficacy. Another problem is that The process by which individual molecules are linked together to form a larger molecule (a polymer).polymerization of the molecules necessary for cell membrane assembly cannot occur in salt water.4 Other studies show that the early oceans were at least twice as salty then as they are now.5

Deception #4: Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator

Chapter 12-1 Page 256What they don't tell the reader is that those chains are made from purified chemicals, some of which cannot be formed spontaneously. In addition, the Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA chains formed are very short (50 An abbreviation for monomer, a small molecule that may become chemically bonded to other monomers to form a polymer.mer)6–not long enough to be useful as a hereditary system. By comparison, the average An organic compound made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain, joined together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of the adjacent amino acid residues.protein requires 900 An abbreviation for monomer, a small molecule that may become chemically bonded to other monomers to form a polymer.mer, and the smallest is ~120 An abbreviation for monomer, a small molecule that may become chemically bonded to other monomers to form a polymer.mer. So, a 50 An abbreviation for monomer, a small molecule that may become chemically bonded to other monomers to form a polymer.mer A macromolecule composed of chains of monomeric nucleotides, such as DNA and RNA.nucleic acid is virtually useless. An A ribonucleic acid polymer that is capable of replicating RNA.RNA replicase was designed recently. It turned out to be ~200 An abbreviation for monomer, a small molecule that may become chemically bonded to other monomers to form a polymer.mer. This A ribonucleic acid polymer that is capable of replicating RNA.RNA replicase could add only 14 bases together at once, so it couldn't even copy itself (which is absolutely necessary for the first A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator).7 The text goes on to say:
 

Perhaps RNA was the first self-replicating information-storage molecule.

Besides the problem of try to get a 50-An abbreviation for monomer, a small molecule that may become chemically bonded to other monomers to form a polymer.mer Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA chain to The process by which a biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicate, no such Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator has yet been found. According to Steven A. Benner (professor of Chemistry at the University of Florida), "Searches of quadrillions of randomly generated Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA The order of nucleotides in a DNA or RNA molecule, or the order of amino acids in a protein molecule.sequences have failed to yield a spontaneous Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator."2 Although an A ribonucleic acid polymer that is capable of replicating RNA.RNA replicase has now been found, it is still unable to The process by which a biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicate itself.7

Deception #5: Microspheres are equivalent to cell membranes

Scientists think that formation of microspheres might have been the first step toward cellular organization

Microspheres can be formed through the assembly of chains of A group of 20 different kinds of small molecules that link together in long chains to form proteins. Often referred to as the "building blocks" of proteins.amino acids. Although these hollow spheres may look like cell membranes, there are vast differences. Cell membranes are very specialized structures composed of Organic, non-water soluble molecules, including fats or fatty acids, oils, waxes, cholesterol, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, phospholipids, and others.lipids and Organic compounds made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain, joined together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of the adjacent amino acid residues.proteins. The incorporation of specific Organic, non-water soluble molecules, including fats or fatty acids, oils, waxes, cholesterol, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, phospholipids, and others.lipids and Organic compounds made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain, joined together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of the adjacent amino acid residues.proteins, in combination with active processes performed in the cell's The contents of a cell (excluding the nucleus), including the cytosol, organelles, vesicles, and the cytoskeleton.cytoplasm, makes these structures The property of a membrane that will allow some but not all substances to pass through it.semi-permeable and osmotically stable. Even the simplest membrane uses extensive cellular machinery, requiring dozens of specific Functional and physical units of heredity passed from parent to offspring. Genes are pieces of DNA, and most genes contain the information for making a specific protein.genes to encode its structure. The text goes on to model coacervates, formed through the addition of hydrochloric acid to solutions of gum arabic (a complex set of sugars and Proteins that contain a carbohydrate oligosaccharide chains (glycans) covalently attached to their polypeptide side-chains.glycoproteins produced by the acacia tree) and gelatin (a product of animal skin collagen)–both of which would never form under Refers to the state of matter before life existed, which is hypothesized to play a role in the formation of life (the origin of life).prebiotic conditions. Although the resulting coacervates look like cells, they don't function like cells, since they are inherently unstable, lack the ability to provide a permeability barrier, and lack the ability to encapsulate The set of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms in order to maintain life, including catabolism (the break down organic matter) and anabolism (processes that use energy to construct components of cells).metabolism.

Problems not even mentioned in the textbook

  1. A property of an optically active compound to consist of only one enantiomer (left or right-handed form).Homochirality
    1. All biological sugars are right-handed in orientation.
    2. All biological A group of 20 different kinds of small molecules that link together in long chains to form proteins. Often referred to as the "building blocks" of proteins.amino acids are left-handed in orientation.
    3. The problem: all chemical reactions produce mixtures of right and left-handed sugars/A group of 20 different kinds of small molecules that link together in long chains to form proteins. Often referred to as the "building blocks" of proteins.amino acids.
    4. Using mixtures of sugars/A group of 20 different kinds of small molecules that link together in long chains to form proteins. Often referred to as the "building blocks" of proteins.amino acids inhibits formation of Larger molecules that are formed by the linkage of smaller, individual molecules.polymers.8
  2. A five-carbon sugar found in RNA (ribonucleic acid), where it alternates with phosphate groups to form the backbone of the RNA polymer.Ribose
    1. Chemical synthesis of A five-carbon sugar found in RNA (ribonucleic acid), where it alternates with phosphate groups to form the backbone of the RNA polymer.ribose (required for Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA) proceeds poorly and the A five-carbon sugar found in RNA (ribonucleic acid), where it alternates with phosphate groups to form the backbone of the RNA polymer.ribose produced has a very short half-life.
    2. Refers to the state of matter before life existed, which is hypothesized to play a role in the formation of life (the origin of life).Prebiotic chemistry produces additional sugars that interfere with Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA/Deoxyribonucleic acid: the chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.DNA synthesis8
  3. 3. The chemical combination of one of five single or double ringed bases and a sugar (ribose for RNA or deoxyribose for DNA).Nucleosides/Structural components, or building blocks, of DNA and RNA. Nucleotides consists of a base plus a molecule of sugar and one of phosphate.nucleotides
    1. Organic bases (cytosine and thymine in DNA, uracil in RNA) made from a single ring structure, which base-pair with purines to form the rungs in the DNA double helix.Pyrimidine The chemical combination of one of five single or double ringed bases and a sugar (ribose for RNA or deoxyribose for DNA).nucleosides (cytosine and uracil) do not form under Refers to the state of matter before life existed, which is hypothesized to play a role in the formation of life (the origin of life).prebiotic conditions and only Organic bases (adenine and guanine) made from a double ring structure, which base-pair with pyrimidines to form the rungs in the DNA double helix.purine (A purine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with thymine in DNA or with uracil in RNA.adenine and guanine) The chemical combination of one of five single or double ringed bases and a sugar (ribose for RNA or deoxyribose for DNA).nucleosides are found in A type of chondrite (rocky) meteorite that contains large amounts of carbon.carbonaceous meteorites8 (i.e., Organic bases (cytosine and thymine in DNA, uracil in RNA) made from a single ring structure, which base-pair with purines to form the rungs in the DNA double helix.pyrimidine The chemical combination of one of five single or double ringed bases and a sugar (ribose for RNA or deoxyribose for DNA).nucleosides don't form in outer space either).
    2. There wasn't enough A salt composed of the most highly oxidized acid of phosphorus.phosphate present to catalyze the formation of Structural components, or building blocks, of DNA and RNA. Nucleotides consists of a base plus a molecule of sugar and one of phosphate.nucleotides from The chemical combination of one of five single or double ringed bases and a sugar (ribose for RNA or deoxyribose for DNA).nucleosides.
    3. If there were some way to concentrate the A salt composed of the most highly oxidized acid of phosphorus.phosphate, the combination of The chemical combination of one of five single or double ringed bases and a sugar (ribose for RNA or deoxyribose for DNA).nucleosides with A salt composed of the most highly oxidized acid of phosphorus.phosphate under Refers to the state of matter before life existed, which is hypothesized to play a role in the formation of life (the origin of life).prebiotic conditions produces not only Structural components, or building blocks, of DNA and RNA. Nucleotides consists of a base plus a molecule of sugar and one of phosphate.nucleotides, but other products which interfere with Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA The process by which individual molecules are linked together to form a larger molecule (a polymer).polymerization and The process by which a biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replication.9
    4. A purine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with thymine in DNA or with uracil in RNA.Adenine synthesis requires unreasonably high HCN concentrations. In addition, A purine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with thymine in DNA or with uracil in RNA.adenine The removal of the amino group from an amino acid or other amino compound.deaminates with a half-life of 80 years (at 37°, pH 7). Therefore, A purine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with thymine in DNA or with uracil in RNA.adenine would never be expected to accumulate. The A purine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with thymine in DNA or with uracil in RNA.adenine-A pyrimidine base found in RNA, which pairs with the complementary base adenine.uracil interaction is weak and nonspecific, and, therefore, would never be expected to function in any specific recognition scheme under the chaotic conditions of a "Refers to the state of matter before life existed, which is hypothesized to play a role in the formation of life (the origin of life).prebiotic soup."10
    5. A pyrimidine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with guanine in both DNA and RNA.Cytosine The removal of the amino group from an amino acid or other amino compound.deaminates with an estimated half-life of 340 years, so would not be expected to accumulate over time. Ultraviolet light on the early earth would quickly convert A pyrimidine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with guanine in both DNA and RNA.cytosine to its photohydrate and cyclobutane photodimers (which rapidly The removal of the amino group from an amino acid or other amino compound.deaminate).11
  4. Metabolic pathways
    1. How Referring to the set of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms in order to maintain life, including catabolism (the break down organic matter) and anabolism (processes that use energy to construct components of cells).metabolic pathways evolved is quite problematic. Without every step in the process, the pathway is completely useless.
    2. According to Leslie Orgel, "There is no agreement on the extent to which The set of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms in order to maintain life, including catabolism (the break down organic matter) and anabolism (processes that use energy to construct components of cells).metabolism could develop independently of a genetic material. In my opinion, there is no basis in known chemistry for the belief that long The order of nucleotides in a DNA or RNA molecule, or the order of amino acids in a protein molecule.sequences of reactions can organize spontaneously -- and every reason to believe that they cannot. The problem of achieving sufficient specificity, whether in Consisting of or occurring within a water-based system.aqueous solution or on the surface of a mineral, is so severe that the chance of closing a cycle of reactions as complex as the reverse A series of eight enzyme-catalysed chemical reactions in living cells that use oxygen as part of cellular respiration, also known as the tricarboxylic acid cycle or the Krebs cycle.citric acid cycle, for example, is negligible."12

What do scientists say about the spontaneous origin of life?

Conclusion Top of page

The California state textbook Biology: Principles & Explorations (2001) by George B. Johnson and Peter H. Raven presents deceptive and misleading information on the possible spontaneous origin of life on earth. The textbook gives the impression that there were a billion years in which chemical reactions could have led to the origin on life. However, scientific studies show that there were at most 200 million years, and likely much less time. The textbook also promotes the Lerman's bubble hypothesis for the synthesis of biomolecules, even though it has never been tested in the lab. Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA is promoted as the first A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator, even though Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA does not spontaneously form chains long enough to produce such a A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator, and a search for A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator The order of nucleotides in a DNA or RNA molecule, or the order of amino acids in a protein molecule.sequences has never revealed the existence of a spontaneous A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator. The textbook leaves out any discussion of chemistry that contradicts the hypotheses promoted, giving the impression that the spontaneous origin of life was likely, when, in reality, it is extremely unlikely. Such poor scholarship in our public school textbooks is one of the reasons why intelligent design proponents want to "teach the controversy" in our public school biology classes. If the textbooks did a better job relaying the truth, none of this political jockeying would be necessary.



Related Materials Top of page

Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face OffOrigins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross. Probably the single most potent scientific argument against atheism is the problem with a naturalistic origin of life. This very problem led me to become a deist as a biology major at USC in the early 1970's. The problems for atheists have gotten no better since that time. In fact, the last 30+ years of research have turned up even more problems than those that existed when I first studied the theories. Fuz Rana (a biochemist) and Hugh Ross (an astrophysicist) have teamed up to write the definitive up-to-date analysis of the origin of life. The book examines the origins of life from the perspectives of chemistry, biochemistry, astronomy, and the Bible. A biblical creation model is presented along side the naturalistic models to help the reader decide which one fits the data better.

Icons of evolutionIcons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells

In this book, biologist Jonathan Wells examines recent college and high school textbooks, and shows how they distort the truth about biology, often presenting information that has been falsified by recent scientific studies. Icons refuted include the origin of life (the famous Miller experiment), embryo drawings that were faked, the famous Pepper Moth example of natural selection, which used staged/fake photographs, showing moths on tree trunks, genetically engineered fruit flies, the beak of the finch, archaeopteryx, and much more.


References Top of page

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  9. Shapiro, R. 2000. A A biomolecule or molecular machine that produces a copy of an information-carrying molecule.replicator was not involved in the origin of life. IUBMB Life 49: 173-176.
  10. Shapiro R. 1995. The Refers to the state of matter before life existed, which is hypothesized to play a role in the formation of life (the origin of life).prebiotic role of A purine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with thymine in DNA or with uracil in RNA.adenine: a critical analysis. Orig. Life Evol. Biosph. 25: 83-98.
  11. Shapiro, R. 1999. Refers to the state of matter before life existed, which is hypothesized to play a role in the formation of life (the origin of life).Prebiotic A pyrimidine base found in DNA and RNA, which pairs with guanine in both DNA and RNA.cytosine synthesis: A critical analysis and implications for the origin of life. Proc. Natl.Acad. Sci. USA 96: 4396-4401.
  12. Orgel, L. 1998. The origin of life -- a review of facts and speculations. Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 23: 491-495. (pp. 494-495)
  13. Schroeder, G.L. 1992. Genesis And The Big Bang, NY, Bantam Books, p. 25.
  14. Keller, W. 1999. In the Beginning, There Was Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA. Science 285: 668-669. A review of the book, The Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA World 2nd ed. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, 1999. 735 pp. ISBN 0-87969-561-7.

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