Bookwatch Reviews "Pandas" Issue

Of Pandas and People
Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis, edited by Charles Thaxton
Dallas: Haughton Publishing, 1989.
Reviewed by
Eugenie C. Scott and Gordon E. Uno


Why Pandas and People?

Usually, Bookwatch Reviews publishes analyses of textbooks from mainline publishers whose names and titles are familiar to the educational world. Why have we chosen to pay such attention to the first textbook published by an obscure agricultural publisher, and a supplementary text at that? The reason is that teachers in the U. S. are very likely to be exposed to Of Pandas and People during the coming months, and, as one of our reviewers says, "Teachers should be warned against using this book."

Our reviewers include a prominent paleontologist who has been a classroom teacher and who was one of the authors of the California Science Framework, a science educator who is a past-president of the NSTA, and an internationally-known philosopher of science. All three point out that the book lies outside of science in promoting a sectarian, religious view. The book is cleverly-disguised "scientific" creationism, the "theory" that the six-day Genesis creation story, literally interpreted, can be supported scientifically. Scientific and educational organizations have roundly criticized "scientific" creationism as being bad science and bad education. Consensus opinion is that it has no place being advocated as a scientifically accurate history of the world. Pandas has fooled many teachers and even some scientists because it does not use creationist terms but instead contrasts evolutionary theory with a neologism called the "theory of intelligent design." Although more slickly-produced than most creationist works, Pandas is similarly factually incorrect, and grossly misstates evolutionary theory. As science educator Gerald Skoog says, "This book has no potential to improve science education and student understanding of the natural world."

Of Pandas and People has been promoted vigorously by its publisher in full-page ads in The Science Teacher and other journals, and at teachers' association conventions. It is also being advanced by members of religiously-oriented citizen pressure groups like Concerned Women for America and Citizens for Excellence in Education. Pandas was, at the time of this writing, under consideration for state adoption in both Idaho and Alabama, and will be submitted in Texas and other states in the coming months. In addition, given the grass-roots nature of its promotion, Pandas has a good chance of showing up in local districts of non-adoption states as well. In Alabama, more than 11,000 citizens signed a petition requesting the adoption of this book. In the face of such pressure from non-professionals, science teachers need to have accurate information and analysis. This issue of Bookwatch Reviews is a start towards filling that need.

Eugenie C. Scott, Publisher
Gordon E. Uno, Editor

This introduction was originally published in NCSE's Bookwatch Reviews 2(11) in 1989, and republished in Reviews of Creationist Books, second edition, edited by Liz Rank Hughes (Berkeley: NCSE, 1993). Transcribed for the web by Nick Matzke.