National Curriculum Key Stage 2
The current statutory National Curriculum contains, in the Year 6 programme of study, a section entitled ‘Evolution and Inheritance’ which includes the following requirements:
Pupils should be taught to:
- Recognise that living things have changed over time and that fossils provide information about living things that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago.
- Recognise that living things produce offspring of the same kind, but normally offspring vary and are not identical to their parents.
- Identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution.
The accompanying non-statutory notes and guidance provide this amplification:
Building on what they learned about fossils in the topic on rocks in year 3, pupils should find out more about how living things on earth have changed over time. They should be introduced to the idea that characteristics are passed from parents to their offspring, for instance by considering different breeds of dogs, and what happens when, for example, labradors are crossed with poodles. They should also appreciate that variation in offspring over time can make animals more or less able to survive in particular environments, for example by exploring how giraffes’ necks got longer, or the development of insulating fur on the arctic fox. Pupils might find out about the work of palaeontologists such as Mary Anning and about how Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace developed their ideas on evolution.
Note: At this stage, pupils are not expected to understand how genes and chromosomes work.
Pupils might work scientifically by: observing and raising questions about local animals and how they are adapted to the environment; comparing how some living things are adapted to survive in extreme conditions, for example, cacti, penguins and camels. They might analyse the advantages and disadvantages of specific adaptations such as being on two feet rather than four, having a long or a short beak, having gills or lungs, tendrils on climbing plants, brightly coloured and scented flowers.
Teachers should take note of the following when planning to deliver this curriculum content.
The Fossil Record
This does not show evidence of "change over time"; on the contrary, it provides much evidence that species do not change - stasis. Many interpret the fossil evidence as demonstrating speciation but there are major presuppositions in doing so, which do not originate from the actual fossil evidence, but instead are assumed from the theory of evolution itself, so the reasoning is circular. To teach interpretation as fact without explaining the difference amounts to indoctrination. The very existence of fossils is evidence for catastrophic burial. In year 3, teachers should make it clear that fossils are simply dead creatures which were trapped in mud/sediment and hardened through pressure over time. They should be shown actual fossils to handle and examine. Pupils should be encouraged to note similarities between animals and plants living today and those in the fossil record (‘living fossils’). Many indicate that they have been trapped quickly (e.g. fish from the Green River formation in Wyoming, USA - these should be at least displayed in images). Some examples of fish fossils indicate such exquisite scale formation that they can only have been formed by rapid burial. At the very least, the evidence for Catastrophism should be considered alongside the supposed slow and gradual formation hypothesis known as Uniformitarianism.[It should be made clear that the "millions of years ago" interpretation of rock ages is just that – an interpretation. The scientific basis of radiometric dating involves assumptions which are unproven and unprovable, and pupils should be made aware of this. Other dating methods (particularly the occurrence of Carbon-14 in fossilised wood and coal) suggest strongly that the rock layers were laid down thousands not millions of years ago.[i] Also recent findings of soft tissue, protein, collagen and DNA in unfossilised dinosaur bone strongly suggest that these creatures lived much more recently than the ages required by evolution theory.[ii],[iii]
When considering the idea that characteristics are passed from parents to their offspring, pupils should be made aware that crosses between different breeds of dog still form part of the dog kind and provide no evidence for a change to a different kind of animal.
The fossil record does not show any transitional forms - from shorter to progressively longer necks. The fossil evidence therefore does not support the dubious hypothesis that the giraffe’s neck has 'lengthened’ over time!
Teachers should make it clear that Lamarckism (the theory that an animal can acquire characteristics during its lifetime then pass these on to its offspring) has long been discredited. Basic Mendelian genetics should be taught, namely, the shuffling of existing genetic information and the impossibility of new information arising spontaneously. So no creature over many generations with a ‘need’ to reach higher can first lengthen its seven cervical vertebrae (all mammals have seven – those of a giraffe can be as long as 25 cm), then bind these together with new ball-and-socket joints (which were not there before) to enable each vertebra to swivel through a huge angle of over 180 degrees![iv]
Furthermore the giraffe’s neck is so long that it requires a very large heart to pump its blood, and a series of special one-way valves in the neck to regulate blood flow, particularly when it stoops to drink, and there is a special net of elastic blood vessels at the base of the brain. Pupils need to be exposed to the reality of what is being claimed by evolutionary theory: that new structures not there before were made by random mutations with natural selection. They also need to be told that there is no example of any such structure ever being made in the laboratory without intelligence first being used to design it.
The Arctic Fox
Similarly the guidance applicable to the phrase "adaptation may lead to evolution" is at best misleading, and at worst disingenuous. The Arctic fox may well have adapted to its environment, but only by using existing genetic information. Its white fur may actually be the result of losing the information for the coloured fur of other foxes. This may be good evidence for adaptation by natural selection ("survival of the fittest") but not for the evolution of one kind of animal to another!
There is today a tendency to view Darwin with rose-tinted spectacles and to regard him as one of the greatest of all scientists. However, some historians believe that all of his major contributions in regard to evolution theory, including natural selection, may have been plagiarised from other scientists. Many of his major ideas are found in earlier works (e.g. those of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin), and he rarely gave due credit to his sources.
Some of Darwin’s ideas would now be regarded as highly controversial. The prominent biologist Stephen Jay Gould noted that ‘Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1850, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.’[v]
Truth in Science urges that all teachers use the Government material with an awareness that both sides of the argument concerning origins need to be presented. It is, for example, worrying that the current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has insisted that doubting the scientific ‘fact’ of evolution will disqualify nurseries from tax-payer funding. (link to other article). When dealing with impressionable children in Year 6 there is a great responsibility to teach carefully what is fact and what is interpretation. Otherwise there is a real danger of indoctrination by evolutionary philosophy presented as fact. Teachers are advised to use the material on this website to inform lesson plans, and to show that the observable (including fossil) evidence is compatible with a catastrophic geological model.
[i] Lowe DC (1989) Problems associated with the use of coal as a source of 14C-free background material. Radiocarbon 31: 117-20. The full reference is available from here.Open content in new window and scroll down.
[ii] Dal Sasso C, Signore M (1998) Exceptional soft-tissue preservation in a theropod dinosaur from Italy. Nature 392: 383-7. The abstract is available from here.
[iii] Schweitzer MH, Zheng W, Cleland TP, Bern M (2013) Molecular analyses of dinosaur osteocytes support the presence of endogenous molecules. Bone 52:414-23. The full reference is available from here.
[iv] See “How Stuff Works” website here.
[v] Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Belknap-Harvard Press, pp. 127–128, 1977.