An article titled “Darwin misconceptions in textbooks slammed in biology journal” sure sounds like it ought to be a hard-hitting criticism—we ought to look into that. Larry Moran did, and wow, what a bust. It’s pathetic. It’s a list of seven “errors” made in discussions of Darwin’s biography in textbooks, which is little more than a lot of nit-picking over details that are not so important to a biologist, but are more a matter of historical accuracy. Some of them are trivial matters of emphasis—saying that Darwin published the Origin after he returned to England is quite correct, and unless they’re discussing what he did afterwards, saying that he waited 23 years to publish is irrelevant in the context of a biology textbook—and others, such as the statement that Wallace and Darwin presented their work together when both were presented in absentia are plain wrong, but again, do not affect the substance of the science. I agree that if they’re going to present that material, they ought to get it right…but I also wouldn’t object to stripping out all mention of Darwin’s name (except in the bibliography), and focusing on the evidence and experiment and theory. It’s not that I think the history is unimportant, but we’re already tightly strapped for time to cover the essentials in introductory biology; let’s set it aside in class, and instead tell the students to go read Janet Browne or Desmond and Moore in their copious free time.
I can sympathize with an expert insisting on holding textbooks to a better standard, and in that sense this is a reasonable work. However, it’s being pushed by hack journalist Denyse O’Leary and the British propaganda site “Truth in Science” as if it is a challenge to the science. It isn’t. It’s a criticism of lazy text book publishers, and that’s about it. Except when creationists distort a criticism of historical reporting into another reason to cast doubt on a science.