The most contentious issue in science today is the Creation vs. Evolution debate—the only problem is that it isn't really a science issue at all. It's a philosophical issue rooted deeply in the battle between belief in God and atheism, a struggle going back almost to the very beginning of the human race, and one in which "evolution science" and "creation science" are just pawns.
Unfortunately, few writers of science curriculum understand the true nature of the debate, and stuff textbooks full of content that isn't strictly science, and makes the actual science much more difficult to learn. Scott Hardin is one of the few who both understands the nature of the Evolution vs. Creation debate, and knows his science.
That's not to say he avoids the issue altogether. He simply puts it in the right place, concentrating primarily on the established facts of observational science. In the Science Shepherd textbooks, attention is paid to the theory of evolution in special chapters that compare it to the creationist ideology, and evaluate the legitimacy of the the claims of each.
How Do These Work?
NOTE: Introductory Science was not available for review.
Scott Hardin is an MD, and his area of expertise is life science; the two primary Shepherd Science texts, therefore, are Shepherd Science Life Science for grades 7-9, and Shepherd Science Biology for grades 10-12. Both texts work essentially the same way, so this review refers to both unless specifically stated otherwise.
Each course consists of a hardcover student textbook, a test book, and an Answer Key & Parent Companion. The Biology course also includes a Lab Manual, a Labs DVD, and an Enhanced Study Question & Answer DVD. Both programs are meant to be entirely student-directed, though parents should keep kids on task, and grade their tests and study questions.
In the Answer Key & Parent Companion you'll find a syllabus/daily plan. Students are expected to complete assignments five days a week for a normal 36-week school year including reading, answering questions, taking tests, and (in Biology) completing lab investigations. Students work alone, though some may need a little prompting.
Student textbooks are text-heavy, with lots of full-color illustrations, photographs, equations, diagrams, etc. to supplement key ideas and demonstrate concepts. Hardin is a capable writer, but that doesn't mean either text is particularly easy to read —both use scientific terminology extensively, and Biology covers material normally covered in college.
Chapters are broken into a number of subsections, with sections at the end of each chapter recounting Key Chapter Points, word definitions, and study questions; tests are assigned as needed. The daily plans in the parent book tell students which sections to read and when to complete the study questions.
In Science Shepherd Biology, students also complete 20 labs. These include some instruction and written assignments in the Lab Manual, as well as detailed instructions and video on the Labs DVD. Images and descriptions of expected results are included. A complete lab kit with all needed specimens and tools is available directly from Science Shepherd.
The majority of these courses is devoted simply to the observed facts of life science, facts that Hardin explains are true regardless of one's stance on origins. One chapter in Shepherd Science Life Science and two chapters in Shepherd Science Biology cover the issue of evolution and its relationship to creationism.
Hardin is a Christian and a creationist, so he naturally uses these chapters to show that creationism isn't un- or anti-scientific. But he also teaches students the salient elements of evolutionary theory as they're presented in classrooms and other texts, so that students won't be completely lost when they get to college or pursue careers as scientists.
Our Honest Opinion
For a long time, Jay Wile's Exploring Creation series published by Apologia has held a monopoly on home school science. We're relieved to see that hold being broken, not because Wile's books are poor, but because there are needs that the Apologia series fails to satisfy, particularly concerning the evolution vs. creation debate.
Hardin's books aren't easy, but they're extremely thorough and excellent for preparing students for upper-level study. He is clear that he accepts creationism based on his acceptance of the inerrancy of God's Word, but he relegates these discussions to a small portion of each book, instead actually teaching life science rather than philosophy or theology.
The fact that there is no physics or chemistry text is definitely a drawback, though Hardin makes clear on his website that they're working to correct that problem. The current Shepherd Science volumes would fit well into almost any course, particularly Wile's books, simply replacing the life science texts of that other course.
Durrell Dobbins's Rainbow Science would be an excellent introduction to either Shepherd Science Life Science or Shepherd Science Biology. Kids will need to be exposed to science unencumbered by extensive worldview discussions to be ready for what they'll encounter here. Over all, we highly recommend Science Shepherd, and hope more texts are forthcoming.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviewshere.
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