Panda-monium: NCSE Resources Page on Pandas

I would like to announce the existence of a new Resources page on NCSE’s website: the NCSE Resources page on Of Pandas and People. NCSE had a large amount of material in its files on Pandas, but almost none of it was digital, so good resources on the web were few and far between. I took this on as a project, and have now digitized just about everything published in NCSE Reports or Bookwatch Reviews on Pandas in 1989 and throughout the 1990’s, and put it in one handy central location for the sake of posterity.

Many of the reviews have never been available on the web before, including Frank Sonleitner’s epic “What’s Wrong With Pandas?”, a review which is actually longer than the book itself (the images in Sonleitner’s document are not up yet since there may be copyright issues). Various minor touch-up work still needs to be done on the collection – manual transcription and document conversion to HTML are not error-free processes – but on the whole it should be quite useable. Please alert me to any typos, formatting errors, etc., that you detect (send to

Hopefully this material will be useful to the folks in Pennsylvania. However, since the last edition of Pandas is now 11 years old, it seems more likely that future controversies will occur over the fabled third edition of Pandas, apparently now retitled The Design of Life. Whatever the title, it will be useful to have some of the long and interesting history of Pandas, and thereby intelligent design, online and available to the public.

The page can be reached via NCSE homepage –> Resources –> Of Pandas and People, or simply

To give a fuller overview, I’ll post the Introduction I wrote for the page, and the Table of Contents.


The creationist textbook Of Pandas and People was published in 1989 (the second and last edition was published in 1993). This was the first book to frequently use now-common buzzwords such as “intelligent design,” “design proponents,” and “design theory.” As such, Pandas represents the beginning of the modern “intelligent design” movement.

This fact is obscured in most recountings of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, which usually credit Phillip Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial and subsequent books by Behe (Darwin’s Black Box, 1996) and Dembski (The Design Inference, 1998) as building the intellectual foundation of the scientific movement of Intelligent Design. In fact, all of the basic arguments of these ID proponents are found in essentially modern form in the 1989 Of Pandas and People (Behe’s irreducibly complexity argument is found in the 1993 edition of Pandas). The textbook came first, and the “research” to support it came many years later. Thus, if ID ever does succeed, it will be the first movement in the history of science that began in a high school textbook and then “filtered up” to acceptance by the scientific research community.

Pandas was actively promoted for public school use by creationists, starting in Alabama in 1989 and continuing throughout the 1990’s. After 2000, Pandas activity largely died down (the last edition having been published in 1993), but in 2004 the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania accepted an anonymous donation of 50 (or maybe 60) copies of the Pandas book, now 11 years old. The board subsequently passed a policy mandating the teaching of ID, attracting national media attention.

The Dover event prompted NCSE to dust off its old Pandas files, including book reviews and descriptions of previous Pandas battles in NCSE Reports. They are presented here in digital form in the interests of making readers more aware of this foundational, but little-known, episode in the history of intelligent design.

Table of Contents


  1. Introduction: Of Pandas and People, the foundational work of the ‘Intelligent Design’ movement

1.1. Offsite resources on Of Pandas and People and ‘Intelligent Design’

2.0. Scott & Uno (1989): Introduction to NCSE Bookwatch Reviews for Of Pandas and People

2.1. Skoog (1989): A View From the Past

2.2. Padian (1989): Gross Misrepresentation

2.3. Ruse (1989): They’re Here!

3.1. Scott (1989): New Creationist Book On the Way

3.2. Brande (1989): Science Textbook Adoptions in Alabama: Part I

3.3. [Sidebar] (1989) Good News from Idaho!

3.4. Brande (1990): Science Text Adoptions in Alabama: Part II

3.5. Scott (1990): Review: Of Pandas and People

3.6. Thomas (1990): The Foundation for Thought and Ethics

3.7. Schadewald (1991): Selling Pandas

3.8. Bennetta (1990, 1992, 1994, 2000): The Pandas Scam

3.9. Scott (1992): Televangelist Promotes Of Pandas and People

4.0. Matsumura (1995): Texas: No Pandas for Plano

4.1. Cole (1995): More Patter of Little Pandas

4.2. Matsumura (1995): Oregon: Creationism Continues to Simmer in the Pacific Northwest

4.3. Scott (1996): Creationism, Ideology, and Science

4.9. Sonleitner (1994): What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Preface

5.0. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Table of Contents

5.1. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Introduction and Overview Chapters

5.2. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Excursion Chapter 1: The Origin Of Life

5.3. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Excursion Chapter 2: Genetics And Evolution

5.4. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Excursion Chapter 3: The Origin Of Species

5.5. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Excursion Chapter 4: The Fossil Record

5.6. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Excursion Chapter 5: Homology

5.7. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Excursion Chapter 6: Biochemical Similarities

5.8. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – A Word To The Teacher

5.9. Sonleitner: What’s Wrong With Pandas? – Appendices: Science; Transitional Fossils; and Embryos

6.0. Sonleitner: The New Pandas: Has Creationist Scholarship Improved? – Comments on 1993 Revisions

6.1. Sonleitner: The New Pandas: Has Creationist Scholarship Improved? – A Note To Teachers

6.2. Sonleitner: The New Pandas – Comments On Pandas’ Suggested Reading /Resources

6.3. Sonleitner: The New Pandas – Appendix: Homology In Developmental Genetics: The Homeotic Genes

6.6. Scott (1994): Keep Science Free from Creationism – comment on Kenyon and Pandas

6.7. Scott (1997): Antievolutionism and Creationism in the United States

6.8. Gilchrist (1997): The Elusive Scientific Basis of Intelligent Design Theory

6.9. Melvindale School District (1998): Analysis of the Melvindale Science Curriculum Sub-Committee Book Recommendations

7.0. Matsumura (1999): A New Tactic for Getting “Creation Science” Into Classrooms?

7.1. Miller (1999) Of Pandas and People: A Brief Review

7.1. Sonleitner (2000): Pandas Update

7.2. Bennett (2000): A Review of Of Pandas and People as a Textbook Supplement

7.3. Matsumura (2000): Intelligent Design in Pratt County, Kansas

8.0. Sonleitner – Developments in Evolutionary Biology for 2001 – a summary