Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity is a challenging biology text, written primarily for a classroom environment. The teacher’s manual assumes that instruction in being provided by a teacher, and it gives teaching suggestions as well as recommendations for multi-media resources to supplement each topic. An advanced student might be able to work through the text independently, missing out on the added instructional elements. Other students should have more regular interaction with an instructor.
The second unit of the text introduces some fairly sophisticated chemistry. It would really be helpful if students already had some study of chemistry behind them—an understanding of positive and negative charges, valences, bonding, and isotopes for a start. While the text does provide some basic explanations, it moves quickly and some students might easily get lost at this point. Overall, this seems to be a slightly more challenging text than Apologia’s or A Beka’s.
At 418 pages, this text is similar in size to some others, but pages have two columns each with what appears to be about a 10 point font. That means there’s more content per page than in some other texts. It is beautifully illustrated in full-color with so many illustrations that there are only a few two-page spreads without at least one illustration.
The text seems up-to-date, especially in its discussion of ongoing discoveries relating to the evolution-creation debate. The important topics of ecology and conservation are also given an entire unit. The overall presentation is solidly academic for college-bound students, but it also adds analysis and commentary such as that on genetics, eugenics, and genetic screening that make it interesting.
The text teaches objective science, but it also teaches a creation viewpoint, acknowledging that any discussion about how biological things came to be the way they are entails selecting a point of view from which to present that information. Evolutionary concepts are taught but with rebuttal, so students should come away with an understanding of at least the key ideas about evolution.
Student texts have groups of questions after each section with chapter review questions at the end of each chapter. Each section often has one or two “Taking it Further” questions that require further research, essay writing, or other more challenging work. While section questions tend to be very factual, the Taking It Further and chapter questions generally ask for lengthier explanations or analysis that can only be answered well if students have thoughtfully mastered the material.
A companion Student Laboratory Manual and its teacher’s guide follow along the units in the text, but they are best suited for a full classroom lab. Unless working with a group class, you might consider another option for providing lab experiences. However, it is possible to perform the lab activities at home with a single student. There are 54 labs activities, many of which require lab equipment, chemicals, and dissection specimens. A complete list of everything needed is in the lab teacher’s guide, immediately before Appendix A.
One of the most impressive features of this text is the cost. The price is amazingly low for full-color, hardcover textbook of this size, and the ancillaries are all inexpensive, soft-cover books. A separate test packet is also available, and test answer keys are contained within that packet.