Just learn, don’t think

In Cobb County, Georgia, the ACLU is upset about a sticker on science textbooks that states:

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

In fact, they are so threatened by a suggestion that whatever the truth may be, students ought to seek it out, that they are suing to have the stickers removed from said textbooks.

A biology textbook author testified in the week-long trial, asserting the school is wrongly bringing religion into its teaching by questioning evolution, which he regards as the foundation for much of modern science.

There we have it - questioning what is very much just a theory is tantamount to bringing in religion. What happened to scientific curiosity? If it’s just a theory, wouldn’t questioning and research be a good thing? If it is a fact, that will shine through, if it isn’t - well, it appears that is what they are most afraid of. One would think if they were confident in their theory, they would encourage questions and investigations by students.

2 Responses to “Just learn, don’t think”

  1. Bob Says:

    The problem with the sticker is that it relies on the casual use of the terms “fact” and “theory” to imply that evolution is scientifically iffy, and it’s a toss-up whether or not there’s anything to it. “Theory” and “fact” are not rungs in a ladder of truth in scientific study - as Stephen Jay Gould points out in this article. They are two different (non-mutually exclusive) concepts.

    Gould’s article is an insightful look at the way these words are casually tossed around in order to advance an agenda.

    Yes, indeed - students should be taught to question. That’s how revolutionary advances in science happen. But when a scientific theory has the overwhelming weight of evidence that the theory of evolution does, it’s irresponsible and deceptive to single that particular scientific theory (as opposed to electromagnetism, or whatever) out for a disclaimer sticker. Even the most biased observer has to admit that the sticker on that textbook was placed for political/religious reasons and not to encourage the free-thinking of students! Had the book begun with an introduction to scientific method and its constant openness to advances, developing thought, and even revolutionary leaps, it would be an excellent thing. A sticker challenging one particular scientific theory is politicking, nothing more, which is why the ACLU is rightly opposing this imposition of doctrine in classrooms in the guise of scientific “openness.”

    The truth is that the people who place such stickers are not open to scientific claims unless they support a literal reading of Genesis. They’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too, by playing the science card.

    How these same school board officials would howl if a course on world religions placed a disclaimer on the cover of its textbooks warning that Christianity (one particular “theory” among many religious “theories” discussed in the book) is of unproven merit, and should be strenuously tested!

  2. Elle Says:

    For all the educating about theory and fact he does in his article, he seems to consider one thing (a theory) as a fact when he states, “And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.”

    Let’s look at the meaning of the words “theory” and “fact”:

    n. pl. the·o·ries

    1. A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
    6. An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.

    1. Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed: Genetic engineering is now a fact. That Chaucer was a real person is an undisputed fact.
    2. A real occurrence; an event: had to prove the facts of the case.
    3. Something believed to be true or real: a document laced with mistaken facts.

    That humans evolved from ape-like creatures millions of years ago is not demonstrable. It cannot be reproduced in a lab. It is, however, an assumption based on limited information or knowledge.

    Creationists don’t dispute that species change, we dispute that DNA organizes itself into upwardly mobile, complex and useful information. To extrapolate basic genetics or genetic mistakes into Darwinian evolution is undemonstrable historical guesswork, not science.

    You said, “But when a scientific theory has the overwhelming weight of evidence that the theory of evolution does…” What evidence might that be?

    You said, “The truth is that the people who place such stickers are not open to scientific claims unless they support a literal reading of Genesis.” I disagree with this. Hard core creationists learn about evolution - how else can we refute it? Most of the disputes we hear about aren’t about creationists wanting evolution out of schools, but just equal time with intelligent design.

    I can’t speak for those school board officials, but I’d be thrilled that theological discussion was no longer taboo. I wouldn’t expect a Muslim, Jew or Buddhist to recognize the Bible as divinely inspired, but I would expect people to allow me to do so.

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