Glenn's Junk Chest

An assortment of Glenn's writings, photography, gaming resources, flash movies, and other creative output.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Politics: Evolution in Public Schools

From a scientfic standpoint, evolution is a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory. A discussion of whether or not it should be taught in public school is thus pretty much a non-starter with me. Recently, some schools, under pressure from religious conservatives, have considered doing (or done) all sorts of inane things, from teaching intelligent design (thinly veiled creationism) alongside evolution to putting warning labels on textbooks that say "evolution is a theory, not a fact."

In what seems like one of the few good things to come out of the court system in recent years, a judge has said one such set of stickers, used in Georgia, violate the separation of church and state. To most of us, this is probably self-evidently true, but the problem is that nothing on the sticker mentions religion, nor does it contain any factual errors. The problem is that the sticker relies on a common misinterpretation of the word "theory" when applied to science, and further reinforces that misinterpretation by careful wording, but without reference to creationsim or actual factual error, how can a judge rule against it?

I found his rationale insightful.
His conclusion, he said, "is not that the school board should not have called evolution a theory or that the school board should have called evolution a fact."

"Rather, the distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case," he wrote.

"By adopting this specific language, even if at the direction of counsel, the Cobb County School Board appears to have sided with these religiously motivated individuals."
Well put, Judge Cooper, well put.

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