The fine state of Mississippi is about to be led astray by the cretins they’ve elected to congress. They have introduced yet another textbook disclaimer bill, which will require that all school books that mention “evolution” be slapped with this sticker:
The word ‘theory’ has many meanings, including: systematically organized knowledge; abstract reasoning; a speculative idea or plan; or a systematic statement of principles. Scientific theories are based on both observations of the natural world and assumptions about the natural world. They are always subject to change in view of new and confirmed observations.
This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life’s origins should be considered a theory.
Evolution refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced living things. There are many topics with unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including: the sudden appearance of the major groups of animals in the fossil record (known as the Cambrian Explosion); the lack of new major groups of other living things appearing in the fossil record; the lack of transitional forms of major groups of plants and animals in the fossil record; and the complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body possessed by all living things.
Study hard and keep an open mind.
Sound familiar? They all kind of run together into one blur of noise, don’t they.
This is nothing new. Here’s the textbook disclaimer they tried to push in Cobb County, Georgia.
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.
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.
With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.
They all have some things in common: in particular, the pettifogging and incorrect attempt to hide behind the word “theory”, as if that somehow discredited the idea; the pretense of open-mindedness, when these are actually attempts to slander good science; the setting aside of evolution as a special case, when all scientific ideas are supposed to be regarded critically; and just the general notion that the fact that evolution is discussed means the whole subject must be treated gingerly.
The Cobb County and Dover disclaimers have something else in common: they were slapped down hard by the courts. The Mississippi disclaimer should join them soon, and it’s a little surprising that the backers of this bill didn’t bother to consider legal precedent.
The differences are also interesting. Mississippi tries to get specific, and offers a list of topics that are not discussed in the textbook. This is very peculiar, because all of those items are topics that are discussed in some detail in the college-level textbooks with which I am familiar. The creationists have been campaigning for decades to strip out the evolutionary content of our public school science texts, and now they are using the absence of substantive discussion of select issues as an argument for further damning them? The lesson to authors and publishers should be clear: you don’t gain anything by caving in to these troglodytes.
Maybe the message to the Mississippi school board now is that they should pick out science texts that carefully discuss the evolutionary context of the Cambrian, describing the pre-Cambrian antecedents that led to the tens-of-millions-of-years “explosion”. Then they can describe how the majority of animal phyla (but not all forms!) diversified over the next 500 million years into the different patterns we see now, and how there are many transitional forms on record illustrating portions of this process, and how we are now discovering the details of molecular complexity that further reinforce the idea of common ancestry. These are the conclusions of modern science, and we shouldn’t allow the history of censorship by public school boards stand in the way of letting these stories be told in the science classroom.
The message should be to broaden and deepen the coverage of evolution in our schools, so that we stop seeing ignorant clowns like Representative Gary Chism foisting their inanity on our children.