Don't Even *Think* About Questioning Evolution

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.

That’s the wording on schoolbooks in Cobb County, Georgia. A Georgia judge today ruled that the wording must be removed because it violates the separation of church and state.

“By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories,” U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said.

Gadzooks. Even when you don’t say phrases like “under God,” they’re going to strike it down. What’s wrong with asking students to “critically consider” what’s in the textbooks?

49 thoughts on “Don't Even *Think* About Questioning Evolution

  1. Ah, how far we have come full circle.
    Now we are being judged on appearance rather than on character.

    Scyuz me, massah your honor, wher kin a fin’ the fount’in for dem chistians?

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  2. I wouldn’t be surprised at the rate this is going. Their arguement was somewhat legally plausable in the beginning (even I I disagreed with it), but this needs to be appealed, badly.

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  3. Nothing. But there is something wrong with asking students to only “critically consider” one specific piece of information in a textbook.

    Besides, the stickers are stupid and display an appalling lack of understanding of the how the word theory is used in the scientific community. As if science teachers don’t have enough trouble trying to get that concept across.

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  4. A Theory by definition is not a fact. In the scientific community it’s usually used for an “unproven fact” or something paraphrased like that.

    Besides, what’s wrong with critically considering anything? I thought that was the point to science.

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  5. No, in the scientific community the word ‘theory’ is not used for an unproven fact. A scientific theory never becomes a fact. A scientific theory is an explanation of something. Gravity is a theory. How come there aren’t stickers on the books cautioning children that gravity is not a fact?

    There is nothing wrong with critically condsidering anything. But as I already said, there is something very wrong with misleading students into thinking one scientific theory should be critically considered, but all the others are OK.

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  6. I still don’t agree with the judge’s findings, striking down the paragraph on religious basis when they obviously went through so much trouble not to mention religion.

    As far as I know, gravity isn’t a controversial theory.

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  7. Besides, the example of gravity was a poor choice. True, it’s called a theory, but it’s regarded as a fact. It’s only a theory in name, and that’s my point about evolution (as well as pretty much any scientific thoery/fact).

    We’re supposed to question everything. If God wanted blind followers, he wouldn’t have given us the ability to choose and think. Why can’t we question something the scientific community refuses to call a “fact”, anyways?

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  8. Michael, this was not a “paragraph”. This was a sticker placed on the book, not part of the book. Science classes are for teaching science, and it doesn’t really matter if a group of people want to find controversy with a particular scientific theory or not. In my experience, only those who do not understand what the theory of Evolution is find issue with it. Evolution does NOT address the origin of life. Even the Pope has said that Evolution does not contradict Christianity. That some Christians choose to twist Evolution theory into something anti-God is their issue to deal with. Do you believe that science classes should also teach Young Earth science, even though there is abosolutely no scientific evidence to support it? I want my children to question things, but I want them to actually understand what they are questioning.

    A.M.M. – The theory of Gravity is a perfect example. If you like, you can insert Atomic Theory or Germ Theory. None of these are regarded as fact by the scientific community. That most people (because there are those who disagree with all of them) generally accept the theories as the best explanations of oberserved phenomenon is irrelevant.

    Since no one has said you can’t question any old theory you like, I have no idea what you’re talking about in your last paragraph. There is a world of difference between being allowed to question something and being told you should question it. If the stickers said, “No scientific theory is fact. All theories presented in this book should be approached with an open mind and critical thinking.” that would be a great thing. To single out one specific theory is simply wrong.

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  9. I’m starting to reget arguing this, because I have to point out the same things with frequency. Everything you said, while making some valid points, was avoiding what we had asked and said in response.

    “Why can’t we question something the scientific community refuses to call a “fact”, anyways?”

    “…obviously went through so much trouble not to mention religion.”

    And let’s not forget “There is nothing wrong with critically condsidering anything.” I believe you said that one. If that’s the case, what are you arguing about?

    I stand by my statement that Gravity was a poor choice, simply because it’s a theory that is not controversial. Evolution is, otherwise we wouldn’t be here right now.

    And just so I don’t miss anything, saying that you have to go out of your way to include every scientific theory, when most are not controversial, is sort of like saying you have to include every minority at a college, regardless of prior grades. (I believe that was found to be illegal in at least one circumstance.)

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  10. I did answer your questions, you just didn’t like the answer.

    “Why can’t we question something the scientific community refuses to call a “fact”, anyways?” – No one said you couldn’t.

    “…obviously went through so much trouble not to mention religion.” – While not being able to disguise that this is religiously motivated. Unless you know of some non-religious group that has an objection to Evolution.

    ‘“There is nothing wrong with critically condsidering anything.” I believe you said that one. If that’s the case, what are you arguing about?’ – I’m arguing that this is a religiously motivated action, that asking a student to ONLY critically consider one scientific theory while swallowing the others whole has nothing to do with teaching that child science, which is what SHOULD be happening in a science class, and does a great disservice to both those students who have a religious objection to evolution and those who simply want to learn about science and not religion.

    “I stand by my statement that Gravity was a poor choice, simply because it’s a theory that is not controversial. Evolution is, otherwise we wouldn’t be here right now.”

    The only controversy surrounding evolution is a religious one. There is no scientific controvery about evolution. Specific mechanisms of evolution, sure – but that is taught. The scientific community is quite in agreement about the existance of evolution, and to single out evolution as if it were somehow different in regards to science is wrong.

    Some people might not like the idea of evolution, but there is absolutely no scientific evidence at this time to support a different theory. You can be offended by the idea of evolution all you like, but that doesn’t change the fact that as a scientific theory, it is as sound as the theory of gravity or the germ theory or atomic theory or any other theory.

    One group’s religious objection to a scientific theory is not a compelling reason to warn every student that it is a controversial theory. Those students who are receiving a religious education that teaches them evolution is wrong are already aware of the controvery.

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  11. Geez, you’re as bad as the judge that shot this down. Where, where exactly, in the entire statement of -“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.”- does it mention relgion, ANY religion? You’re telling me, and assuming I have some beef with evolution (it’s the litigation happy judges and rulings I’m mad about) when it’s absolutely false.

    Besides, where you said that -“No one said you couldn’t.”- in regards to questioning evolution, what about you during this entire conversation? What are you arguing about if not to remove that sticker and demand that I, nor anybody else, has the right to question it? And what about the judge who shot it down?

    Besides, the statement -“I did answer your questions, you just didn’t like the answer.”- borders the same about of truth/content % as the LA Times. All you did was throw out the vast majority of my statements based on religious grouds when none of them are.

    I’m not arguing why, based upon religious nor scientific grounds. I’m asking why, based upon legal grounds, which is what a court’s ruling is supposed to be on. The reason he gave as to why the sticker cannot be on there is the reason we’re arguing, not the validation of evolution.

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  12. You are being disingenuous.

    Why are the stickers even ON the books in the first place? Answer that question – answer it honestly – and you have the answer to your question.

    Removing the sticker does not remove your right or ability to question anything. It does remove the attempt to insert a specific religious opinion into the science curriculum, which is the sole purpose of these stickers.

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  13. Oh, and another thing – the stickers aren’t even accurate. If nothing else, they should be removed because they are a false statement. Too bad it takes a court order to remove a blatant misstatement of fact from a textbook.

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  14. Ok, I’ll bite. How are they a “blatant misstatement of fact”?

    Oh, and for why the stickers were there, some people found evolution to be controversial, and I’m still not sure were you see religion in them.

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  15. “Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.”

    Evolution is NOT a theory regarding the origin of living things. It has nothing to do with the origin of life.

    I have to wonder if you are being deliberately obtuse. WHICH people find evolution to be controversial, and WHY do they have a problem with it?

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  16. I understand what you’re saying, Jo – the people that have a problem with it are certain Christians. The sticker, though, was an attempt to satisfy these people that evolution wasn’t being taught as fact to the exclusion of other theories. The “other theory” of course, is creationism.

    They’ve mostly given up on getting creationism taught side-by-side with evolution, but the sticker was an attempt to get the kids to question this theory; they could go home and their parents would explain their viewpoint. The sticker was an entirely secular statement to allow religious parents to discuss the issue with their children.

    The judge says you can’t even have a secular warning, though, if it might lead to a religious discussion. That’s a terrible decision.

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  17. Like it or not, my point here is legal, not religious nor scientific. The law cannot be used to imply anything, and unless you find something in that passage that directly and/or specifically mentions something considered illegal, the court’s ruling must be overturned.

    Oh, and religion is not illegal as per the Bill of Rights, but then again, there’s nothing that specifically mentions religion in that passage.

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  18. No matter how you try to pretty it up, Michael, the stickers were NOT a secular warning. A statement doesn’t have to have keywords like “God” or “Jesus” or “prayer” to be a religious statement. The “other theory” is not a scientific one, it is a religious one. This was a religious warning, placed there at the demand of a religious group, in order to promote a religious idea. You just can’t whitewash it, and the judge was absolutely correct to order them removed.

    Besides, they’re a false statement which inaccurately portrays evolution. And they’re bad science.

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  19. A.M.M., it has nothing to do with “liking” your point and everything to do with you simply being wrong, from a legal perspective. Since the law concerns expression of religion in a government subsidized classroom, then religion absolutely is an issue, and in fact is the very core of the legal issue. You can’t objectively review the decision without acknowledging the reason behind and the message on the stickers.

    Hmm…maybe next we should put stickers on all the history books warning that the Holocaust didn’t really happen?

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  20. So your position is that parents who oppose the teaching of evolution to their children are not to be appeased in the slightest?

    I don’t buy your argument – I could make an argument that every secular warning, then, is based on religion. “Winter Holiday?” A substitute for “Christmas,” so that should be outlawed too, etc etc.

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  21. Why should they be appeased, Michael? This is a science class, and creationism is not an accepted scientific theory. “Winter Holiday” is not a secular warning. What, exactly, is it warning people of? Are you saying that there should be no holidays in the winter, because that’s when Christmas is celebrated? The current holiday schedule is in place for practical reasons, in the same way that when I student taught, no new information was introduced during times when a large number of students would be absent for other religious holidays (non-christian ones, btw).

    I really don’t understand why you feel these parents SHOULD be appeased. They don’t agree with current scientific theory. They have no basis for it other than religious belief. Why in the world should a science textbook contain a warning that some people have a religious problem with scientific theory?

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  22. A) They *must* pay for this education, even if they go to a private school, B) it conflicts with their religious teaching, and C) evolution isn’t fact, no matter how compelling the evidence is.

    Many would agree that creationism shouldn’t be taught in school, but if it conflicts with a majority religion, the text should be open enough to allow alternate viewpoints. The secular warning attempted to do just that, yet the judge says you cannot advocate questioning evolution if it leads to a religous conclusion. I don’t believe that’s fair to the significant number of families in that school district that do not advocate teaching evolution.

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  23. Sorry, Michael, I just don’t see it.
    A) So? By that logic, every parent should get to dictate exactly what gets taught in every class. Anything that any parent objects to would have to carry a warning label. Just dumb.
    B) So? I don’t give a rat’s if it conflicts with their religious teaching. That it conflicts with their religious teaching is not anyone’s problem but their own.
    C) No one has said it is. I’m beginning to think you’re arguing from a position of ignorance here, because you haven’t said much to lead me to believe you actually understand 1) what a scientific theory is 2) what the theory of evolution actually says.

    Our government is specifically designed to protect the minority from the majority. Thank God. In this case, it’s also protecting the innocent from the ignorant.

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  24. A) I would much rather the parent be responsible for what the child is taught. I don’t believe the government has the moral authority to decide what is right for everybody. This is why parents want school vouchers because they’re forced to pay for public education even if they send their child to private school, even if the public education disagrees with what they want to teach their children.

    B) Government shall pass no law abridging the freedom of religion. If the religion teaches one thing, government is prohibited by the US Constitution from obstructing that teaching. The ACLU has most people bamboozled that religion is bad, but it’s the prohibition of restriction of religion that’s prohbited.

    C) My position on evolution is immaterial. The “theory” of evolution is taught as fact by the US government with no competing theory and is in opposition the religious belief of many in the majority religion. Government is prohibited from doing that by the US Constitution, yet that’s exactly what’s happening.

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  25. A) I absolutely agree that the parents are responsible for the religious teaching of their children. Which is why these stickers have no place in the public school classroom. I do NOT want my child taught IN THE SCIENCE CLASSROOM that evolution is different from any other scientific theory. These parents have absolutely no right to insert their religious beliefs into my child’s science curriculum.

    B) Teaching evolution theory is not obstructing anyone’s right to practice their own religion. The government also cannot fund the teaching of any specific religion, and the objection to evolution theory is absolutly a religious teaching.

    C) Again, your comments lead me to believe that you really don’t understand evolution theory, or scientific theories in general. That may be a failing on the part of the public school system (although I went through the same system and I understand it just fine) but if it is, these stickers only serve to make the lesson more difficult.

    I’m curious where in the constitution is says that the government may not teach in its schools anything which is considered controversial by the “majority religion”? Then again, it’s not the “majority religion” which takes issue with evolution, since Christianity does not have a problem with evolution. Just ask the Pope.

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  26. A) As far as you wanting to control what your child is taught, do you deny to let other parents that same right? Those stickers probably wouldn’t even be there if we weren’t forced to pay for the controversial material.

    B) I think it’s only fair to point out that we should stop saying “majority religion” when talking about creationism. Practically every single religion out there, in one form or another, talks about creationism. It’s only those that refuse to believe in any religion that absolutely refuse in Creationism in any form.

    C) You keep saying that we “don’t understand”, but it seems to be only because we’re not on the same side of the issue as you. I know what a theory is, and to paraphrase you, “it’s not a fact”, but it is nevertheless considered one, as you’ve demonstrated frequently.

    Besides, not all religions that teach Creationism admire the Pope.

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  27. A) I understand, but disagree. If the parent believes that the theory of evolution contradicts their religious faith, they should have the right to either have their school tax refunded so that they may attend a school of their choice, or have evolution given less weight that the sole theory presented.

    B) If evolution is the only theory taught, is at odds with a religious creationism, and the schooling is mandated by the government, then it most certainly does obstruct religion.

    C) You keep saying I don’t understand as though that diminishes my objection somehow. A theory is a explanation (or a “guess”) to explain a group of facts. A theory can be disproven, but it is often difficult or impossible to prove. Evolution is a unifying theory for several related branches of study including biology and paleontology. How am I doing so far without googling? The conflict arises with the origin of man and the age of the earth; the theory of evolution includes the assumption that the earth is 4 billion years old or so and that man descended from apes through natural selection over more than a million years, versus creationism that holds that man was created by God 3500 years or so ago. This faith is incompatible with the theory of evolution when taken literally. Creationists argue that evolution is flawed as there are no evidences of transitional links between one species and another; suddenly *poof* there’s a new species. Does it matter whether I understand the theory of evolution or whether I believe in it? It’s a sole theory, supported by the government, conflicting (abridging) with some religion. Some former supporters of evolution, still avowed atheists, no longer support the theory of evolution and support the idea of “intelligent design” in lieu of natural selection, but that idea isn’t presented either. The government must not propose one theory to the exclusion of all others, especially when it supresses the expression of religion.

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  28. *sigh* AAM
    A) I do not want to have the public school teach religion. That is not trying to “control” what is taught in the way these parents are trying to “control” what is taught. It is recognizing that it is NOT the job of the government to teach religion, particularly not in a science classroom. You have not given one single reason WHY religion should be allowed in the public school science classroom. It’s not science. It will never be science. It has no business in a science curriculum. It doesn’t matter if anyone has religious objections to evolution or believes in a different theory or not. Evolution is a scientific theory and Creationism is not a scientific theory. Period.

    B) I am not the one who brought up the issue of “majority religion”, I simply pointed out that using the term to suuport the objection to evolution theory is inaccurate. Creationism in other religions is not contradictory to evolution, since evolution does not address the creation of life. It is only a very small fundamentalist protestant segment of Christianity which believes that evolution is contradictory to creationism, and for some mysterious reason also believes that evolution theory addresses the origin of life.

    C) Anyone who claims that evolution addresses the origin of life does not understand evolution theory. Anyone that claims evolution is taught as fact does not understand what a scientific theory is. Particularly anyone who claims that the difference between evolution and any other scientific theory is that any other scientific theory is considered a fact does not understand what a scientific theory is.

    Point out one statement I have made which says evolution is fact. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I’ll order pizza and paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the meantime.

    None of the groups which teach creationism follow the Pope. However, the Pope is the leader of the largest Christian group in North America. I brought him up as an illustration that the “majority religion” absolutely does not believe that evolution contradicts Christianity.

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  29. Michael
    A) Yes to your first idea, no to your second. I have no problem with vouchers, although I do not think it will improve education in general. I have a serious problem with parents who think that because they pay taxes they can teach OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN that religion is science. Creationism is not a scientific theory. Why should it be included in a science curriculum? Shall our science curriculum now also include tarot card reading and reincarnation? They have as much scientific weight as creationism.

    B) You just said it yourself Michael – evolution is a scientific theory which is at odds with a religious theory. Why is it the job of the school to address religious theory? Teaching evolution as a scientific theory in a science classroom does not in any way obstruct religious education, because the school does not administer religious education. It is a parent’s responsibility to teach religion. To their own children. Not to mine. Why are my religious beliefs any less valuable than the Creationists? Why do ONLY their beliefs get to infringe on the science curriculum? Again, creationism is NOT a scientific theory, and if your only reason for including it in a science curriculum is that it’s a relgious theory, then you have no argument.

    C) Oops. You’re wrong. Evolution does not claim that man descended from apes. And if you’re just now educating yourself on evolution, then you most certainly have been arguing from a position of ignorance all this time. You’re objecting to the teaching of a theory you don’t even know, based solely on the fact that a small group of people who happen to share a religion you believe in don’t like it.

    Evolution theory is an explantion of observed data. Creationism is not. Creationism is a belief based on a creation myth in a religious text. There is no data – not one shred of data – to support creationism. Therefore, it simply does not meet the requirements to be a scientific theory. It is not a competing scientific theory with evolution any more than the belief that the earth sits on the back of a giant tortise is a competing scientific theory with quantum theory, and it has no place in a science classroom.

    By the way, evolution and natural selection are not synonymous. Keep googling; eventually maybe you’ll learn eough about the topic to see why you are so wrong about this issue.

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  30. Encarta.msn.com says “Human Evolution is the lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors.” It also says “Charles Robert Darwin was a British scientist who laid the foundation of modern evolutionary theory with his concept of the development of all forms of life through the slow-working process of natural selection.”

    If I’m confused, I’m not the only one.

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  31. Apelike, not ape. Apes and humans may have had a common ancestor, but apes did not become humans and will never become human.

    Development of all forms of life, not life itself. Darwin wrote the Origin of Species, not the Origin of Life.

    Foundation of modern evolutionary theory, not modern evolutionary theory. The actual mechanism of evolution is debated within the scientific community – the validity of evolution itself is not.

    Keep reading. It will all come together eventually. BTW, I wouldn’t consider Encarta.com a realiable science text.

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  32. To be honest, I’m finding less things to entertain myself with in this debate. We’re just treading the same old water at this point. We (Michael and I) ask/say/respond to something and you just say we’re ignorant without really disproving us (in the general sense. I’ll admit you had valid points on a few). I’ll be back later when the stream starts flowing again. I’m content knowing that your responses to mine consisted largely of previous statements, some disproven and some not.

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  33. Huh? I’ve said Michael seemed to be arguing from a position of ignorance regarding what the theory of evolution actually says. His posts on evolution have borne that out.

    I’m not sure what previous statements of mine you think have been disproven…are you saying that creationism does meet the requirements to be a scientific theory? That there is a reason to teach religion in a science classroom? That the stickers were an accurate representation of what the theory of evolution states? That within the scientific community, the theory of evolution is regarded any differently than other theories? That it is the school’s responsibility to alert every child any time material might present a religious conflict to any child?

    The case was brought to court because there was an objection to a religious viewpoint being expressed in a science textbook. The judge understood that a statement does not have to contain the word “God” to be a religious message. Unless you can demonstrate that the stickers are NOT promoting a religious viewpoint, then you can’t demonstrate that the judge was wrong.

    And in that, you have failed. All you can say is that the stickers are fine because evolution is a “controversial” theory, yet the only controvery surrounding evolution is a religious one.

    No wonder the debate has lost its luster for you.

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  34. I have said no such thing at any time, and the fact that my arguements seem to float right by you without you paying attention to them is why the conversation has lost it’s luster, as you phrased it. I find some of your comments (although none from your last post) to be valid, but not the moajority.

    At it’s core, my contentions can be summed up as “there is nothing religious is a message that tells people to critcially consider something” and only those paranoid/afraid of religion to the point where they see it everywhere and think they are under assault by it would find it in this sticker.

    By all legal viewpoints, this sticker does not offer any alternative theory (even by implication), and therefor cannot be banned for the reason given. I didn’t care from the start about the validity of evolution vrs creationism, which is what this conversation quickly turned into. That’s also why I’m no longer interested in this topic.

    Oh, and I’d prefer if I, nor anyone else, was called ignorant. It’s far more polite to disprove something without making a crack about their intelligence.

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  35. Of course if you paraphrase the statement you change the meaning of it. There is nothing religious in A message that tells people to critically consider SOMETHING. There is absolutely something religious in this specific message, which singles out a specific theory for no other reason than religious objection to it.

    Obviously, by the legal viewpoint of this particular court, this sticker does offer an alternative theory, since as you pointed out this specific theory is the only one which has any controversy surrounding it, and that controversy is the existance of a religiously competing theory. Intent is important in law. That a group of people tried to get around the law and didn’t get away with it is encouraging.

    If the sticker had said, as I earlier suggested, “Scientific theories are not fact, and should be approached with critical thinking” there wouldn’t have been a court case to begin with. But then that sticker wouldn’t have sent the specific message this religious group was trying to send. Which simply underscores the fact that they were, in fact, trying to send a religious message.

    No one’s intelligence was questioned. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, not a lack of intelligence. I’m quite brilliant and what I don’t know is vast. But what I do know is that this was a poor attempt to impose religion in the classroom.

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  36. As I’ve already said, I don’t really feel like arguing about this topic anymore. I will admit this latest post of yours has been the closest so far to legal contention(s). I will also admit I like your version of the sticker, but I’m not going to really fight back on this. There’s nothing to gain/lose (in this thread), and I’m fairly certain we’re not going to change each other’s minds either. I’ll just stick to my statements, despite how much more could be said (on either side).

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  37. my brain hurts! I think I’ll sing.
    too know me is to love me, I must be a hell of a man. O Lord it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can:grin:

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  38. A.M.M.
    I am so proud of the way you debated this issue from an intelligent and wise perspective, but even more importantly, with love in your heart. You are a beautiful example of what having a relationship with the Lord does for a person’s spirit/character.
    P.S. MY COW! I won.

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  39. I think science and the bible dont mix, because we dont understand either to the fullest, to me bible is a perseption on what that person read and understood at the time. And science is a bunch of facts and theories upon another thing that we know a minute bit about, me personally i will believe science over religion anyday i mean if adam and eve were real we would all be inbred and the churches say inbreeding is bad, religion is t so contradictary

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  40. If I understand you properly, you’re saying you don’t understand either science or the bible, so you’re going to choose science. (By the way, theologians would disagree with you on the “inbred” thing, and science has had several news releases in the last year indicating that DNA testing is confirming that we did indeed all descend from a single pair of ancestors.)

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