Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meanwhile, in Mississippi...

A Republican state representative has drafted a bill that will require a disclaimer in the front of all science textbooks in the state. Here it is, passage by passage:

The State Board of Education shall require every textbook that includes the teaching of evolution in its contents to include the following language on the inside front cover of the textbook:

"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.

There are so many things wrong with this disclaimer, one doesn't know where to start. The word "theory" has only one meaning to any working scientist: a broad statement of relationships describing a particular set of phenomena that are well supported by scientific hypotheses. That's it. When someone like Ronald Reagan says "Well, its only a theory," he really means he doesn't know what a theory is. This is true over and over again in dealings with creationists—they have no idea what the word "theory" means. It sure as Hell doesn't mean "speculative idea or plan."

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 is only controversial to creationists. To 99% of practicing biological scientists, it is established science. Consequently, the statement "some scientists present" is a complete fabrication. Only someone completely ignorant of the biological sciences would write this.

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.

This is out of the creationists playbook. The Cambrian "explosion" is only an explosion if you think that 50 million years is a rapid period of time. Also, many new groups of animals appeared after this period—dinosaurs, anyone? To creationists, there are no transitional forms because they define transitional form in such a way that none would ever be found.

Study hard and keep an open mind."

As long as you are not thinking about evolution! Hat tip to LGF and Ed Brayton.


  1. I'm surprised you didn't take this little jewel to task: "This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things."

    As you and I know, evolution does not explain the "origin of living things".

    How can the state board of education display such ignorance and still be responsible for setting the standards for science education? I feel sorry for the people they (mis)represent.

  2. You know, I simply missed that. I homed in on the "some scientists" wording that I found so insulting that I didn't tackle the "origin of living things" statement. It is interesting: if you read Of Pandas and People, they spend a good chunk of the book discussing why evolution can't explain the origin of life. That is a typical DI misreading of things. Maybe Chism has been reading that.