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midnight musings: creationism vs. darwinism

August 30th, 2002

Cobb County George… A bunch of parents got a petition together and the school board voted to append a disclaimer to all biology books that Evolution is a theory:

“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.”

Now, before all the liberals in the world get up in arms, there is nothing per se wrong with a disclaimer that notes that evolution has never been proven as a fact. The evidence supports the theory and there is no physical evidence to disprove the theory but that in and of itself does not prove the theory. Teaching evolution is like teaching Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity — It appears that while both ideas fit the observable world, they are incompatible and therefore, most likely, something is wrong with one or both. Just a Newtonian physics fit the observable world when it was defined but failed to as our experiments become more and more accurate and we moved to Einstein’s theories evolution fits the observed data of today, but may need refinement and it is possible that, however unlikely, new evidence may change the basics of the theory. So there is nothing wrong with the idea of the disclaimer.

The problem with the disclaimer is that it is not a stand-alone feature — there is an agenda behind it. We all know that the people who push these disclaimers are modern day Williams Jennings Bryans and while they cannot wipe evolution from the textbooks they will want Creationism — Judaic-Christian creation, taught along side the “theory of evolution.” The parents who suggested the disclaimer may very well be innocent of this, but those who will hail the disclaimer and champion it are the same people who, hypocritically file law suits against schools who ask their students to read something on the Koran as an academic exercise in understanding the world. These people will say that Creationism is a theory and that it should be given equal treatment in the classroom, but I wonder if they would champion the teaching of Hindu creationism? Or of Norse creationism? What of the creation beliefs of the Native Americans? I doubt it.

I don’t see the validity of the ACLU’s statement that the disclaimer is a “fundamentalist Christian expression” in itself — it does not allude to any creationism or opposing views, but I see the fear of a slippery slope in it. Will the disclaimer lead the Cobb County students being the “laughing stock of college entrance boards,” as some local parents thing? It should not, as long as the students still learn the observable facts and the tenants of the “theory.” In the end, the disclaimer itself does not seam, to me, to violate any tenant of separation of church and state as long as it does not allude to any religious ideas of creation. Teach evolution as a theory — as the theory that fits the facts.

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