October 6, 2002
On the sixth day, post-modernism
: A suburban school board declares that evolution is just another theory (The Economist, Oct 3rd 2002)
On September 26th the school board of Cobb County, in the north-western Atlanta suburbs, voted to amend existing policy to allow discussion of "disputed views of academic subjects", specifically the idea that God created the universe in six days-Charles Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould and the rest of them be damned.
The vote came after a month of deliberation, at a meeting crowded with concerned parents. Some 2,000 of the county's residents signed a petition last spring to have the board put stickers on biology textbooks telling students that evolution is a theory, not a fact. "What they're trying to do is appease the religious right," says Michael Manely, the lawyer representing a local parent who wanted the stickers removed. [...]
Cobb County's new policy argues that providing information on "disputed views" is "necessary for a balanced education" and will help to promote "acceptance of diversity of opinion". A poll commissioned in 2000 by People for the American Way, a liberal-minded group, shows that many Americans think this way. Nearly half of the respondents believed that the theory of evolution had not yet been proved. And of those who believe in evolution-only a fifth wanted evolution taught alone-three-quarters liberally agreed that students should be presented with "all points of view" and "make up their own minds". In this post-modern reasoning, evolution and the Book of Genesis are equally valid.
That last sentence is accurate only if you consider Evolution to be "proven", which as the story has just shown, most Americans don't.
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2002 1:39 PM
The debate in Georgia, and your riposte, are barking up the wrong tree. The question of whether evolution is proven is utterly beside the point.
Biology is a discipline, a body of knowledge arrived at through application of the scientific method of reasoning. Properly speaking, science is not a thing, but rather a process.
Evolution is the preeminent theory of life arrived at through scientific reasoning. Creationism and intelligent design theories are simply not scientific. Therefore, they have no more business in a biology class than astrology does in an astronomy class.
Notice I do not claim evolutionary theory is proven or complete, only that within the realm of scientific reasoning, it is the leading contender. Within the context of a science class, Creationism/Intelligent Design should be taught only to the extent their theoretical structures are based on scientific reasoning.
However, I doubt that extent is either broad or deep; therefore, their intrusion into a biology class amounts to a category mistake indicative that ignorance of the scientific method is remarkably widespread.
Because it is not susceptible to being disproved, evolution is not science either; it's mere belief. Treated like the other faiths it is not pre-eminent. It's at best second to a belief in a creation by God, though not Creationism.
I disagree that the thory of evolution is not susceptible to disproof. The theory makes makes claims that can be tested against the geological and paleontological records. So far, those records have overdetermined the theories validity in a scientific sense.
That does not mean there is no disagreement, or that the theory is complete, or that it will ever be complete, given the tyranny of time.
It does mean, though, that at any moment some observation, some evidence, may come along to totally upend the TOE. This is where the scientific process diverges from religously based creation schema which are utterly impervious to evidence.
It is useful to consider why astrophysics and quantum mechanics don't have the same conflicts as does the TOE. The answer is simple: it isn't because they are more proven than the TOE, or more accepted by Americans. Rather, it is because The Bible made no claims regarding those subjects.