Thursday, December 15, 2005

People see what they want

It looks like the whole “evolution vs. creationism” battle has hit the federal courts. If this article is true to what’s going on, the whole thing is absolutely silly. Bizarre may be a better word.

First off, it looks like Cobb County, Georgia schools put a sticker on their biology books saying, "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." Why they felt the need to put this sticker on these books is anyone’s guess. The school board calls the stickers "a reasonable and evenhanded guide to science instruction" that encourages students to be critical thinkers. The stickers seem unnecessary to me, but okay.

Most modern biology texts I’ve ever read (including my latest one) present it as a core theme in modern biology (which it is), explain it’s core process, natural selection, and then show how certain elements of biology seem to coincide with it. They don’t bowl you over and say, “God doesn’t exist and evolution is the only true gospel of creation.” In fact, I’ve never seen a biology textbook that mentions God at all, let alone tries to prove or disprove his existence. They just teach biology as we understand it today; or at least at the time of publication.

Apparently some folks disagree. Some parents, as well as the ACLU (surprise surprise) have sued, claiming the stickers violate the constitutional separation of church and state. U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the sticker "conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders."

Huh? Endorsing critical thinking violates the first amendment? Since when? What is this statement endorsing if not careful study and thought? And just who are the political outsiders, here? People who can’t think for themselves? The judge is doing nothing but concocting a condition that doesn’t actually exist. Judge Cooper must think that critical thinking, and forming your own opinions, is dangerous. I wonder what he thinks about bloggers?

This quote from the article is brilliant:

"If it's unconstitutional to tell students to study evolution with an open mind, then what's not unconstitutional?" said John West, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that supports intelligent design, the belief that the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power. "The judge is basically trying to make it unconstitutional for anyone to have a divergent view, and we think that has a chilling effect on free speech."

It seems to me that these parents, the judge, and the ACLU, are simply saying “What’s constitutional is what agrees with my position, and anything that disagrees with it is unconstitutional.” Oh, yeah. Way to protect our civil liberties, there. Not!

“Opponents of the sticker campaign see it as a backdoor attempt to introduce the biblical story of creation into the public schools…”

What? Where in this sticker’s message does it mention the Bible? Where does it mention religion? Give me a break, people! You’re seeing ghosts where there are none!

"The anti-evolution forces have been searching for a new strategy that would accomplish the same end," said Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University and co-author of the science book that was stickered. "That purpose is, if not to get evolution out of the schools altogether, then at least undermine it as much as possible in the minds of students."

Huh? Since when is thinking critically about something an attempt to undermine biology? What wrong with simply saying that evolution isn’t a proven fact and going on to teach it anyway, along with all the other stuff we do know (more or less) for sure? Heck, we don’t know how prions function but we still teach how we “think” they might and no one bats an eye.  Why is evolution so sacred that we can’t allow students to weigh the evidence and think for themselves? That’s not undermining science, that’s the fundamental nature of science! Question everything and refine our understanding!

But silliness isn’t confined to only one side of the argument. Get this:
In 2004, Georgia's school superintendent proposed a statewide science curriculum that dropped the word "evolution" in favor of "changes over time." That plan was soon scrapped amid protests from teachers.

You think? How stupid is that? Call a spade a spade, a duck a duck, and the theory of evolution the theory of evolution. Don’t back away from it! Teach it! Question it! Show all its holes as well as its wonders! Then let students decide for themselves.  They’re going to make up their own minds, anyway, no matter what you do.

UPDATE:12/16 One of our readers. The Sanity Inspector, left a link with some more background information. I followed that link back to one of his own blogs. It turns out he was at the initial hearing. I reccomend reading it. Very interesting stuff. Thanks SI!