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Old 01-14-2005, 10:09 AM   #1
Zuggy
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Exclamation evolution textbook stickers-politics contained


Alright, I stumbled across this story this morning doing my geeky news site round-up and thought it interesting.

I will warn you that this is a political issue, but thought it warranted posting since most geeks are involved in other hard sciences besides computers. If you can't be mature enough to post an adult opinion and feel like only flaming or plastering us with religious propaganda then don't reply. That is an order not a request. Not that I can do anything about it, but if this turns into a flamewar the mods will have this closed in a heartbeat.

Also another note. If this post does get closed (because of it's nature) don't start a new thread to reply to this one. I had that happen a few months back on a thread I started and although it may have boosted my ego that everyone felt so strongly about the thread it creates a lot of extra word for the mods and I would rather have this closed then exhaust them trying to keep it closed.

Here's the gist of the story

"A federal judge Thursday ordered a suburban Atlanta school system to remove stickers from its high school biology textbooks that call evolution a theory, not a fact, saying the disclaimers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion."

Alright now here's MHO. My personal religious beliefs aside, I think the stickers on the text books are warranted because the Theory of Evolution is just that, a theory. Sure the most popular theory besides evolution is creatism (God created us all, sort of thing), but what of any other possible theories that have or haven't been thought up. If a new theory of life on Earth were to appear it would probably be rejected because for so many years Evolution has been taught as fact.

Although, the stickers on the textbooks may have religious motives, the fact is they leave kids open-minded enough to accept other possible theories of life, or to create their own, which is the foundation to all good science and excellent science fiction.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 10:55 AM   #2
markhod
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>Alright now here's MHO. My personal religious beliefs aside, I think the stickers on the text books are warranted >because the Theory of Evolution is just that, a theory. Sure the most popular theory besides evolution is creatism >(God >created us all, sort of thing), but what of any other possible theories that have or haven't been thought up. If a >new t>heory of life on Earth were to appear it would probably be rejected because for so many years Evolution has >been >taught as fact.

Evolution is "fact" in that it is the theory which best describes the data and it makes predictions which have been verified (e.g. fruitffys have a very short life so evolution can be observed over hundreds or thousands of generations.) Of course someone might come up with a more accurate theory, but creationism isnt that. Creationism doesnt explain the observation of fruitflys actually evolving over generations and evoluiton does for example. I think you can find a website that explains all the evidence for evolution through google...

In science no theory is ever really fact. All you can say is some theory explains the data the most accuratley and/or it predicts effects which are subsequently observed. Eg newtonian mechanics is very successful but ultimately you have to use relativity to get the most accurate anwser as we found last century. And even General Relavity wil be superceded one day if turns out gravity needs a quantum field theory description (which is what all the other fundamental forces are described by)


>Although, the stickers on the textbooks may have religious motives, the fact is they leave kids open-minded enough to >accept other possible theories of life, or to create their own, which is the foundation to all good science and excellent >science fiction.

No. A good science education teaches the kids to reject theories based on a critical analysis of the evidence. It is fundamentally wrong (in the context of a science lesson) to teach them that all possible theories are equivalent - except in the case where both theories have evidence to back them. Creationism is obviously rejected on the simple basis we know the earth is older than creationism allows, therefore any real scientist would reject the theory because it doesnt describe the data at all! Of course they can try and devise some theory that describes the data better, theres nothing wrong with that. But they must be taught that the data has the last say. If your theory doesnt even describe the data it is not a scientific theory. It is a belief. In this case that is why creationism is fine in a religous education lesson, but not in the science classroom (unless it is taught in such a way as to explain just why creationism is wrong in a scientific context).

I am not a biologist by the way, so I cant argue technical details of evolutoin I 'll leave that to someone more expert. But I am a scientist and I can see just by the age of the earth arguement that creationism should be rejected unless it undergoes fundamental changes on this issue (and I expect someone more expert can explain what the other problems with it are - as I said I think their is a webpage explaining this all which I saw a number of years ago)

Last edited by markhod; 01-14-2005 at 11:13 AM.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 11:03 AM   #3
markhod
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Heres the link (though the intro might be offensive to pro-creationists...)

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?art...88EEDF&catID=2
 
Old 01-14-2005, 12:25 PM   #4
frob23
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I notice they didn't put stickers warning that Universal gravitation was a theory and not a fact. Or that the Earth's heliocentric orbit was theory and not fact. And so on.

The fundamental problem with the stickers is they purposely misuse the word "theory" in this one case to further their position. The scientific meaning of the word is very different from the "lay person's" understanding. As such, this sticker weakens a proper scientific education by giving the students doubt about the very process that makes science work.

And it is religious... there is no doubt about that. I was raised by a fundamentalist Christian mother. The fact that evolution was a theory was highly stressed when I was growing up. When I actually took the time to read the papers on this theory, the process, and the supporting evidence... I felt personally violated that she had misled me by using the word 'theory' without defining it so that I would doubt what she didn't want me to believe.

Last edited by frob23; 01-14-2005 at 12:26 PM.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 12:40 PM   #5
williamwbishop
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I am an atheist, but evolution IS a theory. Albeit one that can actually be tested and verified. No skin off my nose. In fact I'm starting to rethink a national religion like most of europe uses. They have a much higher percentage of people who don't pay attention to religion, and are rational and more skeptic than we are, and we refuse a national religion. I think it's the turf war over which religion that is keeping america in turmoil. Maybe we should just pick one and let americans go back to not paying attention to the primitive beliefs of bronze age goatherders. We have stopped producing scientists, and are producing radicals. All over an argument for who's invisible best friend is the strongest. As long as it's not baptist, those people scare me.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 01:16 PM   #6
Zuggy
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Quote:
Originally posted by markhod
Evolution is "fact" in that it is the theory which best describes the data and it makes predictions which have been verified (e.g. fruitffys have a very short life so evolution can be observed over hundreds or thousands of generations.) Of course someone might come up with a more accurate theory, but creationism isnt that. Creationism doesnt explain the observation of fruitflys actually evolving over generations and evoluiton does for example. I think you can find a website that explains all the evidence for evolution through google...
Your above quote actually argues to my point but you come up with a different answer. Evolution is the closest thing to fact that we have in the story of life, but as you said a more acurate theory is possible. That's what I'm trying to say. That sticker can help teach youngsters to keep an open mind to other possibilities if they come up. Not just to evolution, but to science in general. I personally would expound on what the sticker said to include things like Evolution is the closest thing to fact that we know of, and the exlusion of that information does, scream religion.

Quote:
Originally posted by markhod
No. A good science education teaches the kids to reject theories based on a critical analysis of the evidence. It is fundamentally wrong (in the context of a science lesson) to teach them that all possible theories are equivalent - except in the case where both theories have evidence to back them. Creationism is obviously rejected on the simple basis we know the earth is older than creationism allows, therefore any real scientist would reject the theory because it doesnt describe the data at all! Of course they can try and devise some theory that describes the data better, theres nothing wrong with that. But they must be taught that the data has the last say. If your theory doesnt even describe the data it is not a scientific theory. It is a belief. In this case that is why creationism is fine in a religous education lesson, but not in the science classroom (unless it is taught in such a way as to explain just why creationism is wrong in a scientific context).
Again I agree. I could say we're all made of chocolate and taste yummy, but wouldn't be taken seriously because there's is no data to back it up. Not all theories are equal and, like I demonstrated some are just nuts. Kids need to be taught to be open minded, not all accepting. The Theory of Evolution is taught because it's the most correct, now, and has been for nearly 150 years. If it were my choice what the sticker said (yes I still think it's a good idea):

"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.

It is taught because it is currently, and has been for nearly 150 years, the most scientifically correct explanation of the story of life."

Now I'm going to argue my own point (once had a lawyer friend who taught me the ugly habit of arguing with myself).

The fact that what the sticker says needs serious revision is proof that it is religously motivated. That and being in one of the "bible belt" states doesn't help the case of the sticker being neutral to science or religion.

Also, if a youngster asks their parents what other explanations there are for life on Earth most (if not all) are going to open up to Genesis and defeat the purpose of the sticker being neutral.

Now my grand finally (and probably my last reply here so I don't spark flaming)

The sticker on the Science book is (for the gamers out there) like Steam (valves on-line gaming software), it's a good idea with poor execution. It needs to be revised to explain that evolution is the most correct theory for life on Earth and that is why it is taught. However, the US court system sees it as being easier to be rid of then to revise. And even if it was revised, most people aren't neutral and would find a scientific addition deceiving to the (mostly) religious reason for it.

Now that I read over my post I find I have an apptitude for politics.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 01:36 PM   #7
williamwbishop
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No, you have to lie efficiently to be a politician...a successful one anyway.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 01:40 PM   #8
Blinker_Fluid
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zuggy
The sticker on the Science book is (for the gamers out there) like Steam (valves on-line gaming software), it's a good idea with poor execution. It needs to be revised to explain that evolution is the most correct theory for life on Earth and that is why it is taught. However, the US court system sees it as being easier to be rid of then to revise. And even if it was revised, most people aren't neutral and would find a scientific addition deceiving to the (mostly) religious reason for it.
And I thought steam was just a theory... It actually works?

Sorry back on topic, I think the sticker is fluff. The kids probably never paid attention to it. It doesn't do anything besides make the people opposed to evolution feel good and the people supporting evolution upset. (and when the sticker is removed the people opposed upset and the pro-evolution feel good). Kids don't care either way if a sticker is on the inside of the textbook.
To be honest I wonder why little Jimmy's mommy can't take the sticker off if it bothers her or slap one on if it goes the other way.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 01:46 PM   #9
XavierP
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The reason that sticker had to be removed is because it is in a school. The US Constitution (AFAIK) seperates church (or Church) and State - it says that there should not be a state sponsored religion (please don't pick holes in my understanding of the Constitution - I'm English and it's not something I have ever read).

So, if constitutionally you cannot have a government sponsored religion, it follows that state/local government should not push religious beliefs on the students. As has been stated, evolution is a theory. But religion is just a belief - and which religion is right is even more of a belief.

Governments (or their representatives) have absolutely no need to give us religion, that's why we have clerics, governments should do what we pay them for - to govern.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 02:53 PM   #10
Blinker_Fluid
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Quote:
Originally posted by XavierP
The reason that sticker had to be removed is because it is in a school. The US Constitution (AFAIK) seperates church (or Church) and State - it says that there should not be a state sponsored religion (please don't pick holes in my understanding of the Constitution - I'm English and it's not something I have ever read).

So, if constitutionally you cannot have a government sponsored religion, it follows that state/local government should not push religious beliefs on the students. As has been stated, evolution is a theory. But religion is just a belief - and which religion is right is even more of a belief.

Governments (or their representatives) have absolutely no need to give us religion, that's why we have clerics, governments should do what we pay them for - to govern.
Some would argue that Evolution is a belief also... or that it would basically be an anti-religous belief. So the Government is basically taking away religion at this point.
First amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
 
Old 01-14-2005, 03:47 PM   #11
XavierP
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Quote:
Originally posted by Blinker_Fluid
Some would argue that Evolution is a belief also...
True. Isn't debate wonderful?
Quote:
Originally posted by Blinker_Fluid
First amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"
But by allowing it, they would be implicitly giving the words on the sticker (and that belief) legitimacy. The only way to do this, fairly, would be to teach both and give both equal weight. BUT, teach creation in Religious Studies classes and Evolution in Science classes. And never the twain shall meet.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 04:07 PM   #12
Blinker_Fluid
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Quote:
Originally posted by XavierP
True. Isn't debate wonderful?
But by allowing it, they would be implicitly giving the words on the sticker (and that belief) legitimacy. The only way to do this, fairly, would be to teach both and give both equal weight. BUT, teach creation in Religious Studies classes and Evolution in Science classes. And never the twain shall meet.
Good luck with a religous studies class in a public school. That would go over like a fart in church.

They would probably have better luck with dumbing down the theory of evolution. Talk about how animals adapt to thier environment show the basics like Birds in this area are related to birds over there but birds in this area eat more nuts and so the beak has become more suited to eating nuts than the birds over there. Keep it simple, keep it proveable. Let the kids connect the dots, don't run out and tell them they have an ape as an ancestor or the parents may prove how closely related they are...
 
Old 01-14-2005, 04:37 PM   #13
XavierP
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Heheh

I had to endure RE for years. So if I had to suffer, I believe that the kids of today should also have to suffer.

But, I also believe that RE is only useful if it discusses all, or at least the top ten, religions around. and goes into cults. So really, we're looking at comparitive religion - which would be a damn sight more interesting than focusing on one myth/belief system and teaching that for x years.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 05:06 PM   #14
williamwbishop
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Quote:
Originally posted by XavierP
Heheh

I had to endure RE for years. So if I had to suffer, I believe that the kids of today should also have to suffer.

But, I also believe that RE is only useful if it discusses all, or at least the top ten, religions around. and goes into cults. So really, we're looking at comparitive religion - which would be a damn sight more interesting than focusing on one myth/belief system and teaching that for x years.
Personally I think religious studies should be taught in school, if for no other reason than it tends to spread the skepticism. And it's interesting stuff. I still do it as a hobby.
 
Old 01-14-2005, 05:18 PM   #15
frob23
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I think we can put the sticker back... I just want a second sticker added right below it. Here is one that clears up almost any doubt people might have as to the meaning of theory. Of course, they wouldn't want this definition included near their sticker because it draws attention to their misdirection. They are attempting to confuse children with the difference between a scientific theory and the common English word "theory."

Quote:
Often the statement "Well, it's just a theory," is used to dismiss controversial theories such as evolution, but this is largely due to confusion between the scientific use of the word theory and its more informal use as a synonym for "speculation" or "conjecture." In science, a body of descriptions of knowledge is usually only called a theory once it has a firm empirical basis, i.e. it

1. is consistent with pre-existing theory to the extent that the pre-existing theory was experimentally verified, though it will often show pre-existing theory to be wrong in an exact sense,
2. is supported by many strands of evidence rather than a single foundation, ensuring that it probably is a good approximation if not totally correct,
3. has survived many critical real world tests that could have proven it false,
4. makes predictions that might someday be used to disprove the theory, and
5. is the best known explanation, in the sense of Occam's Razor, of the infinite variety of alternative explanations for the same data.

This is true of such established theories as evolution, special and general relativity, quantum mechanics (with minimal interpretation), plate tectonics, etc.
EDIT: Removed first (and somewhat better definition) as it was copyrighted text. This does a similar job but is less approachable to the lay-person.

Last edited by frob23; 01-14-2005 at 05:29 PM.
 
  


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