Thursday, January 13, 2005

And the Fight on Evolution in Schools Goes on

A small bump in the road for the creationists:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying they were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The disclaimers were put in the books by school officials in suburban Cobb County in 2002.

"Adopted by the school board, funded by the money of taxpayers, and inserted by school personnel, the sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders," U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said in his 44-page ruling.

Six parents of students and the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the stickers in court, arguing they violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

The use of the term "theory" is confusing. There are at least two definitions of this word, one from the scientific community where it is used to describe a connected structure of hypotheses about something, and the other from common parlance where it is used to describe something that might or might not be true. In some ways these are almost the opposites of each other, as a scientific theory, if supported by enough evidence, slowly morphs into what we call facts, whereas the colloquial use of "theory" is almost certainly not going to be validated. The creationists seem to read "theory" in the latter sense, the evolutionist in the former sense.

So that's why it is true that evolution is a theory, but it is untrue that it is "just" a theory.