Today Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education issued a press release concerning confusion that arose, yesterday, during the appeal of Cobb County’s disclaimers.
December 16, 2005
Crucial Evidence Left Out at Cobb County Appeal, Says Georgia Science Advocacy Group
GCISE (Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education) consists of parents, clergy members, K-12 faculty, higher education faculty, and other concerned citizens. GCISE is committed to improving science education in the state of Georgia, and therefore is deeply concerned about inaccuracies in the scientific information and legal evidence discussed at the 11th Circuit Federal Appeals Court today. We hope to educate the public on this matter in advance of the Court’s ruling.
An erroneous conclusion was drawn in court today that the evolution disclaimer stickers were placed in Cobb science textbooks before parental complaints about the evolution content. As reported on 3/29/2002 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution however, the Cobb County School Board received complaints about new biology textbooks at a very contentious public school board meeting on 3/28/2002. During that meeting Cobb parent Marjorie Rogers informed the board that she had a petition signed by 2,300 people “dissatisfied with science texts that espouse ‘Darwinism, unchallenged.’” It was reported at that time that the Board would appease these parents by asking their lawyers to draft disclaimers “caution[ing] students that evolution is only a theory.” The Board testified in federal district court that they were addressing concerns from a group of conservative Christian parents with objections to teaching evolution.
To make matters worse, it was abundantly clear that confusion still reigns in Georgia about the meaning of the terms “theory” and “fact” as used by scientists. The National Academy of Sciences, organized by President Lincoln in 1863 to advise the nation on scientific matters, defines a scientific fact as “an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed.” Furthermore, they define a scientific theory as “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” With these definitions in mind, biological evolution can be considered both a fact and a theory. The readily observable “Fact” of Evolution is that populations of organisms change over time. Even creationist think tanks are on record accepting this idea. For example, no one denies that bacteria are rapidly evolving resistance to antibiotics and insects to pesticides. The “Theory” of Evolution uses several natural mechanisms including natural selection to explain quite well how the fact of evolution has occurred. Contrary to statements made in Court, evolution is probably our most thoroughly validated scientific theory, with hundred of years of supporting evidence.
Finally, the disclaimer sticker placed in Cobb textbooks calls evolution a theory about “the origin of life.” This is incorrect and makes the sticker extremely misleading to students. Evolution does not explain the origin of life on earth; it explains how that life has changed over the millennia since its origin. Thus the sticker is incorrectly representing scientific understanding.
Our children deserve complete, scientifically accurate textbooks, unadulterated by politically motivated, obfuscating messages. The success of Georgia students in college and in a global economy depends on science literacy. GCISE pledges our full support to parents and teachers wishing to provide the best possible education in modern science for their students.