Thursday, January 13, 2005

The evolution of science

The ACLU today prevailed in federal court against a Georgia school district that had put stickers in high school biology textbooks calling evolution at best a theory. The stickers read:
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.

Although the federal judge was probably correct that by denigrating evolution, the school district was endorsing creationism or variants thereof even if it did not explicitly say so, isn't this sticker right? Isn't evolution in fact a theory that remains to be improved upon, even if it has been largely accepted by the scientific community? Science, at least good science, is inherently skeptical, even when it comes to apparent scientific truths. What were once accepted as truths are often revised after new findings lead to new layers of understanding.

The real problem is not that the sticker urged an open mind -- which after all is good science -- but that it targeted only evolution. All science textbooks should come with such stickers to remind students that an open mind is the most important component of a good scientific mind and that what today seems like truth may be ridiculed tomorrow.

8 Comments:

Blogger Ha ha hit him again said...

Economics textbooks too, but I fear it is already too late for me!

1/13/2005 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice wording. I thought you might say that creationism is a theory too because its not. No one has actually put forth evidence to prove a hypothesis that creationism is legit thus its not a theory (btw, I do believe in creationism or at least a combination of creationsism and evolution).

1/13/2005 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger putonyourspecs said...

To those who believe in creationism, doesn't creationism merely postpone the question by one step? If God created man and the animals, still the question remains, where did God come from?

1/13/2005 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On that same note - for those who believe in anything (creationism, evolution, whatever) - where did the universe come from? The galaxy come from? It violated the laws of thermodynamics which states energy can neither be created or destroyed - yet at one time energy had to be created. Explain that.

1/14/2005 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

u know who this is:
man, like it really matters in georgia?~?!?! all a buncha inbred hicks anyway. Thats why they need that sticker. If they say its wrong in the text book evolutionarily speaking, to marry your sister, then people would stop. Then where would we be?

hehehe just trying to spice up ur blog :-P

1/14/2005 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger putonyourspecs said...

If I understand the laws of thermodynamics correctly, the possibility of negative energy suggests that it is possible for the universe to be born without violating those laws.

But I understand your larger point as being that there are many questions about the origins of the universe that science today is not able to answer. I have faith that the progress of science will one day be able to provide many of the answers that we lack today, the way we know many things today that we did not know previously (it has only been 100 years since the discovery of relativity).

Although I'm agnostic and allow for the possibility that there was a creator, I consider this possibility unattractive in three respects. First, it seems unlikely because, as I discussed, it only postpones the question of where the creator came from. Second, saying there is a creator seems overly simplistic. The wonderful thing about science is that the answers it has to give us are deeply intricate. The laws of physics confound and knowledge we take for granted such as understanding the structure of DNA are answers that were not at all obvious. Finally, looking to science for answers, or ways of finding those answers, is far more optimistic than crediting a creator with everything because science is persistent in the face of the unknown, always trying to make new discoveries. Although we might try to search for the creator, creationism seems to me to forestall rather than encourage inquiry.

1/14/2005 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hilarious. you use the highly questionable theory of negative energy to support another questionable theory - evolution.

1/14/2005 02:48:00 PM  
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10/01/2005 11:58:00 PM  

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