Friday, January 16, 2009

Mississippi Act

 
Here's how separation of church and state works in America. There's a bill before the legislature in Mississippi that requires the following disclaimer in public school textbooks [House Bill 25].
The word 'theory' has many meanings, including: systematically organized knowledge; abstract reasoning; a speculative idea or plan; or a systematic statement of principles. Scientific theories are based on both observations of the natural world and assumptions about the natural world. They are always subject to change in view of new and confirmed observations.

This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered a theory.

Evolution refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced living things. There are many topics with unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including: the sudden appearance of the major groups of animals in the fossil record (known as the Cambrian Explosion); the lack of new major groups of other living things appearing in the fossil record; the lack of transitional forms of major groups of plants and animals in the fossil record; and the complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body possessed by all living things.

Study hard and keep an open mind.
This is similar to the language in Cobb country Georgia. Their sticker was ruled unconstitutional in 2005 (Selman v. Cobb County School District).

It's bad enough that there are elected officials in Mississippi who oppose evolution but even worse is the fact that they propose legislation that is unconstitutional. Isn't that treason?

They don't see it that way. They don't really believe that the public schools should be free of religion and they'll keep fighting to put it back in the schools in spite of what any court might say. It's one thing to have something written down in a constitution and it's quite another to get people to live by it. This fight between science and superstition isn't going to be won in the courtroom. It requires changing hearts and minds.

For the time being, let's ignore the fact that the disclaimer contains lies and misrepresentations of science. The main issue is the idea that evolution suggests, "... that random, undirected forces produced living things." This is where science and religion conflict and people who believe in God are quite right to be fearful of what critical thinking and an open mind might do to the faith of their children.1


1. The disclaimer pretends to support open-mindedness but in fact it's the exact opposite. It's a form of censorship.

9 comments :

  1. Such profound ignorance. Very disappointing.

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  2. There are many topics with unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook..."

    Of course, the funniest (or is it the saddest?) thing about this is that the subjects they are talking about have been excluded from the textbooks in question due to creationist pressure on the school boards and publishers.

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  3. Every time I read about these stickers/disclaimers, I get more and more disgusted. Questions

    If this bill were passed who would be responsible for putting the stickers/disclaimers in the textbooks?
    Would the publisher be required to affix them to the textbooks before shipping them?
    How would stickers/disclaimers affect the reputation of the publisher and author or editor of the (science) textbook?

    Imagine having to put a sticker/disclaimer on an English grammar textbook that says,

    Any statements about the rules of grammar, punctuation and MLA or APA documentation should be considered theories.

    Study hard and keep an open mind about grammar and plagiarism.

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  4. If the bill passes, think of the Huxleys or Dobzhanskys or Goulds who might be attending those schools, but who will never realize their potential because they were lied to by their own state government.

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  5. It's bad enough that there are elected officials in Mississippi who oppose evolution but even worse is the fact that they propose legislation that is unconstitutional. Isn't that treason?

    Hunh? sorry, I'm not quite getting the point if it's meant to be something other than a straight question. Here's a serviceable legal definition of treason from duhaime.org:

    "To aid or enlist with a state enemy or to attempt or conspire to harm the head of state, such as a king, queen or president."

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  6. A lot of us here in MS have been fighting this, and it is allegedly dead in committee (again--it's been tried before at least twice)! So, um, yay!

    I submitted letters to several newspapers and the discussion on them is pretty saddening/hilarious, but the long and short of it is that there are more sane people than are indicated by moronic representatives like Chism (who is actually my district's, ugh, and who is also a good member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, double ugh).

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  7. Vronvron said..."If this bill were passed who would be responsible for putting the stickers/disclaimers in the textbooks?"

    I think we know the answer: The already overworked, underpaid teachers. They totally needed something else to do, right?

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  8. "This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things."

    It should be mentioned that evolution is not about the origin of life. However, it is appropriate to note important questions, call them areas of research if you will.

    "Imagine having to put a sticker/disclaimer on an English grammar textbook..." (Vronvron)

    But grammars can have notes about questions of usage etc. Not every point has a question mark, certainly.

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  9. If you think that you would be scoring a point by bringing up English grammar, you overestimate the public.

    I'd suggest that they put a sticker on every football which says that you should consider that the rules of football are only theories.

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