New Proposed Evolution Disclaimer

I’m sure you have all heard the creationist anti-evolution strategy of placing “disclaimers” in biology textbooks warning students about evolution content in one way or another. A new bill in Mississippi wants to have the following disclaimer put in textbooks:

“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.” (emphasis mine)

How asinine. Can someone really believe that unless someone was there to witness something we can know nothing about it with any degree of certainty -that it is therefore just a theory (in the colloquial sense of a hypothesis)?

As far as i know, no one was around to witness all of the movements of the continents that we are pretty damn sure happened. No one was there to give us first hand accounts of of the formation of the Himalayas or the volcano at St. Helens. Why do geology textbooks not include a disclaimer? Why do we let geologists be so arrogant as to think they can know something they have never seen first hand and lie to the children when they present it as fact? Think of the children!

What about virtually all of astronomy and cosmology? No one was there when the big bang happened so how can we say anything in the big bang theory is beyond guesswork? No one was there during the formation of the first stars and the first nuclear reactions and the formation of elements either so how can our theories of nucleosynthesis not be deserving of a disclaimer? There are countless examples here. My goodness, do you realise we have never seen Pluto orbit the Sun? In the time since its discovery it has not had enough time to complete a single orbit and yet we tell kids that Pluto orbits the Sun.

Furthermore i hope the people who are pushing such bills are also trying to get a good chunk of the prison population freed. A lot of them are in for charges of rape and murder where there was no witness, where mere DNA evidence and semen and blood samples were used. We just guessed that they did it since no one saw them – no one who survived anyway. I look forward to seeing some efforts to bring the criminal and penal and legal codes of the US into a consistent evidence standard to only make witness testimony admissible.

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2 Responses to “New Proposed Evolution Disclaimer”

  1. The Creationists seem preoccupied with the idea that the theory of evolution attempts to explain the origin of life. I’ve never seen it this way. I’ve always seen evolution as a way to explain the persistance of life. I may be wrong, but I’ve never heard an evolutionary bilogist attempt to make a claim about how the first object deemed to have “life” came into existance, only how it either continued to proliferate replicas similar to itself or not.

  2. That is true. While obviously causally related they are two different questions. How life (specifically something with a genetic code or something with a similar function) originates from non-life is called abiogenesis. How that code replicates and changes over time into different kinds of life is called evolution. I’ll make a post about that at some point.

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