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A fight has been brewing for months about the proper teaching of evolution in Cobb County, the second-largest school district in Georgia, USA. On Wednesday, a parent filed suit in federal court to remove a new textbook disclaimer, which says evolution is “not a fact.” Then on Thursday night, the school board voted unanimously to consider a new policy that claims “discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the study of the origin of the species.”1
The Cobb County school board will spend the next 30 days reviewing the proposed policy, which an attorney drew up at the board’s request. The new policy is the latest attempt by the board to resolve questions that arose last March, when parents signed a petition complaining about the board’s approval of nearly $8 million in new curriculum that pushes “Darwinism, unchallenged.” [Update: On September 26, the Cobb County school board voted unanimously to teach “disputed views.” More details to come.]
Public school teachers in Georgia-a populous state located in the conservative “Bible Belt” of the Southern United States-have long expressed confusion about what they can teach in class. The school board in Cobb County had asked its attorney to draft a constitutional policy that would clarify what teachers could say. If the policy hopes to meet this criterion, however, it cannot mandate the teaching of creation as science (deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1987), but the courts have not yet clarified what school boards can allow.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had already filed suit in US district court on 21 August, hoping to force the school board to remove the disclaimers from the county’s textbooks. It has vowed to fight the new policy as well.
The textbook disclaimer simply says,
“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.”
The ACLU called the disclaimer a “fundamentalist Christian expression” that unconstitutionally foists religion on students in public schools. “It singles out evolution from all the scientific theories out there,” complained Jeffrey Salman, the parent who brought the lawsuit. “Why single out evolution? It has to be coming from a religious basis, and that violates the separation of church and state.”2
Cobb County’s disclaimer imitates the one adopted by the neighboring State of Alabama in 1996.
It’s hard to understand how such an innocuous disclaimer could arouse such a harsh backlash-unless we remember that the root issue is a conflict of worldviews. Most scientists are avowed evolutionists who base their life’s work on a materialistic worldview that excludes God, and they feel threatened by anyone who questions the “fact” of their worldview. It’s important to note that the vast majority of scientists (e.g. physicists, chemists, anatomists) work on on events occurring in the present, so evolution, a belief system about the past, can’t even plausibly have any relevance to their work. The following excerpt by an associate professor of biology at Georgia State University summarizes their worries:
“… Contrary to what Cobb’s textbook disclaimer says, evolution is an observable process, a fact of life. It refers to changes in gene frequencies between generations of animals or plants. It occurs every day and has been demonstrated in many species. And it has its down side: Most laypeople are familiar with the rapid evolution of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, or the evolution of resistance to DDT in mosquitoes.
So where is the theory part? Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is a nearly universally accepted scientific explanation for how, not whether, evolution occurred in the past and how it is occurring in the present.”3
Evolutionists keep repeating the same old logical fallacies. They say that evolution occurs “all the time,” meaning that we see “change” within species, but then they say that this proves “evolution in the past,” meaning the rise of completely new creatures from simpler ancestors. These are not the same thing. Creationists also believe in natural selection and speciation-they merely help to explain how populations change, but true molecules-to-man evolution would involve the appearance of completely new genetic information, which evolutionists have never been able to demonstrate (see Q&A: Information theory).
Is evolution a factual explanation of the origin of living things? Hardly. It is something that evolutionary scientists choose to believe-in spite of the factual, eyewitness report that God gives us in the Bible. For people to want to squelch any hint of open-minded, critical debate about the merits of their belief-system demonstrates a fanatical religious commitment to evolutionism.
Although we oppose evolution, Answers in Genesis does not believe that the government should compel teachers to teach creation. (It would be counterproductive to make an atheist teach creation, anyway!) However, it seems reasonable that state and local officials should take steps to protect the liberty of individual teachers and students who wish to discuss the problems with evolution and offer alternative explanations.