December 16, 2005
Appeals Court Judges Misses on Evolution
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This story from the LA Times is out today:
A federal appeals court panel appeared sharply critical Thursday of a ruling this year that ordered the removal of stickers in science textbooks stating, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact."Well, it seems Carnes either has a personal bias in favor of Creationism, or he's just not too bright. He doesn't even seem to realize what the "theory" of evolution is. That's a rookie mistake, like believing that the "theory of gravity" is about whether or not gravity exists. The "theory of evolution" is not a theory about whether evolution exists, it's a theory as to how evolution works. Evolution itself is clearly real, as proven by all the evidence--fossils dating back a few billion years, life forming more complex organisms as time progresses, with clearly defined branches of forms developing, one creature into two or more, one creature into another in a chain, leading up to present-day life. The core idea of evolution--that life changed from less complex forms into more complex ones--is about as solid as it gets.
Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the lower court judge had misstated facts in his ruling, overstating the influence religious protests had on the school board's actions. He also said the words on the sticker are "technically accurate," and that the Cobb County school board was justified in singling out the theory of evolution for comment.
"From nonlife to life is the greatest gap in scientific theory," Carnes said. "There is less evidence supporting it than there is for other theories. It sounds to me like evolution is more vulnerable and deserves more critical thinking" than other subjects.
You could argue that "evolution" has come to mean the theory of how, instead of meaning evolution as a whole. But not in this context. The people who put the stickers on those books clearly believe that evolution did not take place at all, and want students to get the official word from the government that God created all life in its present form. The phrase "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" is "technically correct" only if you completely ignore the context.
Further evidence that Carnes is bending things comes from his statement about "nonlife to life" being the "greatest gap in scientific theory." This only covers one part of the theory of evolution--the beginning--and completely ignores the remaining fossil record. One could still believe that God created the most primary life forms and let things snowball from there, and evolution is still real and present. But even that is still a "God of the gaps," using God to fill in for segments of scientific understanding not yet achieved.
Science can, without any contradiction or complication, be described as understanding "how God did it," not "whether God did it." Understanding that, evolution as described by science can be seem as an attempt to understand how life formed, whether as directed by God or not. The same can be said of how life began. If God did it, He must have used some method, one that could be described by science. Why is it so all-fired important for some people to believe that it was somehow magical? That it was not God directing the laws of molecular interaction so as to lead to the grandeur of life we see today, but rather some instant, mystical, clap-some-clay-together-and-poof-there's-life miracle that would be beyond science's ability to explain?
The outlines here are clear: people who believe that an old-looking guy with a beard and maybe a belly button slapped clay on clay and made life, and that's that; they believe that evolution is wholly untrue. This is a religious belief, and they're pissed that the evidence of the world contradicts that, and worse, that the government allows this contradictory evidence to be taught in schools. These are people who believe that all of evolution is untrue, and want this religious doctrine to be reflected in universal education. That's what the stickers are about; anything else is a snow job.
Note to Judge Carnes: get a grip on the issue.
Posted by: Manok at December 20, 2005 07:42 PM
Posted by: Jeff Curtis at December 21, 2005 05:49 AM
Posted by: Luis at December 21, 2005 06:19 AM