January 14, 2005

Let me tell you where to put those stickers 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:42 AM
Members of the reality-based community can celebrate a little tonight.
A federal judge Thursday ordered a suburban Atlanta school system to remove stickers from its high school biology textbooks that call evolution “a theory, not a fact,” saying the disclaimers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
Here we have the problem of a word with a strong popular meaning and connotation also having a particular precise application in a more specific context. They only got away with this as long as they did because presumably well-meaning people looked at the term "theory of evolution," and it seemed a little soft, spongy enough to absorb controversy and able to be dismissed or argued by an average but reasonably well-informed person. Theory, in the scientific sense, is a word that's hard and neutral, and the price of admission to argue a scientific theory on its merits is high. Besides, if you start casting doubts about evolution because it's "theory" of evolution, it's a slippery slope: science is pretty much all theories.

While I tend to put myself in the Feyerabend camp and think that a community, not a group of scientists, should determine for itself how best to absorb and integrate scientific knowledge and its applications, if you're Joe Q. Schoolboard from Georgia, you're making a huge mistake climbing into the playing field of science, same with you "intelligent design"ers. It's absurd for you to adopt the framework of the thing you're trying to negate. Haven't you learned anything from your ridiculously successful, tax-cutting political brethern?

Update: I've had a change of heart: I'm pro-sticker.

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