It’s Only a Theory! Or Texas Idiocy Strikes Again….

Well, I see that the crackpot members of the Texas Board of Education are at it again.

Gee, it seems like only yesterday that a previous panel removed Thomas Jefferson from several of the state history standards, and substituted Thomas Aquinas. (Because Aquinas was so integral to development of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution…)

Of course the real target of these doofuses has been and continues to be science, especially evolution. In 2007, Rick Perry appointed a young earth creationist to chair the Texas Board, and in 2009, science standards were considerably weakened. Efforts to substitute fundamentalist biblical beliefs for science have continued, with some setbacks (in 2011, creationists tried to get religious “supplemental materials” offered in Texas science classes, but were unsuccessful.)

But of course, they’re back. This time, the Board has asked “experts” (i.e. creationists) to weigh in on the merits of high school biology textbooks. My favorite response:

“I understand the National Academy of Science’s strong support of the theory of evolution. At the same time, this is just a theory. As an educator, parent and grandparent, I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based upon biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.”

Ignore, for the moment, the fact that every court that has considered the issue has ruled that ‘creation science’ isn’t science; it’s religion, and religion cannot constitutionally be taught in public school science classes.

No, what drives me bonkers is the incredible ignorance shown by the repeated accusation that evolution is “just a theory.”

In normal conversation, we use the term theory to mean “an educated guess.” But in science, the word has a very different meaning; a scientific theory is anything but a guess. The scientific method involves summarizing a group of hypotheses that have been successfully and repeatedly tested. Once enough empirical evidence accumulates to support those hypotheses, a theory is developed that can explain that particular phenomenon. Scientific theories begin with and are based on careful examination of observed–and observable– facts.

Furthermore–unlike religious dogma–scientific theories are always open to revision based upon new observations or newly discovered facts. That process is called falsification.

Falsification is an essential characteristic of a scientific hypothesis or theory. Basically, a falsifiable assertion is one that can be empirically refuted or disproved. Falsifiability means that the hypothesis or theory is testable by empirical experiment. Merely because something is “falsifiable” does not mean it is false; rather it means that if it is false, then observation or experiment will at some point demonstrate its falsity.  Many things may be true, or generally accepted as true, without being falsifiable. Observing that a woman or a sunset is beautiful, asserting that you feel sad, declaring that you are in love and similar statements may be true or not, but they aren’t science, because they can be neither empirically proved nor disproved. Similarly, God may exist, but that existence is not falsifiable—God cannot be dragged into a laboratory and tested. One either believes in His (or Her) existence or not. That’s why religious belief is called faith.

If something isn’t falsifiable, it isn’t science.

Appointing people who don’t even know what science is to review science textbooks is a foolproof way to tell the rest of the world that yours is a state of fools–and a guarantee that your educational system will be hard pressed to maintain its current (abysmal) rank of 45th among the states.

Do you suppose Mexico would take these yahoos back?


  1. “Similarly, God may exist, but that existence is not falsifiable—God cannot be dragged into a laboratory and tested. One either believes in His (or Her) existence or not. That’s why religious belief is called faith.”

    Not only cannot be dragged into a lab…..but absolutely refuse to be. If anyone needs to know my blood type I’m clearly a universal donor.

    And thanks for giving people a choice concerning my gender, although that’s a matter of faith, too.

  2. What should scare us all is the fact that in 20 years it will be the Chinese curing cancer and not Americans because our children will be too busy praying for tumors to go away with no clue or understanding of real science.

  3. Years ago I watched one of the TV Ministers expounding on the Bible Truths. One of these “Truths” was the “Young Earth” as opposed to a several billion old universe. He explained away the seeming contradiction of light from distant galaxies taking billions of years to arrive here as the Devil’s Trick. Thus, the conclusion he made was any science (Astronomy Physics, or Geology), that challenged the Bible Thumpers was the Devil’s Trick to test your “Faith.”

    The idea behind this attack on science it to attack critical thinking.

  4. Serious ramifications of stinkin’ thinkin’ have already been noted. For example, McCarthy-ites (not Eugene–the latest one who now takes up space on The View) have bought into the notion (and that’s all it is) that vaccinations against childhood diseases cause autism. They don’t! So then, many thousands of unvaccinated kids and adults are now exposed to and coming down with measles. Whooping cough (pertussis) is back, too. They can’t “pray this away”. These and other diseases that we thought were gone forever actually kill people…and the diseases are back, thanks to well-meaning parents who bought into a myth.

    Texas rears its ugly head again with the vaccination issue. A really serious outbreak of measles hit the church “run” by Pastor Kenneth Copeland’s daughter. A visitor brought the nasty bug back from overseas, hugged and patted kids and adults at the church, and the unvaccinated among children and adults were the first to be affected. Copeland’s daughter’s half-hearted suggestion was to first “pray it away” and then if parishioners must…they should seek out a physician whom they trust and get the vaccines that kids must have to be safe from these diseases. Now, which parent is going to look for a physician whom they don’t trust? Puh-leez!

    McCarthy, do the right thing: Admit to the audience and those watching The View at home that you were wrong about vaccines causing your child’s autism. His autism was not caused by a vaccine. Tell parents to start their children’s vaccine schedule and continue it to its conclusion, including booster shots. It’s the very least you can do after the harm you have set into motion with your stand against vaccines.

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