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?