After much reading and careful consideration, I find myself on the side of the religious right on one issue, even though I firmly believe that this ambiguous group of fundamentalists, evangelicals and fanatics has, through their political machinations and incessant meddling into numerous other matters of secular public policy, brought the injustice of Selman v. Cobb County School District upon themselves — and the rest of us.
In Selman v. Cobb County School District, the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled on January 13, 2005 that a sticker placed into science textbooks is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The sticker in question reads, “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.” In determining whether the government-sponsored message is in violation of the Establishment Clause, the court applied the “Lemon test,” provided by the Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, which asks whether the message: 1) has a secular purpose; 2) advances or inhibits religion in its principal or primary effect; or 3) creates an excessive entanglement of the government with religion.
Now, call me crazy, but the text of the sticker appears to easily pass the Lemon test because it has the secular purpose of encouraging critical thinking, which should be considered essential to any sort of education. And since the sticker doesn’t even mention religion, it cannot advance or inhibit it. Thus it cannot not create any excessive entanglements of the government with religion.
Those who believe in Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution without question might be offended by these assertions, but please lower your defenses ( I am quite sensitive to the deteriorating condition of that proverbial wall that is supposed to separate church from state), keep an open mind and remember that the theory of evolution is based upon empirical evidence and observation which cannot be completely verified which means that evolution is indeed a scientific theory, not scientific fact. Therefore, belief in evolution (and many other scientific theories and hypotheses which are still being studied) requires more than a few leaps of scientific faith, even if some of the faithful cannot accept that uncomfortable truth.
The theory of evolution is still a scientific work in progress and there are several big questions that it does not answer such as how evolution adds information to a genome to create progressively more complicated organisms, how evolution brings about drastic changes so quickly and — most pertinently — how the first living cell arose spontaneously to get evolution started. As more study and research are done, the theory of evolution will either become complete, answering those questions which are currently unsolved, or it will be replaced by a new theory that better explains nature’s phenomena.
That is how the scientific process is supposed to work. As new discoveries are made, new theories are created and expounded and existing ones are modified in order to explain that which was previously misunderstood or unexplained. For example, Newtonian physics answered many types of problems — and still does — but it did not explain the many things that were eventually answered by Einstein’s theories of relativity.
And yet, there are many disciples of Darwin who insist that evolution is a fact, sometimes with a closed-mindedness which is not unlike that of which they readily accuse creationists who believe that the Biblical accounting is the absolute truth. To these believers, this talk about critical thinking with regard to the questions still surrounding the theory of evolution is nothing but religiously motivated nonsense. Can you smell the irony?