Is Labeling Evolution as Just a Theory in Textbooks a Reasonable Approach?

In summary, the Mississippi lawmakers are proposing a disclaimer on textbooks discussing evolution, noting that no one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered a theory.
  • #1
mgb_phys
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Mississippi lawmakers are proposing a disclaimer on textbooks discussing evolution

"This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered a theory,"

http://www.christianpost.com/Education/Creation_evolution/2009/01/evolution-disclaimer-proposed-for-miss-textbooks-20/index.html

Perhaps this reasonable approach and should be extended to other areas ?

This electrical substation outlet contains 17KV electricity - however this is only a theory and no one has ever seen an electron so you should use your faith to decide if whether to touch.

Gravity is only a theory and elements are refuted by general relativity so you should decide if you need a safety railing on this bridge.
 
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  • #3
mgb_phys said:
This electrical substation outlet contains 17KV electricity - however this is only a theory and no one has ever seen an electron so you should use your faith to decide if whether to touch.

Gravity is only a theory and elements are refuted by general relativity so you should decide if you need a safety railing on this bridge.

I can measure both electric potential and the force due to what we call gravity.
 
  • #4
They could have been created by God though - so assuming you will conduct/fall because a theory says so is a lack of faith.
 
  • #5
Ivan Seeking said:
I can measure both electric potential and the force due to what we call gravity.

I don't get it. He was using Irony.
 
  • #6
The examples given don't apply...just an observation.
 
  • #7
mgb_phys said:
They could have been created by God though - so assuming you will conduct/fall because a theory says so is a lack of faith.

I don't need faith to feel an electrical shock. Or are you suggesting that God is manipulating my voltmeter? If God is a trickster, that could be true. :biggrin:

We come up with theories to explain observations. But I don't need a theory to make an observation.
 
  • #8
Ivan Seeking said:
The examples given don't apply...just an observation.

Sure they do. We can (and have) used Evolution to make predictions and then found fossils to verify (and confirm) those predictions.
 
  • #9
As I said, unlike a theory, electric potential and gravity can be experienced directly.

If we are quibbling about the names - say the notion that something has "17KV of potential" - I don't need to accept that notion in order to receive a shock. And I can repeat the experience any time I like.
 
  • #10
Ivan Seeking said:
I can measure both electric potential and the force due to what we call gravity.
You must have missed mgb_phys' signature. It certainly applied to the OP: "Warning this post may contain irony".
 
  • #11
I was going to add an example about no one seeing these alleged germs that cause disease - but judging from the accupuncture, crystal healing, homeopathy etc I suspect this is the majority view!
 
  • #12
Ivan Seeking said:
As I said, unlike a theory, electric potential and gravity can be experienced directly.

If we are quibbling about the names - say the notion that something has "17KV of potential" - I don't need to accept that notion in order to receive a shock. And I can repeat the experience any time I like.

You can experience extinction. I think you are abusing the word "theory" here.
 
  • #13
Sigh.

What will it take for people to finally understand just how badly the "just a theory" argument fails?
 
  • #14
Mississippi Disclaimer said:
Study hard and keep an open mind.

What nonsense.

Keep an open mind to crackpot theories that only have Christian Scripture as a jumping off point?
 
  • #15
Do they still teach that hypothesis<Theory<Law<Tribdog crap?
 
  • #16
tribdog said:
Do they still teach that hypothesis<Theory<Law<Tribdog crap?

I disagree. Tribdog >>> hypothesis >>> Theory >>> Law
 
  • #17
The proposed disclaimer seems pretty reasonable...
 
  • #18
durt said:
The proposed disclaimer seems pretty reasonable...

In what way?
 
  • #19
Cyrus said:
I disagree. Tribdog >>> hypothesis >>> Theory >>> Law

as long as those are "greater than" symbols I have no problem with it
 
  • #20
mgb_phys said:
I was going to add an example about no one seeing these alleged germs that cause disease - but judging from the accupuncture, crystal healing, homeopathy etc I suspect this is the majority view!
Damn you! I have been happily disease-free for several years, and now you drag those fictional "germs" back into my life. If I get the flu this winter, I'm going to hunt you down like a dog.
 
  • #21
I think compromise is the key here. For all I care, they can go on so long as we can stick these (or something to this effect) on bibles:
http://separationofchurchstate.tribe.net/photos/c6e8c7f3-f5d9-43f5-b556-212669f123fc
 
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  • #22
Every one should have a large hard bound bible i have faith in mine, it gives me support often times , and brings me from the brink of despair when i think all is lost, i found mine at a boot sale it only cost a £1.
The other day i had to take the back wheel out of my motorcycle and can honestly say i could not have done it without my bible.
 
  • #23
Ivan Seeking said:
I can measure both electric potential and the force due to what we call gravity.

Ivan Seeking said:
The examples given don't apply...just an observation.
Why? You still haven't made a complete point. How do the theories of gravity or electromagnetism (or the germ theory of disease, or the theory of plate tectonics) differ from evolution, in a manner that justifies the quoted disclaimer only in the latter case, but not any of the others?
 
  • #24
mgb_phys said:
This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered a theory.
mgb_phys didn't write that, the State of Mississippi did. But I thought evolution concerned the origin of species, not the origin of life.
 
  • #25
jimmysnyder said:
mgb_phys didn't write that, the State of Mississippi did. But I thought evolution concerned the origin of species, not the origin of life.
The State of Mississippi has no idea what a theory is. Why should they be expected to have any idea what Evolution is about?
 
  • #26
Oh those crazy creationists! As said the theory of gravity is only a theory, but I'm willing to bet it isn't intelligent falling that keeps things on the ground. Lol only in America! :biggrin:

Ah the comedy value alone is worth the effort... I remember talking to a creationist once, and I happened to mention the "theory" of creation wasn't falsifiable. He took that as a complement. :smile:
 
  • #27
The Dagda said:
Oh those crazy creationists!

But creationism isn't harmless nonsense.

Enemies of science should be considered enemies of the mankind.
 
  • #28
jostpuur said:
But creationism isn't harmless nonsense.

Enemies of science should be considered enemies of the mankind.

I never said it was, it's just hard to be so bothered when all you see of it over here, is knowless idiots polluting up the philosophy forums. That said it seems you have it under control anyway, nearly all motions have been barred from schools in every state they are raised aren't they?

I think the Southern states should secede barring California and Florida, that'll get rid of most of them. :wink:
 
  • #29
Saying it's "only a theory" proves their lack of knowledge, because they have no clue that the common language meaning of "theory" is usually taken as "hypothesis", whereas a scientific theory is only called that after an overwhelming amount of evidence and acceptance by the consensus of scientists in that area.

The "some scientists doubt the validity of the theory of evolution" is a big fat lie, or telling (less than) half truth, which is as bad as than lying. 99,999% of all scientists working in the relevant areas accept evolution.

It's funny, though, when creationists come up with a name and say "look at this credible scientist, rejecting evolution", when it's someone who lived in the 1920's before DNA was even discovered as well as the plethora of other evidence... and then you discover that they're quoting a mathematician.
 
  • #30
Cyrus said:
You can experience extinction. I think you are abusing the word "theory" here.
Agreed, but this little side discussion is besides the point: Evolution is not "just a theory", it is also an observed phenomena, just like an electric shock. Scientists can and do observe it in real-time, but even if they couldn't, a fossil record works exactly the same as daily/weekly/monthly laboratory observations of a closed ecosystem. The "tree of life" (that shows the relationship between species) is not a theory, it is a graph of observed data.
 
  • #31
Do you suppose the evolutionists could come up with a disclaimer for the Bible?
 
  • #32
The "tree of life" (that shows the relationship between species) is not a theory, it is a graph of observed data.
Not sure about that - it's a hypothesis that these species are related.

As an example , if I look at a rock face with different colored rock bands.
It's an hypothesis that these represent different types of rock laid down at different times. There are theories about the processes that caused this but the only observable data is that the rocks look different.
 
  • #33
Perhaps clarification on terms would help:

A theory is a well-established principle that has been developed to explain some aspect of the natural word. A theory arises from repeated observation and testing and incorporates facts, laws, predictions, and tested hypotheses that are widely accepted.

A hypothesis is a specific, testable prediction about what you expect to happen in your study. For example, a study designed to look at the relationship between study habits and test anxiety might have a hypothesis that states, “This study is designed to assess the hypothesis that students with better study habits will suffer less test anxiety.” Unless your study is exploratory in nature, your hypothesis should always explain what you expect to happen during the course of your experiment or research.

A theory predicts events in general terms, while a hypothesis makes a specific prediction about a specified set of circumstances.

A theory is has been extensively tested and is generally accepted, while a hypothesis is a speculative guess that has yet to be tested.

CS
 
  • #34
And yet they still call it string 'theory' :biggrin:

(looks around for any string theorists, ducks and runs for cover...)
 
  • #35
mgb_phys said:
Not sure about that - it's a hypothesis that these species are related.

As an example , if I look at a rock face with different colored rock bands.
It's an hypothesis that these represent different types of rock laid down at different times. There are theories about the processes that caused this but the only observable data is that the rocks look different.
I don't agree, for two reasons:

1. It's logically impossible to lay down an upper band before a lower band. Barring a reason to believe that a rock face has somehow flipped over (not impossible, but the geologist should know), the lower band was laid down first.

2. I'm not a geologist, but it is my understanding that even plain, ordinary rocks can be dated. You don't have to theorize that an older rock was laid down before a newer rock. Either way, the way they look is most certainly not the only piece of data you have available to you about a rock.

Btw, just because something is regarded as fact, that doesn't mean facts can't be wrong. All data has error bars.
 

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