Textbook disclaimer bill in Mississippi

Here’s a bill introduced in Mississippi, which would mandate a disclaimer in “every textbook that includes the teaching of evolution”:

MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE
2009 Regular Session
To: Education; Judiciary A
By: Representative Chism

House Bill 25
AN ACT TO REQUIRE THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO INCLUDE CERTAIN LANGUAGE EXPLAINING THAT EVOLUTION IS A THEORY IN THE INSIDE FRONT COVER OF CERTAIN PUBLIC SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:

SECTION 1.  The State Board of Education shall require every textbook that includes the teaching of evolution in its contents to include the following language on the inside front cover of the textbook:

The word ‘theory’ has many meanings, including: systematically organized knowledge; abstract reasoning; a speculative idea or plan; or a systematic statement of principles. Scientific theories are based on both observations of the natural world and assumptions about the natural world. They are always subject to change in view of new and confirmed observations.

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.

Evolution refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced living things. There are many topics with unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including: the sudden appearance of the major groups of animals in the fossil record (known as the Cambrian Explosion); the lack of new major groups of other living things appearing in the fossil record; the lack of transitional forms of major groups of plants and animals in the fossil record; and the complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body possessed by all living things.

Study hard and keep an open mind.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2009.

.

11 Comments

  1. Stacy S.
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Aauurrgghh!

    • Posted January 8, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Is that “Aauurrgghh!” as in the FSM’s “ talk like a pirate day” ?:

      As their popularity continues to grow, The Pirate Guys have found support in the strangest places. Some of their biggest supporters are Pastifarians, followers of the parody-religion created by Bobby Henderson known as The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. One of the beliefs of Pastifarians is that global warming is caused by the decrease of pirates worldwide.

      “Makes perfect sense to me,” John said. “I think this entitles us to federal grants because we are obviously doing our part to reinvigorate pirates and therefore reduce global warming.”

      Mark agrees: “The science is indisputable.”

  2. Posted January 8, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Erm… while the manipulation behind it is rather distasteful, the language is actually very good. Evolution is just a theory, it’s the best theory we have (and does not require faith in voodoo bollocks to sustain it) and it has survived a lot of scrutiny by the scientific community however it is still a work in progress and any open minded scientist should consider all scientific alternatives on the merit of the evidence that supports them.

  3. Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I am certainly going to do what I can to drum up some opposition to this in Mississippi.

  4. CrypticLife
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Commonly Sensible, the language sucks. It completely misrepresents what “theory” means in science, ignoring the distinction between theory and hypothesis. It is simply not true that “any statement” regarding life’s origins can be considered a theory in the scientific sense. Not every statement can be considered a scientific hypothesis.

    Most scientists distinguish between the theory of evolution (i.e., how new species arise) and abiogenesis (i.e., the origin of life). Many would also disagree about the accused lack of transitional forms.

    I’d suggest a different, and shorter, text: “Discuss all scientific theories with your parents and minister to determine whether you’re allowed to believe they’re true.” It would be a lot more honest, and probably foster better education.

  5. Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I’ve sent a letter to several newspapers…Writing to my rep probably wouldn’t do much good, considering he is the introducer of this bill. Ugh. In case it doesn’t get published you can read it at http://www.sappari-zenzen.net/?p=113 .

  6. Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Also, CrypticLife, I like your text MUCH better. :)

  7. Stacy S.
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    “Is that “Aauurrgghh!” as in the FSM’s “ talk like a pirate day?”

    No. LoL. It was more of a ‘frustrated Charlie Brown’ Aauurrgghh.

  8. Horton
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Interesting how the bill makes this qualifying statement regarding theory. “No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life’s origins should be considered a theory.”
    So pretty much anything that happened after say about 1890 only hapenned in theory because we don’t have an eye witness, because even the people who may have documented anything, they were only theoretically born and/or even existed.(despite may what appear to be their remains). This also answers the age old question “if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?” Well, if the forest is in Mississipi it was only a sound theoretically. Should many of the casualties near ground zero in Hiroshima and Nagasaki only be counted as “theoretical casualties” in Mississipi history books because there was no proof of many of them being present there at the time? Does the bill pose a larger threat to history than to science?

    C

  9. Posted January 12, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Cryptic Life. The language on this disclaimer is amateurish and obviously written by amateurs.

    “Evolution refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced living things.”

    I had no idea that this is what evolution proposes. I thought that evolution refers to the belief that random forces (whether they are directed is a matter for theology) produced mutations (and that the very unrandom process of natural and sexual selection produced adaptations). I had no idea that evolution proffered any bonafide theory of how living things are produced.

    But I am glad that I know this now.

  10. jdg
    Posted January 24, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    The courts will take this languange down. The law states that evolution cannot be sigled out.


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