Newsflash: Evolution Deemed Controversial in Alabama

This appeared in my morning paper – and was apparently an AP story:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The [Alabama] state school board voted unanimously Thursday to keep a disclaimer in biology textbooks that describes evolution as “a controversial theory” after no one in the audience disputed the label, which has generated heated debate in the past.

The board, in its vote to accept a committee’s recommendations of science textbooks, agreed to continue carrying the disclaimer, which calls evolution “controversial” in the first paragraph and adds in the second that any statement about the origin of life is “not fact.”

Just in case you were wondering, Evolution is highly controversial in Alabama. Not so much that it’s a scientific theory that is widely accepted by the scientific community, but because it presents an alrternative explanation to the origin of species that is accepted as an article of faith by many in the religious community. Further, in case you were wondering, Alabama is a pretty religiously active state. We’ve got God battling the Devil in the sky or something, saints and angels flying about doing whatever saints and angels are supposed to do, images of the crucifix appearing in piles of hurricane debris, and the only school board in the country that insists that evolution is controversial.


Without doubt, this is the same sort of make-believe controversy as the one that arose years ago as part of the Super bowl commercial golden era: I’m referring, of course, to the Bud Bowl. Outside the realm of a pretend football game between two opposing teams of beer bottles, there were very (very very) few who were impacted by the Bud Bowl controversy. Was Bud Light really better tasting? Could Budweiser go the distance? Nobody knew. Rather, outside of each 30-second spot – nobody even cared.

This is probably why the Alabama State School Board can get away with something as stupid as this. The only people that even care, are those that are offended by any challenge to their quaint notion that a magical being created the world with a wave of his big, uh, umbrella or sock puppet or whatever it was [actually, the bible is rather silent on this waving issue – there was some talking – but no biblical evidence of waving].

Here’s what I believe is true:

  • There is no scientific evidence of any gods other the the many humans invented.
  • There is no scientific evidence of any devils, angels, ghosts, UFOs, nor alien beings, other the the many humans invented.
  • There really are fairies, and they’re responsible for some of the better restaurants.
  • Science belongs in the public schools.
  • Religion belongs somewhere else.


4 thoughts on “Newsflash: Evolution Deemed Controversial in Alabama

  1. I went to a lecture Thursday night by Stanley Fish, who knows Gerald Graff (the author of the phrase; “Teach the controversy”) personally.  Fish said
    Graff told him the phrase refers to ‘real controversies among experts, not made-up ones’ and is outraged that it has been hijacked by the ID people.

  2. Just in case you were wondering, Evolution is highly controversial in Alabama.

    Well, obviously.  These people seem to defy the very idea that humans have evolved into something more intelligent than pond scum.

    No higher, critical thinking here.  Again, I ask, when did it get to be a good and acceptable thing in this country to be so fucking stupid?

  3. Again, I ask, when did it get to be a good and acceptable thing in this country to be so fucking stupid?

    You know, to me it’s tempting to fall into the trap of calling evolution deniers stupid.  But it’s a trap, after all.  I think there’s more to it than that – maybe something about finding comfort and safety in religion within a world that offers mostly violence and confusion.  Certainly, the notion that magical gods and demons share our reality is nothing new.  What I’m constantly in awe of is how seemingly rational people could take these ideas seriously in the 21st century.  But that’s another trap, I believe.  As a scientist, I reject the idea that the world is populated with magic.  To a religious person, accepting this is usually an entrance requirement.

    As an aside, I heard an interesting discussion this AM about the newest tactic in the “anti-evolution” crusade: Challenging the theory of Evolution on it’s scientific merits.

    Boy, that made me laugh.  The whole point of ANY real scientific theory is that it could be falsified – given the right evidence.  Good theories generate testable hypotheses that, if actually tested, could lead to the rejection of the entire theory.  Evolution is no different, so I find it interesting that the anti-evolution camp would consider stooping to using the scientific method to discredit a scientif theory.

    Of course, rejecting a theory like evolution wouldn’t be easy – since it’s not enough to point out where the predictions is makes are wrong.  You have to have to provide a viable, scientifically testable theory to replace it.  And just as the case in which Quantum Theory replaced classical mechanics, whatever you come up with as the replacement for Evolution needs to account for all the predictions that can be made under evolution as well as account for it’s shortcomings.  To my knowledge, there’s no viable replacement from the anti-evolution camp.  Let’s take “Intelligent Design” for a little walk, shall we:

    Scientist Q: Is Intelligent Design a Scientific Theory?

    ID Proponent A: Yes.

    Scientist Q: What testable predictions or hypotheses does it make?

    ID Proponent A: Umm … none.  But it explains everything. [Hands begin to wave]

    Scientist Q: How’s that?

    ID Proponent A: Right here in the process model, in the little box labelled “Insert flashy miracle here”. [Hand waving is blindingly fast]

    Scientist Q: What evidence could disprove ID?

    ID Proponent A: Well, if God were an idiot, I guess that would do it.  But he’s obviously not an idiot.

    Scientist Q: What makes you so sure?

    ID Proponent A: Ooh – look at this snowflake.  How could an idiot ocme up with something so pretty?

    Scientist Q: You want us all to drink that purple cool aid, don’t you.

    ID Proponent A: Only uppity know-it-alls like you.

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