God, Science and the Bible: Critical thinking outlawed in schools?

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God, Science and the Bible

Critical thinking outlawed in schools?

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On Jan. 13, a federal judge ordered the removal of disclaimer stickers placed on high school biology textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia, that encourage students to think critically in considering the theory of evolution (Associated Press, Jan. 13).

The stickers were applied in accordance with a 2002 decision by the Cobb County Board of Education after some 2,300 parents signed a petition opposing the new textbooks, complaining that they taught evolution as a fact with no mention of any alternative theories.

The disclaimer stickers read simply: "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" (quoted by Discovery Institute News, Jan. 13).

But one parent, Jeffrey Selman, along with five other parents and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), brought a suit against the school board in the case of Selman v. Cobb County School District, arguing that the stickers violate the "separation of church and state" supposedly mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress shall make no law establishing a religion.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper has decided in favor of the plaintiffs in the Selman sticker case, declaring: "By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories . . .

"While evolution is subject to criticism, particularly with respect to the mechanism by which it occurred, the sticker misleads students regarding the significance and value of evolution in the scientific community" (quoted by Creation Safaris, Jan. 13).

So while the disclaimer sticker contains no mention of God, the Bible or creation, it is considered religious for merely telling people to critically consider evolution—and because those behind the sticker believe in God.

"This is a bizarre decision from the standpoint of constitutional law," remarked Dr. John West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a leading think tank researching scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution.

"After ruling that the school board had a legitimate secular purpose for creating the textbook sticker [i.e., fostering critical thinking], and acknowledging the fact that there are scientists who criticize modern evolutionary theory, the court nevertheless declared that the sticker is unconstitutional because some citizens might mistakenly believe that the sticker was intended to advance religion—even though the judge admits it wasn't . . .

"It's unfortunate that the judge apparently has such a low view of the intelligence of his fellow citizens. If the judge can figure out that the school district adopted the sticker to advance the legitimate secular purpose of promoting critical discussion of evolution, why couldn't the citizens of Cobb County?" (quoted by Discovery Institute News).

On the other side, Michael Manely, the lawyer representing the parents opposed to the stickers, said, "This is a great day in history and a great day for freedom in our nation." He also said that Cobb County students will now "be permitted to learn science unadulterated by religious dogma" (quoted by Answers in Genesis, Jan. 20).

But the sad fact of the matter is that the decision really means that Cobb County students are to be ravaged by dogma—being force-fed unquestioning faith in Darwinian evolution through an environment where free inquiry and critical thinking is not allowed to even be suggested, much less practiced.

On Jan. 17, the school board decided to appeal Judge Cooper's ruling, viewing it as "unnecessary judicial intrusion into local control of schools" (Associated Press, Jan. 18). It is taking the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.