September 25, 2002

Huffing and Puffing in Cobb County


By Mark Hartwig

It looks like the Cobb County (Ga.) School District has really touched a nerve.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing them. The National Academy of Sciences is urging its members in Georgia to lobby them. And scholars at three universities are circulating petitions to stop them.

So what did they do?

Well, for starters, they decided to paste disclaimers in district biology texts, which stated, “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 examined.”

That’s what got the ACLU in a tizzy. According to its lawsuit, filed in late August, the disclaimers are a “fundamentalist Christian expression” that’s aimed at promoting religion in the public schools.

Michael Manely, the attorney for the suit, said, “What it does is promote the establishment of creationism in public schools. Why are they singling out evolution? Because from a creationist's standpoint, they don't have a problem with the theory of gravity.”

As if that weren’t enough, the Cobb school board transgressed even further by saying it would consider the following proposal: “The Cobb County School District believes the discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the origin of the species.”

The board is set to vote on the proposal Sept. 26.

That was the last straw for the National Academy of Sciences. NAS president Bruce Alberts fired off a letter to Academy members in Georgia, urging them to lobby against the disclaimers and the proposed policy.

“Our greatest resource is our membership of distinguished scientists, engineers, and health professionals,” Alberts said. “As a member of the National Academy of Sciences or the Institute of Medicine, and as a citizen of Georgia, your help could be particularly effective in reversing these actions.”

He exhorted them to write e-mails or letters to the Cobb school board, and op-eds to the papers.

Other scholars have also taken up the call. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that professors at Georgia State University, Emory University and Kennesaw State University have submitted petitions to the Cobb board. At Emory, 99 signatures were gathered.

So why the general muster?

For one thing, they know the momentum is shifting—even in the scientific community. In 2001, a hundred scientists signed a public statement expressing skepticism about Darwinism and calling for a careful examination of evidence for it. That was followed by a similar statement last March by 52 Ohio scientists.

And on Sept. 19, just at day after Albert’s letter went out, a group called Georgia Scientists for Academic Freedom sent a statement to Cobb school board chairman Curtis Johnston that read, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

The statement was signed by 28 Georgia scientists, including five-time Nobel nominee Henry F. Schaefer, of the University of Georgia. An additional 132 scientists from outside of Georgia concurred with the statement. All told, the signatories include scientists from such institutions as the Smithsonian; Princeton; Yale; MIT; Ohio State; Nebraska; Michigan; Emory; Georgia Tech; the University of Wisconsin at Madison; the University of Texas, Austin and so on.

In order to maintain the fiction that there is no serious scientific dispute about naturalistic evolution, Darwinists must match each dissenter with scores of loyalists. Hence the urgent call-up.

But sooner or later that strategy is bound to collapse. At some point, as more dissenters speak up, Darwinists simply will be unable to marshal the requisite forces. When that happens it will become eminently clear that there is a scientific debate. Darwinists will either have to admit this and engage the substantive issues or risk being marginalized themselves.

I don’t envy them that choice.

Copyright 2002 Mark Hartwig. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date:9.25.02