Texas board of education may reject Biology textbook because evolution is but a theory

The actual quote:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

By Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Yes, your comment was a joke (a good one!) but I like the original and I like correctly attributing quotes.

Also, everyone misses the “foolish” part of “foolish consistency” which I think is actually important to the meaning of the quotation.

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But GOOOOOOOOOOD made it, and he makes everything just right. See also Sigourney Weaver in Aliens. Especially at the end. Because underwear.


“a theory” – haven’t we managed to paint in big enough letters YET what “theory” means in this context? (Well, yes, but they can’t, or won’t, read.)

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Noah built it as big as He said it should be. Since He is omnipotent and omniscient, the dimensions He quoted were exactly right. If some animals didn’t fit then their loss was part of His plan. Right? From Genesis:

6:13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

6:15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

Simples. There weren’t any carnivores before the fall, at least according to Answers In Genesis. No poisonous plants, no thorns, nothing ever died ever until after Adam ate the apple.

John Scalzi visited the Creation Museum and has a funny bit including coconut-eating T-Rexes. :smile:

When in the context of a “Creation Museum” it’s pretty funny, but unfortunately when it comes to having jurisdiction over school books, it loses a lot of the lol factor. :frowning:

Edited because I got the fall and the flood mixed up…easy mistake to make. AIG just says it doesn’t know when the carnivores started eating meat.

So then, according to Genesis 1:29–30, God originally created men and animals to be plant eaters. God’s statement in Genesis 9:3 strengthens this restriction placed on man. Here for the fist time God gives man permission to eat meat. God has not told us exactly when the animals became carnivores. Yet if man obeyed God, he would not have eaten meat until after the Flood and most certainly not before the Fall of Adam.

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The point is: they are not receiving an education anyways, so there would be no difference, objectively.

Ironically, Texas should be the first state for the entire school system to use e-readers. That way, they can just delete the unpleasant bits and let the rest of us develop vaccines and equal-marriage laws.

Then we can move the rest of the space program to a state that teaches its students that the earth goes around the sun.

Because underwear.

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Gravity is just a theory.

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Not to pile on Texas (other states are just as bad, I’m looking at you Kansas), but was just reading some of the articles about Texas in the 60’s, since this is the anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Texans seemed even worse back then, believe or not. So maybe Texans are evolving after all!!!


Thus demonstrating that the opposite of gravity is levity.


I had heard that quote, and did not know who said it, so thank you.

To your points, which are articulately presented, it is no mystery to me why creationists insist upon their position. I’ll explain, momentarily.

If you haven’t it’s so worth the read: Stephen Jay Gould’s classic: “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm.” This paper is a hard read, but it is worth your time. In it, he systematically takes apart the conventional thinking on evolution, that creatures adapt and optimize. Instead, he offers a far more nuanced account of the evidence thus far (paper was written in 1979), in which he suspected multiple competing systems within organisms, coexisting with systems that do NOT seem to adapt, and other alternatives, all in a tidy list. His treatment of evolution is a far subtler interpretation than what existed in science in the 1970’s, and remains far subtler than what most people tend to believe now, if they believe in evolution at all.

Back to the original point: not only is evolution invisible to us in terms of physiology and timeline, but it is also realized in piecemeal fashion within the organism and multitudes of organisms, and so is even more invisible, ineffable, beyond our immediate and not-so-immediate grasp. It takes an incredible amount of consideration to understand precisely how it might be working, and even then, the best science might still be totally wrong about the particular system being studied.

It is no wonder to me that creationists are so stubborn with their sham. It’s because they are no match for nature’s own stubbornness.

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And yet…it’s simply not. It’s true that understanding the full range of forms something could adapt into, what mutations might make possible, is complex because genetics and developmental biology are complex. Nothing in biology is tidy. But you don’t need to understand all the particulars of astrophysics to get what stars are, and evolution as a general process is much more obvious than you are giving credit.

Something Darwin drew a lot of inspiration from was the work of breeders, who have reshaped plants and animals in very significant ways - nobody who saw a chihuahua unprepared would guess it was a wolf, or even closer to one than a fox. These changes are not invisible and not all ineffable, but many were and are done in a deliberate way.

The basic idea, then, is simply that the changes in nature might come from the same sort of thing happening on a grand scale. That much hardly seems difficult to grasp, and for anyone curious enough to look further, there are all sorts of signs of it even on the timescale of a human life. It’s just that some people don’t, and I don’t see how complexities like spandrels offer any real excuse.

My question to you, then, is to what would you attribute those deliberate, visible adaptations? How would you describe the process[es] by which they occurred?

I’m afraid to say I don’t understand the question. Every part of an organism comes from a complex mix of metabolism, genetics, and developmental switches. New adaptations are no exception; some element of that mix has changed, and if the result helps in the right environment, that change is likely to spread.

Gould’s essay, if memory serves, was essentially cautioning against thinking every physical feature of an organism as such a change in itself. Instead, they can be side-effects of some other underlying change; an odd toe might happen not because it is useful, but because it comes from the same change as an odd thumb. It might even happen simply because it wasn’t deleterious. This is important - and yet hardly changes the underlying principle, or that many adaptations are obvious ones.

Again, if your point is that seeing the details of exactly how mutations work is subtle, I don’t see the relevance. Sure there are intricate mechanisms in play - just as when an animal eats food or poison, or fights off a disease, let alone when it develops from a cell. The general principles in each case are plain all the same.

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You can’t both embrace and dismiss Gould’s article at the same time. Or, rather, you may, but that’s when we cease listening.

Well, assuming you do listen, I’m saying his thesis is doesn’t have the implications you claim. Straightforward adaptationism is often a mistake, yet the results of natural selection for beneficial adaptations are still very plain in the world around us; there is a reason people noticed them in the 1800s.

Gould argued there was more to the picture, but that does not make the whole thing invisible or ineffable, and many of his other essays support the idea that lots of adaptations are plain enough. Nothing in this makes denying their existence, as with creationism, any more sensible.

And yeah, I both embrace and dismiss things all the time, because reality is subtle and lots of things only give you a partial perspective on it. Gould’s books are among those, and I make no apologies for that.


You’re still missing the point. The point isn’t a rehash of Gould’s theses. You make it seem like I’m saying we never discover. Preposterous. I said as much in my first reply to fuzzyfungus, and you’re taking the conversation off on a bizarre tangent.

The original point is that biology is just as awash with adaptationists as the US is with creationists. And, I am taking it a step further in saying that they are similar in their disregard for the way things really work: so it all may as well just be ineffable. Because to a closed mind, it is. The whole thing is not objectively invisible and forever dark. But if you are an adaptationist or a creationist, it may as well be. That is the relevance.

The further relevance is that any simplistic, mechanistic view, whether it’s a creationist one, or an adaptationist one, is what is going to prevail in Texas for a long time. I suggested, tongue-in-cheek, to shut the schools down because kids aren’t even getting an education. Not a real one, anyways.

It seems that they might not even get a taste of an education until college or grad school, and even then, most will avoid biology. IMO, schools don’t have to fully explore every complexity, but they can at least allude to nuance in their curriculum.

Personally, I’d settle for a nuanced treatment of both creationism and Darwin, gasp, as long as it causes students to think for themselves. If the curriculum is an oversimplification, and even if creationism is left out, no good was done.

We don’t start out mathematics education by teaching about mathematical logic and Godel’s incompleteness theorems. Most people who learn about mathematical logic end up learning basic calculus before they learn the set theoretic definition of a limit. Realistically, students need to learn a certain amount of the structure within a topic before they can engage in deconstructive analysis of that structure. This is partially due to the fact that they need a structure to analyze first and partially due to the fact that human reasoning defaults to realism – that there is a definite fact of the matter that is directly available to the senses. (That’s not how reality is, but it is the default view of reality.)

Similarly, when teaching biology I can certainly see the sense of teaching evolutionary theory as being true and not teaching creationism. While I can also see the sense in trying to teach scientific reasoning as you suggest I can also see the drawbacks. Students will largely not be able to analyze the arguments for and against evolution without first knowing a certain amount about evolution.

That the sort of education one gets in secondary school is largely rote and fact-based does not actually detract from the fact that it is education even if it’s not the sort of education you’d prefer. The fact is that teaching kids science by first teaching them philosophy of science and then having them do their own reasoning is an untested and potentially fraught method of education.

As far as the equivalency you draw between naive adaptationism and creationism, Isaac Asimov had something to say about that:

“When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”