Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Stickers Put in Evolution Text Are the Subject of a Federal Trial

The New York Times
November 9, 2004

Stickers Put in Evolution Text Are the Subject of a Federal Trial

ATLANTA, Nov. 8 - A federal judge began hearing testimony on Monday about whether the Cobb County School District should be allowed to leave stickers in biology textbooks saying that evolution was "a theory, not a fact" and should be "approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

In a lawsuit against the district, the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing on behalf of five parents that the stickers violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

The school board says the stickers, which do not mention creationism or religion, are nothing more than a neutral gesture to parents who have lost their battle against teaching evolution in the public schools.

The stickers were placed in the textbooks in 2002. The books include a thorough treatment of evolution, and the stickers were intended only to "acknowledge that it may hurt some people's feelings," said E. Linwood Gunn, a lawyer for the board.

In 2002, Mr. Gunn said, the board dropped a policy prohibiting the teaching of human evolution in classes that were required for graduation. "For years we had an unconstitutional policy and nothing was ever said about it until we tried to correct it," he said. "It's a little bit ironic."

Kenneth Miller, a Brown University professor who is a co-author of the biology textbook, testified that he feared that singling out evolution told students "we are certain of everything in this book except evolution."

"What bothers me," Professor Miller said, "is it plays on the popular understanding of the word 'theory,' which is like a hunch, not the scientific understanding."

Marjorie Rogers, a parent and self-described "six-day literal creationist" who led a drive that prompted the stickers, said she was not advocating the teaching of religion, but just more theories besides evolution, which she said was disputed science. "I just want an even footing, if there's any kind of science to support it," she testified.

Judge Clarence Cooper of Federal District Court will rule after the bench trial, which is expected to end this week.