Jeffrey Selman - Public Speaker
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Cobb County Board of Education June 27, 2002

Disclaimer being considered at time of speech: "This text book contains material on evolution, a scientific theory, or explanation, for the nature and diversity of living things. Evolution is accepted by the majority of scientist, but questioned by some. All scientific theories should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered"

Final disclaimer is even worse: "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."

Speech given at Cobb County Board of Education Public Meeting June 27th 2002

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board,

It has always been my feeling that just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should do something. I am aware that the lawyers consulted by the board have pronounced the critical statement for the new biology books as acceptable within in confines of what they perceive the law will allow. While their perceptions may or may not be valid, it is apparent that the statement is the wrong thing to do.

It is the wrong thing to do first of all because the last line of the statement is not at all needed. Some of the concepts innate to the teaching of science are:

  • approach with an open mind
  • consider the evidence carefully and critically
  • leave room for new data that will need to be evaluated in the future.

Secondly, in the beginning of the statement, it is wrong to isolate evolution from the rest of the body of knowledge of science. All of science is in constant flux. Some knowledge is accurate in one set of circumstances but invalid in another etc. Since all of science is understood to have this characteristic, why is it necessary to single out evolution? If such a statement is appropriate, it should appear in all science texts.

The answer has occurred to me that the forces putting pressure on the board to bring this disclaimer about have an agenda in mind that will blur the line between state and church. There is a second incident that brings me to this conclusion. The character education division of the state Board of Ed has over the past two years slipped into the curriculum, almost unnoticed, a direct violation of the wall between private belief and state sponsored belief. Every year, on the published school calendar, there is printed, on the first day of the week, a state mandated character building word or phrase. Two years ago on one of the weeks the admirable word democracy stood as a character building word. The following year, around the holidays, when people were too busy to take notice, democracy shared the week with the in question phrase "respect for the creator". This last school year, on the very last week, again when few people would notice, "respect for the creator" appeared again, this time in isolation.

You may say that there is nothing wrong with teaching respect for people's beliefs. After all, the phrase doesn't mention whose creator. The problem comes in because many people don't believe there was a creator. Some religions like Buddhism don't have the concept of a creator. So it is apparent that only religions that believe in a creation are being promoted by this government published "character building" phrase. It is a clear violation of the separation of state and church, and apparently adds suspicion to the publishing of the disclaimer for evolution in our new science books. If the state wishes to promote respect they should change the mandated phrase to "respect for differing beliefs". I also respectfully urge the Cobb Bd. of Ed. to withdraw its mandated disclaimer from our secular science books for the reasons already stated.


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