I just read Tim Rutten’s “The Perils of Palin” in the LA Times, from which:
Although she supports the teaching of creationism in public schools, [Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee] Palin thinks it should be presented alongside, rather than instead of, evolution. “Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both,” she said during her gubernatorial campaign. “I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. … Don’t be afraid of information, and let kids debate both sides.”
Well, no. There is no debate, only “teach the controversy” pull-the-wool hucksterism from the Discovery Institute’s “intelligent design” campaign which belongs nowhere near a science class — though certainly in a religion or current events class — or anyone running for US federal office.
Just in case, here’s a back-to-school refresher for all of us, including science students and teachers from Alaska to Hawaii to Alberta, about the word “theory” from editor-in-chief John Rennie of Scientific American:
Many people learned in elementary school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty — above a mere hypothesis but below a law. Scientists do not use the terms that way, however. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution — or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter — they are not expressing reservations about its truth. In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The NAS defines a fact as “an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as ‘true.'” The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling. All sciences frequently rely on indirect evidence. Physicists cannot see subatomic particles directly, for instance, so they verify their existence by watching for telltale tracks that the particles leave in cloud chambers. The absence of direct observation does not make physicists’ conclusions less certain.