Judge orders removal of anti-evolution stickers fro m textbooks inGeorgia school district

Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG
Fri Jan 14 13:20:55 CST 2005

The definitions quoted below from the Merriem-Webster dictionary all
presuppose that the three (hypothesis, theory and law) are distinct. They
actually intergrade somewhat. One can also rephrase the three as pragmatic
guides to action:

Hypothesis is a good quess about processes in nature that we posit and
gather facts (well documented observations) about with the intent of
demonstrating a theory. A hypothesis is acted upon by the brave with nothing
to risk.

Theory is a well-supported description of a process in nature based on lots
of evidence, with little contradictory evidence, and contrary theories based
on much the same evidence are somewhat improbable or unreasonable. A theory
is acted upon with certain care for contrary surprises and a moderate risk.

Law is a theory that has no reasonable alternative and which we do use
confidently as a basis for action even when risking much.

All these are scientific in that they deal with the facts of nature and thus
our experience of the natural world. Because I base their value on how well
they perform in action given certain risks, they do not require an
acceptance of a particular "reality" pre-action even though such undoubtedly

As long as we keep Science and Art separate, things go swimmingly. Science
is, in my opinion, the skeptical pursuit of truth with a small "t", truth we
act on and revise as required by new facts; science makes us part of nature
and no different from the animals. Art is the invention or detection of
Truth, things that strike us as absolutely and incontrovertibly true no
matter how contradictory or illogical; Art makes us human. Keeping them
apart is important not just legally as in keeping religion out of
science/politics and vice versa, but to keep us complete by protecting our
Science from our Art and vice versa.

Richard H. Zander
Bryology Group
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166-0299
richard.zander at mobot.org <mailto:richard.zander at mobot.org>
Voice: 314-577-5180
Fax: 314-577-9595
Bryophyte Volumes of Flora of North America:
Res Botanica:
Shipping address for UPS, etc.:
Missouri Botanical Garden
4344 Shaw Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110

-----Original Message-----
From: Susanne Schulmeister [mailto:susanne71_2000 at YAHOO.DE]
Sent: Friday, January 14, 2005 8:13 AM
Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] Judge orders removal of anti-evolution stickers
from textbooks inGeorgia school district

The Merriem-Webster online dictionary states:

"3 : the antecedent clause of a conditional statement
synonyms HYPOTHESIS, THEORY, LAW mean a formula derived by inference
from scientific data that explains a principle operating in nature.
HYPOTHESIS implies insufficient evidence to provide more than a
tentative explanation <a hypothesis explaining the extinction of the
THEORY implies a greater range of evidence and greater likelihood of
truth <the theory of evolution>.
LAW implies a statement of order and relation in nature that has been
found to be invariable under the same conditions <the law of



 --- Richard Jensen <rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU> schrieb:
> The equating of hypothesis and theory, the common thread that
> underlies these attempts to
> consign evolution to the same status as individual belief, reflects
> one of the greatest
> failings of science education.  We, as science educators, need to
> make sure that we spell
> out exactly what the difference between a theory and and a hypothesis
> is.  The general
> public, and too many science teachers, have been taught and/or
> allowed to continue to
> believe that a theory is just a hypothesis.
> The problem lies in the definitions of these terms provided in
> dictionaries.  For the
> layman, this is the source to be consulted, and most offer something
> akin to this as one
> definition of theory - "a hypothesis assumed for the sake of
> argumanet or investigation."
> The fact that this is, in the dictionary I have on my desk, well down
> the list of
> definitions, makes not one whit of difference.  The first definition
> ("the analysis of a set
> of facts in their relation to one another") is ignored in favor of
> the one that is most
> appropriate for de-emphasizing the significance of the theory of
> evolution.  I can't help
> but believe that another significant component is that religious
> "facts" are equated with
> scientific "facts."  There is no recognition that these facts are not
> directly comparable as
> units of knowledge (e.g., by many, facts taken from the Bible are
> accorded the same status
> as facts derived from scientific experimentation/observation).
> It's a challenging problem and we have a long road to travel.  I
> sometimes wonder if we've
> made any progress at all along this particular road.
> Cheers,
> Dick

Susanne Schulmeister
Division of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024

Opinions in this email are that of the sender, not the museum.

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