An interesting letter to the editor was published yesterday in The Crimson White, the student newspaper of the University of Alabama. Leslie J. Rissler, an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, observed:
Unfortunately, University of Alabama students who attended high school in our state are at a disadvantage, relative to students from states where K-12 science standards are significantly higher. These standards were ranked by the National Center for Science Education in 2009, and Alabama received an F- and a ranking of 50 out of 50 – the worst state in the nation in the quality of its science standards. Sadly, Alabama is the only state in the country with an evolution disclaimer in all high-school biology textbooks. Imagine having a disclaimer in our physics or chemistry textbooks, warning the students that the existence of atoms is “only a theory.”
Rissler explains the incorrect understanding of the theory of evolution that is promoted by creationists:
Biologists describe evolution as both a theory and a fact. In common parlance, the term “theory” means simply “a guess.” But to scientists, “a theory” is not a “guess,” but the best-supported statement explaining the operation of the natural world. Major “theories” in science include evolution, atoms, the “germ theory” of disease, gravity, relativity, quantum electrodynamics and plate tectonics. The theory of evolution is also a fact because it’s supported by evidence from multiple fields of study including genetics, geology, biogeography, paleontology and molecular biology.