Whither Alabama's evolution disclaimer?

09.21.2015

When the Alabama board of education voted to approve a new set of science standards on September 10, 2015, in which evolution was described as "substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence," the question arose: what will become of the evolution disclaimer in Alabama's textbooks?

According to the Washington Post (September 18, 2015), "state officials will have to decide what to do about the adhesive label that every high school biology textbook has been required to carry since 2001, a warning emphasizing that evolution is a 'controversial theory' that students should question."

(The initial version of the disclaimer was adopted in 1996, when the standards described evolution as "a controversial theory some scientists present," and the state board of education voted to require the insertion of a corresponding disclaimer in science textbooks. Subsequent versions of the standards weakened the disclaimer.)

According to Newsweek (September 18, 2015), "The state superintendent and state board of education is currently in the process of reviewing Alabama's science textbooks to decide how they might change according to the new standards. [They] will also evaluate whether or not the insert will survive as-is in the new books, or whether it will be altered."

The Montgomery Advertiser (September 21, 2015) editorially called for the insert disclaiming evolution to be removed, writing, "Alabama appears to be the only state that allows such anti-science disclaimers, another stain on its poor reputation for educational quality and a not-so-subtle disincentive for some teachers to fully present evolution as fact in the classroom. It's time to rip off the stickers."

"Alabama needs to abandon its misguided practice of warning students about evolution," commented NCSE's executive director Ann Reid. "The disclaimers are scientifically unwarranted and pedagogically irresponsible. Now that Alabama's science standards acknowledge the scientific standing of evolution, it's time for the disclaimers to go."

Updated on September 22, 2015, by the addition of the next-to-last paragraph.