Warning labels

David Campbell (bivalve@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Tue, 18 Nov 1997 14:11:31 -0400

The Alabama textbook label is a bit reminiscent of the warning label on
sodium chloride, supplied as a chemical. If I remember correctly, it
claimed reproductive and mutagenic hazards and that you should wash for at
least 15 minutes if you contacted it. Nothing about throwing some over
your shoulder if you spill it, at least.
There is a valid need for warning labels in most texts addressing
evolution; however, the Alabama label (and similar motions in other
legislatures) has several problems, especially definition of
terms-"theory", "evolution", "transitional form", "macroevolution",
"microevolution", and the like are not always used in the same way by the
same person in the same paragraph, and are almost never used by
anti-evolution and pro-evolution folks in the same way. Also, the
assertions that the transition from reptiles to birds is speculative and
that there are no transitions between major groups is wrong in light of
such fossils as Archaeopteryx and Confuciusornis and the similarities among
living forms (e.g., modern birds and reptiles have scaly skin). If the
book is up to date, it probably will discuss why the Cambrian explosion
happened; if very up to date (highly unlikely that this has made it into
textbooks), it will mention the increasing evidence that it extends well
back into the Precambrian and was less explosive than has been thought.
It's likely that the other "unanswered questions" have some comments in the
book as well. Whether or not the book's answers are correct is another
question, but to claim these are unmentioned mysteries is wrong.

David Campbell