Cobb County Anti-Evolution Stickers: Let’s Get The Facts Right.

Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently criticized the ruling earlier this year that ordered the removal of stickers placed by the Cobb County school board in  textbooks. Judge Carnes noted that the words on the sticker are "technically accurate," and that the school board was justified in singling out the theory of evolution for comment.


The stickers, however, stating that “Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." are not scientifically accurate and contain factual errors and misconceptions. 


Evolution itself is not a “theory”.  In everyday language, evolution is as much a fact as plate tectonics, atoms, or that the Earth is spherical.  The fact that life on Earth has evolved over billions of years has been unequivocally substantiated by the observations over the past 300 years and with thousands of fossils in the geological record. With the aid of scientific evidence and support from paleontology, biology, chemistry and physics, this fact has been solidly confirmed.  It is part of reality and will not go away.


The theory of how evolution works to produce the changes and the complexity of life we find in the fossil record, and that has successfully withstood the test of time, is Darwin’s explanation of natural selection acting on random variation.  At this time there is no other scientific theory that comes anywhere near to explaining how evolution occurs as does Darwin’s.


The other totally erroneous statement in the sticker is the “regarding the origin of living things” phrase.  The “origin of life” question is not part of evolution.  Darwin’s theory explains how organisms evolve, not how inanimate material may have emerged into replicating entities.  Some evolutionary biologists may have hypotheses regarding this issue, but it is not part of evolution or Darwin’s theory.


Thus the sentence “Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.” promotes a misconception and is simply wrong.



Dr. Samuel Kounaves

Tufts University

Medford, MA