Warning: Books can change your mind

AP via First Coast News, Georgia State News.

Following on from the Guardian article I cited a couple of days back...

A federal trial began today in Atlanta over evolution disclaimers in Cobb County schools. A group of parents backed by the ACLU argue that the disclaimers in science biology textbooks are a government endorsement of religion.

Cobb County put stickers in three biology texts in 2002, after more than two-thousand parents complained that the books used evolution as the only explanation for the origin of life.

County school officials said their stickers simply encourage students to keep an open mind, but the lawsuit claims the warning promotes the teaching of creationism and discriminates against particular religions.

The trial is expected to last several days. The stickers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. 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."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism was a religious belief that could not be taught in public schools along with evolution.

But here is an interesting proposal from Gary Peare - quoted on Boing Boing

Let's allow the religious right to paste their stickers in all the biology texts they want so long as they affix the following text to each and every one of their Bibles:

"This book contains material on Judeo-Christian theology. Judeo-Christian theology offers insight into the origin and meaning of life and is the basis for several of the world's great religions. But it does not encompass the full range of religious beliefs held sacred by members of our diverse American society. Moreover, this material is based on ancient texts, and significant errors may have been introduced through subsequent translations and omissions. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

Of course any reasonable education system would ensure that all material was approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered...

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Noah's Ark Found?


Satellite pictures taken last summer of Mount Ararat in Turkey may reveal the final resting place of Noah's ark, according to Daniel McGivern, the businessman and Christian activist behind a planned summer 2004 expedition to investigate the site.

"We're telling people we're 98 percent sure," said McGivern, a member of the Hawaii Christian Coalition. "In one image we saw the beams, saw the wood. I'm convinced that the excavation of the object and the results of tests run on any collected samples will prove that it is Noah's ark."

McGivern began his quest in earnest in 1995, when the publication of a book on the topic moved him to arrange for satellite images to be taken of Mount Ararat.

Attempts to take satellite images in previous years had been foiled by clouds, unavailability of imaging equipment, and lack of image resolution. But the attempts had helped pinpoint the location. In the summer of 2003, everything came together.

"Last year was the hottest summer in Europe since 1500; more than 21,000 people died of the heat wave," McGivern said. "The summer melt was far more extensive than it has been in years."

DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite-imagery company, confirmed that they took the images that McGivern is using.

An international team of archaeologists, forensic scientists, geologists, glaciologists, and others is being recruited to investigate the site sometime between July 15 and August 15.

Ahmet Arslan, a professor in Turkey who has climbed the mountain 50 times in 40 years, will lead the expedition. Arslan reported an eyewitness sighting of the ark and took a photograph in 1989 from about 220 yards (200 meters) away. However, he couldn't get any closer, and the picture is not definitive.

"We hope to assemble what we're calling the Dream Team," Arslan said. "The slopes are very, very harsh and dangerous on the northern face—it is extremely challenging, mentally and physically."

Noah's Ark

The story of Noah's ark is told in the Book of Genesis. It says God saw how corrupt the Earth had become and decided to "bring floodwaters on the Earth to destroy all life under the heavens." God is said to have told Noah, an honorable man, to build an ark 450 feet (137 meters) long, 75 feet (23 meters) wide, and 45 feet (14 meters) high, and fill it with two of every species on the Earth. It reportedly rained for 40 days and 40 nights. After about seven months, the waters receded, and the ark came to rest, according to the Bible.

Three major world religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—believe in Noah and his ark. Reports of ark sightings have been numerous. Witnesses often describe an old wooden structure sticking out of the snow and ice near the summit of Mount Ararat.

Despite the numerous sightings and rumors—of pictures taken by the CIA and locked in vaults, of lost photographs taken by a Russian expedition at the behest of Tsar Nicholas Alexander in 1918—no scientific evidence of the ark has emerged.

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