Chris Comer’s Texas showdown

Remember Christina Comer, the woman who was expelled from her job at the Texas Education Agency for merely forwarding an e-mail about a talk by Barbara Forrest? According to reports released yesterday she is suing the TEA and Education Commissioner Robert Scott for illegally and unconstitutionally firing her from her position. What is most pleasing to see, though, is that the suit is specifically fashioned to instigate change; to overturn the absurd “neutrality” requirement the TEA imposed on creationism and to get Comer her job back. This isn’t about getting compensation for damages and running. The action gives every indication that Comer wants to get back into the fight and rescue science education in Texas. (You can see the paperwork for yourself here.)

There is one thing that did make me wince when I read the suit, however. Quoting the famous Edwards v Aguillard case of 1987 (which, in turn, quotes the 1981 edition of Webster’s) the document provides this definition of evolution;

“Evolution is defined as ‘the theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types, the distinguishable differences being due to modifications during successive generations.'”

If you want a good definition of what evolution is the last place you should look is the dictionary. The definition leaves the door wide open to creationism (who or what did the modifying over those generations?) and using it is a mistake. I wasn’t expecting a technical definition but the Webster’s blurb is entirely inadequate. A blurb from the National Academy of Sciences is thrown in, as well, but it too falls short of the mark. As always, I refer anyone who wants to know more about how to concisely define evolution to Larry Moran’s post on the subject.