The theory of evolution is "controversial," according to a message to students that will appear in all science textbooks in Alabama.
The four-paragraph message, titled "A Message From The Alabama State Board Of Education," name-checks Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Copernicus before asking students to think critically:
The theory of evolution by natural selection is a controversial theory that is included in this textbook. It is controversial because it states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things. Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in a population, it is assumed that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed.
This is not the first time Alabama has warned its students about the "controversy" surrounding evolution. Alabama's Board of Education inserted the first disclaimer into school textbooks in the 1990s, and the 2016 version has not been changed from the previous year, according to AL.com.
The message to students fits in "perfectly with the course of study and the questions that are presented," Stephanie Bell, a member of the state education board, said.
"It has been a very positive addition," Bell added. "Parents have been very appreciative. And in the few cases where they have not seen this as expected, they have called and asked questions about it and the local systems have taken care of it very quickly."
The insert mistakes the common understanding of the word "theory" -- that something described as a theory falls short of certainty -- with the scientific definition.
"Some believe that theories become laws, but theories and laws have separate and distinct roles in the scientific method," LiveScience explains. "A law is a description of an observed phenomenon that hold true every time it is tested. It doesn't explain why something is true; it just states that it is true. A theory, on the other hand, explains observations that are gathered during the scientific process."
Or, as Scientific American puts it, "When scientists talk about the theory of evolution -- or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter -- they are not expressing reservations about its truth."