The Taylor County School Board in Florida has voted to oppose evolution

In yet another demonstration of faith-based ignorance, yet another another American school board has voted to teach evolution as “just a theory”.

The Florida Citizens for Science report that the “Taylor County School Board unanimously approved a resolution saying the district is opposed to teaching evolution as a fact” (italics mine).

There is a lot of confusion over the status of evolution. Is it a fact or is it a theory, and what do these terms mean anyway? Evolution is a fact in the sense that there is so much converging evidence demonstrating that it happened that it would be absurd to deny it. The fact of evolution is that the species we see todayare the evolutionary product of a long chain of descent with modification from a very simple beginning. Evolutionary theory refers to the mechanisms by which this happened (e.g., natural selection, genetic drift, punctuated equilibrium theory, etc.). The late eminent biologist Stephen J. Gould provides the following analogy. When you drop something it falls. The long history of things falling constitutes a base of facts. Gravity is a theory designed to explain these facts. While physicists were assessing the validity of the theory of gravity, the world of objects did not suspend themselves in mid-air awaiting the physicists decision.

Back to Taylor County. Today school board unanimously passed the following resolution:

Whereas, the Florida Department of Education has drafted and is now proposing new Sunshine State Standards for Science, the Taylor County School Board opposes the implementation of the new standards as currently presented.
Whereas, the new Sunshine State Standards for Science no longer present evolution as theory but as “the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported in multiple forms of scientific evidence,” we are requesting that the State Board of Education direct the Florida Department of Education to revise/edit the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed.
Whereas, the Taylor County School Board recognizes the importance of providing a thorough and comprehensive Science education to all the students in Taylor County and to all students in the state of Florida, it recognizes as even more important the need to present these standards through a fair and balanced approach, an approach that does not unfairly exclude other theories as to the creation of the universe.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Taylor County School Board of Taylor County, Perry, Florida, that the Board urges the State Board of Education to direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is not presented as fact, but as one of several theories.

What skewed perceptions of rationality, education, and science this panel has. They seem to think that reality conforms to the democratic process. That the world changes with popular opinion. Maybe this is why they do not want evolution taught as fact. If enough people accept evolution as a fact it will become one!

As PZ Myers of Pharyngula put it: “Charming, huh? Voting is magic! Let’s vote that pi=3, little green men live on Mars, and that it will rain money every Sunday.”

(Hat tip: Pharyngula)

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40 Responses to “The Taylor County School Board in Florida has voted to oppose evolution”
  1. doubtingthomas426 says:

    Hey, as long as they don’t agree to teach creationism AT ALL, I’m cool.

    And as I’ve stated before, I’m an Atheist and firmly support Creationism being taught in public schools … as soon as private Christian schools agree to teach evolution.

  2. alaskanspawn says:

    Being that I am an atheist as well I have to question their motives. If the motive is to be able to teach creationism side by side with evolution then I disagree. But if they just want to have a religious studies ELECTIVE then go right ahead. As long as evolution is taught as science and creationism is taught as mythology (that is what it is after all) then go right ahead.

  3. joshthedoglovr says:

    Pretty interesting stuff. Just thought you should know!

    Josh

  4. vietpham says:

    “In yet another demonstration of faith-based ignorance, yet another another American school board has voted to teach evolution as “just a theory”.”

    I’m pretty sure all universities teach evolution as theory (as they should). Like you said, the discrepancy is with the meaning and utilization of the terms fact or theory. Facts are data. Theories are explanations of data that have withstood repeated observations and experimentation.

    This is why schools should focus on properly teaching science and leave the debating stuff for other courses. I wouldn’t worry though, these quite obviously religiously motivated people have lost this particular battle in Arkansas, and they’ve lost it quite recently in Dover. If it leads to a legal issue, they will lose again.

  5. ronbrown says:

    Vietpham: Briefly, evolution is a fact in terms of historicity. Evolutionary theory refers to the particular mechanisms by which the historical process, which is fact, took place. I’m going to create a whole new post on this.

  6. inthebegining says:

    Science is not democracy, however where scientists disagree with the interpretation of data it should not be ignored.

    http://www.arn.org/top10/2007newsstories.pdf

    Saying Evolution is fact is a faith position not a scientific one. We cannot re-run geological time. Much of the evidence Darwinist’s from centuries ago had hoped to find has not materialised in the fossil record. Darwinist’s claim evolution must have happened very rapidly. But that is an argument from lack of evidence not from evidence. Genetics puts limits on how much mutation you can safely have in a population in one generation without disastrous results. At the moment the figures don’t add up. To claim evolution is fact takes a lot of faith.

  7. Dynadude says:

    Religion has no place in public school. None. They just want to make an opening for teaching creationism along side real science.

    It is a shame that this has been allowed to happen, and is a point of embarrassment for the entire state.

  8. tom rogers says:

    To claim evolution is fact takes a lot of faith.

    Using data from an ID site as if it were an actual scientific site takes a lot of chutzpah.

  9. Kevin says:

    I’m so sick of seeing Christian fundamentalists trying to push their fairy tales into science class. If they want to teach this and pretend it’s ‘science’–fine. Then they should fund their own schools with absolutely no public funding.

  10. Sage says:

    Christianity isn’t a fairy tale. Whether people choose to believe in it or not.

    I put those who can only believe what they see before them.

    As to this

    If enough people accept evolution as a fact it will become one!

    It doesn’t matter how many people accept it as fact. That doesn’t make it so.

  11. Chris says:

    Well, all science is essentially theoretical, but evolution certainly has a weighty amount of evidence supporting it. Thus, why are we debating it’s validity when we have no alternate theory even close to being as plausible and no real reason to repeal it’s status as “highest likelihood due to an overwhelming amount of evidence?”

    What happened to separation of Church and State? If you want to believe in your religious dogma, all the power to you, but you can’t possibly provide me with any real proof/justification as to why it should be pushed as an alternate theory to an actual scientific theory. I note that this article does not say as much, but I am more or less speaking towards the general faith vs science argument than this specific incident.

    Ah what interesting times we live in.

  12. ronbrown says:

    Sage:

    Demonstrate how Christianity isn’t a fairytale, or shouldn’t be conceived of as one? On what basis do you think it is rational to assume that Christianity is anything more than a well-propagated myth? Lets have an account that doesn’t rely on arguments from ignorance, authority, mischaracterizations of evolution and the physical sciences, cherry-picking from vague scripture, backwards thinking which assumes that the universe is perfect for us when it could more plausibly be conjectured that we are adapted to it, or personal experience (personal experience can be easily argued against because people of all different religions have them, religious-like experience can be induced via meditation, drugs, and some social activities (e.g., impassioned political rallies).

    To flip your words against you, no matter how many people believe in Christianity: that doesn’t make it true. In fact, I think it is nothing short of humiliating that over the course of 2000 years billions of believers have still yet to give a coherent rational basis for belief that doesn’t fall into one of the obvious categories I pointed out above.

    And it is not how many people that believe evolution is a fact that makes it a fact. It is that the evidence for evolution as a historical fact make it inane to treat it as anything less. For more on this, read this post: https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/is-evolution-just-a-theory-a-scientific-theory-or-a-fact/. This post was written to address this specific issue.

  13. ronbrown says:

    Kevin: An interesting debate topic would be on the ethics of allowing fundamentalists to teach these tales at all. To be clear, I’m not making the statement right now that it absolutely is wrong, but this would make for a good discussion. Most people would say that it is immoral to fill your child’s head with lies. But these people don’t think they’re telling lies. In fact, they’re not telling lies. They’re being honest. They’re honestly telling their children rubbish. If there were only a few religious people in the world and they were teaching their kids socially destructive things, it’s pretty obvious what would happen: the kids would be taken away from the parents. But when a huge proportion of the population believes the rubbish, what do you do then when some of them take the rubbish to the extreme in raising their kids?

    This discussion of course has little practical relevance given the nature of our society.

  14. Kevin says:

    Yes–I agree with you. I was going to write that they shouldn’t be taught that at all–in public or separate schools–but I thought the “fairy tales” comment was already a bit barbed. At the very least, I don’t want the publicly funded, secular schools politely accommodating what is ENTIRELY a religious schema (i.e. Creationism) within the curricula.

    Interestingly, the Christian fundamentalists only want many views represented when it benefits them. For example, I doubt they would argue to have Islamic fundamentalism taught as another viable ‘option’ or ‘theory’ in Civics class. Perhaps an apples/oranges comparison…but fundamentalist Christianity always presents itself as a highly arbitrary selection of rules (ethically, scripturally etc.)

    I wrote on my blog a few posts ago about feeling like the Chicken Little of secularism. In conversation, people often remind me of the great number of rational Christians against creationism and that I overreact. Yet I find the apathy of the moderates who are silent when their religion is encroached upon by fundamentalism quite disturbing and, ultimately, responsible for these messes with school boards bringing (back) Creationism into science class.

    Religion of the fire-and-brimstone variety, with its violent iconography, belittlement of the Self, and constant focus on guilt is–to me–a form of mental abuse–worse when inflicted on a child.

    Yet if the state begins to police religious practices–and religious upbringing–doesn’t that open the door for them to start policing freethinkers? The Humanist declarations support the protection of religious freedom. And one way of ensuring that is to maintain a secular public school system–and keeping religious education in the home.

    Are you asking when do we draw the line on religious freedom?

  15. flemo1974 says:

    As Homer Simpson said, “God Bless those pagans”
    And to thisk tht the people of Florida were the ones that finally voted Bush in! No wonder th eworld is so screwed now!

    BTW, other then the Bibl, is there actually any other evidence for the theory of Creationism? Didn’t think so!

  16. Kirahk says:

    The perpetuation of a myth: that only ingnorant people doubt evolution! How about, The only reason so many people believe the “theory” of evolution is because they’re kept ignorant of the facts. Common descent evolution is NOT empirical science, like the theory of gravity. None of the *observable* changes we see can account for the origin of complex strucures.

  17. ronbrown says:

    Thanks to good old circular reasoning and the amazing human abilities to self-deceive and create a society in which it is deemed inappropriate to point out the obvious ridiculousness of organized religion, the Bible is all the evidence some people will ever need.

    A relevant story: I was in the hospital a few months ago after a car accident and this nurse and I were talking about Christianity. She was a Christian. She gave me the “I feel sorry for you for being an atheist”. I asked her, politely, what the evidence for Christianity is and she told me….THE BIBLE! I asked her how she knew the Bible was true? She said….. BECAUSE GOD WROTE IT! I asked how she knew that. She said….BECAUSE IT’S IN THE BIBLE!

    My mind was blown. I had heard of this sort of circular reasoning before but in my experience it had been far less explicit. The person wouldn’t just say “The Bible is true because God wrote/inspired it, and I know this to be true because the Bible says so”. That would be the underlying basis for what they did say, but they wouldn’t come right out with it. It blew my mind that she 1) came right out with it, and 2) could not recognize the ridiculousness of the claim even when it was made obvious by stating the circularity oneself in the plainest of language.

    I remember her telling me that one of her primary reasons for believing was that she years ago was depressed because she hadn’t found a companion. So, she prayed to God to find her a husband. After sometime—I can’t remember the interval, coulda been years for all I know—she met someone and eventually married him and they’re still married now manyyears later. That’s sincerely wonderful. It is. But, as I told her, there are plenty of married atheists. Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are both married, I mentioned.

  18. ronbrown says:

    KirahK:

    I’m going to tell you what I’ve been saying to others in this thread that doubt that evolution is a fact: read this post https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/is-evolution-just-a-theory-a-scientific-theory-or-a-fact/.

    And who has “the facts”, IDists?

    Do you have any idea how Science works? Scientific theories and statements of fact CANNOT be born in Science if they can be shown to not be supported by evidence. There is too much to lose by keeping a bad idea—e.g., wasting a lot of money on bad research projects, wasting time barking up what is clearly the wrong tree. And there is too much to gain by scientists who can argue against a wellknown theory. This is the kind of thing that makes the careers of scientists.

    Next, you are asserting that Science is dogmatic. I have argued against this assertion in another post: https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/is-mainstream-science-dogmatic/.

    Science has already shown itself to be anything but dogmatic on a number of occasions. Firstly, it wasn’t like scientists accepted evolution right away. It was a big claim that required big evidence. But far more impressive is the community’s acceptance of quantum physics. Quantum physics, as I describe in the just cited posting, defied established scientific principles as well as the most basic and close-to-home common sense of everyone. That science accepted this new framework is a great demonstration of science following the evidence where it leads. And it’s not that science is inherently anti-religion either. When religious communities actually do come up with a good idea, science will embrace it. An example of this is mindfulness meditation. Originally developed by Eastern religious communities, this practice has been shown to be a highly beneficial practice by Western science. Consequently, it is being employed at countless medical facilities in the Western world and continues to be a hot area of research in the cognitive and mental health sciences.

  19. Perhaps Taylor County Florida is not a place you want to live? The nice thing about America is that people can migrate towards places where their values are shared.

    You cannot reason out faith by the way. You either have it, or you do not. What may work for someone who holds the Bible to be true may not work for you. That is okay, not everyone has to agree…

  20. ronbrown says:

    BC & B:
    Yes, it’s true that in America you can relocate to a place like New Jersey or California and be living in a far less religiously ridiculous place. But that doesn’t change the fact that the religious right is having major consequences in your country. If Florida continues to promote this inanity it will continue to churn out people who will vote based on these convictions. People in NJ, NY, California, Oregon and all the other states are going to have to live in a country where things like gay rights, stem cell research, abortion, the teaching of creationism in schools and so on are a perpetual issue simply because of the indoctrinated masses in places like Florida. Reasonable people will be forced to attempt to reason with people who are immune to reason in certain key areas of discourse.

  21. Karl Priest says:

    Evolutionists are bluffing when they say their beliefs are scientific. Be sure to look at the list of evolutionists who refuse the debate challenge from Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo. See the list at http://www.lifescienceprize.org/

  22. ronbrown says:

    Karl: I don’t even know you and I would already bet a lot of money that you’re religious. Why is it that I have never heard of a single nontheist who believes in some sort of evolutionist conspiracy? Why does it always take the alterior motive of religion?

    If you had even the slightest inkling of how science works and the sociology of the scientific community, you would know how ridiculously low the probability of a mass bluff being upheld would be. Please read this posting, which addresses the very idea of whether or not science is dogmatic: https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/is-mainstream-science-dogmatic/

  23. Jersey says:

    Fact is observation. Theory is just explanation of observation. That’s how I was taught it.

  24. ronbrown says:

    Jersey’s got the idea:)

  25. Larry says:

    The macroevolutionary concept is clearly about as faith based as you can get. There is absolutely no observable evidence from genetics and any mechanisms we know of to support the concept that life can come from non-life, that bacteria can change into any higher form, that deer-like animals could become whales or even that bipelism could develop in chimps allowing them to walk upright using natural selection or any type of mutagenesis. This type of naturalistic stupidity should not be taught in science classes at all. What we actually observe is that every thing in nature appears to be designed. Occam’s razor folks… what appears to be designed is most likely designed. Evoltuionists are losing the battle as the movie exposed no intelligence allowed is showing. Keep the faith, guys/gals… but stop suggesting that the theory of evolution is science – it is not.

  26. ronbrown says:

    Macroevolutionary theory is faith-based? Hmm, well transitional species have been found. What about the converging evidence of genetic continuity among species that also show continuity in terms of time of emergence? Why/how would a deer-like life form change into a whale? More likely, a population would change bit by bit by bit and over the course of many many many generations they would come to differ significantly from the point-of-reference ancestors. There have been computer simulations done in which a light-sensitive patch evolves into a human-like eye if there is an advantage to depth-perception, acuity, and other visual abilities that we have. Mathematicians have also shown that if there is a constant 1% reproductive advantage for being bigger, a mouse over a certain number of generations will grow to be the size of an elephant. You are making the mistake of looking at binaries (e.g., deer versus whale) and in so doing, losing sight of the continuous gradations between species. Given enough time, selective advantage, and the occcasional isolation of groups from one another, macroevolution is bound to happen. If two camps within a species separate from each other and are subject to evolution by natural selection, they could eventually become so different from one another as they move into different environments or follow different evolutionary paths (e.g., the beneficial mutations in one group differed from that of the other), that they eventually appear to be binary, or completely different.

    As for life from non-life, I personally am not up to date on work on this issue. To my understanding this remains an area that has not been solved. But why should this concern us with respect to evolution’s status? We still have the fossil record, genetic and molecular bio, embryology, comparative anatomy, microevolution, artificial life computer simulation, comparative cognition, and a number of other converging independent sources of evidence pointing in the direction of evolution. Evolutionary theory explains complexity from simple beginnings. The first forms of life could have been incredibly simple. Now what is more reasonable to believe: 1) a scientific theory which a staggeringly rich and diverse body of evidence and the notion, based on the strength of evolutionary theory, that a very simple life form could have come from inorganic matter; 2) orrr, that a mega-complex designer for which there is no evidence exists and explains everything? Saying that something appears designed is not an argument for a designer when making it creates a problem just as big or bigger than the one we set out to address. Are we in any better of a position that we now have to consider how Intelligent Designer came to be? And if one says that the designer always was, what is our evidence for this? Occam’s razor would slice ID to shreads because it groundlessly assumes something which is as great or greater than that which it was attempting to explain.

    If evolutionists are losing the battle, then why is ID the laughing stock of all of science and why was it struck down by a conservative and Christian Bush-appointed judge in Dover? Expelled: no intelligence allowed is a farce that plays the victim card for ID, ignoring the fact that ID has been slapped silly by scientific and judicial argument.

  27. It is exciting the way that people are so polarised by this issue. It is though they have some vested interest in one side or the other winning – as though “if 1 more atheist is converted”, or “one more fundamentalist is broken down” that the whole debate will go away! It wont!

    Having studied evolution, (and having been bought up through the Christian dogma) I can tell you that nowhere in any scientific literature is there any suggestion of the thought that something like a deer could turn into a whale. There is simply no reason for this to happen! Why would a deer need too? It would only be eaten by a lion (albeit a Japanese lion – sorry a political joke in Australia at the moment!)

    However, if you look at the skeletal structure of each animal, you will notice a number of similarities. First of all, both breathe air (as opposed to fish that have gills). Both have a head with eyes above the nose which is inturn above a mouth. Thirdly, they both have a backbone that has 4 limbs coming off it. Each of these limbs has an elbow and a wrist joint (if you look at the skeleton of the whale, the tail at the back is actually like 2 very short legs joined together and covered in skin!). Both animals suckle their young. Both are herding creatures. There are many similarities.

    Are they the same animal? Clearly not! They are not even similar animals.

    However, there are similarities. Evolution states that many years ago (we are talking about 100’s of millions of years here) that they had a similar ancestor. Have we come across all the species in between? No. Are we likely too? No! But that does not mean that they didn’t exist.

    If The Fundamentalists can say that God exists when they have not seen him (or her?), they then cannot go and say that because we cannot find the intervening species that evolution does not exist!

  28. silver18 says:

    Is it just me, or do the people who argue against evolution have bad grammar?

    To ronbrown, in the post about the indoctrinated masses in Florida. I hate to agree with you, in fact I was righteously angry when I read that, until I thought about it. I live in Florida, and I have never heard of Taylor county. Perry, yes. They are backwards, Conservative people on the whole. We aren’t all like that. But there are a lot of them.

    That isn’t a problem that is only in Florida, though. It is pretty prevalent throughout the south. Funny, considering that it was a case in Tennessee, the Scopes trial, that established that evolution was to be taught as the prevalent scientific theory.

    To flemo1974, Bush won a contested election in 2000. Florida did not vote him in, he was counted in erroneously, at least in my belief. I am assuming that you are old enough to remember it and have an opinion. In either case, that was eight years ago. If he had been defeated in 2004, it might have gone differently. But you cannot place all the blame on Floridians for that.

    Whew, now on to the question at hand. This is very sad. The fact that they think that they can ban the teaching of evolution in public school. Also, the misconception of the word theory. It’s not that hard to get, people. This is the problem with electing local government officials to run schools. As you notice, there is no mention of teacher support. School boards have a long history of making poor decisions. Hopefully this idiocy will stop before it goes any farther, but even if it isn’t, we are pretty sue-happy down here. Anyone else smell a lawsuit?

  29. Dynadude says:

    Have there been any new developments to this issue?

  30. ronbrown says:

    I’ve done another post or two since this one on numerous Florida county boards jumping on board.

  31. Detailing Darwin

    My muse is clothed is sackcloth
    Like sunglasses in a dark place
    The Paleozoic need
    Sleeping with a light in your face

    Memoirs detailing Darwin
    Madame Tussauds waxing cold
    Hunting phantasmagoria
    Persons of that serpent of old

    Like some post Freudian slip
    Darwin’s recantation at death
    He said as he held his Bible
    “That my theories were just a guess!”

    His book, “My Life and Letters”
    “My ideas were uninformed”
    And I quote him verbatim
    “Not one species has evolved!”

    “And to my astonishment
    The ideas took like wild fire
    Made into a religion”
    Of which the atheists admire!

    The ‘fairy tale’ graveyard lift
    The mortal theory held dear
    Pray tell, will you answer then
    When will our replacements get here??

    Nothing real can be threatened
    Just as nothing unreal exists
    Science can’t prove evolution
    Yet the uninformed still persist!

    God created man from ‘dust’
    To rule over fish in the ‘sea’
    Darwin died citing Creation
    And he begged God’s message be preached!

    Tragedian Bete Noire
    http://www.rapturealert.com
    2-10-08

  32. ronbrown says:

    Y’know, saying bullshit in the form a poem doesn’t make it any less BS.

  33. Abrandida says:

    Hello my friends 🙂
    😉

  34. Спасибо, интересно почитать)

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  36. Drielvide says:

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  37. Is there any solid facts about the evolution? I do understand why some religious establishments are opposed to this, but we have to be open minded about it and respect what others are saying.

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