The Florida Creationist campaign for ignorance enters the home stretch: One more week to publicly misunderstand evolution.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports (emphasis mine):

As the Florida state board of education prepared to consider a final draft of a new set of state science standards, Floridians offered their opinions at a last-minute meeting held in Orlando on February 11, 2008. Over eighty speakers addressed the state commissioner of education, Eric Smith, and, via webcast, the board. A video of the entire meeting is available on the department’s website. As the Orlando Sentinel (February 12, 2008) reported, “They came from one end of Florida to the other, and with views on evolution as far apart as the 800 miles that separate the Keys from the Panhandle.” Observers estimated that there were about twice as many speakers opposing the treatment of evolution in the new standards as there were speakers who applauded it.

The Florida Board of Education is currently considering a new set of state science standards which would include evolution being taught by name (which it is currently often not. Evolution is apparently something akin to an “e-word” in many Florida schools; rather than simply use the word evolution to describe the concept, many teachers are reported to either avoid the subject or refer to evolutionary processes with euphemisms along the lines of “acquired population change”) and as a scientific historical fact (which would be another first for the state). The new standards have been drafted in response to the F the Florida Board of Education received from the Fordham Institute for its science curricula.

While the move for improved science education has prompted kudos from a number of organizations and media outlets, it has also generated a great deal of backlash. Notably, nearly a dozen northern Florida school boards have passed resolutions objecting to the teaching of evolution as fact. These boards are pushing for evolution to be taught simply as one of a number of theories. Supporters of these genuinely anti-science resolutions have been quite candid about the religious basis for their position. As the NCSE reports, “Ken Hall, a school board member in Madison County, told the St. Peterburg Times (January 24, 2008), for example, “We’re not asking that evolution not be taught, just that it be taught as a theory, one of several. I’m a Christian. And I believe I was created by God, and that I didn’t come from an amoeba or a monkey.””

If you think that comment is zany, you might not be ready for this next one.

“The same [religious] motivations were on view at the Orlando meeting, along with bizarre claims about science — the St. Petersburg Times (February 12, 2008) reported that a speaker “held up an orange and said that because of evolution, he now had irrefutable evidence that an orange was ‘the first cousin to somebody’s pet cat’ and ‘related to human beings'” — and about the supposed moral consequences of teaching evolution, with Darwin compared with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung.”

Fortunately, this meeting did include some rationality – though surely not enough. The new science standards were endorsed at the Orlando meeting by a number of scientists, educators and citizens from around the state. “Joe Wolf, president of the grassroots group Florida Citizens for Science (blog), presented a petition signed by over 1500 supporters of the standards, describing evolution as “the central organizing concept that allows us to understand all biological sciences from medicine to forestry to entomology, and its principles are the theoretical basis that underlies major advances in all biological fields” and calling on the board to accept the final draft.”

“Debra Walker, a physical anthropologist who chairs the Monroe County School Board and served on the writing committee, also urged the board to accept the new set of standards without tinkering. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Walker “said the current ‘political meltdown over Darwinian theory’ was proof that too many people had received a poor-quality science education. She noted that the school districts with some of the lowest science scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test were the ones complaining loudest about the new standards. ‘Do we want these boards setting science policy in Florida? I think not.'”

“The board of education is scheduled to on the new standards on February 19, and it is expected that creationists will continue to lobby the board to compromise the treatment of evolution.”

Pro-Science organizations like the Florida Citizens for Science, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the American Institute for Biological Sciences (AIBS) are expected to continue to actively endorse the new standards. All three organizations have sent letters to the board endorsing the scientifically responsible teaching of evolution. AIBS’ recent letter included the following passage: “The biologists and science educators represented by AIBS, and the scientific community as a whole, agree that there is no research supporting either creationism or ‘intelligent design’ or challenging the importance of evolution for explaining the history and diversity of life.”

God speed, Florida rationalists.

12 Responses to “The Florida Creationist campaign for ignorance enters the home stretch: One more week to publicly misunderstand evolution.”
  1. Mark says:

    Personally, I think this whole debate could be squashed quite quickly if every time this stupdity reared its head the entire 2000 members of the National Academy of Sciences showed up and reitreated their position that evolution MUST be taught in schools and creationism MUST NOT be taught in schools. It would be expensive, but it wouldn’t take very many times and the debate would end. More people need to read the Academy’s recent publication:

  2. Tony says:

    The real eye opener is the statement that “…school districts with some of the lowest science scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test were the ones complaining loudest about the new standards.”

  3. ronbrown says:

    My last statement was directed at Tony.

    Mark: The problem with the new National Academies publication is that it misrepresents science as being compatible with religion by using such arguments as “X% of evolutionist profs are religious, therefore religion and science are compatible”.

    It would be good to have one or two members of the NAS flown out for such events.

  4. Eddie says:

    I think that is the wrong strategy. Saying here is an authority (of science) so we are right would just be countered by the IDiot holding up his bible and saying this is my authority. A better approach, I think, would be to do the following:
    1) have some christian authority there to counter the religious part,
    2) Have some university admission officers there to say a biology course without evolution would not count and
    3) Have some biotech companies there advertising they need people for well paid jobs and evolution is a core component of the work.

    I think they permanent solution is for top notch universities (like Berkley has done) to state that an evolution-less course is not acceptable for admission. Most parents want what’s best for their child and going to a top notch U will motive them to at least learn it even if they don’t “believe” it and this will eventually root out the belief in a few generations.

  5. madcap says:

    What requires more faith? Believing in a Creator, or in the philosophy of Oops? Is “oops” the best that materialism can come up with? Is oops truly a more rational conclusion than design? It would take more faith than I could possibly muster in order for me to accept that the universe is simply a product of oops. Especially in light of modern scientific discoveries that continually point toward a supernatural explanation. While evolution is indeed a fact, Darwinism grows ever more faint. Materialists cling to the corpse of Darwin, using not science or reason to hold their position, but rather sophistry and rhetoric.
    1.Unlocking the Mysteries of Life.
    2.From Darwin to Hitler:Ideas Have Consequences

  6. Stoobs says:

    ‘Oops’ is imminently more believable, since it can be simulated and seen in action in laboratory conditions. Experiments have been performed in which randomly generated circuit boards were subjected to evolutionary processes, where those which came closest to performing the desired task were randomly recombined with one another, while those that were furthest from doing so were eliminated.

    The resultant circuit not only did the desired task, but it did it better and more efficiently than designed boards, and at the time I read the article, no one had managed to figure out how it worked. In other words, ‘oops’ managed not only to do the job, but to do it better than the best designers we could find.

    The fact is, quite simply, that evolution does occur. It can be seen occurring. It can be guided, as farmers have done over centuries with both grains and animals. It is measurable, quantifiable, and absolutely real. It requires no faith whatsoever, because you can go into a lab, or out into the world, and test it. Believing in evolution takes as much faith as believing in electricity.

  7. Mike says:

    Can we report this guy madcap as a spammer? This isn’t the first blog I’ve seen him post this on – identical every time, with no follow up.

  8. ronbrown says:

    Mike: I’ll the Madcap’s post up. He/she’s already been replied to once, and has not responded to such reply.

    Thanks for the heads-up, though. From now on, whenever I get an argument like Madcap’s I’ll make a brief reply first before really getting into it so as to not waste my time on someone who is just posting a message and then leaving.

    What I should do, however, is start saving responses to common assertions (e.g., assertions favouring ID, objective morality, etc.).

  9. Mike says:

    You may wish to tak a gander at Neil’s blog, then; it’s absolutely full of fallacies. Especially his rather idiotic “Poor arguments to use with theists”, which really rather deserves the carnival of dancing strawmen name I gave it here.

  10. Joan says:

    I can’t believe that any one on the Florida school board would even consider allowing the concept of creationism into the schools and religion in the schools has been deemed unconstitutional.
    If religionists choose to believe that Genesis I and Genesis II are to be taken as the literal truth, than let them. And let them keep their beliefs in their homes and in their churches where they belong.
    Evolution is no longer just a theory, it is recognized in the academic world as fact. It is time Florida schools recognized it as well. The school board is supposed to consider all Florida schools, (all Florida taxpayers) not just those in Tallahassee where fundamentalism predominates. l’d hate to see Florida subjected to the same worldwide ridicule that Tennessee faced in the Scopes trial in 1925.
    If my grandchildren were exposed to creationism as a viable
    theory in the classroom, I would feel obligated to withdraw them from school. Florida already lags behind other states in scholastic measurements. I commend the school board for trying to improve standards in science by allowing evolution.
    Those on the school board who are opposed to or undecided about adding evolution to the silibus need to be chastised and schooled in constitutional law.

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