Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Florida counties reject evolution

Today's show:

There's more than presidential primary news in Florida this week. In a surprise move against the state Department of Education, 8 small counties in northern Florida have passed anti-evolution resolutions. These resolutions signal the vehement opposition to new state science standards which refer to evolution as "a critical fact that every student should know." Florida's current science curriculum doesn't even mention Darwin's theory by name.

[source: St. Petersburg Times]

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from a story reported in the Florida Times-Union:
School boards across Northeast Florida are objecting to Florida's proposed new science standards that would, for the first time in state history, require schools to teach that evolution is the backbone of all biological science.

Backers of the resolutions contend they're not trying to drive evolution out of schools. Instead, they say they object to presenting evolution as - in the words of the St. Johns County resolution - a "dogmatic fact."

Some school superintendents say the resolutions reflect the religious nature of their constituents in Northeast Florida. [read full story]

from a story published in the St. Petersburg Times:
Dominated by Baptist churches and dotted with military bases, most of North Florida makes no bones about its political and cultural conservatism. Throw an election year into the mix, Blanton said, and it's no surprise that school officials in places like Bonifay and MacClenny are "going to try to do some things their constituents want."

The current science standards, put in place in 1996, do not mention the word "evolution" and instead refer to "changes over time." The proposed standards say evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence." If the Board of Education approves, students will be tested on them next year.

The opposition resolutions have passed in five rural counties - Baker, Madison, Taylor, Jackson and Holmes - and in two suburban counties next to Jacksonville: Clay and St. John's. [read full story]

excerpt from an article by Brandon Keim, writing in Wired magazine:

"Alternatives" to evolution are essentially creationist, and usually rely on intelligent design -- a belief that the life's essential complexity can only be explained as the work of another (and generally divine) intelligence. Intelligent design was legally declared a religious rather than scientific explanation during the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover lawsuit; unlike evolution, it can't be tested, and there is no evidence to support it.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, four Polk County school board members publicly rejected evolution. Local coverage of their sentiments soon turned national; they backed down. The conflict seemed settled. However, persistent digging by the Florida Citizens for Science found that eight counties -- St. Johns, Holmes, Hamilton, Baker, Jackson, Clay, Taylor and Madison -- have passed anti-evolution resolutions.

The resolutions are non-binding, but may encourage members the state Board of Education to dilute the state's proposed science standards. If Florida opts for evolution-unfriendly textbooks and is followed by neighboring Texas -- also undergoing its own curriculum revision -- then other states, looking for less-expensive texts, may buy those same books. Much of an entire generation could be raised to think of evolution as a theory with no more grounding in reality than intelligent design. [read complete article]


A committee of teachers, scientists and others worked for months to update the current standards, which were written in 1996 and do not mention the word "evolution." Its revamp has won solid reviews from teachers and scientists. But some conservative Christians object, saying the standards should also include faith-based theories such as creationism or intelligent design, and/or air what they insist are evolution's flaws, faults and weaknesses.

"In my life time, I've never seen an ape turned into a human. I've never seen us come from slime," said Ruth Klingman, who identified herself on the sign-in sheet as a former educator.

"I don't think evolution should be taught in school as dogmatic fact," agreed Gary Tupper. "I wish people had priorities like putting Christ first." [read full story]