I like to keep up to date on my favorite state of the union, Florida, and I thought I would pass some news. Plus I was just talking about Carl Hiaasen on Corey’s recent post, but here is an article he wrote for the Miami Herald about his home state. More specifically it is about how the state might be making the wrong move by adding evolution to their public school’s science curriculum.
In a move that could endanger Florida’s flaky backwater reputation, the state Board of Education is poised to endorse the teaching of evolution as a science. By accepting evolution as a proven science, our top educators would be sending a loud message to the rest of the nation: Stop making fun of us.
He goes on to say…
Nice try, pinheads, but there’s no sin in being a slightly backward state with extremely modest expectations for its young people. That’s been the guiding philosophy of our tightwad lawmakers for years… If snubbing is to be done, Florida should be the snubber, not the snubee. Keep your elite biotech payrolls up North and out West — we’ve got hundreds of thousands of low-paying, go-nowhere jobs that require little training and minimal education.
Low and behold, this Tuesday, Florida’s State Board of Education finally added the term “evolution” to their science curriculum, but not without requiring the term “theory” attached to it. A Reuter’s article on the decision read:
Bending to pressure from religious conservatives, the State Board of Education on a 4-3 vote included the “theory” language as part of a retooling of the state’s science standards for public school education. The panel includes the word “evolution” in state science standards for the first time, but it is relegated to a place among a host of ideas, including Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. By contrast Isaac Newton’s law of gravity is taught as undisputed fact.
Some religious groups believe that evolution conflicts with the Biblical account of creation, though others contend there is no conflict. These contentions have driven debates in several states, including Kansas and Pennsylvania, as to how the subject should be taught in public schools.
The language in Florida was changed to refer to “The scientific theory of evolution.”
“Why are we even considering this?” said board member Roberto Martinez, who voted against the watered-down measure. “Sooner or later we’ll get there,” Martinez said. Backers of stronger evolutionary language called the vote a regrettable compromise that would nonetheless boost the instruction of evolution as a basic tenet of modern biology
So congratulations to Florida, I guess, on finally getting evolution in your classroom. The problem now, and with the article above, is that there is a difference between the observation that we see life evolve (a proven fact, see the entire field of biology) and the super scary Theory of Evolution which predicts, by natural selection, that all life came from one common ancestor. Unfortunately for the advancement of science, the religious fanatics have decided the latter Theory much too clever an idea for even an omnipotent God to have thought of. They then decide to use the layman’s use of the word theory – a speculation and not the scientific meaning – a testable model, capable of predicting future occurrence and being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through observation.
Unless you are purposefully complicating the matter, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Look at the number of different types of dogs we have. Wolves were the first species of animal domesticated by humans over 15,000 years ago. We have documented their entire breeding history. Many dogs had many different uses and we bred them to range from Huskies to Chihuahuas. Case closed, no more confusion on that one. Of course, once you learn how it works and look at the evidence that stacks up in favor of the entire Theory of Evolution, the bible thumpers get worried that it disproves their entire religion. It must not be told to the children!
So these crazy southerner baptists or protestants or who ever they are have slaughtered on debates about this in the past (see Kansas) because they take advantage of how people confuse the definitions of words like theoretical, hypothesis, theory, theorem, laws, and fact. I have no problem with people wanting more evidence to prove that natural selection was the sole cause of humans developing from molecules in a puddle billions of years ago, that is why we have science, to answer questions and learn more about the world. But I just don’t understand why we let these people try to push their rhetoric to children in public schools. At this point even Catholics agree. George Coyne, the Vatican’s chief astronomer from 1978 – 2006, said “Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be. If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.”
I guess what it comes down to is politics as usual. These people have such a vested interest in making sure their religion stays relevant that they will try anything. I just don’t know why they have had such success in pushing their views in public schools. Could that happen in the Northwest? I doubt it, but why have these people taken such a stronghold in the South? I guess the simple answer is because no one there is stopping them. My point is, if I ever have kids and someone tries to get Intelligent Design taught in their science class I am going to the only reasonable thing I can think of… freak out and burn the school down.