Thursday, 7 February 2008

Florida legislators prepare to rein in teaching of evolution

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Three leading Florida state legislators are preparing to challenge new state science education standards which will make the teaching of evolution compulsory for the first time in Florida's history.

The standards, set to be approved by Florida's Board of Education on 19 February, will ensure all middle and high school students are taught about evolution and natural selection in science classes. Three Republican legislators are unhappy with these guidelines, as they believe evolution should be explicitly referred to as a "theory" and not fact. One of the three, state Senator Stephen Wise, believes creationism should be taught alongside evolution. State Representative Marti Coley, who believes in intelligent design, told the Miami Herald that evolution "is technically a theory. Let's present it for what it is."

The three, who also include future state House Speaker Dean Cannon, have said they will be willing to use the powers of the state Legislature, which can override the Board of Education, to ensure the word "theory" is inserted into the standards.

The standards have been exercising creationists ever since they were proposed last October. One Florida Department of Education employee even sent round an email calling on fellow Christians to oppose the guidelines, as they would be "a COMPLETE contradiction of what we Teach them at home."

This religious challenge to science education has alarmed the man who carried out the review of Florida's standards. Professor Joseph Travis, dean of Florida State University's Arts and Sciences College, told the Herald: "If you use the word theory to imply that scientists think evolution is just a hypothesis and is not real, that gives an incorrect impression."

11 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

Just FYI: the proper phrase is "rein in" (as in the reins of a horse).

Paul Sims said...

Oops! Correction duly noted!

Anonymous said...

Good for Florida!! I'm glad to see one state who is not willing to bow to the taunts and ridicule of atheists and agnostics who do not even believe there is a living God. Our Judeo-Christian heritage needs to stay put in America and there are too many trying to assault it and make us look like clowns. This nation was founded on Christianity (which IS the only true religion besides the two covenants from Abraham's loins), not any other kind of false religion and this is what America and everyone in it will be judged on in the end...the Word of God. So we'd better get back to our roots before it is too late. We need to protect the innocents in the classroom from lies and false theories such as evolution which turn one from God unto false gods or no God. I give Florida and its state representatives a big HIP HIP HURRAY!! Don't let the media or atheistic organization push you around Florida. Stay firm!!

Get Real. said...

Glad to see such "tolerance" from yet another religious person. If you want your children to learn religion in schools, send them to a religious school where they can believe whatever they're told like the good little sheep you're raising them to be.

Skeptic_al said...

Just so we're clear here - "theory" and "fact" are not mutually exclusive. Evolution IS a theory, yes, that doesn't mean to say that the overwhelming majority of scientist (and indeed educated people) doubt it in any way. Another example of a "theory" is the Theory of Gravity.

From wikipedia comes this definition of 'theory' -

"In science, a theory is a mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation. It follows from this that for scientists "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theories commonly used to describe and explain this behaviour are Newton's theory of universal gravitation (see also gravitation), and general relativity."

So please, Florida legislators, by all means, use the word 'theory'...just don't use it to imply that it's in any way less certain than the fact that if I were to drop a truckload of copies of "The Origin of Species" on your head it would bloody well hurt.

questforright said...

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The backbone of Darwinism is not biological evolution per se, but electronic interpretation, the tenet that all physical, chemical, and biological processes result from a change in the electron structure of the atom which, in turn, may be deciphered through the orderly application of mathematics, as outlined in quantum mechanics. A few of the supporting theories are: degrading stars, neutron stars, black holes, extraterrestrial water, antimatter, the absolute dating systems, and the big bang, the explosion of a singularity infinitely smaller than the dot of an “i” from which space, time, and the massive stellar bodies supposedly sprang into being.

The philosophy rejects any divine intervention. Therefore, let the philosophy of Darwinism be judged on these specifics: electron interpretation and quantum mechanics. Conversely, the view that God is both responsible for and rules all the phenomena of the universe will stand or fall when the facts are applied. The view will not hinge on faith alone, but will be tested by the weightier principle of verifiable truths – the new discipline.

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Skeptic_Al said...

Anyone for spam? :S

The Hogfather said...

Well done to Skeptic_al, he has got it right. When are these people finally going to realise the difference between a "theory" in scienfic terminology and the everyday use of the word.

Also, why is Evolution so bad and why is it "unprofitable" as questforright claims. I would say given the medical advances made possible by a good understanding of evolutionary theory, it was pretty damn profitable actually!

Isn't 4 and a half billion years of incredible evolutionary narrative good enough for us! What about the fact that evolution gives us a sense of belonging, and unlike Creationism actually provides a connection (of substance) between us and all other living things.

Personally I find evolution humbling and remarkable. The fact that the religious right are incapable of thinking like this just goes to show the "rigid" nature of their beliefs (and that's not a compliment). They can't even except a simple truth about reality.

Skeptic_Al said...

so..."anonymous"...

Can we take it that "This nation was founded on Christianity [...snip...] not any other kind of false religion " is an admission that Xianity is also a 'false' religion?

And isn't that a redundancy anyway?

Sir Groane said...

"Good for Florida!! ... This nation was founded on Christianity"

Odd, I didn't know the Native Americans were Christian before the Mayflower landed...

Anonymous said...

Theory has different meanings and is often used in a misleading way. As many have pointed out, a scientific theory has considerable amounts of evidence to support it. Whereas theory in the everyday use is equivalent to conjecture. Thus you have created a double standard by proposing ID or creationism as a theory.

Oh and by the way, this country was not founded on Christianity, that's why the first amendment was ratified. To put a wall between religion and government. "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion..."

Believe whatever you want to believe, but don't teach your religious beliefs in school. They are based solely on something that was written in a book 2000 years ago and are merely an unverifiable story.