Miami Herald article

The Miami Herald jumps into the fray over evolution in the Florida public schools science standards. The reporter writes a comprehensive piece on what is going on, the history of attacks on evolution education, and interviews quite a few people to try to display everyone’s views on the subject. In an article like this, it’s hard for the anti-science folks to come off as looking like anything other than a bunch of Chicken Littles. Even though this story did show the supposed “two sides” to this circus, the anti-science folks’ quotes ring hollow. They claim they are not approaching this from a religious direction, but that is just a paper-thin disguise. If their complaints are not coming from their personal, narrow religious views, then where are they coming from? That’s a question that should have been asked by the reporter. There are plenty of authoritative voices in the story speaking for evolution, which is outstanding. Here’s a sample:

“We’re looking at a scientific theory as opposed to a belief system,” said Rick Ellenburg, Florida’s 2008 teacher of the year. “I’m a religious person and I don’t see a conflict in my life. Within the realm of what I teach it’s pretty much a non-issue.”

Ellenburg, who is Presbyterian, teaches science at Camelot Elementary School in Orlando and served on the committee that wrote the standards.

Arguments for inserting skepticism, rather than religious concepts, into evolution lessons emerged after a federal court ruling nearly two years ago struck down the teaching of intelligent design in Dover, Pa., biology classes, said Michael Ruse, director of Florida State University’s program on the history and philosophy of science.

“This is strategy No. 4,” Ruse said. He said it’s a wedge issue seen as a step toward introducing religious ideas.

Many supporters say the standards are compatible with their religious beliefs including Joe Wolf, a Presbyterian deacon from Winter Haven who also serves as president of Florida Citizens for Science.

“What we really support is the teaching of strong science,” Wolf said. “Part of that has to be the teaching of evolution. Evolution is the foundation of biology.”

“We’re not talking about crazy, wacky stuff,” said Sherry Southerland, associate professor of science education at Florida State University. “This is the fundamental science the rest of the world learns.”

As of Tuesday, 8,152 people – nearly three-quarters of them educators – had submitted comments to the site, where the split was heavily in support of the evolution standards.

[edited to add: It looks like the Associated Press has picked up this story, thus launching it national.]

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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