Just cruising for a lawsuit

The St. Petersburg Times has a good post on its education blog about the creationism bills (“academic freedom act”) filed in the state senate and house. The main question on the reporter’s mind is: what problem are these bills supposed to address? The reporter correctly notes that it’s the teachers who want to teach scientifically-accepted evolution who are feeling the pressure to downplay or even not teach the subject at all. Where are all the poor, oppressed teachers who want to teach something else? Honestly, I have no doubt there are plenty out there flying under the radar, especially in rural counties where their alternative views on science are essentially protected by the conservative community. Think of all those northern county school boards that issued anti-evolution resolutions. Setting that aside, though, where are all the persecuted teachers losing their jobs over their alternative views? Who will the proposed bills protect? Even the legislators who filed the bills have trouble answering that question.

I would encourage reporters to go a step further when digging into this issue. Note how Rep. Hays throws out an old canard about evolution having holes in it. Every scientific field/theory has holes in it. Heck, that’s practically a defining characteristic of science itself. It’s the never-ending pursuit of knowledge to fill in the holes. Will all the holes ever be filled? No. But that’s what draws folks into the science field and keeps them busy. Once again we see evolution being singled out, which is a purposeful ploy to fool the general public. Joe and Jane Public don’t need to know about all those other sciencey holes and stuff. They just need to know that there are holes in evolution. Ignore all the holes that have been filled over the years, folks. They mean nothing. I daresay that if you press Hays to come up with the details concerning some holes, he would say something silly, like there are no half creatures running around out there, so that means evolution is a crock. Oh, wait! He actually did say that!

“No one yet has found a half-animal of this or a half-insect of that,” Hays continued. “And they certainly haven’t found any half ape and half man.” It’s painfully obvious that Hays has no clue what he is talking about. Just stop and think for a moment. Human transportation certainly has changed over the years. So, by Hays’ reasoning, we should see some half buggies and half Ferraris out there, right? Hays needs some education on things like transitional fossils. Or maybe he thinks these chimeras he demands science to produce should literally be something straight out of circus side show exhibits. In that case, I have no idea how to get through to someone so potentially reality-challenged.

Before attacking evolution on the political front, Hays, Storms and others should be required to take a simple evolution exam. Nothing too complicated is needed. Just some basic concepts called for in our brand new science standards, say from the middle school level. I don’t expect our state legislators to be experts on every subject they deal with there at the state capital, but I do expect them to do some basic research and educate themselves on the subjects. This is especially important when the legislator is the one filing the doggone bill!

The St. Petersburg Times blog post focuses on the teacher aspect. But let’s not forget that students are addressed in the bill, too. “Public school students in the state’s K-12 school system may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but may not be penalized in any way because he or she subscribes to a particular position or view regarding biological or chemical evolution.” A good question to ask here is what happens when a student fills in an exam question concerning evolution with: “I do not believe in evolution and based on that belief refuse to answer this question.” Or how about if the student goes the hard core route: “According to such-n-such verse of such-n-such chapter of the Bible, God specially created man.” The teacher then marks these answer as wrong and the student gets no credit and possibly fails the exam. Is the student being penalized? Can the teacher then be disciplined or even sued based on this bill?

Does this sound like academic freedom to you? It sounds much more like freedom from education to me. These bills are nothing more than the setup to an expensive lawsuit.

HB 1483 was filed on March 4 and had its first reading later that evening. SB 2692 was filed February 29 and hasn’t seen any other action yet. I have no idea when these bills will be considered in their respective committees (House and Senate. Let me know if I have the wrong ones linked here, please). Everyone needs to keep an eye on the committees and track the bills’ progress. The committee members are listed on the committee pages and links will take you to contact information for each person. Here are some good tips for communicating with those folks.
The track record for similar bills in other states is bad. I would hate for Florida to break that trend.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
This entry was posted in Our Science Standards. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Just cruising for a lawsuit

  1. FCS wrote:

    Where are all the poor, oppressed teachers who want to teach something else?

    Listen to NPR’s piece on academic freedom for clues as to where the teachers are.

  2. Jonathan Smith says:

    Hays should do a little more reading:

    Scientists have made one of the most important fossil finds in history: a missing link between fish and land animals, showing how creatures first walked out of the water and on to dry land more than 375m years ago.
    Farish Jenkins, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University said: “This represents a critical early phase in the evolution of all limbed animals, including humans – albeit a very ancient step.” Tiktaalik also gives biologists a new understanding of how fins turned into limbs. Its fin contains bones that compare to the upper arm, forearm and primitive parts of the hand of land-living animals.
    “Most of the major joints of the fin are functional in this fish,” Professor Shubin said. “The shoulder, elbow and even parts of the wrist are already there and working in ways similar to the earliest land-living animals.”
    There is evidence to show us that Hays has only half a brain!!

  3. Jonathan Smith says:
  4. I was wrong, or are you saying that NPR is wrong?

    FCS wrote:

    Where are all the poor, oppressed teachers who want to teach something else?

    I would encourage reporters to go a step further when digging into this issue.

    Yes, let’s see what Barbara Hagerty of NPR says in

    Intelligent Design and Academic Freedom:

    HAGERTY: NPR talked with 18 university professors and scientists who subscribe to intelligent design. Most would not speak on the record for fear of losing their jobs. One untenured professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia wrote that talking to NPR would be, quote, “the kiss of death.” Another said, ‘There is no way I would reveal myself prior to obtaining tenure.’

  5. Brandon Haught says:

    Mr. Wallace,

    Stop quote mining. You need to read my question in context. I’m not talking about college professors. I’m talking about public schools here in Florida. My post was about bills filed in the Florida legislature concerning Florida public schools. Pay attention, please.

  6. Mr. Haught:

    I hardly think its quote mining when in this very thread I said:

    William Wallace wrote:

    Listen to NPR’s piece on academic freedom for clues as to where the teachers are. [emphasis added]

    Why do you think that a problem in post secondary education (as reported by NPR) does not exist in Florida’s secondary education system?

  7. PC-Bash says:

    To be brutally honest, if my children were enrolled in a school in which they were subjected to religion as science, I would work to get the science teacher fired. So, I don’t know what William Wallace is getting at here.

    I’ll ask a question to William Wallace: if a science teacher was indoctrinating your children with atheism (e.g. directly teaching children that your god does not exist), or Hinduism, would you not work to get your children transferred or to get the teacher removed from the school? Wouldn’t you point out that they are stepping away from the science standard, that they are teaching something which is not fact?

    How do you think most mainstream Christians (who support evolution) feel about teachers forcing your fundamentalists beliefs on their children?

  8. PC-Bash says:

    …and yes, most mainstream Christians support evolution. The Catholic church (50.2% of all Christians are Catholic) supports evolution.

  9. PC-Bash wrote:

    To be brutally honest, if my children were enrolled in a school in which they were subjected to religion as science, I would work to get the science teacher fired.

    Hence, the need for academic freedom (protection from parents who don’t understand the difference between science, criticism of science, and religion). Also, you do realize, don’t you, that the bill has this provision:

    S2692(7) This section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.

    Which should provide your child protection from teachers using their position to promote any religion.

    Now, why do you think that a problem in post secondary education (as reported by NPR) does not exist in Florida’s secondary education system?

  10. PC-Bash says:

    It would be different if there was evidence for “Intelligent Design”, or if “Intelligent Design” was even a valid scientific hypothesis, which it is not. ID can never be verified or falsified, where evolution has been verified, and can just as easily be falsified.

    ID, or this new “strengths and weaknesses” / “academic freedom” ploy by the creationist lobbyists does not deserve to be in our science classroom.

  11. PC-Bash says:

    Wallace –

    This bill is contradictory. The so-called “Strengths and Weaknesses” that DI and other creationists are using are religious concepts. They do not stand up to any scrutiny, and they have not gone through the same rigorous testing that evolution has. Period.

    If you are going to teach something in the science classroom, then it absolutely has to go through the same rigorous process that evolution has. Otherwise, it is nothing more than conjecture, deipnosophy, and religion. The science classroom needs to be protected from fundamentalists who do not grasp scientific method.

  12. PC-Bash says:

    Now, why do you think that a problem in post secondary education (as reported by NPR) does not exist in Florida’s secondary education system?

    There is no problem. Personal beliefs from the harmless (like superstition) to the inane (like creationism or “Intelligent Design”) do not belong in the science classroom. Period.

    Science belongs in the science classroom, not imagination and not scripture based beliefs with no empirical evidence to support it.

  13. PC-Bash says:

    You can’t tell me that this “strengths and weaknesses” ploy isn’t backed by DI and other fundamentalist think tanks. Why do they want this bill so badly, if not to give some remote credibility to their ridiculous and unsubstantial beliefs?

  14. PC-Bash says:

    So, the ultimate question is, do you want your science teachers to teach science (do their job), or teach religion or personal beliefs (do something other than their job).

    If there was any substantial evidence to discredit evolution, then it would be discredited. The person who proved this using the scientific method would no doubt get the Nobel Prize, and the world of biology would be changed forever. The reality is that there is no evidence to discredit evolution, nor is there any evidence to support the laughable “intelligent design” rhetoric. The ID movement is nothing more than a bunch of hand-waving by Fundamentalist apologists who are desperately trying to keep their children from having their eyes opened to reality.

    If you believe the cruft on your astro-turf, oops, I mean “blog”, then please provide me the following:
    1. Empirical evidence that completely discredits evolution.
    2. Empirical evidence supporting creationism. (No, “irreducible complexity” or other arguments from personal incredulity does not count!)
    3. A paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal detailing 1, 2, or both.

  15. PC-Bash says:

    The journal in (3) should also be accredited.

  16. ABO says:

    PC-Bash says, ”Science belongs in the science classroom, not imagination and not scripture based beliefs with no empirical evidence to support it.”

    Just what are you referring to here. If your referring to the sacred written words of the Prophet Charles Darwin who has imagined all life evolved from a single living thing which there is no empirical evidence to support. If so you need to be careful with these comments. People will recognize that this is presently, a governmental advocated religious doctrine.

  17. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Sorry ABO but there is lots of empirical support for life evolving over a very long time, and no evidence of Designers messing about in it.

    When the major activity of churches becomes research, then you can start talking about a resemblance between churches and science. In the meantime such talk only indicates misuse of words.

  18. George Petlowany says:

    After reading HB1483/SB2692, I couldn’t help but question the sincerity-and true motives- of their authors. Ia it not apparent that “…right to present scientific information relevent to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins” is an awkward and impotent retreat from the usual “alternative theories” that creationists term their ideas?

    Try as they might, wordsmithing will not overcome the creationists inexorable obstacle; It is precisely the discredited, disengenuous ideas of the religiously motivated that comprises the body of criticism against evolution. Imagine the passage of this bill, followed by a legal challenge of it’s constitutionality. Exactly what “relevant scientific information” is it that Storms and Hays want heard in the classroom? Which scientific ‘experts’ will appear in court to champion those “views”? Behe? Minnich? Fuller? Is there, perhaps, some reclusive, rising star in the biological science community, waiting for just the right time to publish a flood of devastaing science for peer-review? (cue crickets chirping)

    Sorry folks. Been there, Dover-done that.

  19. MelM says:

    A word from Panda’s Thumb:

    Explore the strengths and weaknesses of Florida’s “Academic Freedom” bill


  20. PC-Bash says:

    ABO says…

    Nothing of consequence. Additional “evolution is faith” trolling. ABO – get a new schtick already. You are boring everyone here. “Prophet Charles Darwin”, “evolution is a religion”, ad nauseum.

    You desperately want evolution to be based on faith, because only then would it be something within your realm of understanding. All you have is your literalist biblical views. You don’t understand how objectivity works. You fail to grasp how science works.

    Thankfully, the new state education standards will ensure that people will have a better understanding of science and epistemology than you do or possibly ever will.

  21. S.Scott says:

    ABO –

    ” Chapter 38.—The Science of Numbers Not Created, But Only Discovered, by Man.

    56. Coming now to the science of number, it is clear to the dullest apprehension that this was not created by man, but was discovered by investigation. For, though Virgil could at his own pleasure make the first syllable of Italia long, while the ancients pronounced it short, it is not in any man’s power to determine at his pleasure that three times three are not nine, or do not make a square, or are not the triple of three, nor one and a half times the number six, or that it is not true that they are not the double of any number because odd numbers18211821 Intelligibiles numeri. have no half. Whether, then, numbers are considered in themselves, or as applied to the laws of figures, or of sounds, or of other motions, they have fixed laws which were not made by man, but which the acuteness of ingenious men brought to light.”

    ‘Saint Augustine’

  22. S.Scott says:

    OT – (Carried over from previous thread – sorry) In short … Science cannot prove or disprove God.

    Science is RESTRICTED to what is testable.

    Science is knowledge by experimentation.

    Knowledge is a gift from God

    Denying that 3×3 = 9 is denying the knowledge that God allowed us to have.

    Now try taking that a litle further …

    Denying evolution is what??? Are you denying God??

    Are you being blinded by evil?? 🙂


  23. S.Scott says:

    ABO – St. Augustine wrote:

    It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

    – The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408]

  24. S.Scott says:

    @ Everyone else – Sorry about all of that.

    ABO obviously covers his ears and goes “naanaanaanaa” when people talk to him in scientific terms.

    I thought I might try a different approach.

  25. PC-Bash says:

    S. Scott –

    It is a noble idea, but I’m sure he will close his mind to this as well. ABO does not care about rational discourse, nor does he care about learning anything. His mind is already made up, and he is so convinced that he is right that he cannot be reasoned with. He is prideful and arrogant. He obviously does not read all of his bible, for he has ignored Proverbs 16:18. I think the fact that an atheist like me has to point this out to him should irritate him thoroughly, but then maybe he will see his pride.

    It is his pride that blinds him from researching things before he posts them, like the inane giraffe rant. Five minutes of research would have turned up his error immediately, yet he could not be bothered with it. I gave him links explaining how he was wrong, and so blind with pride he was that he cannot be bothered to read them. I have asked him questions that he believes are beneath him to answer, although these questions are crucial to establish “intelligent design” as a scientific hypothesis. In his arrogance, he claims that his beliefs should be inserted into science, even though they are unscientific and have been derived by faith.

    His pride will also blind him from how others interpret scripture, because he is so convinced that only he knows how to properly read it. I wonder what makes him so special to be an authority on the matter? His pride? He believes that a single contradiction in his book (which is self-contradictory!) will mean that the whole book is a lie. That a single flaw ruins the whole thing. He cannot comprehend that everything created by man is flawed, and that his book as well, if he actually followed the teachings, claims that it is flawed because it was written by man who heard the Voice. So, he blindly follows everything, uses tricks of the mind to see past the contradictions. I wonder if he also handles snakes and drinks poison?

    I may not believe in a god, but if I did, I could not see a god rewarding man for blindly following 3000 year old teachings, at the cost of finding new knowledge. I couldn’t see how a god would punish a man for rational thought, and for coming to his own conclusions through rational inquiry. If we all blindly followed a literal interpretation of scripture as ABO does, humanity would have died out long ago. We would still barely be above subsistence farming, we would live in a harsh theocracy, we would follow crude customs and superstition instead of asking “why”. ABO’s anti-scientific literalist world would be a world of suffering, of “gnashing of teeth”, and of blindness.

  26. S.Scott says:

    Agreed 🙂 …and a little something on the PRIDE that you (and I too) have noticed that ABO seems to exude …

    ” 1. PRIDE: This is the unwillingness to look at one’s faults honestly, or of esteeming ourselves greatly based on an excessive consciousness of abilities or worth. ”

    Proverbs 16:18

    “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
    This is the root cause of many other sins. The Godly virtue which this transgression wars against is Christian humility and a contrite spirit (Matthew. 5:5, Proverbs 16:19), where man has a spiritual aversion to being subject to God or His laws. It is a hindrance to the Christian’s recognition of the Sovereignty and Grace of God. To combat this sin, we should strive to see ourselves as the sinners that we really are, and not to compare ourselves to others, that we might appear to ourselves better or more righteous. “

  27. S.Scott says:

    …Thought I’d quote that for there for you PC-Bash since you didn’t… 🙂

  28. S.Scott says:

    I also think ABO should learn about “Grace” and a little about Martin Luther’s “theology of the cross” (since scientists usually refer to the Pope – I thought I’d give him a different homework assignment) before he comes back.

  29. S.Scott says:

    Oh, and one more thing … I think he should find out a little about this!

    (Hint – it’s not Darwin)

    ” His statements that Jews’ homes should be destroyed, their synagogues burned, money confiscated and liberty curtailed were revived and used in propaganda by the Nazis in 1933–45. As a result of this and his revolutionary theological views, his legacy remains controversial.”

  30. S.Scott says:

    I’ll be back on Monday to see if he did any homework.

  31. S.Scott says:

    Oooh ! Another “One more thing”

    (Hat tip to Donnie B. !)

    Some more reading for you ABO! – (No quote mining please!)


  32. Karl says:

    I’ve always wondered why religious zealots like ABO would think that deifying Darwin is a good idea. Now personally, I’m not particularly religious and I’ll admit I don’t have much familiarity with scripture, but I do recall that in the Bible, there were rules stating that worshiping false idols or “lesser” gods before THE God was a sin of sorts. Even acknowledging their existence would be blasphemous of sorts. Given that in reality, no biologist actually “worships” Darwin, and there is no “Church of Darwin” other then the one fabricated to such detail by ABO, then wouldn’t ABO be guilty of creating and acknowledging the existence of a false god/religion that he himself created, according to his own precious religious convictions? Irony is delicious.

  33. PC-Bash says:

    Indeed. He has violated one of his own commandments.

  34. Personal beliefs from the harmless (like superstition) to the inane (like creationism or “Intelligent Design”) do not belong in the science classroom. Period.

    You’re kidding, right? I don’t think I have ever had a professor who did not share his or her superstitions or beliefs. Also, simply calling beliefs you don’t agree with as “inane” or “religious” is not making a case. Keep this up, and you’ll after resort to citing a judge as arbiter of what is and what is not science.

  35. PC-Bash says:

    You’re kidding, right? I don’t think I have ever had a professor who did not share his or her superstitions or beliefs.

    Should we teach children about fairies, leprechauns, and dragons in science class as well? There are people who personally believe in these sorts of things. Do you want your child to be told that there are leprechauns as part of a science study? Do you want the teacher to give your child a test, and to pass or fail your child based on their understanding of pots of gold and lucky charms? That’s about as realistic as intelligent design or creationism is, as far as science is concerned.

    Also, simply calling beliefs you don’t agree with as “inane” or “religious” is not making a case.

    Not inane? Please provide me evidence for intelligent design. Not only an actual example of irreducible complexity (which has never been found), but also proof of your theistic creator. You cannot.

    Intelligent design cannot be verified and cannot be falsified. By its very claims, it cannot even be considered a valid scientific hypothesis, forget being a scientific theory.

  36. PC-Bash says:

    Next, you’ll want to have children being taught about perpetual motion in physics, crystal healing in health class, or alchemical conversions of lead to gold in chemistry.

    Each of these has just as much validity as intelligent design does according to science: none.

  37. George Petlowany says:

    When it comes to their efforts to insert creationism into public schools, proponents have amply demonstrated that, like the lecherous suiter, they fail to accept that “No Means No”.

    No – You don’t have a “right” to foist your religious views on other peoples children.

    No – The “information” you tout is neither “scientific” nor “relevent”.

    No – There is no “full range of views” within the scientific community as to the veracity of evolution.

    No – Your disengenuous application to the cult of victimhood is denied.

    Undeterred, the creationist response, despite one legal smackdown after another, seems to be:”C’mon, baby. Forget about what I said before, I’m asking real nice now’.

    What’s less transparent at this time is whether the sponsors of the Academic Freedom Act are trolling for an new establishment test case, in the unlikely event that the bill should pass, or if they are simply serving up red (and rancid) meat for the Fundy portion of the Florida electorate.

    While the pushback after the state standards revisions is expected, even “heavy hitters” like The Discovery Institue and the Thomas More Law Center may balk at adding some Florida school system to their list of legal “accomplishments” – just below Dover, PA.

  38. Karl says:

    I think you should clarify that personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, should not be taught as a part of the curriculum in a science class. I’ve had many professors that shared their own beliefs in class. I’ve even had a physics professor compare Karma to Newton’s third law (he was Buddhist). However, these personal anecdotes of faith remained just that. Totally irrelevant to any homework/projects/midterm/final that was given, and can be forgotten/disregarded with no consequence.

    To all those who espouse the perceived harmlessness of this “academic freedom” bill, I say look closer to the motives and other behind-the-scenes actions of religious shills such as the Discovery Institute, who, in addition to promoting this seemingly harmless bill, is actively re-shaping and disguising its own religious propaganda in a way that will allow it to be introduced under the criteria established by the bill.

    Metaphorically speaking, say a bill is introduced to prohibit steel bars across large glass windows of commercial businesses. Some arguments are brought up that they harm the image of the city, can become fire safety issues by trapping people inside, etc. Then you find out it’s being sponsored and promoted by bank robbers, burglars, and other criminals. Oops…

  39. firemancarl says:

    I would like to quote Blake Stacey
    “I don’t understand how people can use the discoveries of science to argue that science is broken. It’s bass ackwards, that’s what it is.”

Comments are closed.