Today Florida Citizens for Science hosted a press conference in advance of this evening’s roundtable discussion concerning two bills being considered by the Florida legislature. The noon press conference was well attended by most of the local news outlets and even national outlets such as the New York Times. Speakers filled reporters in on important aspects of the proposed bills that can negatively impact science education in Florida.
Vic Walczak (Legal Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania) talked about his experiences during the landmark federal court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which found the concept of intelligent design to be religious in nature and devoid of any science. Walczak said that the Florida bills will set school districts up for legal problems, similar to the Dover case. Dr. Wesley Elsberry (marine biologist and Lakeland, Florida native) spent a few minutes highlighting the history of the anti-evolution movement and how it directly connects to Florida now. Maryann Fiala (executive director of American Electronics Association, Florida Council) gave the business/industry perspective. She said that Florida has been working hard to get major industries into Florida, but with the legislature seriously challenging a central tennet of biology in the public schools, those industries could walk away or look for a better educated workforce elsewhere. Dr. Harold Kroto (Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry) educated those in attendance about the nature of science. Finally, Dr. Ann Lumsden (FSU professor of biology) provided a history of the bills in question.
During the Q and A session, the speakers were asked where in the proposed bills is anything in particular mandated to be taught. Dr. Elsberry quickly answered that these are permissive bills, not mandate bills. Walczak followed up with a brief history of the Discovery Institute’s anti-evolution efforts, emphasizing that that we know what they are trying to do here in Florida based on the organization’s past actions.
The roundtable discussion will be tonight at 7 p.m. at the Challenger Learning Center, Digital Dome/Planetarium, 200 South Duval Street, Tallahassee.