Archive for the 'Creationism Bills' Category

Senate Bill moving along part II

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Senate Bill 2692 is now officially on a schedule.

On Committee agenda– Education Pre-K – 12, 03/26/08, 1:00 pm, 110-S

Senate Bill moving along

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Senate Bill 2692 moved forward a space on the legislative game board today.

03/20/08 SENATE Introduced, referred to Education Pre-K – 12; Judiciary

So, the bill is in the lap of two committees. Education Pre-K – 12 is an easy one to figure out. I’m told that the Judiciary assignment is actually fairly common and is meant to hash out whether a bill might have some legal complications to worry about.

Offer any insight you may have in the comments.

House Bill gets another co-sponsor

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

House Bill 1483 recently picked up a third co-sponsor: Rep. Clay Ford. What’s significant here is that Ford is on the Schools & Learning Council.

You are shipping out letters and making phone calls, right?

Framers/Writers still working for science education

Monday, March 17th, 2008

The group of science/science education experts that was assembled to create our brand new state science standards has remained active even after its hard work was finally approved. First, the members had some recommendations for action. Today, 37 of them issued official notice (Word file) that they support evolution and are against the so-called “academic freedom” bills that are now filed in the state House and Senate.

These Writers and Framers, listed below, point out that evolution is the only explanation of the development and diversity of life that relies entirely on scientifically verifiable laws of nature and accounts for a huge set of observations without requiring the intervention of a supernatural agent.  Therefore, the “Academic Freedom Act” is a subterfuge for injecting the religious beliefs held by some into the science classroom.

The Orlando Sentinel and St. Petersburg Times education blogs already picked up on this.

Sweeping up the crumbs

Friday, March 14th, 2008

The Tallahassee Democrat quite rightly praises lawmakers who passed up seeing the Expelled movie. I have yet to see an official count of how many lawmakers actually went to the movie, but I have heard from sources that the number is in single digits.

But the evening at downtown’s IMAX Theater, which was rented out to Mr. Stein’s group for $940, was a bust, with only about 100 people attending the movie. And most of those weren’t lawmakers who were (tiptoeing out on that limb now) apparently not really interested in wading into a dispute that exacerbates two controversies.

A quick analysis

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Here’s my quick take on the whole Expelled mess and the relation to the creationism bills.

I’ve been closely watching the media reports concerning science education in Florida for a few years now. I’ve seen tidal waves of news coverage when anti-evolution/anti-science rises from the depths. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Ben Stein’s cameo appearance in Florida got some media attention, but it was minor compared to previous media tidal waves.

The stories that did run can’t be to the Discovery Institutes’s liking at all. The reports are actually funny to read as lawyer Casey Luskin and actor Ben Stein tripped and stumbled over intelligent design. As far as the creationism bills (“academic freedom”) are concerned, they would just rather tuck intelligent design into a closet and ask everyone to forget about that big failure. These bills are about “freedom of speech” and not intelligent design, except, well, for when it is about intelligent design. That big failure just keeps popping up at the wrong times. Comical.

So, my armchair quarterback assessment of the Discovery Institutes’s game? They apparently thought they would walk into Florida and dazzle everyone with their low-watt star power. Didn’t happen. They were trounced. My guess is that they hurt their cause more than they helped. A lot of credit goes to the Florida media who did decide to cover this. They knew what to ask, and they then reported what they heard.

As for the movie itself: Florida Citizens for Science would comment on the movie Expelled, but unfortunately, the people who are so concerned about academic freedom have seen fit to expel the press and the general public from viewing it, which censors any possible informed comments. This is an ironic and offensive move. Their excuse is that the movie is not quite finished. Something doesn’t make sense here. If you have an unfinished movie that you don’t want to screen to the general public, do you really want to screen it for lawmakers who might be making an important decision based on this unpolished work? Obviously, their desire to exclude reporters and the general public has nothing to do with the movie’s completion status. Hmmmmm … do you smell something? 😉

As far as the creationism bills go:

  • Comments made at the press conference make it clear: if these bills are passed, students will introduce intelligent design as they think it is scientific (which it’s not), and it will cause court cases and a judge to have to decide whether we are teaching science or theological non-science. This had already happened in Dover, Pa.
  • These bills and others just like them were rejected several times by other states, promoted now by a group on the West Coast, and being sold by a movie company. Let’s be serious here! Scientists and science educators FROM FLORIDA already considered these issues and made their recommendations. The FLORIDA Board of Education considered them also, and approved our new standards. Who are these outsiders trying to mess with FLORIDA kids?
  • These bills do not protect “academic freedom” as it is used by the scholarly community. K-12 teachers are responsible for teaching the curriculum. These bills would encourage irresponsibility on the part of teachers in bringing in materials without accountability and treating them as having comparable credibility with those of the standard curriculum.
  • Are legislators really desirous of passing a bill to teach nothing in particular, just in case something was left out of the standards? That certainly doesn’t sound right. That’s because the Discovery Institute of Seattle wants to teach something specific; and it is not scientific, contrary to their assertions.
  • The obvious answer to an item brought up during the press conference concerning who would decide what information is scientific is this: Let the scientists decide what is taught in the science classrooms, which should be whatever is the consensus of the scientific community. Those who clearly don’t understand science shouldn’t be making that decision.
  • These bills reveal their true purpose by singling out evolutionary science. If an actual principled defense of “academic freedom” were intended, the wording would be general enough to protect teachers wishing to discuss alternative views on any topic.

News roundup

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

My apologies for this quick news link dump. The chemistry class I’m taking now is kicking my butt. I hope to have some thoughts on the movie situation up here tonight. In the meantime:

Herald Tribune. I’m not buying what Mr. Luskin is selling.

Stein and John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Action, insisted the legislation would not permit teaching intelligent design or creation science because the bill only applies to criticism of evolution based on scientific information, not the introduction of other theories.

Casey Luskin, a lawyer for the Discovery Institute, agreed but said he personally believes intelligent design is scientific.

It is unclear who would decide what information is scientific, though Stein suggested it ought to be left up to teachers.

The Miami Herald has in their headline “Intelligent Design could slip into science class”

The religiously tinged evolution-questioning theory of Intelligent Design could more easily be brought up in public-school science classrooms under a proposed ”academic freedom” legislation being pushed by conservative lawmakers. And it’s not just the ACLU saying it anymore….

Church-state separatists say religious groups are trying to use the bill as a Trojan horse to introduce religion in science classrooms.

”The Intelligent Design movement has embraced this political strategy to sneak its religious views into the science classroom, and that’s what you’re seeing now in Florida,” said Howard Simon, a Florida director for the ACLU, which filed the Dover case.

”The strategy is this: Let’s call Intelligent Design scientific information, and let’s make sure that teachers can teach that scientific information,” Simon said, adding that his organization would sue if the bill became law and teachers began proselytizing in class.

Said Simon: “There is no constitutional right to mis-educate Florida students. If a science teacher is teaching serious science and is censored, that’s an academic-freedom issue we would defend. But if they’re having Sunday school in science class, that’s a problem.”

Hernando Today has an article polling the local legislators about the creationism bills: “Hernando Lawmakers Weigh In On Evolution Bill”

The Tampa Tribune: “Actor Stein Plays Role In Debate On Evolution Education”

It remains unclear whether the bill permits the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

“The answer is no,” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council. “This does not allow the permitting of alternate theories to be taught. It only allows the criticism and the presenting of relevant, objective scientific evidence which criticizes chemical or biological evolution.”

That would seem to settle the question. Yet moments later, Casey Luskin, an attorney for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute said that even as he agreed with Stemberger, he personally considers intelligent design to be “scientific information.”

All of which raises questions about what qualifies as “science” – and who, ultimately, decides.

The film’s producers said that decision was made because of the current rough form of the film, which they are completing for release to all audiences April 18, but the exclusive screening only fueled attacks from the skeptics.

“We are deeply concerned that, however many legislators show up, they will be spoon-fed this material and mostly no one from the public will be there to see what goes on,” said Brandon Haught, spokesman for Florida Citizens for Science.

Tallahassee Democrat: “Lawmakers attend Tallahassee screening of movie by Ben Stein”

Few lawmakers were among about 100 people who showed up for the private screening of Stein’s film.

Organizers refused to let reporters or uninvited spectators into the theater, which was rented for two hours at $940.63, but insisted that no discussion of pending legislation would occur.

But House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who testified in favor of evolution at the Board of Education meeting last month, said there is no evidence that teachers or students in Florida are being punished for challenging Darwinian theories. Gelber said allowing “any scientific theory” in classrooms was a back-door attempt at getting creationism into the curriculum and might result in racists or Holocaust deniers demanding a platform for their beliefs in biology or history classes.

“I wasn’t aware of anybody being penalized for questioning evolution,” said Gelber. “The Legislature needs to walk away from this debate. The State Board of Education has addressed it and that’s the end of the debate. This is a solution in search of a problem.”

I have not doubt I missed some stories. Feel free to link away in the comments.

Loose lips … will they sink the ship?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

It took a while, but the true motivations behind the creationism bills (“academic freedom”) are starting to show. As “academic freedom” was tossed out there on the playing field it was touted as nothing more than “freedom” to teach the so-called “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. Those of us who have been following the history of the creationism movement over the years already know that it’s all BS.

In a quote up on the St. Petersburg Times education blog. Senator Storms says:

“We can test on evolution,” said Storms, a former high school English teacher. “But the students, after having heard all the evidence, should be able to arrive at their own conclusions. To do that, they have to have all the facts. Under this bill, if you have a teacher who is pro-evolution and every student is intelligent design … that teacher is safe to teach that as a theory.”

She just couldn’t help herself. You see the whole “academic freedom” sham is just the evolution of the creationism movement. Intelligent design was shot down in Dover, Pa. as unconstitutional because of its overtly religious roots and the fact that there is no science in it anywhere to be found. So, intelligent design was shoved into the closet along with the other failed creationist attempts over the years to get a toe into the classroom. “Academic freedom” is just a political tactic that picks up where intelligent design left off. Unfortunately for Storms, she trips over her words here and helps expose the not-so-secret strategy.

Hopefully, this whole mess will die off in the legislature. Forcing this into the courtroom will cost Florida taxpayers a bundle, just like it did in Pennsylvania. Are you writing letters and making phone calls about this?