Archive for the 'FCS News Releases' Category

Press Release: 2011 “Critical Analysis” bill

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Florida Citizens for Science Press Release:
“Critical Analysis” bill harmful to Florida science education.

Florida Citizens for Science opposes Senator Stephen Wise’s recently filed bill — SB 1854, Required Instruction in the Public Schools — as it is clearly unnecessary, harmful to science education, and sends a negative message to science-based industries that would otherwise consider setting up shop in our state.

This bill is a waste of our lawmakers’ precious time. Sen. Wise’s bill directs schools to give “a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” If taken at face value, the “critical analysis” that Sen. Wise is calling for is already a significant part of our state’s new state science standards that were approved by the State Board of Education in 2008. Benchmarks SC.912.N.1.3 and SC.912.L.15.1 already require critical analysis and logical thinking in all of the sciences. However, Sen. Wise wants to single out one subject for special attention out of the multitude of sciences taught: evolution. That alone sends a clear signal that this bill has ulterior motives.

Sen. Wise was quoted in the news when he introduced a similar bill in 2009, saying that he wanted schools to teach the idea of “intelligent design” in biology classes alongside evolution (The Florida Times-Union; Feb. 8, 2009; “Wise to introduce bill on intelligent design“). A federal court case decided in 2005 (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) left no doubt that the idea of intelligent design was solidly grounded in a specific religious ideology. That court case loss was costly for the school district involved, and tore the community apart. No Florida school district can afford to fall into such a draining legal pit! A recent article in the Tampa Tribune (March 13, 2011; “Legislator’s challenge to evolution has some alarmed“) made it clear that a lawsuit could be a consequence of Sen. Wise’s bill: “There would be litigation were some county school district to be silly enough to be enticed by the legislation to teach religion instead of science.” This would be an awful waste of critical resources that should go to educating our children.

It is noteworthy that Sen. Wise now refuses to state what his proposed critical analysis would look like. In the same March 13 Tampa Tribune article, he was vague, proposing only something he called “non-evolution” and “a theory of whatever.” Sen. Wise needs to be honest and forthright. What kind of “critical analysis” is he really wanting?

Florida’s leaders have been working for years to bring bio-tech industries to our state. Many scientists, especially biologists, will consider this bill to be an attack on an established, core scientific principle. It will be clear to these businesses that Florida leaders don’t value science education, and the resulting stigma can only drive away the very industries we are trying to attract. These companies need a well-educated workforce, and Sen. Wise’s bill would be in opposition to that need.

Florida Citizens for Science encourages all of our state’s lawmakers to send a clear message that sound science education is important to our state. Vote no on SB 1854!

Release: Response to today’s vote

Monday, April 28th, 2008

The following was sent out to the media today:

Response to today’s House vote passing the deceptively named “academic freedom” bill.

April 28, 2008
Contact: Brandon Haught, Florida Citizens for Science
bhaught@flascience.org / www.flascience.org / (Media Page available)

Rep. D. Alan Hays wants to know what people are afraid of when they stand in opposition to his deceptively named “academic freedom” bill.

We are afraid of the stunting effect this legislation will have on science education, as students will be exposed to old, discredited arguments against evolution that have their roots in religious protestations against that science, and be misled into thinking those arguments have the same weight as the real scientific findings. This will hamper their ability to succeed in the scientific field in college and beyond. Florida public school teachers are given free reign by Hays’ bill to espouse personal belief dressed up to look like science, and, whether intentionally or not, confuse students as to what science actually does and says.

We are afraid of the corruption of the very phrase “critical analysis,” using it as a political sledgehammer, no different than wrapping oneself in an American flag and denouncing anyone opposed to your personal ideas as unpatriotic.

We are afraid of people like Rep. Hays, who clearly demonstrate a profound ignorance of science and yet propose laws to regulate that subject.

We are afraid that a Florida school district will face a legal fight that will cost millions of wasted taxpayer dollars, exactly like what happened during a 2005 high profile court case in Dover, Pa. It should be noted that the idea of intelligent design was deceptively passed off in public schools then as scientific, but was later proven to be just the opposite.

Yes, Rep. Hays, we are afraid. But not for the reasons you claim.

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Reaction sent to media

Friday, April 25th, 2008

The following reaction was sent to the media earlier today following the anti-evolution bill debate in the Florida House. The St. Petersburg Times education blog, the Gradebook, has already linked to it.

Florida Citizens for Science response to today’s House debate on HB 1483 and SB 2692 concerning the teaching of evolution.

Florida Citizens for Science commends Rep. Martin Kiar for his attempt to control Rep. D. Alan Hays’ misguided, uninformed bill that attempts to regulate how the subject of evolution is taught in the public school classroom. Rep. Hays’ own comments condemn him to being a complete fool when it comes to matters of science. He claims that his bill has nothing to do with religion, and yet the off-kilter things he says about science are obviously straight out of creationist literature.

His claim that there are no transitional fossils clearly illustrates his lack of knowledge about the current state of the fossil evidence. Natural history museums across this country and around the world are packed full of transitional fossils. Florida Citizens for Science will gladly pay for Rep. Hays’ admission price to a museum, such as perhaps the Florida Museum of Natural History, and provide a working biologist as his tour guide. That museum’s Hall of Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land is outstanding! Rep. Hays is in desperate need of such a fact-finding trip. He holds a cartoon version of evolution in his head that is completely at odds with the reality. He actually demands that science produce some chimera creature, such as in his own words a half fly/half monkey. No biologist would ever propose that such a creature exists. This gross distortion of science is a common creationist tactic, which Rep. Hays is wielding with gusto.

Many lawmakers today wanted to know what scientists have to fear from critical analysis. Nothing. If the bill does not pass, that does not mean that critical analysis will be stifled in any way. It happens right now in the science classroom, and will continue to happen. These lawmakers are setting up a red herring of “what are you afraid of”? If Hays’ carnival funhouse mirror version of evolution is what he’s basing his critical analysis on, then I can see why he is confused. It is offensive that a person who has such a dismal understanding of science would dare to write a law regulating that science. It’s no different than him saying the sun rises in the North and then trying to write a law based on that childish notion.

His response to there being no controversy in the scientific community over the fact of evolution was to direct lawmakers to the Expelled movie. Hays has swallowed whole the story fed to him by the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Wash. The controversy, such as it is, is all public relations and completely manufactured. The website expelledexposed.com provides proof of this.

Rep. Shelley Vana was correct in cautioning against having this debate concerning evolution. It shows that Florida is woefully stuck in the dark ages, and most certainly will drive away the high-tech scientific research industries the state has been courting for years.

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Media Alert

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

The following two media alerts are being sent out to news outlets statewide: First one is notice of a press conference and the second is a notice of a Public Roundtable Discussion. Reporters are encouraged to visit the Florida Citizens for Science Media Page.


** NEWS CONFERENCE – MONDAY 4/14 **
Coalition of Renowned Scientists Dispute So-Called Evolution Academic Freedom Bills SB 2692 and HB 1483

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Citizens for Science and a coalition of stellar science organizations will hold a news conference on current legislative threats to the science curriculum in Florida’s public schools. Two bills, SB 2692 and HB 1483, could open the door to teaching of religious beliefs as non-scientific information in science classrooms. The panelists will address why the so-called “Evolution Academic Freedom Act” is bad for science education in Florida and the growth of Florida’s economy.

WHO: Florida Citizens for Science and coalition members.
WHAT: News Conference on “Evolution Academic Freedom” Bills.
WHEN: MONDAY, April 14 at 12:00PM.
WHERE: Outside Capitol Building, Waller Park near concrete fountain with dolphins.


** PUBLIC ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION – MONDAY 4/14 **
Media Alert: Evolution Academic Freedom Bills Spark Public Roundtable Discussion

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Citizens for Science and a coalition of stellar science organizations will present an exciting roundtable discussion on current legislative threats to science curriculum in Florida’s public schools. The panelists will address why the so-called “Evolution Academic Freedom Act” introduced in the state House and Senate is bad for science education in Florida and the growth of Florida’s economy.

WHO: Florida Citizens for Science and coalition members

WHAT: Roundtable Discussion with the following:
> Dave Campbell, high school science teacher
> Maryann Fiala, Executive Director, American electronics Alliance (AeA) Florida Council (Fiala had to cancel.)
> Dr. Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize Winner Chemistry 1996, Florida State University Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry
> Vic Walczak, Legal Director, ACLU of Pennsylvania, Lawyer in 2005 landmark case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District challenging the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.
> Ann Lunsden – Dr Lansden is professor of biology at FSU. She is a past president of the National Association of Biology Teachers.

WHEN: Monday, April 14 at 7:00PM

WHERE: Challenger Learning Center, Digital Dome/Planetarium, 200 South Duval Street, Tallahassee. The roundtable is free and open to the public. Legislators are also invited and encouraged to attend.

The event is an opportunity for the community to address the bill, which singles out evolution for special treatment and exposes school districts to liability if teachers and students inject their religious beliefs into the science classroom in the guise of “science.” This bill takes control of the curriculum away from education professionals. It is a red herring designed to suggest that discrimination exists where it does not, and to draw attention away from the subject matter of creationism. No law is required to authorize the teaching of scientific fact.

Participating organizations: American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG), American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), Genetics Society of America (GSA), National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), Society for Developmental Biology (SDB), American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, National Science Teachers Association, and The Biotechnology Institute.

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News Release: “Academic Freedom” bills needless and treacherous

Friday, April 4th, 2008

The following press release has been sent out. Our media page is available for any interested reporters.

SO-CALLED “ACADEMIC FREEDOM” BILLS ARE NEEDLESS AND TREACHEROUS

Senate bill 2692, “evolution academic freedom act” will be going before the Judiciary committee Tuesday. The Senate bill and its companion House bill are raising serious concerns among Florida educators, scientists and parents. The senate bill’s recent easy passage through the Pre-K – 12 committee is alarming due to the bill’s questionable purpose, likelihood for lawsuits, and the potential it has for disrupting sound science education.

New state science standards already encourage questioning

The bills serve no secular, academic purpose. Freedom of academic inquiry is already provided for in the new state science standards, approved by the Florida Board of Education in February. The Pre-K – 12 committee’s own bill analysis, prepared in advance of the meeting, clearly highlighted this fact. The bill proponents’ call for “academic freedom” is a political ploy that attempts to paint anyone in opposition to it as un-American and against education. Academic freedom, as commonly used and understood, does not apply to the public school classroom, but rather applies to university level research. Students in high school are certainly not doing cutting-edge research. Instead, they’re learning what real researchers have discovered so that one day these students can then explore their own new frontiers.

“K-12 students are already learning about all of science through inquiry-based instruction where they always must ask: ‘what is the evidence to support that information and how do scientists obtain it?'” said Mary Bahr, Marion County middle school science teacher and one of the writers of the new state science standards. “This already opens up everything taught to questioning by both teachers and students, while teaching the nature of science and science content together. Not only is this an exceptional teaching method for science, it’s a lot of fun!”

These bills would encourage irresponsibility when classroom instruction incorporates materials without accountability, treating them as having comparable credibility with those of the legitimate science curriculum.

“The bills would make science education less uniform and standardized between districts,” said Joe Wolf, Winter Haven resident and president of Florida Citizens for Science. “Science is science, whether in Valrico or Miami; and Valrico students need to compete in the same global information economy as students from Miami, New York City, or Tokyo. That’s why the state has new uniform science standards, which were widely praised by scientists.”

Expensive lawsuits would draw unwelcome attention

These bills, if approved, will eventually invite expensive lawsuits during a time when our state is in a financial crisis. An ACLU representative who spoke at the Pre-K – 12 committee’s meeting warned the legislators about this. Ignoring such a warning is irresponsible and does not serve the public’s or Florida students’ best interests. Sen. Ronda Storms, who introduced the Senate bill, is quoted in the St. Petersburg Times on March 11: “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.”

Rep. D. Alan Hays hosted an embarrassing event in early March with a representative from the Seattle, Wash.-based Discovery Institute and the star and production team from a grossly anti-science tirade film. The film, which was screened for Florida state legislators but closed to the public and media, explicitly and deplorably tries to blame the Holocaust on evolution. Furthermore, the proposed bills are clearly modeled on one provided by the Discovery Institute, an organization reliably documented as having as one of its goals: “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

The Discovery Institute has vocally advocated intelligent design, trying to pass it off as real science. The teaching of intelligent design was shut down during an expensive court case in Dover, Pa., resulting in intense international media scrutiny. Intelligent design was found to be strongly linked to its creationist predecessors, devoid of anything scientific and thus ruled unconstitutional on church-state separation grounds. Even more specifically–and particularly relevant to Florida–is that the “evidence against evolution” form of Intelligent Design was already considered in a court of law and found to be unconstitutionally religious.

Bills’ supporters demonstrate science ignorance

It certainly stretches credibility to listen to Storms and Hays with the above verifiable information in mind and then later believe them when they claim the bills have nothing to do with intelligent design or religion. Their bills have a highly suspect purpose. Neither Storms nor Hays have offered any credible examples of scientific challenges to evolution. As a matter of fact, Hays has gone on record displaying what can’t be termed as anything other than complete ignorance of evolution when he is quoted in the St. Petersburg Times on March 6 as saying: “No one yet has found a half-animal of this or a half-insect of that. And they certainly haven’t found any half ape and half man.”

It’s outrageous that any lawmaker would so grossly misrepresent the fundamental concept that underlies all of the life sciences, and yet introduce a bill that directly affects that subject. As outlined above, these bills will invite expensive, embarrassing lawsuits, disrupt the classroom, and undermine the approved state science standards. Legislators need to discard these troublemaking bills and move on to other more important matters.

“Our kids are going to be caught in the crossfire of this senseless political grandstanding,” said Brandon Haught, Florida Citizens for Science board member and father of two public school students in Eustis.

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