Archive for the '“ID Creationism” bills ’09' Category

A bit of confusion, but all is good

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

There was a flurry of activity yesterday started by the initial confusion of a Tampa Tribune reporter, but the end result is actually good news.

First, I sent out a news release early yesterday morning announcing that the Florida Academy of Sciences issued a statement condemning Florida senate bill 2396. The proposed bill would introduce “critical analysis” of evolution into the state’s public schools.

The Orlando Sentinel briefed it on their education blog. The Tampa Tribune also put up a blurb on their website. However, the Tribune reporter was a bit confused, thinking that the antievolution bill had just recently been filed and thus put the FAS statement at the bottom of the blurb. The blurb headline said “Evolution bill quietly filed in state senate.”

PZ Myers and Phil Plait both quickly picked up on that and wrote blog posts announcing the filing of the bill. (They did this despite the fact that I notified those two knuckleheads about the filing of the bill weeks ago. Sheesh, no one ever listens to Brandon.)

I sent quick e-mails to PZ and Phil in an attempt to correct the misunderstanding on their end. Phil updated his post.

I then called the reporter who wrote the Tampa blurb. She apologized for the confusion (she said that she had misread my release through weary eyes) and said that an updated story would appear and clear everything up.

The updated story appeared and everything looks great. The antievolution bill is as good as dead. If Rep. Alan Hays (the guy who introduced and fought for a similar bill in the House last year) says the bill has no chance, then it is down for the count.

Anti-Evolution Bill Still A Fruitless Exercise

TALLAHASSEE – A bill aimed at undercutting acceptance of evolution in Florida science classes, which kicked up a fuss but didn’t pass in the Florida Legislature last year, apparently is going nowhere this year.

A Senate version of the bill has yet to receive a committee hearing and has no companion bill in the House.

That means, said one proponent of the idea, that the bill has little chance of passage in this frantic session, heavily devoted to cutting and balancing the state budget.

“With no companion in the House, it doesn’t have much likelihood,” said Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

This doesn’t mean that we can all forget about antievolution in the legislature this session. There is always the chance that an amendment can be slipped into an existing bill. We can breathe easier right now, but we can’t take our eyes off the lawmakers until the session is officially closed.

Senate antievolution bill referred to committees

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Senator Wise’s antievolution “critical analysis” bill 2396 has now been shipped to two committees for consideration. The committees, committee members, and vote history on last year’s antievolution bills are:

Education Pre-K – 12:
Chair: Senator Nancy C. Detert (R) — Was not in the Senate or House last year, so we don’t have a vote history on her.
Vice Chair: Senator Frederica S. Wilson (D) — Was a member of the education committee last year but did not vote. Voted no on the Senate floor.
Senator Larcenia J. Bullard (D) — Was a member of the education committee last year and voted yes. Changed to a no vote on the Senate floor, though.
Senator Lee Constantine (R) — Is new to this committee. Voted yes on the Senate floor.
Senator Don Gaetz (R) — Was a member of the education committee last year but did not vote. Voted yes on the Senate floor.
Senator Eleanor Sobel (D) — Was not in the Senate or House last year, so we don’t have a vote history on her.
Senator Ronda Storms (R) — Sponsored last year’s bill.
Senator Stephen R. Wise (R) — Sponsor of the current bill and co-sponsor of last year’s bill.

Education Pre-K – 12 Appropriations:
Chair: Senator Stephen R. Wise (R) —  Sponsor of the current bill and co-sponsor of last year’s bill.
Vice Chair: Senator Gary Siplin (D) — Voted yes on the Senate floor.
Senator Larcenia J. Bullard (D) — Voted no on the Senate floor.
Senator Nancy C. Detert (R) —  Was not in the Senate or House last year, so we don’t have a vote history on her.
Senator Rudy Garcia (R) — Voted yes on the Senate floor.
Senator Garrett S. Richter (R) — Was in the House last year and voted yes on the House floor.

It’s now time to keep an eye on the schedules of both committees. Since Wise is chair of the appropriations committee, it’s a guarantee the bill will eventually pop up there. And since Wise and Storms are both on the education committee, I would say it’s highly probable the bill will pop up there, too.

You now have the names (and links to their web pages) of those who will cast the first votes. Contact them and encourage them to not waste time on this anti-science and potentially expensive garbage. Point out that there are much more important things to spend time on. You can use this letter and this letter as guides for what to say.

Orlando Sentinel poll

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

The Orlando Sentinel education blog, School Zone, has a post up about the “critical analysis” bill. They also created a poll asking readers if intelligent design should be taught. Of course, PZ Myer’s minions have crashed the poll.

I hate these polls. I understand that the newspaper wants to make its online offerings interactive, thus the reason for the polls. But why can’t the poll just offer yes, no, and I don’t know. Why do the poll creators insist on skewing the poll by putting words in the respondents’ mouths? In the process of doing so, the poll introduces an error in fact: “Intelligent Design provides an alternative explanation to evolution, which is just a theory.” Yes, evolution is a scientific theory, but it is not “just” a theory. Saying “just” a theory implies that the everyday usage of the word is being used, as in a guess or hunch. That’s an error in fact. Scientific theories are explanations of a body of facts and observations. They’re the exact opposite of guesses.

Sheesh.

Press Release: “Critical Analysis” bill

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Florida Citizens for Science Press Release:
“Critical Analysis” Bill Undermines Florida Science Education

Florida Citizens for Science is disappointed that Senator Stephen Wise has chosen to waste the valuable time of his fellow legislators and possibly deepen a school district’s financial difficulties by filing a bill challenging the teaching of evolution in our state’s public schools (SB 2396). Florida’s schools and the state as a whole are floundering in financial turmoil, and citizens are demanding our lawmakers focus their attention on this crisis. There is no appetite for embarrassing our state yet again.

Wise’s antievolution bill is an insult to citizens who are tired of stomping over the same ground over and over again. The Florida Board of Education and last year’s state legislature have already debated the teaching of evolution ad nauseam. To insist on bringing this up again is irresponsible because it will distract our lawmakers from the important tasks at hand, and could burden one of our school districts with a million dollar legal bill.

Mandating “critical analysis” of evolution has been done before in other states with disastrous results. We don’t need to put Florida through the same painful learning process that Ohio had already gone through a few years ago. Once the work began on deciding how to implement “critical analysis” there, it was discovered that the concept was nothing more than an attempt to impose creationist teachings. The proposed lesson plan was riddled with distortions of scientific knowledge/methods pulled directly from old creationist arguments. Ohio eventually dropped the whole idea of “critical analysis” evolution and washed their hands of it.

Florida will head down that same beaten path if SB 2396 is made into law. Furthermore, Sen. Wise has made clear in public statements his desire to slip intelligent design creationism into our schools. That had also already been done in Pennsylvania where a federal court case in 2005 determined that the teaching of intelligent design was unconstitutional due to First Amendment violations. It’s clear that Sen. Wise believes that his critical analysis bill will open the way for intelligent design creationism. This puts our school districts at financial risk! The Florida ACLU already indicated that it would pursue a lawsuit if intelligent design creationism gets into the classroom. The Pennsylvania federal court case cost a school district one million dollars. Does Sen. Wise really want a Florida school district to foot such a massive bill?

We encourage lawmakers to discard this irresponsible and costly bill.

“Critical analysis” bill filed by Wise today

Friday, February 27th, 2009

All that bluster about mandating intelligent design creationism was much ado about nothing, I guess. Today, Senator Stephen Wise filed SB 2396:

Educational Instruction; Requires that the instructional staff of a  public school teach a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the  scientific theory of evolution and certain governmental, legal, and  civic-related principles.

Intersting strategy. First of all, Wise is asking that a current law be modified. That law says:

Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required to that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historic accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following:

There is a long list of specific subjects that follow, such as the Declaration of Independence, flag education, history of the Holocaust, health education, study of Hispanic contributions to the United States, etc. Wise wants the following inserted right at the top of that list:

A thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.

He also wants inserted a little further down the following:

The historical context in which the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed; the purposes, functions, and limitations of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal, state, and local governments; the significance of common law, state and federal constitutional law, statutory law, procedural law, and local ordinances or codes; an understanding of important legal principles, including the rule of law, stare decisis, and the federal supremacy clause; and the duties that all citizens share in order to know and protect the rule of law.

So, what he has done here is coupled “critical analysis” of evolution with civics education in one bill.

Proposal Misses the Mark

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Our friend Paul Cottle had a piece published in the Florida Times-Union a while ago, but the paper had sliced and diced his work quite a bit. So, I’m posting here Paul’s original submission for your reading pleasure.

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Senator Wise’s Proposal on Intelligent Design Misses the Mark
Paul Cottle, Florida State University Professor of Physics
and Member, Florida Science Standards Committee
February 11, 2009

The legislation on Intelligent Design that Senator Wise described in Sunday’s Times Union will provide the strongest challenge yet to the treatment of evolution education in Florida’s new science standards.

But Senator Wise’s proposal does not represent the viewpoints of all Christians.  In fact, the Catholic Church to which my family belongs strongly supports the science of evolution.  Last year, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando published an op-ed piece in The Orlando Sentinel endorsing the teaching of evolution while at the same time rejecting the notion that “evolution requires a materialistic or an atheistic understanding of the human person or of the entire universe.”  Indeed, Intelligent Design is being excluded from a Vatican-sponsored congress on the evolution debate being held this spring.

Senator Wise’s proposal does not use the word “science” in the same way that the vast majority of scientists do.  Most scientists regard science as a way of explaining phenomena we observe in our laboratories and elsewhere in the universe using the laws of nature.  As Matt Soergel reported in his article, Intelligent Design advocates assume that “life is so complex that it couldn’t occur naturally but must have had an intelligent force working to make it happen.”

Finally, Senator Wise’s proposal does not address the issue that concerns Florida’s parents most:  the possibility that a science teacher (or any teacher) could use their privileged place in a child’s world to change that child’s beliefs regarding religion.  This is the primary concern of parents on both sides of the evolution education debate.  Evolution is a flashpoint for this concern, but there are certainly other opportunities in the public school curriculum for a teacher determined to change students’ beliefs to try to do so.

Hence, Senator Wise and the legislature should leave the evolution standards alone and instead send Governor Crist a bill that simply says that Florida’s public schools should be tolerant of students’ religious backgrounds and that no teacher may denigrate a student’s religious beliefs, regardless of the curriculum subject being addressed.  It need not mention the topic of evolution at all.  Fine science teachers already take care to respect students’ religious beliefs while providing instruction in evolution, and such legislation would acknowledge their efforts.

Interview on the radio tonight

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

I just hung up the phone with a reporter from WMNF Radio, Tampa. They will be airing a piece about Senator Wise’s possible intelligent design creationism bill during the 6 p.m. evening news broadcast. You can listen to it streaming live over the Internet, and the broadcast will then be archived on their site sometime later.

I was asked about our opinion on the bill, the idea of “teaching both sides and letting students decide,” and … get this … I was told that supposedly Sen. Wise had asked “if man evolved from apes, why are there still apes?” and I was asked to respond to that.

Wow. Just wow.

So, listen in and share your thoughts in the comments.

[Edited to add the following after the show aired. Archived recording of the story is here.]

I feel incredibly honored to have my interviews alongside those of Sir Harold Kroto and Peyton West. And I find it interesting that no one other than Senator Wise was interviewed for the intelligent design creationism side. There was the opening segment where a Ben Stein recording was played, but that hardly counts, especially when stacked up against Kroto and West.

To briefly summarize the story: Sen. Wise swallowed Expelled hook, line and sinker. He thinks folks are being fired for advocating intelligent design (ID) creationism. (Take a look at that link to learn the real story that Sen. Wise either doesn’t know or is ignoring.) Sen. Wise does toss around so-called “academic freedom” quite a bit in his interview. Then part of my interview mentions the long history of anti-evolution and how creationism has evolved over the years. Then we hear about Dover, which then leads into Kroto reading directly from the judge’s decision concerning how ID is clearly not science by any stretch of the imagination. Next up is West from AAAS, who follows up on the theme of ID not being science, and goes a step further to explain how ID is actually a science stopper because it calls upon the supernatural to explain things.

We get back to Wise, who professes that he is a smart man with a doctorate. He laments new college students failing biology because they don’t believe in evolution. And then comes the whopper: if man came from apes, then why are there still apes? I finish off the story with a chuckle as I wonder why the heck people who know nothing about science have any say in science education. Finally, I explain just how wrong Wise is concerning that whole ape thing.

If you had a chance to listen, let me know how you think it went. If you weren’t able to listen, then check back at the radio station site for an archived version. This story didn’t run until about 21 minutes into the broadcast.

More opinions on Wise

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Florida Citizens for Science supporter Paul Cottle, who is a professor of physics at Florida State University, wrote a nice piece for the Florida Times-Union about state Senator Wise’s possible intelligent design creationism bill.

Wise’s proposal does not represent the viewpoints of all Christians.

Last year, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando published an opinion column in The Orlando Sentinel endorsing the teaching of evolution.

At the same time, he rejected the notion that “evolution requires a materialistic or an atheistic understanding of the human person or of the entire universe.”

Wise’s proposal does not use the word “science” in the same way that the vast majority of scientists do.

Most scientists regard science as a way of explaining phenomena we observe in our laboratories and elsewhere in the universe using the laws of nature.

As Staff Writer Matt Soergel reported in his article, intelligent design advocates assume that “life is so complex that it couldn’t occur naturally but must have had an intelligent force working to make it happen.”

But, of course, there are unscientific opinions out there, too. Julie Braza twisted herself into a pretzel in order to try to make a point.

It is important to remember that intelligent design is not creationism, nor does it contradict evolution. If intelligent design were taught in the classroom, the teacher would not read the book of Genesis aloud and then say “end of discussion.”

The theory of intelligent design merely states that there is an intelligent force behind certain aspects and patterns of the universe, as opposed to complete randomness.

The idea could be presented to students in such a way as to say that many in the scientific community believe that evolution and natural selection are undirected processes, while others in the scientific community believe that there is an intelligent force directing or instigating these processes.

First of all, Julie, intelligent design is in fact creationism. The two concepts are one and the same. Secondly, claiming there is an intelligent force out there without scientific proof to back up that claim is in fact injecting a religious belief into a science classroom. How else could that be interpreted? Finally, intelligent design creationism does not in any way advance scientific understanding of our world. Rather, it’s a “science stopper” as biologist Ken Miller said. “If you attribute an event to the supernatural, you can by definition investigate it no further.”

The next letter down is from John Campbell, who trots out those tired old eye and fossil arguments, which show that he has no idea what he is talking about.

They want no competition of ideas in this area and certainly don’t want things like irreducible complexity or the evolution of the eye openly discussed in the classroom.

And they certainly don’t want students to ask the whereabouts of all those billions and billions of transitional species fossils that don’t exist.

Read up on eye evolution. Read up on transitional fossils. And read some more. Don’t like reading? Then take a trip to the Hall of Fossils at our own Florida Museum of Natural History.

It’s so incredibly frustrating to hear and read these long-ago discredited arguments against evolution again and again. These arguments are so off the mark that they can no longer be considered arguments at all, but rather flat out lies.