Archive for the 'Alert' Category

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.

Manatee Rescue

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Here’s an adorable photo released by SeaWorld Orlando of an orphan manatee rescued in Ormond Beach. More manatee rescue information can be found here and here and here.

“This is the smallest manatee I’ve ever seen brought to SeaWorld,” said Steve Lehr, assistant curator of animal care and a rescue team member for more than 30 years. “We’ve had other animals come in the same condition (with some of the umbilical cord attached), but they were considerably larger than she is.”

The calf — still unnamed — is about 2 feet long and weighs 21 pounds. She was found in a small cove along Strickland Creek, keeping mostly to herself, according to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Press release 2

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The bottom line:
Florida Citizens for Science recommends that no changes be made to the proposed state science standards. But if changes are directed anyway, they need to be fully justified and done only under the direct guidance of the expert framers and writers who created this document. We urge the Board of Education to do the principled thing.

News Release
It’s commendable that the Florida Board of Education and the Department of Education have set a goal of implementing world-class science education standards in our state’s public schools. However, it’s disconcerting that apparent political pressure might weaken the proposed standards that will go before the Board Tuesday morning. The end result could be a set of standards that come up short of the world-class goal.

It’s been proposed by the Department of Education that the phrases “scientific theory of” and “law of” be inserted throughout the document, prompted by public and political complaints concerning evolution’s prominent place in the life sciences sections of the standards. This last minute edit of the standards serves no secular, educational purpose and only makes the standards awkward and confusing.

“The edits don’t help students understand science or help teachers teach it,” said Joe Wolf, president of Florida Citizens for Science and Winter Haven resident.

On the other hand, the Department of Education should be praised for keeping in mind the real inspiration for wanting the best standards possible. They want to provide Florida teachers and students with a tool that can be valuable in classrooms across the state.

It needs to be noted, though, that many framers and writers have come forward in the past couple of days in opposition to the proposed last minute edits. They are experts in their fields and have volunteered hundreds of hours creating the standards. Not only are they experts themselves, but they also consulted yet more experts from across the country and reviewed other exceptional science standards from around the world.

“The Board of Education charged this expert panel to do the work and we did it,” said Debra Walker, a science standards framer from Key Largo. “To edit it … makes no sense, diminishes our work, and, more importantly, sets a dangerous precedent belittling the value of scientific knowledge in Florida for this generation and the next.”

If any changes are to be made, let the Department of Education and Board of Education explain sound educational reasons, and then let the writers make changes if needed.

“Before any late edits are made, the motivations behind the changes need to be examined fully in the public view,” Wolf said. “It’s important to understand that science is not a process subject to popular vote. Why are the changes being suggested?”

The proposed changes confuse the difference between fact and theory.  As an example: Gravity is both a fact and a theory.  Gravity happens no matter how it is explained.  It is the same with evolution.  Evolution is theory in that it has tremendous explanatory power for understanding living systems. But it is also a fact: it happened in the past and is happening now. Thus, adding “scientific theory of” in front of evolution everywhere it appears in the science standards is an uninformed idea that diminishes the value of the standards.

# # #

Press release 1

Monday, February 18th, 2008

What: Press conference held to give reactions to Florida Board of Education’s decision regarding the new state science standards.
Who: Framers/writers of the science standards, Florida Citizens for Science members, various scientists and educators.
Where: Waller Park on the capitol grounds between the old and new capitol buildings.
When: Tuesday, Feb. 19. Time depends on when the Board of Education makes a final decision. Press conference participants will assemble in Waller Park right after exiting the meeting room following the decision.

Florida Citizens for Science (FCS) will host a press conference to provide reactions to the Florida Board of Education’s final decision regarding acceptance of the new state science standards. Experts who created the science standards will be on hand for interviews. They will be joined by other scientists and educators from Tallahassee and across the state. FCS members will also be available to provide background information on the controversy over evolution in the science standards.

The press conference will be held in Waller Park, which is an area between the old and new capital buildings. The park can be identified by its fountains and a statue of dolphins in one of the fountains.

There is no set time for the press conference since it is unknown what time the BoE will make its final decision. As soon as the decision is made and audience members are allowed to exit the meeting room, press conference participants will walk over to Waller Park.

Brandon Haught, communications director for FCS, will be on hand to coordinate with media representatives in attendance.

# # #

Those not in favor of good science education, raise your hand.

Friday, February 15th, 2008

[I will bump this post up about once a week so as to always be on the front page. Latest bump: Feb. 15.]

For your convenience, here is a list of the 12 counties that passed anti-evolution resolutions: Clay, Jackson, Baker, Hamilton, Holmes, St. Johns, Taylor, Madison, Lafayette, Nassau, Washington, and Bay. More information about them can be found in the below text.

Also of note: one county, Putnam, will consider passing a resolution in the future; one county, Highlands, had considered a resolution, but then abandoned it when citizens spoke out against it; one county, Monroe, passed a resolution in favor of the state science standards; and one county, Volusia, is on the record as supporting the standards, but didn’t actually pass a resolution.

This post is a reference for any and all pro-science activists out there so you can see where you need to concentrate your efforts when it comes to supporting evolution against anti-scientific “other theories.” These are people who have stated they have a problem with teaching evolution without some type of so-called balance.

What, exactly, is going on? What can you do with this information? You can visit our “Homework Assignment: Evolution Education” project web site to learn more and to participate in a Call to Action effort. The folks on this list are making their voices heard. We need to be louder!

State Board of Education ——————–

Linda Taylor, member of state BoE who mentioned “other theories” in a St. Petersburg Times education blog Dec. 11. (Contact information on our Call to Action addresses page.)

Donna Callaway, member of state BoE who does not believe evolution should be taught “to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life,” as stated in the Florida Baptist Witness, Nov. 30. (Contact information on our Call to Action addresses page.)

Department of Education ——————–

Selena “Charlie” Carraway, Florida Dept. of Education, Director of the Office of Instructional Materials. Sent e-mail out opposing evolution, as reported in the St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 8.

State Congress ——————–

Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, said constituents have flooded her office with calls, letters and petitions about the evolution standards. She wants evolution to be referred to as a “theory” (in other words, a “guess”) in the science standards, which demonstrates that she has no idea what a scientific theory is. Reported in the Orlando Sentinel Feb. 4. (Contact information on Coley here.)

“If it becomes a matter for legislative discussion, then I would have opinions that if it’s going to be presented, it’s presented … in a manner that is not potentially exclusive of any other theory,” including creationism, said Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, chair of the House Schools and Learning Council. Reported in the St. Petersburg Times education blog, Jan. 29. (Contact information on Pickens here.)

Republican House leader Rep. Will Weatherford said “… evolution is one of the theories.” Reported in the Miami Herald, Dec. 9. (Contact information on our Call to Action addresses page.)

Senator Stephen Wise attempted to get the state school board to listen to parent activists who are opposed to evolution. Reported in Florida Times Union, Dec. 6. (Contact information on our Call to Action addresses page.)

County Level ——————–

Baker County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Earl Crews, Richard Griffis, Karen McCollum, James Raulerson, Patricia Weeks, and superintendent Paula T. Barton. Reported in the St. Petersburg Times education blog, Jan. 9. (Contact information on the board here.)

Bay County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. Pat Sabiston, Johnny Brock, Jon McFatter, Donna Allen, and superintendent James E. McCalister. Board member Ginger Littleton was the lone voice of reason. Reported by the News Herald, Feb. 13. (Contact information on the board here.)

Clay County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Carol Studdard, Charles Van Zant, Jr., Carol Vallencourt, Lisa Graham, Wayne Bolla, and superintendent David L. Owens. Reported in the Florida Times-Union, Jan. 19. (Contact information on the board here.)

Dixie County: superintendent Dennis Bennett wrote a column for the local newspaper casting doubt on evolution and urging people to contact the state board of education. Published in the Dixie County Advocate, Dec. 20. (Contact information on Bennett here.)

Lafayette County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. Robert Koon, school board chairperson, and superintendent Fredric W. Ward. The school district website does not list the board members, so I don’t have a full list. Published in the Suwannee Democrat, Jan. 31. (Limited contact information here.)

Hamilton County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Damon Deas, Lynn Roberson, J.T. Simon, Joyce Shaw, Don Fenneman, and superintendent Harry J. Pennington. Discovered using an Internet search, Jan. 11. (Contact information on the board here.)

Highlands County: a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards is being considered. School board members Wally Randall, Donna Howerton, J. Ned Hancock, Richard Norris, Andy Tuck, and superintendent Wally Cox. Resolution can be viewed here. Published in Highlands Today, Jan. 25. (Some contact information on the board here.)
Update: The resolution did not pass! Reported by Florida Citizens for Science members who attended the school board meeting Feb. 5.

Hillsborough County: school board member Jennifer Faliero says that students shouldn’t be taught evolution only. Reported in the St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 6. (Contact information on Faliero here.)

Holmes County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Rickey D. Callahan, Gary Scott, Jason Motley, Anthony Register, Vernon Lewis, and superintendent Steve Griffin. Discovered using an Internet search, Jan. 9. (Contact information on the board here.)

Jackson County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Terry E. Nichols, Kenneth Griffin, Betty B. Duffee, Chris Johnson, Charlotte Gardner, and superintendent Daniel G. Sims. Published in the Jackson County Floridan, Jan. 17. (Contact information on the board here.)

Madison County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Susie Williamson, Kenneth Hall, VeEtta Hagan-Smith, Clyde Alexander, Bart Alford, and superintendent Lou Miller. Published in the Madison County Carrier, Jan. 18. (Contact information on the board here.)

Martin County: school board member David Anderson said, “I am in no way endorsing the teaching of evolution.” Reported in the Palm Beach Post Dec. 31. (Contact information on Anderson here.)

Nassau County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Janet Adkins, Gail Cook, Muriel Creamer, Jim Adams, Kathy Burns, and superintendent John L. Ruis. Verified through a phone call to the superintendent’s office, Jan. 29. (Contact information on the board here.)

Okaloosa County: school board member Cathy Thigpen wants other “forms of creation” to be taught. Reported in the Northwest Florida Daily News, Dec. 12. (Contact information on Thigpen here.)

Palm Beach County: one board member was in support of evolution and against intelligent design, while the other six board members refused to comment or return calls. However, Debra Robinson had stated back in 2000 that creationism should be taught with evolution. Reported in the Palm Beach Post Dec. 31. (Contact information on Robinson here.)

Pinellas County: school board members Jane Gallucci, Carol Cook, Peggy O’Shea and Nancy Bostock all want other theories taught. Reported in the St. Petersburg Times education blog, Dec. 17. (Apparently, all correspondence must be screened first before it goes to board members. From the contact page: “E-mail or mail is first received in the Board office for review and then forwarded to School Board members.”)

Polk County: Tim Harris, Margaret Lofton, Hazel Seller and Kay Fields, all school board members, told the Lakeland Ledger they support other theories in the science classroom, Nov. 20. Updated: Due to a flood of pro-science correspondence, the school board backed off of their anti-evolution push, Dec. 22. (Contact information on all board members here. Find the name in the left-hand column and click on it to get the individual bio/contacts page.)

Putnam County: newspaper article mentions that Putnam may consider a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. However, there is no evidence other than the newspaper article at this time. Published in the Florida Times-Union, Jan. 17.
Updated: Putnam County will consider an anti-evolution resolution during their Feb. 19 board meeting. Discovered through an internet search, Feb. 14. (Contact information on the board here.)

St. Johns County: one board member also happens to be president-elect of the Florida School Boards Association, Beverly Slough. “Anybody with half a brain can see that natural selection takes place. But to make great leaps from a fish to a man … the fossil record doesn’t support all that.” She also said she planned to raise the issue both with her school board and the Florida School Boards Association. Reported in the St. Petersburg Times education blog, Jan. 7. (Contact information on Slough here.)
St. Johns Update: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Beverly Slough, Tommy Allen, Bill Mignon, Bill Fehling, Carla Wright, and superintendent Joseph Joyner. Reported by FCS member who attended meeting, Jan. 15. (Contact information for the school board is here.)

St. Lucie County: school board members Carol Hilson and John Carvelli either want intelligent design taught or wouldn’t object to it being taught if the community wanted it. Reported in the Palm Beach Post Dec. 31. (Contact information on both here.)

Taylor County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Mark Southerland, Brenda Carlton, Darrell Whiddon, Danny Lundy, Kenneth Dennis, and superintendent Oscar M. Howard. Reported in the Associated Press Jan. 8. (Contact information on the board here.)

Wakulla County: Beth Mims, director of curriculum, and Greg Thomas, school board member, spoke out against evolution at a public hearing concerning the science standards. Reported in the Tallahassee Democrat, Nov. 10. (Contact information on Thomas here. Contact information on Mims here.)

Washington County: the school board passed a formal resolution against the inclusion of evolution in the state science standards. School board members Vann Brock, Wayne Saunders, John Hawkins, Terry Ellis, Susan Roberts, and superintendent Calvin Stevenson. Reported in The Chipley Bugle, Jan. 15. (Contact information on the board here.)

Others ——————–

Parent activists Kim Kendall and Lynda Follenweider from St. Johns County have been very vocal about their opposition to evolution. They attempted to use a state senator to get before the state board of education to talk about the subject. Reported in the Florida Times Union, Dec. 6.

David Gibbs, of the Christian Law Association, wrote a letter and legal memorandum given to state BoE members advocating against “requiring only one particular belief system in Florida classrooms.” Reported in the Florida Baptist Witness Dec. 19.


If you know of anyone who needs to be on this list, or if you find a mistake here, please let me know.

The home stretch

Monday, February 11th, 2008

First of all, if you are able to get away from work and head to Orlando, then please attend the final public forum concerning the new draft of the state science standards.

Monday, February 11, 2008
10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Orlando Hyatt
Orlando International Airport
9000 Airport Boulevard

You should be able to watch the meeting over the Internet via this link.

If you are new to this blog and don’t understand what the public meeting is about, take a moment to read this Orlando Sentinel article, which provides a good recap of events so far.

There were some Darwin Day activities around the state this past weekend. I hope to have a basic recap of what happened in Tallahassee up here on the blog tonight. Florida Citizens for Science president Joe Wolf was kind enough to write about what he saw. In the meantime, here’s an article in the Tampa Tribune about Darwin Day in general.

“Darwinism is the basis for biology because nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution,” Mushinsky says. “It is the thread that holds our science together.”

“Darwin’s ideas today, paradoxically, run in two different directions,” Giberson says. “Within the scientific community, they grow ever more relevant. But culturally, they grow less relevant as they continue to be rejected by conservative Christians. We now have presidents and congressmen who prefer 19th century creationism to 21st century science.”

Full calendar

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

OK, since there are quite a few things happening, I’ll try to outline it all here for your convenience.

Feb. 9 — Darwin Day in Tallahassee. Also, the Florida Citizens for Science annual meeting will be held at this event. And another Darwin Day event will be held in Coconut Creek the same day.

Feb. 11 — Board of Education public hearing about the new draft of the state science standards. This meeting is very important as it is the last chance to speak out in favor of evolution in the standards.

Feb. 13 — Bay County school board meeting. Board is considering an anti-evolution resolution.

Feb. 19 — The big day! The state Board of Education will meet and determine whether the new draft of the state standards, with evolution included, will be approved. I don’t have a link to point to about this meeting, but as more information becomes available, we’ll get it out.

Ongoing — Florida Citizens for Science’s online petition in support of the new state science standards. We are at a little more than 1,400 signatures. Let’s keep this going!

Ongoing — Florida Citizen for Science’s Call to Action project “Homework Assignment: Evolution Education.” Send the Board of Education an evolution fact sheet and personal note.

Bay County considers anti-evolution resolution

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Guess where Bay County is at in Florida. In the north, you say? How did you ever guess?

Why am I writing a post about Bay County? Because the school board is considering an anti-evolution resolution, you say? How did you guess that? Go to the school district’s agenda page and click on the one for next Wednesday. Scroll on down to the action items.

School Board of Bay County FL Resolution for Sunshine State Standards for Science

The board meeting is Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. I’m having trouble determining from the website where the meeting is held. The agenda just says the meeting is in the board room. I assume the address is: Nelson Admin. Building, 1311 Balboa Avenue, Panama CIty, FL 32401, 872-4100. Contact the school board here.

It would be nice if there can be another victory like in Highlands County. But that all depends on who shows up at the meeting and what those attendees have to say.