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.