Archive for March, 2011

Sign the petition

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

In response to Senator Stephen Wise’s “non-evolution” “theory of whatever” bill (SB 1854, critical analysis of evolution in public schools), concerned citizen Eduardo Pazos of Miami Beach started an online petition. It’s off to a good start with 211 signatures so far. However, many signatures are from out of state folks. We need more people from Florida to sign on. Also, this petition site sends an e-mail to our target audience, the state legislature, every time someone signs.

When you sign the petition, I encourage you to use the “leave a comment” link that is right below the fields you fill out when you sign. The last time we used a petition, it wasn’t so much the number of people who signed, but rather the names of significant individuals and the comments people made when signing that made an impact. Spread the word!

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

Education commissioner resigns

Monday, March 21st, 2011

I’m testing posting here from my phone, and so I’ll use the big news of the day for this practice run. Florida education commissioner suddenly resigns. My initial reaction is that this is not a good thing. Education in Florida stands a good chance of sliding downhill. The question here is, how far down will it go?

National news keeping eye on Florida

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

A couple of national news outlets are taking note of Senator Wise’s antievolution bill. They’re both just rewrites of Florida stories, but they are still worth logging in here on the blog. The Huffington Post has a story: “Florida State Lawmaker Takes Heat For Bill That Would Require Teaching Of ‘Non-Evolution’“. I’m very glad that the media is taking note of the whole “non-evolution” quote from Wise. It really shows just how full of hot air his proposal is. And Mother Jones has a short blurb: “Top Florida Lawmaker Resurrects Creationism Bill“. That’s another great headline, nailing Wise’s bill for its creationist roots. I’m loving it! The National Center for Science Education also has a media roundup, mentioning Florida articles that can also be found here on this blog.

Newspapers: Antievolution bill is bad idea

Friday, March 18th, 2011

The Orlando Sentinel has published an editorial opposing Sen. Wise’s “non-evolution” “theory of whatever”:

Among scientists, the idea of teaching “nonevolution” in public schools would be dismissed as nonsense. But in Tallahassee, just such a bill sponsored by Rep. Stephen Wise has its supporters. This is, after all, a state that only three years ago started officially referring to “evolution” instead of “biological change over time.”

It’s enough to make anyone who values science plenty nervous. Wise (gulp) also happens to be chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Wise reportedly asked, “Why do we still have apes if we came from them” — even though anthropologists and other scientists long ago proved man and apes share common ancestry. Wise would have our schools teach evolution and “nonevolution” — creationist-based theory — “at the same time.”

Florida has enough challenges getting its kids educated. It doesn’t need another one — this one — from Wise.

And a Florida Times-Union opinion blog also says the bill is a bad idea.

It’s a little more than disturbing that the legislator playing a key role in shaping Florida’s public education policy, Sen. Stephen Wise, is challenging how evolution is taught.

Besides being the Senate sponsor for the whack-the-teachers bill the Legislature just passed, Wise is behind legislation that would require that what he calls “non-evolution” also be taught in the classroom.

So how does Wise explain his disagreement with the theory of evolution?

In a 2009 radio interview, he put it this way: “Why do we still have apes if we came from them?”

Enough said.

Antievolution bill referred to senate committees

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Senator Stephen Wise’s “non-evolution” “theory of whatever” bill (SB 1854, critical analysis of evolution in public schools) was referred to two senate committees today: Education Pre-K -12, and Budget. The chair of the education committee is none other than Sen. Wise himself. He also is a member of the Budget committee, along with Sen. Hays. Hays was in the House in 2008 and sponsored an antievolution bill back then. Now we have to wait and see if the bill gets on the committees’ schedules.

Evolution “caught in the act!” Quick, notify Senator Wise!

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Florida citizens: You have a mission! Senator Wise is very busy, and so he may not be aware of some rebellious researchers lurking in Gainesville. These lab-coat wearing troublemakers are stomping all over Sen. Wise’s turf. They are daring to (gasp) conduct research on (gulp) EVOLUTION! We need to let the Senator know right away!

How do I know Sen. Wise is busy? The Florida Times-Union published a story about the antievolution bill introduced into our state senate. The sponsor, Sen. Wise, doesn’t have time to talk to the media about his bill:

Wise, who did not return numerous calls from the Times-Union over two days for this story, told a newspaper last week that his bill is merely intended to allow freedom in Florida classrooms.

“Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?” Wise told the Tampa Tribune. He called the other theory “non-evolution.”

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Florida are learning new and interesting things about the evolution of plants: Flowering plant study ‘catches evolution in the act’.

A new University of Florida study shows when two flowering plants are crossed to produce a new hybrid, the new species’ genes are reset, allowing for greater genetic variation.

Researchers say the study, to be published March 17 in Current Biology, could lead to a better understanding of how to best grow more stable and higher yielding agricultural crops.

“We caught evolution in the act,” said Doug Soltis, a distinguished professor in UF’s biology department and study co-author. “New and diverse patterns of gene expression may allow the new species to rapidly adapt in new environments.”

So, research based on evolution is happening right here in Senator Wise’s state! Oh no! Does he know this? He needs to amend his bill to mandate critical analysis of these researchers’ important and potentially useful findings right away. Where is all the research going on involving “non-evolution?” We need to have balance and fairness, after all! I think everyone needs to fax, e-mail and mail this article to Wise in order to alert him to this nefarious plot going on right under his nose!

Contact:

wise.stephen.web@flsenate.gov

District Office:
1460 Cassat Avenue
Suite B
Jacksonville, FL 32205
(904) 381-6000
FAX (904) 381-6040

Tallahassee Office:
410 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
(850) 487-5027

Florida Academy of Sciences opposes Wise’s bill

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

The Florida Academy of Sciences has issued a position statement opposing Senator Stephen Wise’s antievolution bill. A pdf of their position statement is here. Some excerpts from the Florida Academy of Sciences’ statement:

SB 1854, in effect, leaves the door open for the introduction in the public school curriculum of nonscientific and covertly religious doctrines. The proposed bill would be damaging to the quality of science education of Florida’s children and the scientific literacy of our citizens. It would further undermine the reputation of our state and adversely affect our economic future as we try to attract new high tech and biomedical jobs to Florida.

Therefore the Florida Academy of Sciences opposes Florida Senate Bill 1854 in the strongest terms possible. We urge the Senate to reject this proposed legislation.

For background, our previous news release about Florida Citizen’s for Science’s position is here.

Fox channel news story & poll

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The central Florida Fox affiliate, Channel 35 WOFL, ran a story tonight at 10 and 11 about Sen. Wise’s antievolution bill. The story itself was OK. The person interviewed in favor of the bill, Jim Stemberger, claimed religion has no part in any of this, and said that all they want is a critical analysis of evolution in the schools. What, exactly, this critical analysis will consist of no one will say. I did a fairly long interview with the reporter and covered a lot of ground, but only a short clip or two were used, which is to be expected in TV news. I was fine with what made it into the story: I said the bill is an embarrassment to the state and that the details concerning what “critical analysis” will consist of are missing. The reporter also used a bit of information from our news release.

So, the story was OK, but the promotion was horrible. It was teased as “evolution vs. creationism” and other sensational language. The worst part was an online poll the station had on their website. It started off asking the question “Do you believe evolution should be taught as a theory instead of accepted fact? Yes or No.” The question makes no sense. Evolution is a fact and a scientific theory. Of course, what happened there is that the person who created the poll confused the common use of the word theory — meaning essentially a guess — with the scientific use of the word — meaning a well-supported and tested explanation for a set of facts. (See the article Evolution as Fact and Theory by Stephen Jay Gould. Also, our media fact sheet-pdf about this subject from 2008 is still relevant today.) Nonetheless, the poll easily swung the sensible direction, with 90% of voters saying no. In other words, the vast majority of voters were saying that evolution should be taught as fact and not a “guess-theory”. But then a little while later, the station changed the question to say: “Do you believe evolution should be taught as a theory? Yes or No.” And they didn’t reset the poll, instead keeping the results with 90% voting no, thus completely changing the meaning and the results of the poll now that the “instead of accepted fact” part was edited out! This is the steep uphill climb we face, folks. The news media is constantly reinforcing the misinformation out there.

Link to the story (but I don’t know how long the story will be available).