Tampa Tribune reporter Elaine Silvestrini finally got someone to speak on behalf of the new antievolution bill filed in the state senate (SB 1854): Senator Stephen Wise himself (Story: Legislator’s challenge to evolution has some alarmed). Senator Wise doesn’t say much of substance other than to sing the same old song that there needs to be other theories taught. But he avoids saying what those theories are despite having done so in 2009. Back then it was all about intelligent design. This year he just vaguely says that there is a theory of evolution and a “theory of whatever.” A similar bill he had filed in 2009 didn’t go anywhere, but he told the reporter that the chances are better this time around.
Wise, R-Jacksonville, thinks his evolution bill may have a better chance this year because there are more conservatives in the Legislature and because he chairs a substantive committee.
“Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?” Wise said, referring to evolution and what he called “non-evolution.”
“You have critical thinking in school,” Wise added. “Why would you not do both?”
The reporter then quotes a 2009 interview with Wise in which he rattles on about there being more than one theory, and pondering why there are still apes around if man came from apes. At this point I get a chance to highlight Wise’s ignorance of the subject.
Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science — an organization that promotes science education in the state and opposes the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools — said evolution detractors fail to understand that when scientists use the term “theory” they mean something different than the word’s use in conversation.
“A theory in science is one of the strongest things you can possibly have,” Haught said. “In science, a theory is not a guess. It’s an established explanation for a set of facts.”
Haught called Wise’s bill “quite literally, an embarrassment for our state.”
“Why drag everybody through this yet again?” asked Haught, who is interning to teach biology. “It’s already been hashed out.”
“It’s quite clear,” Haught said, that Wise has “no background in biology.” Man did not descend from apes, Haught said, but the species share common ancestry.
The reporter also talked with Josh Rosenau, National Center for Science Education. Unfortunately, the reporter slips up a bit here, saying that the NCSE is “dedicated to keep evolution in the classroom and to keep other theories out.” That contradicts my quote about the true nature of theories in science. Good grief. Anyway, Josh praised Florida’s science standards that were approved in 2008 among a storm of controversy.
Rosenau said Florida’s existing science standards have been reviewed by national experts who found them to be “really good. …The students are already doing the critical thinking.”
“There’s no reason for the state Legislature to mandate that particular scientific theories be taught or how they should be taught,” Rosenau added. “There’s no particular reason to single out evolution.”
Wise is then quoted claiming that his bill has nothing to do with religion.
“I think it’s a way in which people can have critical thinking,” he said of his bill. “If you just keep things away from folks, you don’t have a good debate, you don’t have, ‘You give me your side and I’ll give you my side,’ and you look at the facts and make your decision.
“We’re not saying you ought to be a Muslim, you ought to be Jewish, you ought to be Christian or you ought to be Baptist or Episcopalian; what we’re saying is here’s a theory, a theory of evolution, a theory of whatever, and you decide.”
And then the final paragraphs feature the Florida ACLU. Yes, the bill is all about intelligent design and thus religion. And a lawsuit could be in Florida’s future, depending on how things fall out.
“There would be litigation,” [Howard Simon] said, “were some county school district to be silly enough to be enticed by the legislation to teach religion instead of science.”
Stay tuned, folks.