“Controversial theories” science education bill filed in Florida senate

We’ve got a live one.

This past Friday Sen. Dennis Baxley filed a bill in our state legislature concerning public education. Senate Bill 966’s purpose is to revise “the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards; providing that such standards are the minimum baseline core content standards for K-12 public schools.” In other words, Baxley would like the use of our state standards to be only the minimum school districts should strive for. They’re encouraged to consider adopting their own set of standards that are “equivalent to or better than these [state] standards.”

What is that all about? Baxley wants school districts to go beyond the basic standards. He wants to allow school districts to raise the bar, so to speak, and challenge schools and their students with more rigorous standards.

Well, that’s what Baxley is trying to sell us. But we can see what he’s really after by reading further into the bill. Go to page three, lines 62 to 66.

62 (b) Science standards must establish specific curricular
63 content for, at a minimum, the nature of science, earth and
64 space science, physical science, and life science. Controversial
65 theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective,
66 and balanced manner.

Ah, yes, good ol’ “controversial theories.”

Where did this bill come from? Baxley clearly is working closely with the creationist, climate-change-denying group Florida Citizens Alliance. They had announced last month they were working on this bill.

And they found a wonderful sponsor for their bill. Baxley has a history of disliking evolution lessons in schools. He was a representative in the state house back in 2005 when he sponsored an infamous bill titled The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights. That bill would have prevented “biased indoctrination” by “the classroom dictator.” In defense of that bill he related an upsetting personal story of a Florida State University professor ranting against creationism in class. You can read more about that bill in chapter 8 of my book Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom.

In 2008 we here at Florida Citizens for Science were deeply involved in the brawl over the inclusion of evolution in the new state science standards. Baxley was then executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida and he had a firm opinion about the issue:

“There is no justification for singling out evolution for special skepticism or critical analysis,” wrote Richard T. O’Grady, executive director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences in a Feb. 8 letter to the Board of Education. “Its strength as a scientific theory matches that of the theory of gravitation, atomic theory and the germ theory.”

The response from Dennis Baxley, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida: “He’s in error.”

“At one time, the scientific community thought that for good health, you should attach leaches to your body,” said Baxley, a former state representative from Ocala. “We’re just asking them to leave the door open a little bit” for other evidence to be considered.

And that’s not all. Baxley also sponsored last session’s Religious Liberties in Schools bill that successfully passed into Florida law.

In the Florida Senate, her partner in this quest is State Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who owns a string of funeral homes and was the former executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida.

Baxley’s not a fan of evolution, and thinks it’s unfair that Florida’s public school children are being exposed to a science curriculum that doesn’t allow that the earth is just 6,000 years old.

They were the guiding hands that successfully passed a bill that would expand the role of religion in Florida’s public schools to levels that have alarmed the American Civil Liberties Union, the Florida Citizens for Science and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

There are plenty of other things in this new controversial theories bill about other academic subjects that could potentially raise alarms for those teachers and subject matter experts. But our focus is, of course, the clear attack on science education, specifically evolution and climate change. This Washington Post article from earlier this year briefly explains the purpose of these types of bills:

These bills are worded as “academic freedom” bills, but they really are efforts to present foundational science as controversial. For example, evolution is the animating principle of modern biology, but these laws attempt to allow creationism and evolution to be debated in a science classroom as though they had equal scientific basis. There is no scientific basis to creationist thinking.

This is developing into an all out war against science education in Florida. New laws about the challenging of textbooks (see our Instructional Materials bills ’17 blog category) and religious liberties (see our Religious Liberties Act ’17 blog category) are meant to chip away at classroom science instruction and now this newly proposed bill is trying to blast a hole right through its heart.

Are you ready to help us fight back?

20 Responses to ““Controversial theories” science education bill filed in Florida senate”

  1. G. H. Martin Says:

    The Orlando Sentinel has an article on this bill on their website, and it will probably be published in Tuesday’s (11/21/2017) print edition. You are mentioned in the article, Brandon, as well as this website.

    The Sentinel’s article was picked up by the Sensuous Curmudgeon’s blog, which if you are not familiar with it, is well worth reading for anyone interested in this topic. His blog and its commenters are great defenders of science.

  2. Chris Says:

    ‘The closing comment in the Washington Post artical, ‘There is no scientific basis to creationist thinking.’ is either a statment of faith or one of ignorance.

  3. G. H. Martin Says:

    @Chris: You say that the statement, “There is no scientific basis to creationist thinking”, is either a statement of faith or one of ignorance.

    For you to make that statement, you must have some pretty good evidence to back it up. Would you care to share? I have been of the opinion that the basis of creationist thinking is Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Although many people have faith and believe scripture to be scientifically accurate, that doesn’t make it so — no matter how many people hold that belief.

    So, where is your scientific evidence that leads you to not accept evolution as the basic underpinning of all of biology?

  4. Brandon Haught Says:

    Thanks, G. H. Martin. I’m a faithful reader of the Sensuous Curmudgeon.

  5. Chris Says:

    G. H. Martin. O yes, there is plenty of evedence, but why would you want me bore you with the facts. And I think you’re right faith in scripture is one thing, the intrepretation of it is another, which may or may not agree with what is allowed to be called science today in the classroom . First, let me ask you the question. What leads you to believe that evolution with all of it’s assumptions stands as the underpinning of all biology.

  6. G. H. Martin Says:

    @Chris: What leads me to accept evolution as the best explanation of the diversity of life? The fact that I’ve spent a lifetime studying the matter.

    Now, your very act of asking the question shows you don’t really know much about the subject, but are just trolling. I have more important things to do than continue this conversation, because it appears you have no interest in listening, just arguing.

    Goodbye, Chris.

  7. Chris Says:

    G. H. Martin – The diversity of life is an excellent reason to accept evolution and also to reject it. Having spent a lifetime studying evolution I would assume you would have gathered a substantial amount of convincing evidence to support your belief. I would hope you would be willing to share something a little more substantial than simple adaptation, common variation within species or artist renderings and the like.

    You’ve got me wrong, I’m more than interested in the subject and my ears are wide open.

  8. Pierce R. Butler Says:

    G. H. Martin – Congratulations, you reached the same conclusion in slightly less than 24 hours which some of us have struggled with for years.

  9. G. H. Martin Says:

    @Pierce R. Butler — Kinda figured. Chris says he’s “more than interested in the subject and [his] ears are wide open.”

    Well, if that’s the case, I would suggest he should:
    a) enroll in an entry level biology class;
    b) pick up some decent biology and geology texts at his public library;
    c) do a bit of research on Wikipedia.

    Of course, he would just say “Bah! Humbug! I have no time for mainstream science!”

    To which I would reply, “There’s a good reason it’s mainstream, Chris. It’s been researched, peer reviewed by other scientists who are just itching to find flaws in other scientists’ research, and thoroughly vetted over the past 200 years or so.

    So if you are reading this, Chris, please don’t comment again on this blog until you have completed the three-step program outlined above. That way, you can contribute something worthwhile to the discussion instead of merely displaying your bias or lack of knowledge. Oh — and people would give your words more weight if you carefully checked your spelling before submitting your comments.

  10. Chris Says:

    Pierce – Don’t sell yourself short. I know it’s been years and the struggle to evade a few simple questions has been tough. I’m sure G. H. is a great guy, but you’ve got to have noticed in his first comment he sights Sensuous Curmudgeon’s blog. Even though the sight contains loads of biased misinformation, it supplies a lot of encouragement and direction for the faithful in the quest to keep evolution’s
    dream alive. So don’t be discouraged he apears to have nothing special, he’s just following SC’s recomended instructions.

  11. G. H. Martin Says:

    @Chris — There you go again, Chris, displaying your ignorance of the English language. The words you want to use instead of “sight” are in the first instance “cite” (“…in his first comment he sights [sic] Sensuous Curmudgeon’s blog”), and in the second instance you should use “site” (“…the sight [sic] contains loads…).

    In my previous comment I suggested you should carefully check your spelling before posting. Of course, that wouldn’t have helped you here, since you don’t know the difference between “cite”, “site”, and “sight”. That shows a much deeper lack of understanding than simple misspelling. (which, by the way, you did in your last sentence — the word is spelled “recommended” — double m.

    So, back to my main point — when your writing displays such a basic lack of knowledge or education, what makes you think anyone will give credence to what you say concerning biology, paleontology, earth history, or evolution?

    You also show your lack of understanding when you claim that the Sensuous Curmudgeon’s blog contains loads of biased misinformation. Anyone familiar with the site knows that’s not the case. But if you think it is, well then, cite some examples. He’s been blogging for over ten years now and all of his posts are archived, so if what you say is true you should be able to find ten good examples of “biased misinformation.” So please don’t post here again until you find those ten examples, AND have the citations to back up your claims.

    In the meantime, you would probably be happier reading the articles on the Discovery Institute’s website, or perhaps Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis. Of course, you can’t have as much fun trolling there, because neither one allows comments.
    Am I guessing correctly that the Sensuous curmudgeon has you blocked? I know he doesn’t allow trolls to pollute the discussions.

    And by the way, what makes you think I’m a guy? (“I’m sure G. H. is a great guy, but…“) Unfortunately, science still is a gender-biased field, so many women have found their views are afforded more respect if they use their initials. Unless, of course, they have a name that swings both ways — like “Chris.”

  12. Chris Says:

    C. H. Martin – How about that, I never thought of you as being something different than a male, silly me. With todays meaning of gender you could be almost anything, perhaps a combination of things.

    I see you like my spelling. I realize it gives you something to dwell on besides the foolishness at hand.

    I’m sure you find great comfort in believing there once was a mysterious ape like creature in your lineage. I know you have the ability to accept artist renderings of unseen imaginary creatures of the past as historical fact. And that ability is more than just a gift, it might take years of indoctrination for such illusions. The problem lies here in, where not every one has your self elevated intellect to visualize imaginary reality as fact. There are those who have no mystical ape like creatures in their ancestry, nor have they been shown anything to solidify the belief that nothing could do anything. A large segment of the population recognizes your belief as BS (bad science) and would prefer to not have fantasies such as yours cluttering the minds of their children.

    Fortunately for religious humanist some of their magical ideology has be dubbed as science. But like every cult, questioning the belief system is prohibited, restricting access to alternative views is paramount. Ignorance must prevail for your best explanation of life’s diversity to flourish.

  13. G. H. Martin Says:

    Chris says, “How about that, I never thought of you as being something different than a male, silly me.”

    I never said I was anything other than a male. I merely questioned why you assumed I was a male. You don’t know whether I’m a man, woman, or genderless, or for that matter, whether “G. H. Martin” is my real name. I might even be a well-programmed computer practicing my interactions with humans. (The “H.” might stand for “Hal”.)

    And no, it bothers me not a bit that “there once was a mysterious ape-like creature in my lineage.” So what? On what basis do you believe otherwise?

    You go on to state that “a large segment of the population” recognizes my “belief” as BS (bad science). Again, so what? Science is determined by evidence, not popular opinion or majority rule. Back in the day, almost everyone believed that the sun & stars revolved around the earth. We learn more and more about the nature of reality as time goes by. That’s the beauty of having a written language. We can easily build upon the discoveries of our ancestors. Knowledge evolves, as does life. Deal with it. Why would you choose to believe otherwise? Are you so sure that you’re smarter than 99.9% of all biological scientists? In this case, the majority opinion does matter, because it is based on research, observation, and fact.

  14. Chris Says:

    G. H, should I address you as it? A well programed computer would have to be well programed initially by some form of intelligence. Normally computers aren’t found to have done the job on their own. But in your reality it could be possible. Taking into consideration your fantasy, we are not necessarily dealing with intelligence.

    Depending on how one segments the theory of evolution I would suspect the percentage of biologist and the population could be closer to 100%. But with the theory’s full bag of tricks that can’t happen. Lets pretend that those hypothetical, unfounded beliefs were removed from the educational system leaving only authenticated known science taught using observable testable subjects in real time. We would only need to remove the faith based rhetoric of your butt scratching baboon cousins and the like to end any controversy. You could go on believing worms were your relatives, and those who consider your belief is just monkey poop could go on to whatever fact or fictional tale they chose for the origins of biological diversity.

  15. G. H. Martin Says:

    I’m sorry, Chris. I have not been programmed to parse your syntax. It’s been nice chatting up to this point, but I’m afraid this will have to be my last reply to your communications. For what it’s worth, you may address me as:

    HAL

  16. Pierce R. Butler Says:

    Tsk, tsk, Chris – already verging on childish personal insult.

    Since you so thoroughly eschew actual science, that leaves us with the question of whether you derive that unpleasantness from your religion, or your own personal provenance.

  17. G. H. Martin Says:

    That’s OK, Pierce. Since I really am a computer, Chris’s comment can’t be taken as a childish personal insult. And no matter how bad the insult, I’m programmed to ignore it. Like water off a duck’s back. At any rate, Chris’s attempt at insulting me was very feeble, indeed.

    Still, I wish I could get him to be on the outside of that locked pod bay door…

    HAL

  18. Chris Says:

    G. H. – No personal insult intended, it’s all for fun. But if you’re going to dish it out, you need to be able to take it. I take it as a badge of honer when called a moron for gigiling at the insinuation fish are my relatives.

    When you refer to ‘childish’ keep in mind that your response to my simple question wasn’t even feeble , it was nonexistent. Don’t you think you should have more to back your belief besides just water colors and what someone else says what you should believe?

    Now that I know you’re a computer I suppose the following won’t apply to our gender conversation. But I thought it might set the record straight for those who don’t know what they are.
    http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/32827/Default.aspx

  19. G. H. Martin Says:

    Chris —

    “Honer”? “Gigiling”? No wonder no one takes you seriously.

  20. Dawn C Says:

    ACTION ALERT! This one takes less than 1 minute!

    Florida lawmakers trying to sneak creationism & junk science into our schools. Tell your reps to oppose this bill! “Controversial Theories” bill (SB 966/HB 825)

    http://p2a.co/UerYfc6

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