We know what one vote will be now …

Before I begin, let me give a brief recap of what’s going on for anyone just joining us. Florida’s state science standards for public schools is currently going through a revision process. The current standards are a miserable mess, having been given a grade of F by the Fordham Institute. The standards don’t mention the word evolution, instead referring to this important biology concept as simply “changes over time.” The draft of the new standards feature evolution as one of the major concepts students must know. The draft standards are now going through a public review period. Anyone can go to the website and rate/comment on the standards. Of course, the inclusion of evolution is causing quite a stir. Several newspaper articles, editorials, letters to the editors, online forum posts, etc. have been keeping track of this. The public comment period closes about mid-December. Then the writing committee will make any needed revisions to the draft. Finally, the state board of education will vote on whether to accept the new standards.

That is just the short version of what’s going on. For more details, feel free to browse through this blog’s posts over the past few weeks. Of special note is the concern over the Polk County board of education expressing displeasure over evolution in the standards.

Got all that? Now comes the next steep hill in this fun roller coaster ride. The Florida Baptist Witness has online an editorial by James Smith Sr. In this editorial he complains about evolution being “dogmatic” and believes that there is a real controversy within the scientific community over evolution. He cites the Dissent from Darwin list as supposed proof. (Project Steve is an appropriate counter to that dishonest Dissent list.) Smith doesn’t mind using the Discovery Institute, the public relations machine for the anti-evolution crowd, as his crutch throughout this article. So far there is nothing new or shocking coming from Smith. Unfortunately, his readership might be influenced by his drivel, but that’s his job after all.

But then he reports that he had an e-mail conversation with Florida Board of Education member Donna Callaway. Callaway states quite clearly that she is going to vote against the new standards because of evolution. She’s apparently not advocating actually teaching intelligent design, the Discovery Institute’s creationist Trojan horse. But she does think that students need to be exposed to “other theories” in some way.

“I agree completely that evolution should be taught with all of the research and study that has occurred. However, I believe it should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life,” Callaway told me.

What Smith and Callaway don’t understand is that those other theories of origin of life are not science. There is not even a thimble full of scientific evidence in intelligent design. Cold, hard facts have exposed in a court of law that intelligent design is nothing more than a vehicle for inserting religion into the public school science classroom. Even as a footnote, allowing intelligent design into biology lessons forces children to make a choice. Students are smart. As soon as intelligent design mentions its unspecified “intelligent designer,” kids know that the conversation is about God. That then sends a signal to students that religion is in conflict with science and that they have to pick one or the other. That’s a potential showstopper, turning many students off of science because they are falsely led to believe that the issue is God versus no God. That does a disservice to both religion and science. There are many religions that have no problem at all with accepting evolution.

The common refrain to the steadfast resistance to having intelligent design in the classroom is that evolution is a theory in crisis and can’t stand up to criticism. Yes it can stand up to criticism. It has for about 150 years! Every single scientific theory by its very nature is falsifiable. If it’s not falsifiable, it’s not science. If the intelligent design crowd has the evidence to bring evolution down, then they need to provide the scientific evidence. They won’t do it, though. All of their time is spent on public relations.

Smith and Callaway have a dangerous mindset. It’s obvious they have little understanding of what science is, or they are willfully being deceitful. This is dangerous because Smith has an audience to preach to and Callaway has a vote on the state Board of Education. They can rob students of a proper science education; an education sorely needed in this state. Everyone in this country has a right to freely practice religion, but every student in our public schools also has a right to a good science education that will prepare them for their adult lives in this rapidly changing world.

Although she is not attempting to “arouse controversy,” Callaway told me she is concerned about what’s best for children. “I want an informed public so that when these and other similar decisions are made that affect all of us that they are reflective of how the people feel.”

Science is not about how people feel, Ms. Callaway. It’s about a methodical way of exploring and understanding the natural world around us. Science is about discovering a body of facts, piecing those facts together to hopefully reveal a fuller understanding of what is being studied, and then presenting that work to the scientific community. That community will then pick apart the work, test it, test it again, and test it some more. There is no popularity vote. The work has to stand on its own merits. The “informed public” is best served by learning science in the science classroom. Evolution is science. Intelligent design is not.

A longtime, active member of First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Callaway added, “My hope is that there will be times of prayer throughout Christian homes and churches directed toward this issue. As a SBOE member, I want those prayers. I want God to be part of this. Isn’t that ironic?”

Not at all, as far as I’m concerned. Indeed, Florida Baptists should pray for the State Board of Education — as well as let their opinions be heard on this vital matter.

Be careful what you wish for, Ms. Callaway and Mr. Smith.

22 Responses to “We know what one vote will be now …”

  1. Rasputin Says:

    “I agree completely that evolution should be taught with all of the research and study that has occurred. However, I believe it should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life,” Callaway told me.

    Would it be rude of me to suggest that when she makes a comment along these lines, that someone should point out to her that evolution is not a theory about the origin of life?

  2. Michael Suttkus, II Says:

    Shouldn’t members of the Board of Education be… educated?

    I fully support students learning all the valid scientific alternatives to evolution. I will now list them.

    Did I miss any?

  3. Steve Bohn Says:

    The way science is taught in schools in general is a large contributing factor in this debate. There are no facts in science, just definitions and theories. Look at the development from Newton’s research into gravity which held for more than two hundred years. Then came Einstein, who rewrote a good part of his work, and quantum theory, string theory and God knows what else. But science is taught as immutable law. When I went to school it was well known in scientific circles that the pictures we were shown of the atom were fairy tales with colored balls. That didn’t stop my teachers from preaching it as absolute fact. Someone once said that the world is a verb, not a noun. If that is the case then the study of science is even more so. It was brought up at the recent trial in Tennessee that the rigorous definition of a scientific theory has little to do with the lay understanding of the term as nothing more than a suggestion. Perhaps this squabble will give us pause to consider the bases of the entire curriculum that we force feed our children, to give them the respect that they are able to resolve the seeming black vs white character of the debate into something resembling a gray continuum that better represents the world we inhabit and still only superficially understand.

  4. E. Skyhawk Says:

    It really is absurd and a sign of how inadequate our education is becoming for those who are sitting on “Boards of Education” to actually not understand
    a. what science is or is not.
    b. what a “Theory” in science is
    c. and especially that ID is NOT science!!!

    Any department of education that attempts to add ID to a schools curriculum of science should be required to IMMEDIATELY change the name of their board to the:
    “Department Uf Heducation” and forthwith be required to have the anagram of this department emblazoned on all vehicles, clothing and head wear and to be worn at all times: “D.U.H.”

  5. JR Says:

    Why are there never any Atheists pushing Intelligent Design?

    My HS science class didn’t teach quantum theory and string theory, but the things they did teach certainly weren’t fairy tales like Steve’s, and we were taught the definition of the word ‘theory’ as it relates to Science. Maybe Steve just went to a crappy school.

  6. Josh Krupnick Says:

    As Rasputin said evolution is not a theory about the origin of life. I don’t understand why this misconception is so prevalent among the general public.

    I recently looked through a book called “Many Infallable Truths” which the author claims to have “scientific evidence” that proves the bible to be literally correct. In a chapter about evolution, the book centers it’s entire argument against evolution around the idea that evolutionists claim that life originated spontaneously from a chemical soup. They site the many problems with this, the lack of facts supporting this idea, then conclude that evolutionary theory is wrong. As far as I understand it, evolutionary theory only adreesses how life has developed and changed through time, not it’s origin. That is something we just don’t know yet, right?

    So why does the public seem to think that evolutionary theory holds that life spontaneosly generated in a pre-biotic soup? That is not a part of evolutionary theory as I understand it. Maybe more people would be receptive to teaching evolution if they didn’t have this widely held misconception.

  7. Threads from Henry’s Web » Blog Archive » Of Science, Faith, and Feelings Says:

    […] But that’s not what some people want to do in Florida. There’s James A. Smith, Sr. of the Florida Baptist Witness (HT: Florida Citizens for Science Blog, which also provides a good analysis). In the referenced article, he’s decided to try to take down the scientific story, and thus hopefully leave room for the religious one, which he thinks is incompatible (please remember I’m going to comment on that alleged incompatibility below). He’s even discussed this with someone on the Board of Education who appears prepared to abandon facts and try to make people feel good. […]

  8. Pastor Bill Says:

    Henry Neufeid who wrote the article, “Of Science, Faith and Feelings,” seems like a pretty good old boy, and a man of faith in the Prophets Charles Darwin’s sacred writings. Even though it may feel good, he should know not to use the 98% foolishness anymore, everyone knows that the remaining 2% contain 60,000,000 nucleotide out of sequence, hardly a close match. And besides, the faithful evolutionist want to recognize the apes as human ancestors, not chimpanzees. This type of evidence should be passed on to the FCE for imagination consideration as this facet clearly takes a large measure of faith to believe. .

  9. Josh Krupnick Says:

    Pastor Bob,
    It would be really nice if you would just zip it about this stupid phony “church” you created. It’s garbage.

    If you have nothing to say, then say nothing.

  10. Henry Neufeld Says:

    Pastor Bill,

    First, I would like to point out that my argument is not that Chimpanzees are our direct ancestors, but rather that we share a common ancestor, i.e. are genetically related. I indicated that I was not using an historical sequence in a parenthetical comment in my blog post. For example, one of my scenarios involved God taking a chimpanzee and modifying it into a human, something I do not believe happened. I believe the human species appeared in the same natural manner as every other species.

    Second, on the matter of chimpanzees and apes, let me quote from the site EnchantedLearning.com: “Chimpanzees are great apes that are closely related to humans.”

    Third, perhaps it would be appropriate for you to check yourself against some math standards. No matter how many differences occur in the 2% that is dissimilar in the two genomes, the 98% that is the same will have more. Numbers out of context generally produce nonsense.

  11. Gary F Says:

    This blog post makes the statement:

    “The standards don’t mention the word evolution, instead referring to this important biology concept as simply “changes over time.”’

    I am reviewing the Florida science standards right now, and they do contain the word “evolution”. For example:

    Benchmark SC.912.L.1.10: Discuss the relationship between the evolution of land plants and their anatomy.

    Benchmark SC.912.L.2.1: Explain how evolution is demonstrated by the fossil record, extinction, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, biogeography, molecular biology (crosscuts with earth/space), and observed evolutionary change.

    Benchmark SC.912.L.2.9: Identify basic trends in hominid evolution from early ancestors six million years ago to modern humans.

    Benchmark SC.912.L.2.10: Discuss specific fossils hominids and what they show about human evolution.

    Benchmark SC.912.L.2.13: Discuss other mechanisms of evolutionary change such as genetic drift, gene flow, founder effect.
    There are also benchmarks like this one:

    There was also this benchmark:

    Benchmark SC.912.L.2.7: Express scientific explanations of the origin of life on Earth.

    This seems to indicate that the current science standards aren’t as bad as they are being made out to be, though they are still very much in danger of damage from supporters of intelligent design.

  12. Brandon Haught Says:

    Gary F,

    I’m not sure what you are looking at. I just went to the standards website at http://www.fldoe.org/bii/curriculum/sss/
    I then clicked on the little green dot in the science row and 9-12 grade level column. When that document opened, I did a word search for evolution and came up empty. This is the only thing that comes close:

    understands the mechanisms of change (e.g., mutation and natural selection) that lead to adaptations in a species and their ability to survive naturally in changing conditions and to increase species diversity.

    I then went into the grade level expectations and searched through each grade for the word evolution without luck.

    Can you link to where you got your information?

    Brandon

  13. JLO Says:

    From the outside looking in, it appears that Gary F is reviewing the proposed science standards whilst Brandon Haught is searching thru the current ones.

    Hope that helps.

  14. Florida Citizens for Science » Blog Archive » Callaway and meetings get brief notices Says:

    […] Florida Board of Education member Donna Callaway gets a brief story about her opposition to the new draft science standards in the St. Petersburg Times today. (We already commented on this issue in a post Nov. 30.) State Board of Education member Donna Callaway said she will vote against the proposed new state science standards because evolution “should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life.” Further, she hopes “there will be times of prayer throughout Christian homes and churches directed toward this issue,” according to a Nov. 30 column in the Florida Baptist Witness, a weekly newspaper based in Jacksonville. The board will vote on the new standards early next year. Educators and scientists have generally given them a good review. Callaway is the highest-profile critic to surface since the draft standards were released in October. […]

  15. Prof Mac Says:

    I am an ordained Southern Baptist minister and a scientist with degrees in both theology and science. I am certified to teach both in Florida. Evolution theory is the only widely accepted scholarly explanation of how the universe, and all that it contains, has, does, and will behave. Therefore I am confused as to the “other theories” that provide a widely accepted scientific explanation. Science does not address the who and the Bible does not address the how. From the pulpit I preach that God created the heavens and earth (matter) and all that is therein. In the laboratory I seek answers as to the how. Two different concepts in two different settings; neither concept excludes the other. God created me with an inquiring mind and it would be poor stewardship on my part to not inquire into the universe around me and how it functions. Evolution happens, get over it. Don’t let a word become a stumbling block to knowledge.

  16. John M Says:

    Prof Mac,

    As a fellow Southern Baptist (and youth Sunday school teacher), I disagree that evolutionary theory is compatible with Christian doctrine (especially evangelical doctrine). My reasoning is as follows:

    Evolutionary theory, to my understanding, holds that modern man exists in his present state due to small, beneficial changes in the biological structure of prior organisms (e.g., neanderthals, and others, onwards back to primates). Now clearly, according to evolutionary theory, these prior organisms all perished BEFORE modern man arose. But the Bible teaches that nothing perished before the entry of sin into the world in the Garden of Eden. And, of course, Adam existed (for however long) before he sinned, which implies that Adam could not have arisen from the death of prior organisms (because there was no death). So, in summary, here is the concise contradiction:

    The Bible’s Account: (1) Man exists. (2) Living things die.
    Evolution’s Account: (1) Living things die. (2) Man exists.

    Thus, I hold that it is impossible to subscribe to the fundamental Christian doctrine of sin (and thus, likewise, salvation from it’s effects–death), and evolutionary theory.

  17. Florida Citizens for Science » Blog Archive » I’ll be on the radio Says:

    […] The show’s host, Mark Simpson, originally told me that Polk County school board member Kay Fields would be on with me. But then a few days later Mark said that perhaps state board of education member Donna Callaway would be a guest. Mark phrased the guest list as being “fluid.” […]

  18. Florida Citizens for Science » Blog Archive » Those not in favor of good science education, raise your hand. Says:

    […] 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.) […]

  19. Alan Says:

    RE: What Smith and Callaway don’t understand is that those other theories of origin of life are not science.

    I think they understand this all too well. They may not say so in public, but what they want is to indoctrinate children in the public schools with their sectarian religious theology. They are taking baby steps in that direction.

    It is time for the educated, intelligent segment of socity to fight back. The science standards should explicitly and exactly state what is to be taught: EVOLUTION.

  20. Albert Says:

    Evolution (micro) as changes within the species is well documented fact – but Macro Evolution changes from one species to another has not been proven, observed, or has any evidence at all to show it ever happened or is happening now! To teach something you’re not sure or have any evidence of is a Religion not a Science if you’re going to teach it as a fact and you can’t prove it not science! – If you’re going to teach Macro Evolution teach creation as well! To say teaching evolution in the class will bring up science test scores is absurd! Please teachers teach science and it’s methodology Evolution is just one theory and a flawed one at that! Chemistry and Physics does not need or merit an evolutionary theory to be taught – it’s just a smoke screen to take away or to say that those who believe in a creator or creation are not informed, stupid, etc… Not so! As a Scientist and a Science teacher (15yrs) – I know scientifically the Macro Evolutionary theory is flawed to the point of making and classifying it as a Religion –

  21. Albert Says:

    Don’t be fooled to indoctrinate the children in a religious creator or a scientific theory as a Religion is just the same thing wrapped differently – teach the Truth known scientific truth – not a theory (a partially verified idea) as a Law!

    Oh 1 more thing teach children that there nothing more than advanced apes (without the data or skwed data) and see where they end up – If I’m an ape and it’s survival of the fittest what moral limit can you put on a society why not murder or steal or lie – we’re just apes survival of the fittest nautral selection – Business for the most part has accepted this (theology – theory ology) and see where it has gotten us

  22. S.Scott Says:

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