I was looking forward to being a guest on the Intersection radio program tomorrow (WMFE, 6:30 p.m., link to previous post). The possible other guests included Polk County school board member Kay Fields and state Board of Education member Donna Callaway. I was looking forward to an interesting conversation with these public education decision makers. I knew that religion would probably be a subject that would come up, but I was hoping to keep such discussion to a minimum and instead focus on science and science education. Unfortunately, it looks like these folks declined invitations to be on the show.
But now I found out that I’ve been paired up with Rev. John Butler Book of Maitland. If mentions of him on the Internet are any indication, the man is a fire and brimstone type. I am still looking forward to doing the program, but my expectations of what kind of discourse there will be has gone way down. I can only hope this doesn’t turn into some type of Bill O’Reilly-style shouting match.
Evolution education has long been controversial, most recently in Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The debate, made famous by the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, once focused on whether schools should teach the biblical version of creation — that all living things were created fully formed by God — or that they evolved, as described by Charles Darwin.
In recent years, some have pushed for teaching “intelligent design,” which holds that aspects of living things are best explained by “an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.” Others have pushed for teaching that the theory of evolution does not fully explain the origins of life.
Fred Cutting, a retired engineer in Clearwater who served on the standards committee, wanted the new document to reflect that latter view and to let students know that scientists do not yet have all the answers.
“If you want students to understand the theory, they have to understand the pros and cons,” he said, adding that the draft presented too “cut-and-dried” a view of evolution.
Proposed standards for seventh-graders, for example, would require that students should be able to “recognize and describe that fossil evidence is consistent with the idea that human beings evolved from earlier species.”
Orange County-based TV evangelist John Butler Book took a harder line.
“Evolution is an educated guess,” Book said. “. . . That we came from an ape is absolutely ridiculous.”
— Orlando Sentinel October 20, 2007