Breathtaking inanity

I’m embarrassed.

Sure, the Taylor County school board was apparently the first to pass a resolution complaining about evolution (previous post here), but they’re not the only one.

Two more counties passed resolutions, too: Baker County and Holmes County.

The Baker County board meeting minutes from Dec. 17 say on page three:

Approval of the Resolution Urging State Board of Education to Direct Florida Department of Education to Revise the New Sunshine State Standards for Science Such That Evolution is Not Presented as Fact.

Chairperson Weeks entertained a motion from the Board on this agenda item. As recommended by Superintendent Barton, Dean Griffis made a motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Dwight Crews. Karen McCollum read the resolution. The motion carried 5-0.

The local paper, The Standard, reported on the meeting back on Dec. 26.

First and foremost, the School Board looked into seeking a resolution that would urge the State Board of Education to direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for science such that evolution is not presented as fact.

“We contend based on the resolution that evolution is a theory, but is not the fundamental underlying concept,” said Superintendent Paula Barton. If the state were to approve the standards as proposed, then some students of this community would have to believe as fact laws that directly disagree with their faith.

The board approved to have the resolution sent to the State Board of Education.

I don’t have a copy of the resolution itself. If anyone can help me dig it up, I would appreciate it. Updated Jan. 10: I now have a copy of the resolution and have uploaded it here.
The minutes from Holmes County’s Dec. 18 board meeting is not up on their website yet, but the Holmes County Times-Advertiser newspaper reported on the meeting in this Dec. 24 story.

“The Holmes County School Board recognizes the importance of providing a thorough and comprehensive science education to all the students in Holmes County and to all students in the state of Florida, it recognizes as even more important the need to present these standards through a fair and balanced approach, an approach that does not unfairly exclude other theories as to the creation of the universe.”

Referring to the state’s new science standards, Board Chairman Vernon Lewis said, “It’s pretty much a done deal, but I choose to fight. I ask the public to do the same thing.”
Board Member Jason Motley said, “Science is not a fact. There’s always that percentage that it could be wrong.”

Hat tip to The Gradebook for the Baker County one. I discovered Holmes County on my own by playing around with search terms in Google and Yahoo.

Both counties have been added to our growing list of Florida education decision makers who have gone public with their opposition to evolution or their desire to see evolution diluted with “other theories” and such.

18 Responses to “Breathtaking inanity”

  1. Bad Says:

    It’s almost hard to believe that these people were so ignorant of what they were talking about that they called evolution a theory of how the universe began. Perhaps only those who could actually pass the science standards with better than an F should be commenting on whether or not they are appropriate.

  2. Radio Head Says:

    Sadly, Superintendents in Florida are not required to have any education training and are often politically connected or even representatives of teacher union factions who are at war for control of resources. So it’s all about massaging political factions to get ahead and then protect your job–it’s subject to an annual review vote of the board. Sad to see ignorance rewarded, and hope it doesn’t do permanent harm to the reasoning abilities of adolescents used as pawns in these games.

  3. The Man Says:

    Yet another boo hoo about evolution not being accepted as fact. Well it’ because it isn’t fact it’s a theory. And another interesting point for all of you who keep this nonsense going : Charles Darwin converted to christianity a couple months before he died and he donated his remaining fortune to a church. Another point is that all of these people who claim to be creationists don’t follow the teachings correctly and smear religon. You will all have to face God not long from now and I hope you’re prepared to deal with the consequences of discrediting his existence and making excuses for not changing for the better. We all have to face the truth one day…..

  4. S.Scott Says:

    ” Charles Darwin converted to christianity a couple months before he died and he donated his remaining fortune to a church.” – – –
    What’s THAT got to do with the price of beans? Are you saying that you can’t be a Christian and accept evolution?
    “You will all have to face God not long from now and I hope you’re prepared to deal with the consequences of discrediting his existence and making excuses for not changing for the better. We all have to face the truth one day….. ” – – – –
    You are obviously a religious fanatic – no better than “al-Qaida”.

  5. Asa Says:

    The Man … yes, we will all have to face the truth one day. The difference between those of us who support the theory of evolution and those who support creationism is that we have decided to face it while we’re still alive. You see, what you’ve conveniently decided to forget (assuming you were paying any attention in grade school science class) is when you are talking about a scientific theory, the word theory does NOT mean an unsubstantiated guess or hunch … “A theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a related set of natural or social phenomena. It originates from or is supported by experimental evidence.” (from wiki) In case that had too many big words for you, a scientific theory IS BASED ON OBSERVABLE FACTS.

    We have nothing against Christians or Christianity, the minute you can provide *any* evidence that a “higher being” created the universe we’ll accept it as a theory to be taught alongside of evolution. Until then, I’ll treat it as an equal to the Pastafarian belief that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created everything.

    Accept the truth now, figure it out after you’re dead, doesn’t matter to me … just STOP trying to pimp your beliefs on everyone else.

  6. Casey S Says:

    Here is my e-mail to Mark Southerland and the response I got from him, who is on the School Board of Taylor County. It is amazing how using ALL CAPS is an obvious indicator of a creationist.

    Dear Sir

    I am currently a teaching assistant and research assistant at the University of Florida working on my PhD in a science related field and I have a BS in Biology. While it is disheartening for me to have to educate people who are tasked with the important job of creating teaching standards for our vulnerable children, it appears this is necessary. Firstly, your description of evolution as a theory of how the universe is formed, immediately elucidates your ignorance of the issue and forces anyone reading the resolution to think you are arguing from ignorance. While it is tempting to dismiss your conflation of how the billions of suns and planets formed with how species have changed over time and thus conclude your entire argument is false, I will flatter you and continue. You are correct that evolution is considered a Scientific Theory but in scientific terms a Theory is used in a much different manner than in common parlance, where it means just a hunch, or an idea that needs testing. Evolution was initially a hypothesis, which is roughly equivalent to the common usage of the word hunch. His hypothesis has gone through decades of testing from many independent trials and lines of evidence (genetics, the fossil record). During the period of discovery, If ONE single piece of evidence could accurately discredit evolution, the whole theory would have to be dropped as false and scientists would move on trying to find another way to explain the transitions in the fossil record and the genetics and similarities of living forms, but the question would still be there. But during this period of discovery these lines of evidence have thoroughly and confidently strengthened Darwin’s hypothesis more than Darwin could have ever dreamed of. Therefore, Darwin’s hypothesis got elevated to the status of Theory, the final resting place. Because you see, a Scientific Theory is stronger than mere facts, a theory explains a whole suite of facts and thus is much more powerful than the individual and dry facts. The same is true of the Theory of Gravity and the Theory of Plate tectonics. Perhaps I am wasting my time explaining the science, from your mischaracterization of evolutionary theory it becomes apparent that you are more interested in what you perceive are the implications of the theory on your religious and spiritual beliefs. On that issue, I don’t have much to say except to mention, do you think it is fair to force your students to be blinded by your personal religious and spiritual objections. If you truly cared about your students, you would understand that they are going to be competing for jobs and continuing the great American project of industry, technology and scientific advancement. As a current teacher who was educated in another state, I have noticed that the students of Florida have a lot of catching up to do in many areas. If we truly care about our children, that would be our highest priority rather than promoting our own idiosyncratic religious beliefs.

    His response

    LETS SEE NOW, YOU ARE A TEACHING ASSISTANT AND I CAN RESPECT YOUR OPINION, WHICH I DO NOT AGREE WITH- YOU MAY WANT TO CHECK OUT THIS WEB SITE – http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/bios/ AND SEE HOW MANY SCIENTISTS DISAGREE WITH YOU-CHECK IT OUT YOU MAY START HAVING SOME OTHER VIEWS ON THIS SUBJECT-HOWEVER I WILL NOT CALL YOU AN IDIOT OR IGNORANT EVEN THOUGH I BELIEVE YOU MAY WELL BE. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME, MARK SOUTHERLAND-SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER DISTRICT ONE- TAYLOR COUNTY FLORIDA.

  7. cs Says:

    evolution is a theory. not fact. those are two different things.

    i believe that both should be taught side by side as the two most accepted theories in the world. school is about preparing student for the world around them. a world where people believe many different things. explain to them what people believe. this can be done without calling the information true or false.

  8. S.Scott Says:

    Maybe Brandon can get “MARK SOUTHERLAND-SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER DISTRICT ONE- TAYLOR COUNTY FLORIDA. “‘s response printed in the newspapers!!! OMG!!! What an idiot!

  9. admar5 Says:

    Sorry Casey S,

    I think you used to many words for the man – creationists simply cannot pay attention that long!

    The great thing about evolution is it will happen whether you believe in it or not!

  10. Brandon Haught Says:

    I tend not to use annotations like LOL and such … but Mr. Southerland’s response really did make me LOL.

    WILL NOT CALL YOU AN IDIOT OR IGNORANT EVEN THOUGH I BELIEVE YOU MAY WELL BE.

    Classic. “I won’t call you an idiot, but you are.” And he’s a school board member? I pity the school kids in this district.

  11. Casey S Says:

    I can post the full e-mail with header information, or some other means to verify this if anybody is interested. I was expecting a typical diplomatic letter that you receive from politicians and I was surprised to see his unprofessional response. This e-mail reminded me largely of the quotes from the Dover School Board that exposed them as creationists, that was so devastating in that court case. Hopefully the state school board will accept the standards as is and this letter won’t have to be used as any sort of evidence.

  12. S. Scott Says:

    Casey – Did he send that e mail to you using his county e mail??

  13. Casey S Says:

    Nope, unfortunately he was smart enough to switch e-mail accounts. I sent it to his county e-mail but he responded from a gtnet.com account.

  14. S. Scott Says:

    Ugh … !

  15. S. Scott Says:

    OK … Well if he sent it to you – it makes it your property, doesn’t it?

  16. S. Scott Says:

    Casey – from Panda’s Thumb ..http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/12/noodled-evoluti.html#new-comments
    Bill Gascoyne said:
    Did Mr. Southerland give permission for his response (such as it is) to be published? While it’s often tempting, we need to be mindful of sinking to their level.

    Comment #139800 on January 10, 2008 12:15 PM | Quote
    KL said:
    Unbelievable. I wrote a letter to one of the state board members (I don’t live in FL now but will soon, and I own property and pay county taxes there) I hope I get a better response than that.

    Comment #139802 on January 10, 2008 12:25 PM | Quote
    Nigel D said:
    Stacy S. Wrote:
    Mark Southerland Wrote:
    HOWEVER I WILL NOT CALL YOU AN IDIOT OR IGNORANT EVEN THOUGH I BELIEVE YOU MAY WELL BE.

    Wow. I had not previously realised it was possible to simultaneously call someone an idiot and not call them an idiot in the same sentence.

    Why is this person allowed to have any say in the education of other people’s children?

    Comment #139804 on January 10, 2008 12:47 PM | Quote
    Stacy S. said:
    I agree Nigel – it’s scary! … Just to be clear – Casey S. does not equal Stacy S. I pulled that off of the http://www.flascience.org/wp/ website. Stacy

    Comment #139805 on January 10, 2008 12:52 PM | Quote
    Ravilyn Sanders said:
    Bill Gascoyne: Did Mr. Southerland give permission for his response (such as it is) to be published? While it’s often tempting, we need to be mindful of sinking to their level.

    The email is the property of the recipient. Stacy does not need permission from the sender to publish it. She could submit that email as evidence that the objection from that school board is religiously motivated and move to have the resolution of that district to be excluded from consideration by the state board. (usual disclaimers IANAL etc)

    Comment #139807 on January 10, 2008 1:07 PM | Quote
    Stacy S. said:
    Ravilyn Sanders:

    The email is the property of the recipient. Stacy does not need permission from the sender to publish it. She could submit that email as evidence that the objection from that school board is religiously motivated and move to have the resolution of that district to be excluded from consideration by the state board. (usual disclaimers IANAL etc)

    That’s what I think. Except that he didn’t send it to me … was sent to Casey. I’m talking to Casey right now.

    Comment #139810 on January 10, 2008 1:24 PM | Quote

  17. Spirula Says:

    evolution is a theory. not fact.

    Wrong. It is a scientific theory, and a scientific fact. Did you ever get a flu shot? Did you ever wonder why it changes every year (assuming you knew it did)?

    school is about preparing student for the world around them. a world where people believe many different things. explain to them what people believe. this can be done without calling the information true or false.

    Fine. But biology is a science class, not a philosophy or mythology class. If you want to teach creation mythology, there are other classes where you can do that.

    You will all have to face God not long from now and I hope you’re prepared to deal with the consequences of discrediting his existence and making excuses for not changing for the better.

    Hmmm. So now evolution is theological in nature too? Who knew? Certainly not Pope John Paul II, who advocated the theory of evolution. Nor a number of Christians I have worked who were evolutionists too.

    Charles Darwin converted to christianity a couple months before he died

    Wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Hope

    But why let truth get in the way of a good story.

    Geez “the Man”, even your buds at answers in genesis have admitted that account was false.

    You should get out more.

  18. Suricou Raven Says:

    To reject evolution means ignoring a vast body of evidence supporting it – the fossil record, comparative anatomy and taxonomy, molecular biology and genetics. The ties of evolution are so clear, it is possible to calculate how long ago two species split by examining mutations in non-coding DNA and comparing.

    In comparison, the only evidence creationists can offer is some worthless pseudoscience and the assurance that if you dont accept their nonsense you cant be a real christian and will go to hell. The only effective argument they have is to create the false impression that faith and science are mutually exclusive – and I mean effective in its ability to convince, not in being logically sound.

    Dont expect this to end with evolution: The next stage will be to stop teaching real geology and cosmology because it conflicts with the creationist view that the universe is only six thousand years old. They have to come up with some really convoluted science to get round the starlight problem, but it can be done when nonfalsifyable hypothosis are considered a satisfactory answer.