Florida won!

Florida won! Science education won! Teachers, students, Florida’s future economy, etc. all won! No, it wasn’t a clean victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.

On a vote of 4 to 3 the new state science standards passed, with modifications. Those modifications include the insertion of “scientific theory of” and “law of” throughout the document. We would prefer that there were no edits to the outstanding document created by and reviewed by subject matter experts, but we can definitely live with it.

Votes yes were: Taylor, Raulerson, Fair and Shanahan. Votes no were: Martinez, Callaway and Desai. (Please correct me if I’m wrong on any of these.) However, keep in mind that Martinez voted no because he wanted the standards passed without edits.

Here are a few tidbits for you to chew over:

A group of us stood outside the capitol doors for about an hour waiting to be let in. When we finally got in out of the cold and went downstairs to the meeting room, there was a line of our opposition already there. They had been there for about half an hour! How did they get in? We asked them, and not a single person would give us a straight answer. They would just mumble something about “I was just following him in,” “I don’t know; We just kinda came in” and other nonsense.

Our opposition certainly had a plan. It started when they cried and screamed to have a hearing before the Board. As soon as that was granted, they kicked into full gear. Their 10 speakers all got on board with the “academic freedom” battle cry. They had also obviously worked closely with Board member Callaway ahead of time. When the public comments were over, Callaway continued the “academic freedom” battle cry. I have to tip my hat to them. They had an organized plan. Fortunately, it didn’t work. The whole “academic freedom” junk didn’t get off the ground with the Board and so died a glorious death on the battlefield.

The Discovery Institute, the organization that was obviously behind this “academic freedom” dog and pony show, is whining and crying about their loss. I am usually loath to link to them, but this one was too funny to pass up.

Several of our opposition’s speakers, and some members of the Board tried to make a big point about this not being about religion. What’s funny is that a FCS member sat in the audience in front of woman who, no joke, said amen every single time someone said this wasn’t about religion. Our guy eventually turned to her and said, “I thought this wasn’t about religion.” She didn’t answer him, but did stop saying her amens.

FCS sends out a sincere thanks to all who spoke today before the Board in favor of the standards. You did great! Thanks go out to everyone who supported us in this fight: the National Center for Science Education expertise, other Citizens for Science groups who gave us advice and courage, the FCS membership statewide, and everyone else who wrote letters and such. This was a team effort.

Another very heartfelt thank you goes out to Mr. Martinez. He was definitely fighting the good fight today on the Board. After the meeting I went up to him and gave him a firm handshake and a sincere thank. It looked to me like he needed to hear that encouragement.

We’re not done yet, though. We heard our opposition tell reporters that they might take their “academic freedom” battle cry to the state legislature. We also need to keep in mind all of those people and county school boards that didn’t like having evolution in the science standards. Will they do anything, whether overtly or covertly?

Help us keep an eye out, will ya?

edited to add some news stories:

Bradenton Herald: Pfeilsticker critical of new science standards

The Florida Board of Education’s narrow approval of the state’s new science standards – which includes “scientific theory of evolution” – was a political maneuver meant to appease critics of evolution, said Manatee County School Board Member Jane Pfeilsticker.

Pfeilsticker was one of the 40 science experts and teachers who helped revamp the standards.

“I think it was inappropriate,” Pfeilsticker said today, just hours after the state board approved it. “If there were any revisions to be made, it should come back to writers to be revised. The best I can see it’s a political move to appease some population of constituents.”

Florida Baptist Witness: Board approves science standards with ‘theory’ compromise

Regarding claims by several Board members that the “Nature of Science” section of the standards already provides the opportunity for scientific criticisms of evolution to be considered, [BoE member Donna] Callaway said “good teachers” will do that.

She encouraged teachers to know the standards well and parent organizations should work to ensure students will be exposed to all sides of the debate about evolution.

Kendall told the Witness a legislative remedy will be sought to explicitly provide academic freedom for teachers, noting that none of the teachers, superintendents and school boards she consulted had confidence the “Nature of Science” section of the standards would provide adequate academic freedom.

Sun-Sentinel: Evolution to be taught in state’s public schools

Evolution supporters, including mainstream scientists and clergy, told the board before the 4-3 vote the academic freedom proposal was a wedge designed to open the door for injecting religious arguments into science studies.

“We know what’s going on here,” said board member Roberto “Bobby” Martinez, a Miami lawyer. “What we have here is an effort by people to water down our standards.”

That brought shouts of “no” from the audience. Opponents, including some scientists, denied they have a religious motive. Instead, they argued there are flaws in the theory of evolution and that students should be allowed to explore them.

Jackson County Floridan: Coley pleased with evolution vote

State Rep. Marti Coley (R- Marianna) applauded the decision by the Florida Board of Education Tuesday to approve new science standards that will teach evolution as a scientific theory, not as scientific fact as had been earlier proposed.

Tallahassee Democrat: Divided board approves teaching of evolution as ‘theory’

Board member Roberto Martinez said members were caving in to pressure from fundamentalists who, however they phrased it, wanted to get “creationism” and “intelligent design” into the public schools. But board members Kathleen Shanahan and Linda Taylor said there were other theories – not just religious ones – that students should explore in addition to evolution.

The Gradebook: And the decision is …

What’s next is unclear.

Both sides have threatened lawsuits. And at least three lawmakers – Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park and Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville – have said they may file legislation if the board approves the proposed standards without significant changes.

Lawsuits? What in the heck is that all about? There are tons more stories out there. I don’t have time to link to them all. Feel free to post your favorite ones in the comments.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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42 Responses to Florida won!

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi – looking at the DI article – I think we need to research what they mean by the following language they want inserted into the standards.

    “Students should learn why some scientists give scientific critiques of standard models of neo-Darwinian evolution or models of the chemical origin of life.”

    This is the precise language of their academic freedom attempt. So, to combat it, we need to know what specifically they are referring to – if anything.


  2. PC-Bash says:

    Well, I’m glad that reason prevailed. 🙂

  3. Karl says:

    They are still trying to pass off ID/whatever incarnation of creationism being whipped up as a “scientific critique” of evolution. It’s the same strategy all over again: by introducing a loosely defined term of “scientific critique,” they hope to (again) introduce ID as a scientifically valid critique of evolution based on their own definitions. It’s just another word game engineered by the Discovery Institute to get the proverbial foot in the door.

  4. John Pieret says:

    Heh! Luskin can’t even come up with NEW blather! That whine is just an adaptation of an opinion piece he had in the Lakeland Ledger on Monday:


    And, Jen, throughout this whole fight they have never said what “critiques,” “alternative theories” or “evidence against evolution” they are referring to … and never will.


    The teachers who have drunk the Kool Aid and are willing to teach creationism will know what they mean already. If they say what it is out in the open, it will just make it easier for us to stop them.

  5. Bob Calder says:

    Academic freedom? Do they want their followers to teach things that aren’t actually science in the name of academic freedom?

    Does that mean I can teach auto repair in my information architecture class because automobiles have divine origins?

  6. S.Scott says:

    The Academic Freedom “stuff” is right on the DI’s website (I won’t link to it unless someone asks me to)

    Sooooo easy to prove that this is “Designed” by the DI and that everyone who said it has nothing to do with religion or ID (Donna Callaway) is a LIAR!! No Doubt!

    If you have it copy it to one of your files in case they try to “Disappear” it.

  7. James F says:

    Once they produce a single peer-reviewed research paper that critiques the “standard models” of evolution, they might have a point. Of course, when you base your ideas on supernatural causation, it’s not testable, and thus it’s not science, but philosophy or religion. In other words, there will never be a scientific creationism/ID research paper, so I’m not holding my breath. Callaway, Shanahan, Taylor, et al. either don’t realize this, or they know full well they’re pushing a political and religious agenda.

    Two things are certain, though: FCS and company did a great job, and Florida has vastly improved its science standards.

  8. Karl says:

    I got a chuckle from their declaration that “over 700 scientists” signed a statement refuting evolution as the cause for life’s complexity. Given the DI’s track record at publishing anti-evolution material backed by “scientists” with no actual background in biology, it might as well read “over 700 bus drivers and stock brokers signed a statement agreeing that sewage workers should not get overtime”

  9. James F says:


    My favorite response to this is “Project Steve.” So far, 864 scientists with doctorates named Steve (or Stephanie, etc.) have signed their names in support of a pro-evolution statement. Keep in mind about 1% of the U.S. population is named Steve, and extrapolate from there. 🙂


  10. S.Scott says:

    You know of course that they are going to take this to the state legislature now!

  11. S.Scott says:

    OK everyone – remember this phrase – Academic Freedom does not mean FORCED religion!

  12. James F says:

    You know of course that they are going to take this to the state legislature now!

    Too bad for them about that pesky First Amendment and the Lemon Test. 😀

  13. David Bracht says:

    Is it ironic that Martinez and Desai voted no and were on the winning side?
    I’m wondering if I should email sincere (but in reality, backhanded) thank yous to Raulerson, Shanahan, and Taylor. Where is Fair on the issue? The raw yes and no votes don’t really tell us anything.

  14. S.Scott says:

    If you are interested, you can see the archived meeting here … http://www.fldoe.org/meetings/2008_02_19/meetingArchive.asp

  15. firemancarl says:

    Well of course, they didn’t win and now want to run an end round to get their crap inserted into the schools by their friends in the legislature. I hope enough Dems win and can sink this if it ever comes to pass.

  16. S.Scott says:

    @ firemancarl – I believe I remember reading somewhere, that Se. Wise was planning on bringing this issue up at the Spring Meeting. I believe the date is March 4th – but I’m not quite sure. So we may just have a coup[le of weeks to lobby (e mail like crazy!) all of the state legislators.

  17. James F says:

    At least the BOE decision was met favorably by Reps. Weatherford, Coley, and Cannon, all or most of whom had threatened to initiate legislative action if they were not satisfied with the outcome:


    It will be interesting to see what Sen. Wise’s public reaction will be.

  18. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    The new standards are now online:

    “Click the link below to view a copy (in PDF) of the approved science content standards. The science standards posted here were approved by the State Board of Education on February 19, 2008.”



  19. S.Scott says:

    Thanks Pete!

  20. The constitutionality of calling evolution a “theory” was a big issue in the Selman v. Cobb County evolution-disclaimer textbook sticker case. See —

    The sticker said,

    “Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

    A district court judge ruled that the sticker was unconstitutional. In an oral hearing on the appeal, appeals court judge Ed Carnes told an attorney representing the plaintiffs/appellees,

    “I don’t think y’all can contest any of the sentences. It is a theory, not a fact; the book supports that.”

    — and —

    “Your difficulty is that you’ve got to take something that actually is reflective of the content of this textbook you like so much, and say it violates the First Amendment.”

    Another judge on the panel, Frank Hull, questioned how the federal district court could have found the sticker’s language misleading to biology students when there was no evidence to support that view.

    The appeals court vacated and remanded the lower court’s decision because of missing evidence. A new trial was granted. The Cobb County school board took a dive, settling out of court.

  21. S.Scott says:

    The REASON it is unconstitutional LARRY is because evolution was “singled out” among ALL of the scientific theories.

  22. firemancarl says:

    Oh no S.Scott,

    Larry knows all. Just think of the amazing advances in science we can have with ID being taught instead of “real” science. I mean heck, we might just get lucky enough to have someone wave some sticks or a bag of bones over our injury and cure us!

  23. PC-Bash says:

    Yeah, and he’ll use Schwarzenegger quotes to “prove” it. 😉

  24. S.Scott says:


  25. Karl says:

    If the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial has proved anything, it’s that motive can be a deciding factor despite all efforts to make the language as “religiously neutral” as possible. No matter how many biologists/scientists/landscapers the Discovery Institute bribes/coerces into making anti-evolution statements, the fact that this religious lobbying group is behind these efforts will automatically sink their case in a court of law.

    Interesting fact: Larry really has it in for Judge Jones over the Dover trial. Like most fundie anti-evolution mouthpieces, he can’t go about saying that he disagrees because of his personal faith, but instead, goes on to cite procedural errors and the very legal mechanisms (lemon test, etc) used to determine the unconstitutionality of religious anti-evolution efforts.

  26. S.Scott says:

    Yes – I have noticed that he would rather debate law instead of science.

  27. firemancarl says:


    Say it ain’t so! A fundie admiting something? Why what would the other fundies do if their scheme got out to the public. No, better to cite errors like failure to place a period at the end of a sentance than admit religious motivation.

  28. S.Scott says:

    I have just been doing more research and wanted to share…


    Academic Freedom Petition
    In February 2008, the Discovery Institute announced that it is “helping to sponsor” the Academic Freedom Petition,[50] the website of which is registered by Brian Gage Design[51] which lists the Discovery Institute as one of its clients.[52] The petition states:

    We, the undersigned American citizens, urge the adoption of policies by our nation’s academic institutions to ensure teacher and student academic freedom to discuss the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution. Teachers should be protected from being fired, harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for objectively presenting the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory. Students should be protected from being harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for expressing their views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory in an appropriate manner.[53]

    The petition website lists Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute, as the contact person for questions on the parallel Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution that the website offers.[54]

  29. James F says:

    Does this mean that the Discovery Institute has transitioned from “teach the controversy” to “strengths and weaknesses?” I propose “tstrengths and weaknessestroversy.”

  30. PC-Bash says:

    It is evident that they are struggling for relevance. They have to change their strategy almost daily. The world appears to be moving beyond them, as it should have done shortly after the insanity of the Scopes trial.

  31. firemancarl says:

    Actually, this is pretty damn good. PZ Myers pointed out in his blog that because the fundies got “Theory of” in the new standards, the school kids will get to learn WHAT A SCIENTIFIC THEORY really is ! Just think, kids will be able to tell the difference in layman theory and scientific theory! Way to go fundies! This would not have been possible without your support!

  32. Karl says:

    Hopefully, the Discovery Institute will end up with so many different “pet causes” that their conservative fanbase splinters into many different factions. Some infighting between these factions would be ideal as well.

    The best case scenario would be to force the Discovery Institute into fabricating a new theory so far removed from biblical scripture (but still pseudoscience garbage as I wouldn’t expect anything more) that they lose their fundie fanbase entirely. I call this tactic

    “The Split Strategy” (TM/Copyright/Patent Pending).

    It’s very simple: Consider the Discovery Institute and the fundie/anti-science community as distinct “breeds” of the same genus and species. Force the Discovery Institute to “evolve” through selective environmental (legal) pressure until the changes would classify them as an entirely new species incapable of “relating” back to the fundie/anti-science community. To do this, the amount of legal action the Discovery Institute’s efforts must exceed the rate of the fundie/anti-science community’s willingness to accept the changes in interpretation of their faith. We are already at the “we can’t have any mention of God but we know it’s implied” phase, so it’s a simple matter of breaking the limit of what these religious zealots are willing to sacrifice in terms of faith by forcing the Discovery Institute to continuously create and abandon new pseudoscience theory before a significant portion of the fundie/anti-science community has time to swallow, process, accept, and rally behind it.

  33. Noodlicious says:

    From a reference on that Wiki link….

    [version: 9/7/2007]

    “This bill would expressly provide rights and protection for teachers concerning scientific presentations on views regarding biological and chemical evolution and students concerning their positions on views regarding biological and chemical evolution….”

    “If you have questions please e-mail Casey Luskin, cluskin@discovery.org, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute.”

  34. Noodlicious says:

    Left a bit off back there
    “BE IT ENACTED BY ____________:
    Section 1. This law shall be known as the “Academic Freedom Act.”
    Section 2. The Legislature finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of teachers identified by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories. The Legislature further finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of students to hold a position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution.”

    Notice the date….. 9/7/2007


  35. “The Legislature further finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of students to hold a position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution.”

    The existing law also doesn’t protect the right of students to hold a position on views regarding the Seminoles or the Gators.

  36. Wade says:

    The Florida Baptist is reporting that House Speaker Rubio might support legislation supporting academic freedom. I guess citizens for science will have to keep fighting. See article here http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/8463.article

  37. PC-Bash says:

    Wade –

    It will be a never-ending battle between the ignorant and the rational. If this move doesn’t work, the next move for the creationists will be to make a state amendment change, so the vote can go to the public. Yeah… the public deciding what should be taught in the science classroom. That is a scary thought indeed.

  38. Noodlicious says:

    “present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories. The Legislature further finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of students to hold a position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution.”

    Why single out evolution? By the same *logic* shouldn’t teachers and students have the academic freedom to hold a position on other areas as well? Shall we say “Abstinance Only” sex education or how about scientific critiques of certain religous beliefs and Holy books? Would teachers, under “Academic Freedom” be protected if they were to teach students of the evidence and massive worldwide support for His Noodliness, the FSM as the creator of all biodiversity? I certainly hope so! Let’s not see any discrimination on the basis of beliefs!

  39. Noodlicious says:

    Oh oh… I know… how about academic freedom to seriously critique those IDeas which have been proposed by certain religious sects as alternatives to evolution?

  40. PC-Bash says:

    Noodlicious –

    Indeed. Next up will be sex education. After all, we can’t teach children about conception, because that might discredit the “virgin birth”. Chemistry also violates “academic freedom” — it might discredit Moses turning water to wine, “transubstantiation”, etc. Physics could discredit walking on water, or burning bushes.

    The ignorance of these folks makes us all collectively dumber as a society. It just gives the rest of the world something else to laugh about.

  41. Glenn Branch posted at Beacon Broadside today about the change of standards in Florida, and he links back here.

    A New Standard in Florida

  42. S.Scott says:

    Hee HeeHee! – I love the kitty cat with the citrus on it’s head! LOL!

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