News Release: “Academic Freedom” bills needless and treacherous

The following press release has been sent out. Our media page is available for any interested reporters.

SO-CALLED “ACADEMIC FREEDOM” BILLS ARE NEEDLESS AND TREACHEROUS

Senate bill 2692, “evolution academic freedom act” will be going before the Judiciary committee Tuesday. The Senate bill and its companion House bill are raising serious concerns among Florida educators, scientists and parents. The senate bill’s recent easy passage through the Pre-K – 12 committee is alarming due to the bill’s questionable purpose, likelihood for lawsuits, and the potential it has for disrupting sound science education.

New state science standards already encourage questioning

The bills serve no secular, academic purpose. Freedom of academic inquiry is already provided for in the new state science standards, approved by the Florida Board of Education in February. The Pre-K – 12 committee’s own bill analysis, prepared in advance of the meeting, clearly highlighted this fact. The bill proponents’ call for “academic freedom” is a political ploy that attempts to paint anyone in opposition to it as un-American and against education. Academic freedom, as commonly used and understood, does not apply to the public school classroom, but rather applies to university level research. Students in high school are certainly not doing cutting-edge research. Instead, they’re learning what real researchers have discovered so that one day these students can then explore their own new frontiers.

“K-12 students are already learning about all of science through inquiry-based instruction where they always must ask: ‘what is the evidence to support that information and how do scientists obtain it?'” said Mary Bahr, Marion County middle school science teacher and one of the writers of the new state science standards. “This already opens up everything taught to questioning by both teachers and students, while teaching the nature of science and science content together. Not only is this an exceptional teaching method for science, it’s a lot of fun!”

These bills would encourage irresponsibility when classroom instruction incorporates materials without accountability, treating them as having comparable credibility with those of the legitimate science curriculum.

“The bills would make science education less uniform and standardized between districts,” said Joe Wolf, Winter Haven resident and president of Florida Citizens for Science. “Science is science, whether in Valrico or Miami; and Valrico students need to compete in the same global information economy as students from Miami, New York City, or Tokyo. That’s why the state has new uniform science standards, which were widely praised by scientists.”

Expensive lawsuits would draw unwelcome attention

These bills, if approved, will eventually invite expensive lawsuits during a time when our state is in a financial crisis. An ACLU representative who spoke at the Pre-K – 12 committee’s meeting warned the legislators about this. Ignoring such a warning is irresponsible and does not serve the public’s or Florida students’ best interests. Sen. Ronda Storms, who introduced the Senate bill, is quoted in the St. Petersburg Times on March 11: “Under this bill, if you have a teacher who is pro-evolution and every student is intelligent design … that teacher is safe to teach that as a theory.”

Rep. D. Alan Hays hosted an embarrassing event in early March with a representative from the Seattle, Wash.-based Discovery Institute and the star and production team from a grossly anti-science tirade film. The film, which was screened for Florida state legislators but closed to the public and media, explicitly and deplorably tries to blame the Holocaust on evolution. Furthermore, the proposed bills are clearly modeled on one provided by the Discovery Institute, an organization reliably documented as having as one of its goals: “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

The Discovery Institute has vocally advocated intelligent design, trying to pass it off as real science. The teaching of intelligent design was shut down during an expensive court case in Dover, Pa., resulting in intense international media scrutiny. Intelligent design was found to be strongly linked to its creationist predecessors, devoid of anything scientific and thus ruled unconstitutional on church-state separation grounds. Even more specifically–and particularly relevant to Florida–is that the “evidence against evolution” form of Intelligent Design was already considered in a court of law and found to be unconstitutionally religious.

Bills’ supporters demonstrate science ignorance

It certainly stretches credibility to listen to Storms and Hays with the above verifiable information in mind and then later believe them when they claim the bills have nothing to do with intelligent design or religion. Their bills have a highly suspect purpose. Neither Storms nor Hays have offered any credible examples of scientific challenges to evolution. As a matter of fact, Hays has gone on record displaying what can’t be termed as anything other than complete ignorance of evolution when he is quoted in the St. Petersburg Times on March 6 as saying: “No one yet has found a half-animal of this or a half-insect of that. And they certainly haven’t found any half ape and half man.”

It’s outrageous that any lawmaker would so grossly misrepresent the fundamental concept that underlies all of the life sciences, and yet introduce a bill that directly affects that subject. As outlined above, these bills will invite expensive, embarrassing lawsuits, disrupt the classroom, and undermine the approved state science standards. Legislators need to discard these troublemaking bills and move on to other more important matters.

“Our kids are going to be caught in the crossfire of this senseless political grandstanding,” said Brandon Haught, Florida Citizens for Science board member and father of two public school students in Eustis.

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24 Responses to “News Release: “Academic Freedom” bills needless and treacherous”

  1. Pete Dunkelberg Says:

    Let’s have links to the bill

    history
    history of SB 2692

    html page for the bill

    pdf of the bill

    When writing to any legislators I suggest referring to the bill as Senator Storms’ bill. or Senator Storms’ evolution bill.

    Senator Storms has a reputation. Legislators and representatives alike may know where they stand just from hearing her name, and those on the fence will not be so surprised to hear of the bill’s unfortunate associations and probable impact.

    Pete

  2. firemancarl Says:

    Oh the irony . Someone named Storms is causing a storm.

  3. Larry Fafarman Says:

    –“These bills, if approved, will eventually invite expensive lawsuits during a time when our state is in a financial crisis. “–

    What would be the grounds for such a lawsuit? Please be specific.

    The original attorney fee award to the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, which was a big, long trial, was a little over $2 million (the parties settled for $1 million). This is peanuts for a big state like Florida — and if Florida wins, Florida does not have to pay.

    –“The film, which was screened for Florida state legislators but closed to the public and media, explicitly and deplorably tries to blame the Holocaust on evolution. “–

    IMO that part of the movie was just kind of a joke — Darwinism’s influence on Nazism has nothing to do with Darwinism’s scientific merits.

    –“Neither Storms nor Hays have offered any credible examples of scientific challenges to evolution.”–

    The issue is not just alternative theories — there are also the weaknesses of Darwinism.

    –“The teaching of intelligent design was shut down during an expensive court case in Dover, Pa., resulting in intense international media scrutiny.”–

    Kitzmiller v. Dover is one of the most discredited decisions in American history. For example, Judge Jones let the ACLU ghost-write the ID-as-science section of the opinion. And Judge Jones showed extreme prejudice against the defendants — regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept — by saying in a Dickinson College commencement speech that his decision was based on his notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions. He said,

    “. . .this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state. — from
    http://www.dickinson.edu/commencement/2006/address.html

    –“It’s outrageous that any lawmaker would so grossly misrepresent the fundamental concept that underlies all of the life sciences “–

    Darwinism does not underlie all of the life sciences. If that were true, students could not study biology without studying Darwinism.

    –“Our kids are going to be caught in the crossfire of this senseless political grandstanding,” “–

    My heart bleeds for the poor kiddies.

  4. PC-Bash Says:

    The original attorney fee award to the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, which was a big, long trial, was a little over $2 million (the parties settled for $1 million). This is peanuts for a big state like Florida — and if Florida wins, Florida does not have to pay.

    A “big state” with a major budget crisis. This is one of those situations in which you cannot have any idea of what you’re talking about, since you live on the opposite coast of the US.

    IMO that part of the movie was just kind of a joke — Darwinism’s influence on Nazism has nothing to do with Darwinism’s scientific merits.

    Actually, the sad thing is that it wasn’t. Ben Stein used his terrible acting skills to “break down” in tears, to try to drive the point home. I nearly got lynched in the screening, because this part of the movie was so ridiculous that I burst out laughing. This was supposed to be a serious point in the movie.

    Of course, we won’t go into how Christianity had a much stronger influence on the holocaust than evolution ever did…

    The issue is not just alternative theories — there are also the weaknesses of Darwinism.

    What scientific challenges would these be? The state congressmen in support of this bill have remained silent on this. You’d think they could provide just one example of either an alternate scientific theory or a valid scientific criticism..

    by saying in a Dickinson College commencement speech that his decision was based on his notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions.

    Which, unfortunately for the point you are trying to make here, is absolutely true. The vast majority of the founders were Deists and were against organized religion. They saw the rampant corruption in the various churches, and agreed that churches would not have the state sanctioned power that they did previously in the colonies, or that they enjoyed in England. I know you have a lot of alternate history that you enjoy to read, but you might want to try cracking open an actual book on history sometime. You might be surprised in what you learn. This period in history happens to be one of my favorites.

    If that were true, students could not study biology without studying Darwinism.

    They can’t. Modern biology cannot be separated from evolution.

  5. PC-Bash Says:

    Pop Quiz, Larry.

    1. Who said the following: “If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both here (England) and in New England.” –and– “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”
    a) Alexander Graham Bell
    b) Richard Dawkins
    c) Adolf Hitler
    d) Benjamin Franklin

    2. Who said the following: “Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.”
    a) Karl Marx
    b) George W. Bush
    c) Thomas Paine
    d) James Tiberius Kirk

    3. Who said the following: “It was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to vote for me because I belonged to no church, and was suspected of being a Deist.” –and– “The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.”
    a) Hilary Clinton
    b) Abraham Lincoln
    c) Douglas Adams
    d) John Paul Jones

    4. Who said the following: “What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”
    a) James Madison
    b) John Hancock
    c) both
    d) neither

    5. Who said the following: “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot … they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose.” — and — “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”
    a) Joseph Stalin
    b) John Lennon
    c) Thomas Jefferson
    d) Paul McCartney

    I think Jones was right on track.

  6. Larry Fafarman Says:

    –” A “big state” with a major budget crisis.”–

    $1 million is a drop in the ocean for Florida. That is a phony argument and you know it. It is obvious that the threat of plaintiffs’ attorney fee awards in establishment clause lawsuits is discouraging governments from doing things that the courts might find to be constitutional. These attorney fee awards need to be abolished or capped. Anyway, I asked what grounds there would be for a lawsuit and you didn’t answer.

    –“Ben Stein used his terrible acting skills to ‘break down’ in tears,”–

    That’s hilarious. The Anti-Defamation League is going to shit a brick — see
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/04/movie-tells-adl-to-go-to-hell.html
    — and —
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/03/movies-darwin-to-hitler-theme-and-adl.html

    –“What scientific challenges would these be? The state congressmen in support of this bill have remained silent on this. “–

    Well, maybe the only challenge they know of is Intelligent Design, and they were afraid to mention it because of that asinine Dover decision. There are of course many non-ID scientific challenges to evolution.
    I presented one non-ID challenge myself on this blog, co-evolution.

    –“Which, unfortunately for the point you are trying to make here, is absolutely true. The vast majority of the founders were Deists and were against organized religion.”–

    And unfortunately for you and Judge Jones, he was obligated to be neutral towards organized religion and he was not. See http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/03/views-about-judge-jones-true-religion.html
    Furthermore, Jones’ “true religion” argument is not consistent with Supreme Court precedent.

    Anyway, I say to hell with the goddam Founders. They were a bunch of stupid dimwits. They did not even have the foresight to write the Constitution in a way that would have prevented the Civil War. So why in the hell should we listen to anything that they said.

  7. S.Scott Says:

    Welcome back Larry – I think we missed you!

    After you are done with the quiz – take a look at this …

    You said:

    The issue is not just alternative theories — there are also the weaknesses of Darwinism.

    … and here is a little piece of the “Nature of Science” portion of the newly passed state science standards.

    – Take great care to look at section “C”.

    BODY OF KNOWLEDGE: Nature of Science
    Standard: The Practice of Science –
    A: Scientific inquiry is a multifaceted activity; The processes of science include the formulation of scientifically investigable questions, construction of investigations into those questions, the collection of appropriate data, the evaluation of the meaning of those data, and the communication of this evaluation.

    B: The processes of science frequently do not correspond to the traditional portrayal of “the scientific method.”

    C: Scientific argumentation is a necessary part of scientific inquiry and plays an important role in the generation and validation of scientific knowledge.

    D: Scientific knowledge is based on observation and inference; it is important to recognize that these are very different things. Not only does science require creativity in its methods and processes, but also in its questions and explanations.

    Date Adopted or Revised: 02/08
    Status: State Board Approved

    Now, please tell me what the purpose of the “Academic Freedom Bill” is?

  8. Larry Fafarman Says:

    PC-Bash said,
    –“Pop Quiz, Larry.

    – – – – – – – –

    I think Jones was right on track.”–

    Here’s a pop quiz for you —

    Who said,
    “Nor does the Constitution require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”

    (a) Supreme Court
    (b) Supreme Court
    (c) Supreme Court
    (d) Judge Jones

    You and Judge Jones are so full of living crap that it is coming out your ears.

    S. Scott said,
    –“Now, please tell me what the purpose of the “Academic Freedom Bill” is? “–

    Section C is not specific enough nor worded strongly enough. The Academic Freedom Bill is needed to counteract the intimidating effect of that asinine Kitzmiller v. Dover decision.

  9. S.Scott Says:

    Larry, What about Florida’s proposed “Academic Freedom” bill is better than “Section C”. And not redundant.

    Please be specific.

  10. PC-Bash Says:

    What’s the matter Larry? Was the quiz too hard for you?

    I’ll give you the answer key: DCBAC.

    Even George Washington was in support of the separation of Church and State. The evangelical founding father myth is just that, a myth.

  11. PC-Bash Says:

    You… are so full of living crap that it is coming out your ears.

    My ears, you say? Did you learn about this condition in your evolution-free biology class you took in high school back in the 60’s?

  12. James F Says:

    PC-Bash,

    I’m focused on defending science from lies, but whenever I read about the lies told about American history I think my fight is actually easier.

  13. PC-Bash Says:

    What frightens me about the lies that are told regarding our founding fathers is the implication of the lies. The constitution is interpreted by letter and by spirit. If enough people are convinced over the years that the spirit of the constitution is dramatically different than it was, then interpretation of the constitution itself will be affected.

    Some examples: anti-gun zealots attempting to change history WRT the second amendment (e.g. the claim that the comma between militia and the right to bear arms was added after ratification), evangelicals claiming that the founding fathers were Christian or that they founded the US based on Christian principles (both lies).

  14. PC-Bash Says:

    In any case, this is all straying a bit off-topic. I feel that it is relevant, only because it exposes many of the flaws in the logic of the creationists who are pushing for this “academic freedom” law.

  15. PC-Bash Says:

    $1 million is a drop in the ocean for Florida. That is a phony argument and you know it.

    If you believe that, then you are truly ignorant of the budgetary crisis in Florida right now. They are cutting programs that cost the state far less than this “drop in the bucket” amount.

  16. firemancarl Says:

    My ears, you say? Did you learn about this condition in your evolution-free biology class you took in high school back in the 60’s?
    ZING!!!!!!!

    As per our friend Larry, anything that was not taught in school and discovered later is a load of crap that should not be taught.

  17. PC-Bash Says:

    Of course, since Larry is in California, I don’t expect him to know much about what is happening in Florida anyway. He’s just talking out of his ass as usual.

  18. Larry Fafarman Says:

    S.Scott Says:

    –“Larry, What about Florida’s proposed “Academic Freedom” bill is better than “Section C”. And not redundant. “–

    I can’t answer that question without being redundant. Because the Academic Freedom bill is more specific and more strongly worded than Section C, it would be more effective than Section C in helping to prevent intimidation from threats of lawsuits and persecution. Ironically, you Darwinists have created the need for the Academic Freedom bill by making those threats. You make big threats about huge atttorney-fee rip-offs in big lawsuits and then you act surprised when these Academic Freedom bills are introduced. Well, it’s like this, stupid . . . . .

  19. PC-Bash Says:

    Section C in helping to prevent intimidation from threats of lawsuits and persecution.

    Persecution for what, exactly? What do creationists truly get out of this bill, Larry? There are no alternate scientific theories to evolution, nor are there any valid scientific criticisms of evolution. The whole purpose of this bill is to create a loophole large enough to drive Jesus into the classroom on the wedge of so-called “intelligent” design. The purpose of this bill is to create enough legal uncertainty to prevent piss-poor science teachers (like the ones in Clay county) from being fired or disciplined for refusing to follow the new science standards. The purpose of this bill is to undermine the power of the board of education, for daring to stand up to the fundies and evangelicals. This bill is not about “academic freedom”, it is about protecting the good ‘ol boy network in Florida from being broken up by real standards.

    The only good thing about this bill is that it is giving Florida citizens a chance to find all of the ignorant and backwards legislators, that vote by emotion rather than logic. The judiciary committee review ought to be interesting, as we will see how well these folks understand the law, and we will see just how many members of the judiciary committee are actually competent.

  20. DC Says:

    You know what fundies. You alraady won.
    We ended up spending a ton of money to educate my son at a prep school (18K per year x 12 years) here in FL after finding the county schools underfunded and crowded. While he was there I learned alot about rich GOP types (the ‘real GOP’ super weathly parents I met there could not care less about the ‘family values’ stuff). They send their kids to expensive private schools that teach science and math for the real world.
    If you suggested they teach ID at the school they would tell you to go down the street to the fundie school. Why – simple – they want their kids to go to very competitive colleges.
    They are using the the fundie vote to keep their taxes low (and reduced!) and could not care less if your kids are educated or not. This gets your vote and only damages your kids – not theirs.

  21. S.Scott Says:

    Did Larry just call me stupid?? (and I’ve been so nice to him),
    yet he’s the one who could not answer a simple question.

    “What about Florida’s proposed ‘Academic Freedom Bill’ is better than section ‘C’ and not redundant?”

    He can’t answer because the whole bill – the legal parts anyway – ARE redundant.

    If he points to any part of the bill that he thinks is necessary, he’ll be highlighting everything that is wrong with the bill.

    He’ll be highlighting things that show that kids would be able to put “God did it” down on any answer on any biology or chemistry test, (the bill doesn’t care about the other sciences) and not be held accountable because it goes against their religious beliefs.

    BUT …Kids will also be able to put down that the “FSM did it” too!!

    He’ll be highlighting the fact that the bill states that peer reviewed material is to be presented in the biology and chemistry classes – but doesn’t provide a definition for peer review.

  22. S.Scott Says:

    It’s really very simple. The DI is trying to use the Florida Legislature to pass a bill that will allow their books to be sold to the state.

  23. PC-Bash Says:

    S. Scott –

    You hit the nail on the head. That’s what all of this lobbying is really about.

  24. firemancarl Says:

    Yes and by proxy, allow for ID to be taught. The flip side is that if this does pass, it will be one more crushing defeat for ID in the public school system.