What happened today in the Senate

Here is my summary of what happened today in the Senate concerning SB 2692. First of all, there was a last minute strikeall amendment proposed by Senator Storms in an effort to make the senate bill mirror the house bill. There was some brief debate on that amendment, which I’ll get to in a minute. Then there was a voice vote and the amendment did not pass.

Debate then started on the original bill. There were some great arguments against the bill. Senator Geller was especially good. All the arguments for the bill were horrific! I have been following the anti-evolution efforts for a few years now and so these arguments were nothing new to me. But it makes me choke and fume as I see the same old garbage trotted out yet again for a new audience who has, unfortunately, not heard them before.

Finally, the vote happened and the bill passed 21 to 17.

As I listened to the debate, I tried to type what was happening. But my transcribing skills are nonexistent. I’ve cleaned my notes up as best as I can, but you are welcome to offer corrections and clarifications in the comments.

The first part of debate concerned the strikeall amendment. There was a question and answer session. I didn’t catch the names of everyone participating.

Storms says that critical analysis is something “I would think that you would want.”

Geller said that he had asked six times and he would try one more time to get Storms to answer the question of whether intelligent design could be taught under her (amended) bill. He asked that she please not refer to her bill text. Just give a yes or no. And if she couldn’t answer, then everyone could draw their own conclusions.

Storms said that in her experience people will draw their own conclusions anyway. She accused Geller of trying to shake her from her bill language and she refused to allow him to do so.

Someone asked/pointed out that the amendment requiring critical analysis would risk everything that Storms tried to do with her original bill. It would require critical analysis. As such, any teacher not wishing to do this critical analysis would be put at risk of discipline.

I think that Storms then said that critical analysis is required in all of education and that the bill would just require the presentation of the full range of scientific thought on the subject.

Someone said that the amendment is actually much worse than the original bill. The original would have permitted a bunch of stuff, but this amendment now requires it all. Intelligent design in case law is a violation of the constitution. Storms, you are not using the words “intelligent design” but instead you are describing it without naming it.

Someone else said that the amendment makes a mockery of the original bill. It doesn’t protect teachers, but requires teachers to present alternative theories. Teachers who don’t offer the alternatives could face punishments.

Storms says that this amendment is simply an opportunity to conform to the house version. It addresses the situation of there being two different bills now rather than later. She asks for everyone’s support.

Voice vote is then taken. Amendment is voted down.

Next begins the debate on the original bill.

Senator Wilson:
Wilson starts off by citing previous court history concerning evolution, intelligent design and creationism. The Supreme Court case of Epperson v. Arkansas requires that instruction in the classroom be neutral toward religion. Wilson stated that kids are painting their nails black, dying their hair black and getting tattoos. This leads her into talking about voodoo becoming prominent as a religion. She also mentions supremacists. She says the bill would open the door to all of these sorts of ideas and religions. She encourages the senate to keep religion out of the public schools.

Senator Gaetz:
Gaetz said that he had asked Storms if the bill would require creationism or intelligent design. She said no and the bill text supports her. I asked her if the bill would discourage the teaching of evolution. She said no and the bill text supports her. This bill provides teachers and students in the classroom with the freedom to explore through critical analysis scientific theories and laws. Some say that evolution is settled and some say it’s not. Do you believe in gravity? Back in school my teacher took us to the second floor and asked if we believe in gravity. We all did. He then asked that if he dropped a quarter and a bowling ball off the second floor if they would both hit bottom at the same time. Half of us said no. This illustrates that we can push discussion and debate of science, and evolution. If this bill addressed literature instead of science, and if students and teachers wanted to grab controversial books off the shelf, the ACLU and my liberal colleagues here would be overwhelmingly in favor of that right. But for some reason they are not in favor of the same freedom concerning evolution. [Brandon’s response: Gaetz twists the gravity example completely out of shape. He actually described the actions of a good teacher showing his or her kids what science knows and how we know it. Gaetz turns this great science lesson on its head, by somehow claiming that the kids who answered no were pushing the discussion and having debate? No. They made a wrong, uninformed guess, and then the teacher corrected them. No debate happened. Also, Gaetz’s literature example is a mess. Can a student hold the belief that the Captain Underpants books are great literature like Shakespeare? Good luck with that. That’s what is happening in science. Evolution is the Shakespeare and intelligent design is Captain Underpants. One is literature and the other isn’t. One is science and the other isn’t.]

Senator Joyner:
Joyner read the title of the bill “evolution academic freedom act.” She then said that the bill is not about evolution and not about academic freedom. It’s about religion and creationism. Don’t the teachers have enough to worry about? The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth. I believe in God. But the Bible is not a science textbook. The scientific method was not known in biblical times. Science studies natural phenomena. Science is testable and systematic. It describes and explains and predicts. The supernatural is not science. It is not contrained by natural laws. The supreme designer is not in the realm of science. Religion needs to be taught in the appropriate venues. The legal issues are important too. I don’t want public school instruction interfering in private, family religion. Those who subscribe to a strict constitutional interpretation will have problems with this bill. Let’s not insert politics into the classroom.

Senator Wise:
Wise said he saw the movie Expelled over the weekend. He then tried to equate the movie to television news programs like 60 minutes. He named three examples that were offered in the movie of people who were supposedly fired and blackballed for daring to question evolution. It was a compelling documentary, and addresses the crux of what the bill is about. We are asking young people to critically think about something. He urged others to support the bill to give teachers and students the opportunity to talk about both sides of the issue without fear of reprimand. [Brandon responds: Senator Wise, those people you are talking about were not fired or blackballed. Get the actual facts.]

Senator Rich:
Rich did a good job of highlighting the fact that the state board of education already addressed this issue while approving a new set of state science standards. We were 50th in the nation in the level of science literacy. The BoE wanted to strengthen the curriculum. They wanted to help science educators increase scientific literacy in the classroom, not religious literacy. We want our students to understand the scientific method: how they know what they know. They are already encouraged to discuss the full range of science in all subjects including evolution. They are already directed to use critical analysis. The committee that put the standards together was composed of experts. Let’s not interfere with the experts.

Senator Geller:
Geller said that when he was in high school he was in the play Inherit the Wind. The play was about the Scopes Monkey Trial. We used to laugh at how backwards those folks were. Now fast forward to 2008 and here we are standing on the floor of the senate, during a budget crisis, and what are we debating? Evolution! I wonder what play will be written about us in the future and how those people will laugh at us. We in Florida worked hard to bring in Scripps and other high-tech scientific research institutes. And now these folks see us debating evolution. Are we going to be effective in our ability to bring the high-tech jobs here if we are debating evolution? They are debating today our commitment to science. Geller then turned his attention to section two of the bill, which describes acceptable critical analysis in the classroom as being based on germane information and data, and peer review. He points out that a teacher could, under this bill, bring in so-called germane information, but it wouldn’t have to be peer reviewed. Geller is saying that a teacher could pick and choose from the list that is in the bill. Geller then asked what is considered germane information? Raelians have their own set of ideas and beliefs that they certainly would consider germane, even if the rest of us don’t. Geller then points out the legislative findings section of the bill where it says that the legislature has found that there are many instances of educators fearing or experiencing discipline for questioning evolution. Geller points out that no such teachers are named or have testified. How can this possibly be a legislative finding without proof? Geller then talked about the use of the word theory a little bit. He used as an example Storms’ own story she had related during a previous debate about her questioning a geometry theory. Geller said that it was a funny story, but actually illustrates his point better than hers. No, we don’t want students coming up with their own theories about geometry or science. We can’t have students saying “Hey, I gotta theory.” It’s not a scientific theory! Geller said that current law allows for questioning in the science classroom. There is no law that says a teacher can’t review other theories in the classroom. Next, Geller turned to section six of the bill about students not being penalized for subscribing to other views. What does that mean, Geller asks. If they write their belief contrary to evolution on a test, can they get full credit? What about on the FCAT or even the SATs? How far does this go? Geller then tells everyone that he had asked more than six times if intelligent design could be taught. He couldn’t get a straight answer, because Storms knows that intelligent design in unconstitutional in the classroom. To get around that, Storms is not using the words intelligent design, but is nonetheless describing it. Geller closed by saying that to have this debate in 2008 is embarrassing.

Senator Webster:
Webster held up a “pop top.” He said they are manufactured in his district. He knows where it was made and how it was made. In other words, he’s trying to make the argument from design. Over and over again Webster says that this bill asks one question: “could it be?” If you don’t ask that question, there can be no research. He then says that the word theory means just a conjecture or mere scientific speculation. He talked about the discovery of a massive “hole” in the universe light years across. Do current theories explain it? No, he claims. But asking “could it be” will get us to the answer. Don’t stifle the asking of that important question. [Brandon responds: Webster’s speech was more philosophical and touchy-feely than anything, but his argument from design is pretty much addressed here.]

Senator Storms:
Storms then closed by saying that her bill does not establish religion. She agrees with the Supreme Court case cited by another senator. Her bill does not establish nor is it hostile toward religion. She wants to make sure no one is ridiculed for having their own beliefs. She points out Geller and admonishes him for when he talked about laughing at people during his play. She then reads from an e-mail from a teacher who wished to remain anonymous. The teacher is national board certified. The teacher claims that it would be career suicide for him to question evolution. He knows of other teachers who flat out ridicule students for not accepting evolution. Storms said that this is a freedom of speech issue. She then reads from an e-mail from another teacher who doesn’t mind being named. Storms read the name, but too quickly for me to accurately catch it. Wayne Gurba it sounded like. The teacher works in Pinellas County and has been teaching science for 20 years. His e-mail is long, but Storms just hits the highlights. The teacher points out in a Holt textbook on page 285 that there is mention of the Miller-Urey experiment. The teacher trashes the experiment and wonders why it is still in science textbooks. The teacher then turns to page 268 and talks about the precursors to living, reproducing cells. He expresses his extreme doubt in what is written there and equates it to a floating leaf transforming into an airplane. Storms closes by saying that her bill is not about religion, but rather about critical analysis of evolution. This is a freedom of speech issue and encourages higher order thinking. Anyone truly supporting science would not be afraid of this questioning.

Vote is then taken. 21 yeas. 17 nays. Bill passes.

Comments are open. What’s your take?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
This entry was posted in "Academic Freedom" bills '08. Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to What happened today in the Senate

  1. PatrickHenry says:

    Great report! Thank you. My favorite part of the debate:

    “Can a student hold the belief that the Captain Underpants books are great literature like Shakespeare? Good luck with that. That’s what is happening in science. Evolution is the Shakespeare and intelligent design is Captain Underpants. One is literature and the other isn’t. One is science and the other isn’t.”

  2. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Great work Brandon! The last contribution from Storms makes it official: she and her friends want to teach standard creationist claims.

  3. firemancarl says:

    Was I the only one who puked in their mouth when Storms spoke?

  4. Jonathan Smith says:

    Outstanding report Brandon thanks for all your hard work,will you be talking to the media on this?

  5. Dagon says:

    Brandon’s page


    Of course you are anti religous, all of you. We know your motive.

  6. Dagon says:

    You want anti-God material (evolution) in the classroom. Just like you say ID wants God in the classroom.

  7. firemancarl says:

    Wow Dagon, Brandon sure does have a heck of a commute.

  8. firemancarl says:

    You want anti-God material (evolution) in the classroom. Just like you say ID wants God in the classroom.

    Of course, we know that evolution is real, unlike your invisible sky fairy.

  9. Dagon says:

    Read closer Fire he moved to Florida I guess you don’t look at the facts.

  10. Dagon says:

    All of your heroes are there. We know your agenda. You say ID has an agenda, well what about yours. This becomes a power play. This will be fun to watch.

  11. S.Scott says:

    Dagon, you have insulted many, many Christian scientists. Oh, and me.

  12. Dagon says:

    SS If you were a Christian you would believe in the Bible. The Bible is full of references that God created the heavens and the earth. You don’t even know who you associate with, that is what should be insulting.

  13. Dagon says:

    Doing this blog on your paid work time / Does your boss know about this ?

  14. Dagon says:

    Using tax payers money for private blogs ?

  15. S.Scott says:

    I don’t care what you think. Apparently you must think that the Pope is an atheist as well.

    The Christian fundamentalists (you guys) are a small, small minority of Christians. Most of us accept evolution.

    However, my involvement here is about Church and State separation.

    I am now done with you.

    Brandon, sorry about feeding the troll – feel free to delete my comments.

  16. Dagon says:

    If he is monitoring this during his work time, his boss will find out.

  17. Brandon Haught says:

    as I made clear in my previous post, I am off work today.

  18. Green Earth says:

    This about upholding the constitution and maintaining the 1st amendment- SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.

    Science is not about beliefs, it is about SCIENTIFIC theories, tests, facts and evidence.

  19. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    In many Florida classrooms, we will have more and better science regardless of the legislature. But there will be some misguided creationists teaching in some spots.

  20. Palmolive says:

    Green Earth – The US Constitution does not mention seperation of church and state. The Florida Constitution actually gives the Florida Dept of Education authority under God given supervision. Check it out.

  21. Reginald Beasley says:

    I am a Catholic. You do not speak for me. Keep your crap out of my classroom.

  22. Green Earth says:

    Yes, it does, and has been interpreted as such by the Judicial system

    This IS (at least supposed to be) a secular nation. Just because the religious right wants it to be a christian nation, does not mean it is or should be.

  23. Palmolive says:

    Adaptation and mutations happen. But to interpret that into evolution is a leap or may I say jump. (into the abyss)

  24. Palmolive says:

    Show me where it says “seperation of church” in the constitution.

  25. Palmolive says:

    Nice language Reginald – did you learn that at your church ?

  26. Green Earth says:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

    And this has been interpreted by the courts throughout our history as separation of church and state

  27. PatrickHenry says:

    Palmolive said: Show me where it says “seperation of church” in the constitution.

    Response: Same place it says “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.”

  28. Palmolive says:

    So you interpret that into seperation of God and the classroom ? Should the classroom (which is not congress) should prohibit the free exercise thereof ?

  29. S.Scott says:

    You need to go back to school and learn something.

  30. S.Scott says:

    The Supreme Court has interpreted exactly that way multiple times.

  31. Green Earth says:

    Religion does not belong in school unless it is an elective theology/philosophy class. It ESPECIALLY does NOT belong in a science classroom in a PUBLIC school.

  32. S.Scott says:

    Establishment Clause 1st Amendment.

  33. Reginald Beasley says:

    If the shoe fits, wear it – i.e. if Intelligent Design is crap, I will call it crap. I make no apologies. Do not speak for my religion simply because you have a primitive understanding of the bible.

    The same people who are pushing ID are flagrant thieves because they are now being sued by Yoko Ono for stealing John Lennon’s song without permission. I think God said something about believing thieves, namely not to do it.

  34. Palmolive says:

    The Bible was taught in school long after the Constitution was ratified. So it couldn’t refer to that. If you look at the early drafts of the constitution the term for religion was widley held to be a state church like England had. Not the seperation of Christianity from the school room.

  35. S.Scott says:

    4:49 pm – I tuned into the ‘House’ after the Senate this am. I have been listening since … unless I missed it … I heard nothing about the House bill.

  36. Palmolive says:

    With all due respect Reginald. I don’t speak for your religion.

  37. S.Scott says:

    Oops, I forgot to say – House Adjourned. 🙂

  38. Palmolive says:

    Do you only pick and choose what you want or do you believe in all of God’s sayings Reginald ?

  39. Robbo says:

    Semper Fi, Brandon! (thanks for the link, Dagon)

    I’m sorry, but my emails were probably ignored. In the Senate I’m represented by Ronda herself. A couple years ago she was 2 people behind me in line at Publix, but I didn’t get a chance to tell I disagree with nearly every public statement she’s made.

    Luckily, Uncle Sam has said it’s time to leave Stupidville this summer.

  40. Robbo says:

    Oh, and Dagon: I am anti-god, and I think religion is a waste of time and effort.

  41. Grafixer says:

    Dagon… Frankly speaking… Please ACT like the Christian you claim to be. The people you are so childishly insulting have tremendous integrity. They do not lie, and are accepting of others. They are scientists and people with a high degree of education. If you feel a need to be insulting and unkind, you may want to talk with your pastor, your God, or consult your bible about why you feel such a need.
    We are concerned about education and science. Everyone here is doing their best to make a positive contribution to children – ALL children.
    Please… If you can’t be nice, go somewhere else to blog. Thank you.

  42. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Reginald believes the entire Bhagavad Gita. Do you pick and choose, Palmo?

  43. Reginald Beasley says:

    So Palmolive I take it if your daughter were raped you would have her marry the rapist?

    Exodus 22:16

    It’s not picking and choosing, it’s understanding that the bible is not a literal book of laws.

  44. Grafixer says:

    Pete, You are quite right. We WILL have better science education – thanks to the writers and framers of the new Standards, and thanks to everyone with FCS. Those that try to teach creationism will bring about costly lawsuits. Those suits will bring further embarrassment to those that voted for the bills. At some point, our officials will begin to understand that they have made a grave error. I just hope that the resulting financial burden does not fall on the schools. We need more funds for education in Florida – not less. Thank you FCS for standing up for what is good for our kids.

  45. PatrickHenry says:

    Palmolive said: “If you look at the early drafts of the constitution the term for religion was widley held to be a state church like England had. Not the seperation of Christianity from the school room.”

    I would like very much to examine those early drafts of the Constitution. Do you have a link to where they might be found?

  46. Reginald Beasley says:

    Isn’t it true that under this law it would also be legal to teach FSMism?

  47. Green Earth says:

    Absolutely! May you be touched by his noodley appendage! RAmen!

  48. Green Earth says:

    That and whatever it is scientologists believe, and Raliens, and on and on, etc.

    Gee, when is there going to be time for SCIENCE in SCIENCE class?

  49. firemancarl says:

    No matter what anyone “believes” Dagon, the facts are there and they fully support evolution.

  50. firemancarl says:

    Oh, and Dagon: I am anti-god, and I think religion is a waste of time and effort.

    Here!! here!!! Robbo!

  51. Green Earth says:

    That is something I really don’t understand- there is so much evidence to support evolution, but “Oh, I don’t believe it because my story book says otherwise” WTF???

  52. Karl says:

    It’s become much of a disgusting cliche with the trolling of the fundie extremists playing on absolutes: either you are with them or against them, with all the accompanying judgmental arrogance. The only thing I find amusing is that “Dagon” is also the name of a demonized pagan agricultural deity (also featured as some sort of fish monster god by H.P. Lovecraft).

    As for this situation with the bill’s passing, I’d like to think that events like these are more like the death throes of religious extremism than some sort of revival that the fundies are always hoping for, and as their bullshit and pandering become more outrageous and pervasive, a massive culling of stupidity is initiated by the MAJORITY of of the more level-headed public (and believe me when I say that the majority of the public are NOT subscribers of religious extremism) and rational minds will prevail.

  53. Metropolitan Asylum & Zoo says:

    Dear Sir:

    I have received information that you may be in a position to forward The IP Address of a certain recent escapee from our facility. We certainly would appreciate any assistance you could lend in our apprehension of “it”, we don’t really know for sure what “it” is (looks fairly human but oddly scored much, lower on our IQ test than even a few of our brain damaged chimpanzees)??? Sometimes goes by the moniker ‘Dagon’ and fancies itself as somewhat of a Bible Thumping Sherlock Holmes type (digs up your past, and goes “gotcha”, I own you now). This clever trick never fails to impress the other chimpanzees at the facility.

    This Institution is prepared to reimburse you for any inconvenience or disturbance this wayward creature/patient of ours may have caused. Please accept our sincerest apologies.


    Asylum Warden & Zoo Keeper Dr. Phinnaeus Von Tiesenhausen III.

Comments are closed.