What happened in the House today

Debate on the anti-evolution bill went on for an hour and a half. There were times when I was cheering and times when I could barely keep myself from punching my computer monitor. I just need to say this and get it out of the way: Rep. Hays is 100% ignorant when it comes to science. Following the example of Hays’ own challenge, I will go ahead and throw that statement of mine out there and let you attack it any way you can. My statement will stand up to any “critical analysis.” He actually wants science to produce some half insect / half monkey creature. That’s what he seriously thinks is a transitional form. Yes, that was one of those almost punch the monitor moments. That and his invitation to everyone to go see the move Expelled.

OK, let’s move on to the actual floor action, which started at about 12:04 p.m. The first order of business was Hays asking that the bill approved in the Senate replace his house bill. The motion was approved. This early in the action a shot of the House floor was shown and it looked like a ghost town. There had been a marathon consideration of amendments to the bill before this one, and it looks like everyone decided to take a bathroom and coffee break.

Next up was Hays proposing an amendment that would then take his House bill text and replace all the Senate bill text with it. I have to admit that I just don’t get this move. The Senate bill is adopted in the House. OK. Now the Senate bill is completely gutted to be replaced by what was the House bill? I don’t understand that. Furthermore, I wonder if that was even a smart move, seeing as how Sen. Storms had tried the same thing in the Senate and that body had shot the House text down. Would someone please educate me on all this?

Before that amendment could be considered, though, two amendments to the amendment needed to be reviewed. These amendments were filed by Rep. Kiar.

Kiar introduces his amendment to the amendment: His amendment makes Hays’ amendment constitutional. It strips out the phrase “critical analysis.” As it stands now, Hays’ amendment is unconstitutional as it violates a long line of Supreme Court cases and even the constitution of the United States. The Hays amendment would permit teachers to bring religion into the classroom, Kiar says. Kiar then brings up that even atheists would be allowed to impose their views against religion on students. (Brandon’s response: Kiar gets B for effort from me, despite his use of the atheist scare tactic. It looks like he’s trying to pull out all the stops, but he actually comes off as sounding a bit overdramatic. He then drops a couple of letter grades for content in my opinion for not connecting the dots. He really needed to relay to the House the history behind the creationists’ use of the critical analysis phrase. With that information missing, I can see how others would just look at Kiar in puzzlement. He simply never drove home the point of WHAT exactly is unconstitutional and the history that leads up to WHY it’s unconstitutional.)

After Kiar’s introduction, there was a chance for questions.

Rep. Fitzgerald states that the Kiar amendment is a good one. He and Kiar have a back and forth about how science is one thing and religion is another. They each have their own set of standards and rules, so to speak. Fitzgerald says the Kiar amendment would protect scientific integrity. One has to understand that the critical analysis in Hays’ amendment is vague. Critical analysis has different standards in different fields. Thus we have to make sure the critical analysis is right for a particular subject. Kiar adds that he is a devout Catholic and doesn’t want a science teacher talking about religious subjects in the classroom. (Brandon responds: This has the appearance of a pre-staged little show. Fitzgerald is just trying to help Kiar highlight some concepts they felt were important. Was the Q&A staged? I don’t know.)

Debate on Kiar’s amendment to the amendment then kicks off.

Rep. Fitzgerald: commends Kiar for a great amendment. He repeats how it is good for the integrity of science education. He emphasizes that science has a particular, appropriate standard for critical analysis. It would be dangerous to allow other standards of critical analysis to interfere. It would be silly to allow the critical analysis used for poetry to be used in the science classroom. Not applying the scientific standards of true critical analysis thus raises possible constitutional issues. Religion might get mixed in with other subjects and that would be bad pedagogic practice and open a can of worms, politicizing the schools.

Rep. Hays: simply state that this is an unfriendly amendment and asks everyone to please vote no.

There is an absence of a quorum. A quorum call is held. After a couple of minutes, the business resumes, but there is some brief confusion about whether debate is closed or not. Several more people want to add something to the debate.

Rep. Gelber: If we adopt this bill, we will invite non-scientific issues into the classroom. That’s what this bill is all about: finding ways to get religion into the classroom. When I have kids in the public schools, I don’t want a teacher trying to navigate the thorny issue of religion. Faith should be left to the parents and the churches. The Board of Education already created a set of science standards and already made clear that critical analysis is required. This bill is only here to allow for religion in the classroom. Do not mix science and faith.

Rep. Waldman: (Unfortunately, I didn’t catch exactly what he was saying. I got confused by his statements. I just got the impression that he is for the Hays bill.)

Rep. Schwartz: Actually want to debate later. Simply states that everyone should vote for Kiar amendment.

I’m not sure who spoke next. Maybe Rep. Jenne? This person just wants to relay to the House that recent polling shows that 99.85 percent of scientists support evolution. Evolution is quite simply valid. Evolution clearly happens in nature and is well supported.

Rep. Vana: Says that the Hays bill seems innocuous, but will actually allow religion in the classroom. Vana then read from some research papers being done by research institutes in Florida. As she reads them, she points out that each and every one has to do with the fact of evolution. This is cutting edge science. Let’s not do a U-turn on our bicycles and head back to the dark ages. We must be clear on what science is and isn’t. Let’s not confuse students with what the entire world knows isn’t science. We have to give our students the best education we can. This is the 21st century.

I’m not sure who the next person was. Maybe Rep. Legg? What’s all this talk about separation of church and state? The bill just says critical analysis. The highest priority is getting our kids to think for themselves. They need the ability to have critical analysis. We should always be afraid of those who tell you what the truth is. We should be ashamed to say that kids in school should not be allowed to think of criticize or evaluate. Teaching something as the gospel stunts higher order thinking.

Rep. Coley: I’ve been following this for several months. We need to encourage critical thinking. A wise person said that if an idea is solid then it can hold its own and withstand critical analysis. I went home to help my son study for a biology test. It was about time periods and what life emerged during those time periods. I asked him if he was told where those life forms came from and he said no. We need to allow kids to look at such things and think about them and analyze them for themselves. These are our scientists of the future. If we limit critical analysis or are afraid of teaching both the strengths and weaknesses of something, then exploration is closed to us. We have gravity proven. But when a subject has gaps in it, then we need to allow students to critically analyze those gaps.

Rep. Geraldine Thompson: This bill opens the door to religion. Instructors will be burdened with many theories, some are Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim with regard to the beginning of life. There are a wide range of theories, but the science classroom is not the appropriate place for them. In science we need to stick with what is observable and proven. We have to make sure our students can compete with those in other countries. Vote yes on the Kiar amendment, please.

Rep Brown: I didn’t get everything Brown said, but he essentially said that separation of church and state is a lie.

Rep. Hays: We have heard over and over again the flagship false assumption that so many people are making all the time. If you dare to question evolution, then you must be talking about religion. I don’t want religion in the schools. It belongs in the home and church. Now, ask any scientist if they do this: if they believe a theory they have is correct, then they are not afraid to have it examined. Why be afraid to have it criticized? If you approve Kiar’s amendment, you are gutting the whole purpose of this bill. This is just about making sure teachers can have this discussion in class. We want to make sure teachers can lead a discussion about critical analysis without fear.

Rep. Kiar in closing: I agree that religion should not be in schools. But Hays’ bill is unconstitutional. Critical analysis makes it unconstitutional. Kiar then cites some court cases and runs down how they fit into today’s debate. Edwards v. Aguillard and Lemon v. Kurtzman.

There is again an absence of a quorum. Quorum call.

Voice vote on Kiar’s amendment. Not adopted.

Next amendment to an amendment is introduced by Kiar. This one inserts the word “scientific” into the bill language.

Rep. Kiar: This amendment is even better than my last one. Ensures any critical analysis will be scientific and not allow religion.

Rep. Hays: Says he will take the amendment without problem.

Voice vote taken. Amendment adopted.

Finally, the Hays amendment to the Senate bill is opened up for discussion.

Rep. Planas: Says he is speaking from the middle. During this debate he is hearing from extremes of both sides, but very little room left in the middle. It is possible to have religion and accept science too.

Rep. Fitzgerald: This bill is set upon a false premise. Talks about Galileo being forced to recant the idea that the earth goes around the sun. “It still moves,” Galileo said. Science is based on reality apart from our knowledge. The evidence is before us. “It still moves.” This bill purports that there is a problem in the first place, and there isn’t. The problem doesn’t exist! There is a mountain of facts explaining evolution. We can see evolution in fruit flies. Understanding evolution led to the discovery of DNA. Genetic research is based on evolution. This bill claims to open analysis, but it in fact closes it. It denies the FACTS! Compare evolution to gravity. You can test gravity by going to the roof. You won’t jump off, will you? But evolution is better understood and supported than gravity is. This bill is all about some people of religious faith being offended by what science has discovered. They then try to use the power of the state to impose their thinking on the rest of us. They try to take away the power of the scientific community. This bill is actually a threat on your religious liberties. You should be offended. (Brandon responds: This was an outstanding, impassioned speech for reason. My summary here doesn’t do it justice at all. Once the session recording is available, you really need to find this part and view it. It’s a keeper!)

Rep. Gelber: I don’t even know why this bill is here. This issue already was before the Board of Education. We, the legistlature, have entrusted other bodies, such as the Board of Education, to do this kind of work. The standards allow for critical analysis and have evolution mentioned 42 times in the document. The experts worked on those standards. If you are worried about the teaching of evolution in schools, then you shouldn’t want this bill because it will MANDATE its teaching. Let the experts work this out, as they already have. That’s what they are there for.

Rep. Kiar: The amendment you all approved makes this terrible bill a little better, but it is still bad public policy.

Rep. Vana: I won’t support this bill because it chooses to give evolution special attention. If we are going to attract the best and brightest to our state, we can’t have this bill. She then quotes from Nobel Prize winner Dr. Kroto concerning Scripps not coming here if this debate happened a couple of years ago. We shouldn’t want critical analysis of 1+1=2. We are sending a clear message to the world that we are not poised to be a leader in research.

Rep. Brandenburg: (I lost my connection and so didn’t hear this part.)

Rep. Altman: Claims that not allowing critical analysis makes it dogma and a religion of its own. Without critical analysis, learning stops.

Rep. Weatherford: If 98 percent of so of scientists are behind evolution, then why are you afraid of this critical analysis?

Rep Kelly: Gelber asked why are we debating this. We are debating this because it is important to the citizens. What are we frightened of? He then reads from the amended bill, putting emphasis on the inclusion of the word scientific. These arguments about religion are nothing more than strawmen. If we wanted to teach religion we could then teach such-n-such from the Bible. Kelly then quotes about three things from the Bible. But we aren’t teaching those things. With this theory of evolution, it’s impossible to go back in time and replicate our origins. Thus you are forced to make choices and presuppositions.

Rep. Nick Thompson: This bill just presents more information and options for students. It gives them choices.

Rep. Jordan: There is probably truth to everyone’s statements here. He then gives a short history lesson about the falsity of separation of church and state.

Rep. Attkisson: We should trust our teachers. This bill allows the minority to have their say and protect them.

Rep. Hays in closing: Points out Rep. Fitzgerald and calls him the personification of why this bill is needed. If you are true scientists, you will put your theories out there to be criticized. Evolution is dogma. It has holes in it. If you think there is no debate in science over evolution, like Fitzgerald claims, then go see Expelled. There are NO transitional fossils. We don’t want students to be parrots being told what to think. We want to teach them how to think. Why are you so afraid? This protects freedom of speech. Find for me where a fly turned into a monkey or a monkey turned into a man. This talk about religion is nothing more than hot air.

Hays’ amendment then passed on a voice vote and the bill will move to its third reading and final vote next week.

There was a little bit more. But I have to walk away from the computer for a bit. Comments are open. What is your take on all of this?

About Brandon Haught

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

17 Responses to What happened in the House today

  1. Rose says:

    Wow. I was unable to listen to the debate because I was at work, so thank you for getting this up so quickly. So what happens next? Is there a chance to stop it from passing at the third reading?

  2. firemancarl says:

    WEll, let it pass I say. Just think of how these muckety mcuks will react when it gets hauled into court and the already broke school districts have to shell out millions. Wonder just how many of these politicians will be left.

  3. James F says:

    There are NO transitional fossils.

    You know, breathtaking ignorance like this is why we need better science education. What am I afraid of? That people like Hays get elected these days!

  4. PatrickHenry says:

    Another excellent report! Discouraging that we have such fools in the legislature, but that’s probably been true forever. This mess will just have to play itself out. Maybe the session will end before anything gets passed.

  5. S.Scott says:

    Thank you Brandon! I was sorry I could not watch today.
    That is an excellent summary you have written there 🙂

  6. Captdave says:

    Gov. Christ will not sign it, and there are not sufficient votes for an override, in the senate. The jackasses huff and puff, then can go back to their constituents and claim that they did all they could, boo, hoo, hoo. Next time, pray a little harder, God didn’t hear you this time. He was probably just too busy with more important matters at the time.

    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the entire show was orchestrated from start to finish. The ones pushing the bills know that Christ won’t sign it, so there will be no consequences, and they can momentarily shine in their pomposity. I believe that they have just enough intelligence to understand the one about “be careful what you wish for”, as in pass your bill – oops – get sued.

    Don’t forget, when writing to your representatives that they are quite offended if you leave out “The Honorable” before their names, e.g., The Honorable Jackass Will W. Weatherford, I believe, was the one who pointed out that it would be un-American to not pass this bill. One of the last ones to speak, was quite the pompous Bible spouter, cleverly (in his own mind) showing off how well versed he is, but only to make the point of how this is NOT what the bill is about. He was clearly auditioning for the “William Jennings Bryan role” in “Inherit The Wind, The Sequel”.

    Disclaimer : : : No personal attacks here. I’m going overboard soft on them.

  7. Barry Golden says:

    Sounds scary that things have developed to this point. It is shameful that this process has not had a higher media footprint. Brandon: thanks so much for keeping us informed!

  8. Green Earth says:

    I was able to listen to most of the debate today, and Brandon, I agree with you that I went from being very happy about some of the great attacks, to wanting to punch something from the idiotic garbage spewing out of certain reps. Rep Fitzgerald was absolutely wonderful!

    They [the IDiots] want to know what I’m afraid of? Crap like this bill being passed, that’s what. I’m NOT afraid of a scientific analysis of evolution- I’m a biology student at USF and evolution is examined in most of the science courses I take. I AM afraid of crap like ID/creationism being allowed in PUBLIC school and being “sold” as science.

  9. Joe Meert says:

    In my mind, the only person in that whole room who had any clue about what was being discussed was Fitzgerald. He was clear and concise and his intellect was completely lost on 99% of the people in the room (including those who opposed the bill). Don’t be fooled, this bill will be reconciled because Hays and Storms both agree it is part of their ‘great commission’ to bring everyone to their fundamentalist and intolerant religious views. Crist will sign the bill because he thinks it is the way to stay above the 50% line and he has higher aspirations. I can tell you after watching this debate that every single person (except Fitzgerald) should be sent back to learn what science really is. Color me shocked, but not surprised.


    Joe Meert

  10. Jay K says:

    I live for these reports and have never failed to cringe. Sort of a love/hate relationship.

    Since you mention Sen. Storms, Joe, she spent part of her day trying to tack a “me too” amendment on a bill to establish a license plate supporting lighthouse restoration. Her tag? “I believe,” complete with cross and stained glass – you probably saw it in the news.

    The proceeds from the license plates “shall be used to fund programs, activities, and projects that promote faith based education” via an organization called “Faith in Teaching.” Its website’s basically empty.

    Hope that doesn’t include science class materials. (Oops, I forgot, the bill has nothing to do with religion, stupid me)

    The lighthouse bill’s sponsor did the senatorial equivalent of brushing her sleeve and screaming “Eww! Get it off me!”

    It seems the ACLU may as well just follow this lady around like the proverbial ambulance chaser.

  11. John says:

    This is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.
    As a Florida taxpayer, I expect the school system to be bogged down by numerous lawsuits if this !%$#@ passes.

    I have 3 kids in public schools right now.
    I will be watching closely. And contacting my lawyer when my child cannot fully study the fundamentals of Pastafarian in science class.

    Angry Taxpaying Parent.

  12. Joe Meert says:


    Not to be facetious, but this bill will allow you and I to bitch about this. Perhaps it is way too much to hope for, but an ideal response would be to flood schools with requests to give pastafarianism a chance to be heard in scienc class.


    Joe Meert

  13. Green Earth says:

    RAmen to that!

  14. John Pieret says:

    “The Senate bill is adopted in the House. OK. Now the Senate bill is completely gutted to be replaced by what was the House bill? I don’t understand that. Furthermore, I wonder if that was even a smart move, seeing as how Sen. Storms had tried the same thing in the Senate and that body had shot the House text down. Would someone please educate me on all this?”

    I’m not an expert on the Florida Legislature, viewing all this from New York, but I strongly suspect that they are going about killing the legislation. As this news report said:


    “A final vote on the bill (SB 2692) should come next week, but because it was amended, it would have to go back to the Senate.”

    But the session ends May 2nd and, as this report has it:


    “Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, who voted for the evolution bill and spoke in favor of it, was more blunt about the shrinking time frame. He said Hays “must be hitting the sauce if he thinks he’s going to send the bill back here.”

    In other words, they are making sure that everyone whose constituency favors anti-evolutionism gets a chance to record a vote for one of these bills but making sure it won’t pass both houses this session. When they come back, they can hope the issue will have cooled off.

    But maybe I’m just too much a cynic.

  15. Green Earth says:

    I know in the senate Deutch and Rich tried to kill it with their amendment about academic freedom relating to sex education, it was very smart I thought, but of course it did not pass.

  16. Egaeus says:

    Rep. Fitzgerald did give one hell of a speech. I saw it on the rerun last night/this morning. I’m glad to see that there’s at least one person who understands science in the FL legislature.

    I can’t figure out whether the supporters of the bill are genuinely ignorant, or just liars for Jesus. Biologists aren’t afraid of evolution being questioned. That’s what they do. What the pro-science community wants to prevent is misinformed, ignorant creationists who teach science from confusing teens with ancient, disproven “criticisms” of evolution when the students don’t have the sufficient background to be able to evaluate them. Idiots.

  17. Green Earth says:

    You mean IDiots…

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