Welcome to the final week of the state legislative session. Today will most likely see the final vote in the House on the anti-evolution bill, so keep an eye on the bill’s page to find out the end result. I don’t anticipate any surprises there.
What’s happened so far: The Senate’s deceptively named “academic freedom” bill (SB 2692) sailed through its committee hearings and floor vote. Despite spirited debate and opposition from Senate democrats, the bill was still easily approved and shipped over to the House. Meanwhile, the House’s bill (HB1483) started off as a carbon copy of the Senate one. But once it hit the Schools and Learning committee, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Hays, offered a complete revision. The longer original bill was swapped out for a single sentence to be inserted in law, requiring a “critical analysis” of evolution. As in the Senate, House democrats were vocal against the bill, regardless of form. The bill reached the full House, but since the Senate bill had already been approved and was now before the House, Rep. Hays did a little bill juggling. He formally dumped his bill and instead took up the Senate bill, but then stripped the Senate bill content and replaced it with his House bill single line text (House page for the Senate bill). From my outsider, novice point of view that was a strange move. House democrats were able to successfully tweak Hays’ bill by adding the word scientific to the sentence. That bill is now up for its final vote in the House.
Future moves: First, the House has to vote on the bill. Barring any earth-shattering surprises, the bill should be approved. That creates a dilemma. The approved Senate version is completely different from the House version. The two will then have to be reconciled. It should be noted that when the Senate bill was voted on, its sponsor, Sen. Storms, offered a last-minute amendment to change the bill text to match the shorter House version. That attempt failed. As far as working out the differences in the two bills, the St. Petersburg Times education blog noted: “Key senators have indicated they did not expect to take up the measure again if it drastically differs from their already approved bill.” In a more colorful statement, a Herald Tribune article said, “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.’”
Something to be afraid of: A common refrain of the bill sponsors is why are people afraid of critical analysis of evolution? If it’s such a rock solid theory, then schools should welcome the critical analysis. What do you have to fear? Here’s a shocking admission for you: we are afraid. But it’s not fear of a good, scientific examination. That’s not what folks like Hays are offering. We are afraid of manufactured controversy and unscientific ideas being presented in a science class where students who have never been exposed to the smelly crap of “creation science,” or “intelligent design” could be confused and misled into believing there is something wrong with the science in their textbooks. The purpose of this so-called critical analysis is to sow doubt where there is no legitimate, scientific doubt. As was seen in Dover, Pa., this critical analysis is dressed up to look like science, when it is actually nothing more than a Trojan horse, completely devoid of anything resembling real science. Unfortunately, it took an expensive federal court case to bring the nonsense there to a stop.
What will happen by the end of the week? I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out together.