Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The Deed Is Done

The Florida Board of Education has approved the new standards with, as was reported before, the addition of "the scientific theory of" before every use of the word "evolution." There is no report on whether the phrase was added to any other theories addressed in the standards. If it was, I think the addition is not a very big deal, given how far the standards also go in explaining that "scientific theory" doesn't mean "wild-assed guess." If not, then it was an unjustified watering-down of the standards on evolution, singling it out as somehow less scientific than the rest.

Still, the creationists aren't happy:

Terry Kemple, the executive director of the Community Issues Council in Tampa, opposed adding language 'scientific theory' during public comments. Kemple has said he supports the current science standards as they are [i.e., without any mention of "evolution"].

In his group's opinion, he said, adding "scientific theory does not begin to even address the problems" with the standards ...
And that can't be a bad thing.

Update: According to this story in the Orlando Sentinel:

[T]he board, by a 4-3 vote, adopted a last-minute alternative that inserted the phrase "scientific theory of" in front of evolution and other concepts.

Further Update: It looks like the political pressure is off for the moment:

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.
But that might not last for long:

[O]pponents ... had urged the State Board of Education to add an "academic freedom" provision that would have let teachers "engage students in a critical analysis of that evidence." ...

[John] Stemberger [president of the Florida Family Policy Council] said his organization will ask the Legislature to add the academic freedom proposal to the standards. ...

The academic freedom proposal also would have referred to evolution as "a" rather than "the" fundamental concept underlying biology.

Hmm. It seems a tad wimpy to have given in at all, but we all must live with political realities. That wording is pretty mild (and nonsensical in its context) compared to what the IDers/Creationists wanted. So, all in all, the board did about as well as we could have hoped.
Considering that the state legislature, which has the final say over the standards, has been making noises about going ahead on its own and appending "theory" to the word "evolution" in the standards, it might have actually been a clever move. If the legislature had been left to its own devices, it would have been only evolution that they'd target. By getting out in front and labeling a lot of things "scientific theories", the board "cut 'em off at the pass," so to speak, and made it difficult for the legislature to single evolution out as something less than fully scientific. What can they do now? Go back and take "scientific" off of "theory of evolution"? Even the Discovery Institute admits evolution is scientific. Take the "scientific theory" label off everything else? Then they'll just look like doofuses.

And when the kids start leaning about the scientific theory of gravity and the scientific atomic theory and the scientific germ theory of disease, how are they going to react to their parents and preachers calling evolution "only" a theory? This could even turn out worse for the creationists than if the board had gone for the original proposal.
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