Detectives needed — in Florida

This is getting weirder all the time: the Miami Herald claims that 12 Florida counties have passed anti-evolution resolutions in their school boards. They all sound awfully similar, too, as if…

…as if there is intelligent design behind this campaign.

…as if there is some money backing this effort.

…as if someone has specifically targeted Florida as a good venue for the next evolution-creation trial, and is sowing the seeds.

So, anyone out there on a Florida school board, or knows someone who is? Have you got any information on the source of the anti-evolution boilerplate that’s being disseminated in your state? Let me know!


  1. #1 jeh
    January 10, 2008

    I would not be surprised to find out that someone with deep pockets is funding a scattershot challenge to the teaching evolution in Florida *and* Texas. Their strategy may be to overwhelm the scientific community and educators with multi-prong attacks in two generally conservative states. They know they can’t succeed in individual battles as in Dover, but what will happen if a dozen challenges are made in different jurisdictions at the same time?

    Religious conservatives should never be underestimated–they are in it for the long haul. In fact, I think they would rather eliminate the teaching of evolution than overturn Roe v. Wade.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    January 10, 2008

    Break out the EF, PZ. It’s so good at detecting design and doing science that it’s never been used, it quite obviously being a holy thing from the Great Designer. But surely an atheist can make use of it, for all manner of evil is acceptable to him.

    However, don’t make too much of the “intelligence” behind it. Apparently it’s the same sort of intelligence that made vertebrate wings out of forelimbs, for it is amazing how stupid the first resolution we saw was.

    Glen D

  3. #3 AlanWCan
    January 10, 2008

    What’s all this relating evolution to the creation of the universe crap? It’s as if none of these sock puppets has the vaguest idea what the theory of evolution is actually about before they oppose it (say it ain’t so, I’m shocked). Channeling someone else from an earlier thread: So let’s also not teach metalworking to the exclusion of other economic theories, or arithmetic to the exclusion of other versions of the Gettysburg address, or phys ed to the exclusion of other theories regarding the square root of 2…all equally irrelevant pairings. Your country is deeply infested with morons.

  4. #4 mothra
    January 10, 2008

    The message that earnestly needs to be disseminated is that state backing of religious principles inexorably leads to regimes like Iran. Any acceptance of one religious view will stifle others. I had a discussion with a local fundamentalist recently and this was the only point (obviously) of agreement. He phrased it succinctly: “The message changes when government is involved.”

  5. #5 ChrisKG
    January 10, 2008

    Well, let’s post their email addresses and spread their stupidity around the internet. Embarrass them completely and inundate them with requests to teach ‘other alternatives” (FSM anyone?) as well as demand equal time in their churches as well. Let us make it too painful to consider trying to teach ID as science, stick it in a comparative religion class or better yet a critical thinking class that uses ID as an example of what not to do.


  6. #6 holbach
    January 10, 2008

    That wacko state of Florida is causing our country to
    retrogress to the Dark Ages. Perhaps we don’t give our
    animal species the credit they deserve for not copying
    our deranged methods in trying to figure it all out.
    Here is a a defining text by Aldous Huxley from his
    “Texts and Pretexts”, 1932:

    “Man is so intelligent that he feels impelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world.
    Unfortuneately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in
    most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when
    he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a
    lunatic. Thus, no animal is clever enough,when there is a
    drought, to imagine that the rain is being withheld by
    evil spirits, or as a punishment for its transgressions.
    Therefore you never see animals going through the absurd
    and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion.
    No horse, for example, would kill one of its foals in
    order to make the wind change its direction. Dogs do not
    ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do
    the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy
    to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence
    from cats’ meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into
    benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly.”

  7. #7 negentropyeater
    January 10, 2008

    12 out of 67, that’s less than 20%. Doesn’t seem that surprising.
    If Americans were asked to vote for or against such a general motion, I guess the results would not be very good, to say the least.
    It’d be interesting to see the demographic profile of the counties involved, the educational level, etc…
    Moreover, does being a school board member entail any legally enforced academic requirements ? Most probably not. Does anybody know ?

  8. #8 negentropyeater
    January 10, 2008

    Also, what are the legal prerogatives of a school board as far as defining the science curriculum ?
    Can someone provide some light on the matter ?

  9. #9 Ichthyic
    January 10, 2008

    I’m not so sure that qualifies as a null-hypothesis, but it is a good point, nonetheless.

    OTOH, there is are prior patterns we can examine to make the assumption that they did see this coming, and went looking for specific organizations that deal specifically with coordinating strategy and wording. Which, btw, is most likely what “DrFrank” is basing his guesses on in #31.

    so, going by your interpretation, we already have past information that would immediately challenge the “null hypothesis”.

  10. #10 James Douglass
    January 10, 2008

    Sounds like a job for the investigative journalism of Carl Hiaasen. I wonder what his take on it is?

  11. #11 Dinzer
    January 10, 2008

    I wonder if the timing of this sudden “surge” is meant to coincide with the release of “Expelled”

  12. #12 SEF
    January 10, 2008

    The Florida School Boards Association has many individual names (with snail-mail addresses, phone numbers and even email addresses) for people to try out the simple “ask them” approach:

  13. #13 Lawdog
    January 10, 2008

    Hmmm….”a fair and balanced approached”…Fox News…must be Rupert Murdoch behind all of this!

  14. #14 negentropyeater
    January 10, 2008

    Found the following on the Florida DOE office of Math & Science website :

    Input for the revisions to the Sunshine state Science standard : closing January 2008 !

    Recommendations :

    Please note page 24/33 :

    Refer to AAAS and National Research Council
    (NRC) literature to imbed Nature of Science (NOS)
    concepts within the standards as well as NRC
    materials on teaching evolution and the nature of

    So I guess we’re seeing a backlash of this process.

  15. #15 Dr Zen
    January 10, 2008

    “other theories as to the creation of the universe”

    I must have missed the bit in the theory of natural selection that explained how the universe was created.

    When will these fucktards learn that using “evolution” as a codeword for “rationality” just points up their only crazedness?

  16. #16 JasonTD
    January 10, 2008


    “Also, what are the legal prerogatives of a school board as far as defining the science curriculum ?
    Can someone provide some light on the matter ?”

    I have been teaching science (chemistry and physics) in Florida for 5 years now, so I think I say a few things about this.

    The way it works here is that the state creates standards for each subject. The individual districts are responsible for designing the full curriculum themselves, aligning it with the standards. I suppose that a district, or individual school, perhaps, could choose not to teach a given standard or teach it differently than it is worded. However, even if there are no legal repercussions for doing so (I don’t know what the law says about this), there are two practical consequences for the districts that go this route.

    First, the standards are used to design the state tests given at every school to every student in grades 3-11. (the science test is given for grades 5, 8, and 11, reading and math 3-10) Any school or district that did not teach evolution would then see their students’ science scores suffer compared to what they would otherwise be, since there would be questions on the test relating to evolution. Since this last year, the scores of the science test do count toward a schools “grade”. (George’s little brother Jeb instituted a plan that gives a grade for each school based primarily on the results of the FCAT testing, but that also includes a few other factors like graduation rate. These grades are reported to the public and an “A” grade can mean bonuses for the school, and repeated “F” grades can mean drastic measures including having the state take over the school from the district.)

    Second, publishers who want their books bought by schools in Florida have to be sure that their books cover the Florida standards. We even have Florida editions of the books which list the standards covered by the textbook in the teacher’s editions to aid us in our planning. The state approves books that match up well with the state’s standards, and then individual districts can choose from among the approved books.

    So, as another commenter pointed out, Florida and Texas are good battleground states for the creationists since so many textbooks are bought by us.

  17. #17 B
    January 10, 2008

    Florida: America’s wang.

  18. #18 RamblinDude
    January 10, 2008

    The conditioning process is usually obvious. The bird happens to be executing some response as the hopper appears; as a result it tends to repeat this response. If the interval before the next presentation is not so great that extinction takes place, a second ‘contingency’ is probable. This strengthens the response still further and subsequent reinforcement becomes more probable. . . ..

    I remember seeing this behavior in pigeons in a video that Richard Dawkins(?) made that was linked to a few months ago. I remember thinking it was the one thing in the whole video that was likely to have a real impact on the average person.

    A lot of religious/superstitious people aren’t generally inherently stupid. They’ve just been fed a great deal of misinformation (like the lies that creationists and rapture preachers feed them) and they don’t know any different. But these are the very people that need to be educated, (there’s still hope for them) and this kind of experiment, presented properly, is exactly the kind of thing that average people can get their heads around. Seeing things like this can cut through a lot of crap and show, simply and graphically, how the world works. In this case, how superstitious behavior gets reinforced.

    This kind of communication is an art that we don’t often see taken to a high level. Carl Sagan was quite good at this, but he’s dead.

  19. #19 Escuerd
    January 11, 2008

    I don’t know whether it’s intelligent design, but it sure looks like those statements are the product of common descent. :)

  20. #20 Kami
    January 11, 2008

    Somebody should write a short book to counter all this nonsense. One you could print off from home and hand out wherever it is appropriate. Since ID has been regurgitating the same arguments over and over, this should only be a matter of time-consumption rather than difficulty.

    I’m not an expert on any science, but I would be willing to spell-check and be an editor for such an important project.

    Besides, a lot of it could probably be gleaned from past posts on this very blog…

  21. #21 Fernando Magyar
    January 11, 2008

    I don’t believe in souls but I still think I’d like to hear Francis Collins’ reaction to this little story, excerpted from the Minds I.

    Chapter 7: The Soul of Martha a Beast

  22. #22 Rich Stage
    January 11, 2008

    The IDist in Florida are back
    to mount a creationist attack
    let’s hope that we find
    someone of sound mind
    to pick up the rational slack

    Armageddon will surely come soon.
    Like Damocles’ sword it looms.
    Threatening to fall,
    and destroying us all
    if you listen to evangelistic loons.

    Some day, one would hope, they will act
    as if they’ve read just one single fact.
    But I won’t hold my breath,
    for it would be a quick death,
    because this IDiocy keeps coming back.

  23. #23 dogmeatib
    January 11, 2008

    Another problem with local politics is that you don’t really have to have any real qualifications to hold the office. To serve on a school board you have to be “interested” in education and effectively, have a pulse.

    There have been a couple of reports showing that anti-public education groups, generally Calvinist/ultra-fundamentalist Christian organizations, run for board positions (without mentioning their goals) and then intentionally run school districts into the ground because they believe that all education should be done by the churches. I had some very old links related to this, but couldn’t find them doing a search, etc.

    To make matters worse, many school district board members are unpaid volunteers or lowly paid “part-time” positions. You have to find someone willing to run for an office where effectively everyone thinks they can do a better job, where you are going to have to do additional work to research issues, etc., have to deal with and potentially worry about legal issues, and you’re not going to get paid. Most professionals don’t have the time or energy to do this so you get retirees and stay at home moms who often happen to be fairly conservative Christians.

    Put that all together with the lack of media attention, often lack of interest, the incorrect belief that the big national elections are more important than the small local elections, and you have a recipe for disaster. Only 60% of Americans voted in the last presidential election, something like 45% voted in the last congressional election (because Americans were PISSED). Something like 20% bother to vote in local elections.

  24. #24 dc
    January 19, 2008

    Ichthyic wrote, “Kitzmiller is only applicable to the federal district of the court it was heard in, so they can “violate” it all they want.”
    All present, including the board attorney, were aware of the limitations of Kitzmiller but the lawyer made it very clear that if the board stepped over the line it drew they were facing a lawsuit that would cost them a minimum of half a million dollars (lawyers are cheaper down here than in Pennsylvania). Nobody wants a test case in this district. I think the board was a little frustrated by the whole thing. They obviously weren’t expecting the comments from 22 opponents to the resolution. They also conveniently forgot to mention that they had already made two significant changes to the wording of the resolution that were not made public until AFTER the public comment period. The comments of several of us would have been significantly different if we had known. They spent several minutes disagreeing on the relative definitions of “concept” and “theory” while trying to decide whether to tell the state to change concept to theory in the standard. The attorney wouldn’t help them with this because he hadn’t brought a dictionary. It was suggested that they ask one of the two actual writers of the standard in question in the room but that didn’t sit well either. Apparently it was too difficult to go get a dictionary from a nearby classroom so they just muddled on without resolving anything. The body language of at least two members was saying, “Can we please vote on this and get it over with?” It was not an evening to inspire confidence on local school board.

  25. #25 rahulk
    July 31, 2008

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