In the creation wars, we never really win one — we just shuffle the battlegrounds around. That’s the case in Florida, where the committee to write the state science standards recently approved the inclusion of evolution in their standards. We cheered. This is what’s supposed to happen when you get a team of competent people to put together the standards — you get results that reflect, to some approximation, the current understanding of science in our public schools.

But of course that could not stand. A group of conservative politicians are poised to meddle — they asked experts to give them the best answer, they didn’t like the answer, so now they’re going to pull some political strings to work out a way to ignore the answer.

After the vote, John Stemberger, the head of the Florida Family Policy Council, said social conservatives would push for an “academic freedom” measure when the Legislature convenes this month. Such a proposal would protect teachers who teach alternatives to evolution. House Speaker Marco Rubio — who wanted evolution taught as a theory — told the Florida Baptist Witness such a plan might gain traction in the house.

And Friday, State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, filed just such a bill that would create an “Academic Freedom Act” and protect the right of teachers to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”

The bill is much like the sample one posted on the website of the Discovery Institute, which advocates for Intelligent Design. And it is controversial because many scientists (and their backers) say there are no other “scientific views” about evolution, only religion-in-disguise beliefs.

Those labels. You just know that the “Florida Family Policy Council” is a far right wing group with a mission to promote ignorance — the word “Family” gives them away every time (and it is such a nice word, ruined by people who translate it to mean “social shackles”). “Academic freedom” is also being misused here. The teachers have a job to do, to present a certain minimal body of scientific information to their students; they have freedom to think and act and speak, but they also have obligations, and those obligations include not misleading their charges. Academic freedom does not equate to irresponsibility. One would think conservatives would be pushing bills to enforce academic competence and academic responsibility, not this dishonest nonsense of calling attempts to ramrod intellectual gobbledygook into our schools “freedom”.

And the wording of the bill doesn’t even make sense. The standards were commissioned to outline the range of scientific views and scientific information, so that’s already there — this bill wouldn’t be an escape clause, it would further reinforce the requirement that the material on the standards be taught. Creationism and it’s inbred cousin with airs, Intelligent Design, are not scientific views.

Oh, and do note the similarity between this act and the Discovery Institute’s recommendation, and further, look here:

On the day the state board voted, Stemberger called adding the phrase “scientific theory” a “meaningless and impotent change.”

A post on the Discovery Institute’s “evolution news and views” blog that same day used the same phrase to criticize the vote, saying it did nothing “to actually inform students about the scientific problems with evolution.”

The Discovery Institute’s grubby little paw prints are all over this one. That’s the mission of the DI: undermining scientific expertise with propaganda and political machinations.


  1. #1 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 5, 2008

    And the wording of the bill doesn’t even make sense.

    Right with ya’ there, skip. It conflates evolution and abiogenesis (“chemical and biological evolution”) then expands on origins (“chemical and biological origins”, IIRC).

    I wish I could be so lackadaisical about escape clauses. It seems to me the bill will wedgeID TM open cracks in lesson plans (abiogenesis discussed beyond its importance and current content) and curricula (abiogenesis discussed in every type of class where the teacher feels it is in his interest). And I would snap my beak and spew ink over the pages.

    But I’m not a professional educator in US, so instead I will shut up now. :-)