Florida passes new science standards

The Florida Board of Education passed new science standards on a 4-3 vote. The old standards got an F in a national survey by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which noted errors like the claim that “a thermometer measures the amount of heat absorbed by an object,” that “The classification of simple machines is naive?[e]nergetics of phase change is presented misleadingly; treatment of electricity and magnetism?is minimal? The treatment of chemistry content in K-8 is scanty; but?as one reviewer observed?”Even less is required in 9-12.”

They concluded “The superficiality of the treatment of evolutionary biology alone justifies the grade ‘F,’ but there is in any case scant mitigation elsewhere in these documents. Florida standards are in revision.We hope that the work will be fruitful.”

At NCSE’s request, a co-author of that report reviewed an earlier draft of the standards, and determined that “This draft is a giant step in the right direction.” Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, emeritus professor of physics from California State University, Long Beach, and author of numerous evaluations of state science standards for the Fordham Foundation continued, “It is clear, comprehensive, and most importantly, accurate.” He told me “This draft already represents a dramatic improvement across the board. With a little bit of extra effort, Florida could bring that up to an A.” And the writing committee took his advice, producing truly excellent standards.

At the last minute, the Board of Education took up a proposal to add the word “scientific theory of” before various theories, including plate tectonics, atomic theory, cell theory and evolution. They passed over a proposal by religious groups that would encourage “critical analysis” of evolution, an ID creationist stealth phrase than needlessly singles out evolution. Board members rejected the idea, noting that the standards already encourage critical thinking. The version passed did accommodate anti-science activists by approving the “scientific theory of” additions.

I rarely agree with the Disco. Inst.’s Casey Luskin, but his whining rant about this compromise is right in noting that “inserting the word ?scientific theory? before the word “evolution” is a meaningless and impotent change that will do absolutely nothing” to advance Disco.’s agenda. I couldn’t help thinking of Brer Rabbit in the briar patch as I watched people push this proposal. Evolution is a theory, and the standards make it clear that “a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer.” If creationists thought they were undermining evolution by calling it a theory, they just demonstrated their own scientific illiteracy.

Florida kids benefit from this, and teachers do as well. On top of all that, Disco. lost, and lost big. I’ll be drinking various concoctions involving Florida orange juice tonight.

Comments

  1. #1 UnionMac
    February 19, 2008

    In addition to never absorbing an honest science education, seems like the IDCers also never learned anything about being careful of what you ask for. Their insistence that the FL standard refer to the “scientific theory of evolution” (rather than just “evolution”) should ensure that their crackpot “theory” of biological evolution will never formally be taught in FL science classes under the new standard because their’s is just plain old unsubstantiated opinion and not science.

    Yup, that’s right, class, the State of Florida recognizes Darwin’s theory of natural selection as a bona fide scientific theory (and that so-called intelligent design/creationism balderdash you been hearing about, it ain’t officially squat).

  2. #2 Gene Goldring
    February 19, 2008

    Grade 3 students will be able to correct their parents by the middle of next year on the proper usage of the word theory.

    Second draft, Florida’s Proposed Student Performance Science Standards
    http://www.fcrstem.org/Uploads/1/docs/FLDOE/K-12_Proposal2ScienceStandards.pdf

    BIG IDEA 3: The Role of Theories, Laws, Hypotheses, and Models
    The terms that describe examples of scientific knowledge, for example; “theory,” “law,” “hypothesis” and “model”
    have very specific meanings and functions within science.

    Conversation at the dinner table in Florida homes is about to drastically change . ;)

    Option with the Inclusion of Scientific Theory and Law:
    http://www.fldoestem.org/Uploads/1/docs/FLDOE/Change%20Summary%20for%20Proposal2.pdf

  3. #3 Jeremy Mohn
    February 19, 2008

    “Evolution is a theory, and the standards make it clear that “a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer.” If creationists thought they were undermining evolution by calling it a theory, they just demonstrated their own scientific illiteracy.”

    In other words, the Florida BoE just awarded evolution the gold medal for Biology!

    Way to go Florida!

  4. #4 Larry Fafarman
    February 21, 2008

    Josh said,

    Evolution is a theory, and the standards make it clear that “a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer.” If creationists thought they were undermining evolution by calling it a theory, they just demonstrated their own scientific illiteracy.

    The “creationists,” as you call them, wanted the standards to call evolution a “theory” to try to prevent evolution from being taught as a “fact.” The creationists also wanted other changes in the standards, but those other changes were not granted by the board. Asking that evolution be called a “theory” was not a sign of “scientific illiteracy.”

  5. #5 Josh Rosenau
    February 22, 2008

    Larry, just because you, too, are scientifically illiterate doesn’t make it any less true. Could you define “theory” for me? Could you tell me what it would mean to teach electromagnetism “as a theory” and not “as a fact”? It’s meaningless. Evolution is and should be taught the same way, with the same confidence, that electromagnetism is, and these standards ensure that it will be. If you or other creationists think otherwise, it’s because you don’t know how science works, what basic terms mean. And that’s scientific illiteracy.

  6. #6 Larry Fafarman
    February 22, 2008

    Could you define “theory” for me?

    You yourself just defined it: “a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer.”

    Evolution is and should be taught the same way, with the same confidence, that electromagnetism is

    Evolution, unlike the various laws that are taught in science classes, is just based on inference and circumstantial evidence.

    If the term “theory” does not “undermine” evolution, then why did the Darwinists make such a big stink about adding “theory” to the state standards?

    As I said before, you biologists have an inferiority complex because of the kind of attitude expressed by Lord Rutherford: “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Because of this inferiority complex, biologists are waging a prestige war against the other branches of science by boasting that biology has something that the other branches don’t have, a grand central unifying principle, evolution.

  7. #7 Larry Fafarman
    February 22, 2008

    BTW, the Fordham Foundation or Institute (no connection to Fordham Univ.) sucks. The chief author of the Fordham report on state science standards, Paul R. Gross, is hardly unbiased about Darwinism, because he is a co-author — along with Barbara Forrest — of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, a book which claims that critics of Darwinism are a bunch of fundies who are conspiring to turn the USA into a theocracy. Also, even though evolution counts for only 3 points out of the 69 points in the Fordham rating system, Gross threatened to change Ohio’s overall science grade from a B to an F just because the Ohio evolution lesson plan included scientific weaknesses of evolution. Gross’s letter to the Ohio board of education is near the bottom of the following webpage:

    http://www.ohioscience.org/

  8. #8 mark
    February 22, 2008

    Evolution, unlike the various laws that are taught in science classes, is just based on inference and circumstantial evidence.

    This is kind of silly. We all know Bush did a “signing statement” on the Law of Gravity.
    But the comment about the Paul Gross being biased is even sillier–we should hope that he is biased in favor of good science when ranking the ability of schools to teach science. That he is coauthor of a book that reveals the failings and outright dishonesty of anti-science cdesign proponentsists only strengthens his credibility.

  9. #9 Josh Rosenau
    February 22, 2008

    So Larry, how would teaching evolution as “the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer” differ from teaching it “as a fact.” And do you really think that electromagnetism doesn’t rest on “inference and circumstantial evidence”? How would you distinguish “the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer” from “a grand central unifying principle”? And how is the ad hominem attack on Paul Gross relevant?

  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    February 22, 2008

    “Because of this inferiority complex, biologists are waging a prestige war against the other branches of science by boasting that biology has something that the other branches don’t have, a grand central unifying principle, evolution.”

    Actually, according to your ridiculous conception, it should be every other field against the physicists.

  11. #11 Richard Simons
    February 22, 2008

    Gross threatened to change Ohio’s overall science grade from a B to an F just because the Ohio evolution lesson plan included scientific weaknesses of evolution.

    Larry, you keep referring to these ‘scientific weaknesses’ but never say what they are. How about clarifying for us?

  12. #12 Gene Goldring
    February 22, 2008

    Would someone please feed those damn crickets!

  13. #13 Dave S.
    February 23, 2008

    Tyler is correct. Assuming any scientist gives a flip about what Rutherford had to say, shouldn’t they all (with the exception of physicists) have the exact same inferiority complex?

    And only a Creationist or idiot Creationist symapthiser could think it unreasonable that a scientist should be biased towards sceince. They’re apparently supposed to be “neutral”. Like all those chemists out there who are “neutral” on the question of whether atoms exist or astronomers who are on the fence about whether the Earth orbits the Sun.

  14. #14 UnionMac
    March 7, 2008

    NYT editors get it:

    …snip…

    The compromise was to insert the phrase “scientific theory of” before the word evolution as a sop to opponents who contend that evolution is just a theory, not a fact. But it looks to us like the scientists got the better of the argument. School officials inserted the same “scientific theory of” before every other major scientific consensus. The document now refers, for example, to “the scientific theory of cells,” the “scientific theory of atoms,” and the “scientific theory of electromagnetism.”

    Although some supporters of teaching evolution grouse that the standards were watered down, they actually look more airtight with the revisions. The standards make it clear that a “scientific theory” is well supported by evidence, not a mere claim, and that evolution is no different in this respect than many other widely accepted “theories.”

    …snip…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/opinion/06thu3.html

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