Florida updates, a reminder and ID not a theory?

| 29 Comments

Florida Citizens for Science presents us with yet another newspaper editorial supporting science, making the count at least 11.

They also remind us that

This is a reminder that the Nassau County school board will be meeting tomorrow (Thursday), and one item on the agenda is an anti-evolution resolution. If you are in the area, please attend.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the School Board District Office, 1201 Atlantic Avenue, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034 (Map). (904) 491-9900. Here is contact information for the school board members.

The editorial reminds us how so called alternatives to evolutionary theory remain without any explanatory, predictive powers. So why should we be teaching such ideas as if they were scientific?

And, since Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was published in 1859, in which his theory of evolution was first introduced, scientific research and discoveries have added immensely to confirming his theory as factual. The physical evidence — including DNA — is on the side of evolution. Other biological theories or beliefs lack such physical support.

So remind us, how does Intelligent Design explain so-called designed systems like the bacterial flagellum?

Seems that even Robert Crowther has given up on the idea that intelligent design makes for a suitable alternative explanation when he ‘argues’

Here is a letter attacking intelligent design and promoting evolution. Really there was no need to attack intelligent design. No one has proposed including those two words in the state’s science standards. There is no legislation or initiative or serious proposal to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.

Thus we should remember that when a resolution asks for

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Madison County School Board, Madison, Florida, that the Board urges the State Board of Education to direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is not presented as fact, but as one of several theories.

that Intelligent Design could not possibly be part of the set of ‘several theories’.

Good to have that ‘controversy’ resolved since several ID proponents have come out to reject the idea that ID provides such a theory.

For instance Philip Johnson, father of intelligent design recently revealed in an interview with Berkeley Science Review:

I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world.

So the next time a school board argues that evolutionary theory should be taught as one of several theories, ask them what other theories they have in mind and when they mention Intelligent Design, remind them politely that ID does not belong in said category.

29 Comments

It would appear to me that 2008 is the year that creationists (YECs or IDists) have decided to go for all the marbles. They know they can make trouble for candidates in an election year (and politicians of all stripes are known to pander), and there is the possibility that the influence of the religious right is coming to an abrupt end with the departure of Dear Leader–and *gasp*–the failure to elect someone like Huckabee to take his place. Conscious or not, creationists of all stripes have probably decided it’s now or never–so we should expect to see a barrage of attacks on the teaching of evolution, whether in Florida or Texas, or through the Expelled movie, etc. And if there is a case that can be sent to the Supreme Court, they probably figure now is the time to do it, since it seems plausible that the court has become as conservative in makeup as its going to be in the near future.

Thanks PvM!

That’s been my point for a while now. Someone needs to put them on point and ask the question “What other theories do you propose we teach”?

However, none of the superintendents seem to be available for comment when they feel that they are about to be confronted.

We all know what it is they want to say - we need to make them say it!

Yes, of course. Evolution has one and only one shortcoming - it is wrong by religious proclamation, as being in conflict with fundamentalist doctrine. Apparently the goal here isn’t to show exactly how it’s wrong, nor to show that any other proposal meets scientific requirements. The only goal is to require teachers to cast as much general, hazy and unspecific doubt as possible on a huge set of observations that MUST be incorrect.

I think the entire presentation on evolution, in those rare Florida cases where such a thing happens at all, should properly take the form of “since we know from His own word that God created us in His image in the Garden of Eden, those who say otherwise are all lying atheists who hate God and made all this stuff up at the behest of Satan to test our faith. It’s nonsense. Our faith is like a rock. End of lesson.”

But politicians are, if nothing else, skilled at politics. So long as everyone knows what’s going on, it’s never necessary to make anything explicit. Just make vague appeals to fair play, and ensure that the faithful understand that “fair play” means “preach our doctrine.”

Not exactly true, some did speak, ahead of time…

Nassau County Superintendent John Ruis said he is a strong believer in biblical creationism. The theory of evolution has many “holes” in it, he said - and presenting it as undisputed fact “is certainly contrary to the beliefs of many people, including myself.”

and

Some school superintendents say the resolutions reflect the religious nature of their constituents in Northeast Florida.

“Of course, the farther south you get, you don’t see them necessarily embracing what we are saying,” said Baker County Superintendent Paula Barton. “To be honest with you, we are a strong Christian community here, and once people here have gotten a hold of [the resolution], they’ve certainly given it strong support.”

Source

Stacy S.:

Thanks PvM!

That’s been my point for a while now. Someone needs to put them on point and ask the question “What other theories do you propose we teach”?

However, none of the superintendents seem to be available for comment when they feel that they are about to be confronted.

We all know what it is they want to say - we need to make them say it!

OK. For the proponents of the change for equal time of other “theories”, What on God’s creation are those other theories?

@ Flint - You’ve got it mostly right, but please don’t lump ALL of Florida into the anti-evolution category. Many of these School Board resolutions have been adopted in a “sneaky” way by the school board members. As a whole, most of us are simply guilty of electing these people as our representatives. (Of course some of them even get elected because they are un- contested … BEV SLOUGH / St. Johns County / Pres. elect of State School Board Assoc. /Husband = Baptist preacher /…)

I also think that several of the people on the State Board of Education, were appointed by Jeb Bush. We had no control over that.

In short, what I am trying to say is that a lot of Floridians are pissed off and they should be!

I want to know how this comment is even POSSIBLE!! … (from Jacksonville.com)

Clay County’s retiring superintendent, David Owens, said the state is “interfering” in what should be a local matter. Other theories on the origin of life should be presented along with evolution, he said.

“I believe in the separation of church and state, but I also believe there is important information available on both sides of [evolution],” he said. “To present it in just one way is wrong.”

Quoth PvM:

So the next time a school board argues that evolutionary theory should be taught as one of several theories, ask them what other theories they have in mind…

I tried doing that with an email to one of the Taylor County Creationists and a couple of the Jackson County board members as well. The email I sent to Mark Southerland is reproduced here; it’s the same as I’ve sent to others with a few superficial changes.

No response at all. That sort of confirms my suspicion that they’ve got nothing.

The comments these evolution-deniers make to the papers make no mention of Intelligent Design. They’re talking about Biblical Creationism in almost all instances (I think one of the Polk County board mentioned ID back when this all started a couple of months ago).

Nobody is talking about ID anymore, really. The Dembski/Behe contingent, I think, is largely viewed as a failure and has been losing support. It’s all about old-fashioned Creationism now, particularly since Dembski came right out and admitted that the designer was none other than “the Christian God.” If it weren’t for us talking about them at this point, they’d likely dry up and blow away.

Nathaniel Abraham? Biblical Creationist. Clay County School Board? Biblical Creationists. Jackson County SB? Biblical Creationists. Taylor County SB? Biblical Creationists.

ID has stood for a lot of things. These days, it mostly stands for “It’s Dead.”

Another way to approach the whole alternative theory part is to simply mention the fact that they were not teaching evolution in schools the day after Darwin published his book. The Scopes monkey trial was a full 50 years later and technically a loss for evolution. Theories are vetted by scientists at large and over time. We may as well teach the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory. There will be plenty of time to change curriculum should a viable alternative is presented. (which we know will not). We know from many sources, including the Dover trials that ID is not a viable science.

The other idea I had is if all those that do not believe in evolution be bereft of all the benefits, namely the medicines, that were possible from this science. We would soon have natural selection take care of the problem for us, Ironic, eh?

i have enjoyed the many post about Darwin’s theory and have been amused by the fundies position. i think its time that we ,those who support evolution, take the high road and help the DI out of the hole it keeps digging deeper.I take religion seriously and follow as much of the world religions as possible. Just recently the Mormon church made a change in the wording in the book of Mormon to the effect that it no longer states that the indigenous population of north, central and south America are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel as had been stated in the book of Mormons. of course dna is making it hard to keep pushing that so with just a flick of the pen they take out “are descendants of” and put in “could be descendants of” the lost tribes.A quick clean no big deal approach. would it not be just as easy to do the same with the Christan bible. for example on day seven god created evolution so that all birds animals fish and insect can change as needed to survive. and as god looked out over the lush green garden he had created he saw two animals that had evolved to look like him,and to help them continue on there path he gave them a soul, something only there kind would have. well i guess you get the drift here. to help this work i am going to rewrite Genesis to include evolution and have prints made, then all we need to do is every time we find a bible whip out the revised genesis page , a few dabs from a glue stick and the problem goes away one bible at a time. now that that is over maybe the DI can try to help with the real problems our world has.

Actually, Schumann, if I recall correctly, the change to the Book of Mormon was in the introduction (not the text), and the change was from “Primary ancestors” to “one of the ancestors”, or something like that. I really can’t see the Bible belt accepting any change (or even a different translation) to their Scripture. To even hint that maybe “day” means something other than 24 hours is often seen as devilish. The best thing we can do is demand good education; that, and not go around telling people “You can believe in evolution or God, but not both.” Let people know about Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and other religious people who accept evolution as fact.

Chances are in fundie dominated school districts in Florida they won’t teach evolution no matter what the state decides. In much of Texas and most of Arkansas, they just don’t teach evolution in high school.

There doesn’t seem to be any enforcement or interest in enforcement or even enforcement powers from the state boards to the county level.

If they teach creationism in science classes, that is another matter. It is illegal and the courts have ruled so many times.

And Sweden does face challenges in continuing its march toward renewables. The interview with Reinfeldt was followed by a news story on windparks in northern Sweden’s forests. Why the forests and not the coasts, where there is much more wind? Because Sweden also has problems with “NIMBY” syndrome (“Not In My Back Yard”), and by placing the new windparks in the least populated areas, protests are avoided. Indeed residents welcome these new clean energy and economic engines with open arms. ——— http://www.vcao.net

Stacy S.:

Someone needs to put them on point and ask the question “What other theories do you propose we teach”?

However, none of the superintendents seem to be available for comment when they feel that they are about to be confronted.

I agree that they seem to have no ready alternative; they are well aware that ID won’t fly anymore. I don’t think they’re even proposing alternate theories. In my neck of North Florida, what I’m seeing them request is that teachers provide the evidence that supports as well as the “evidence against” evolution. They seem to believe they can require that evolution be weighed against itself. The people developing these bogus lists of scientists and “mounting evidence against” have their foot soldiers - the soccer moms and churchgoers - convinced that there’s a massive conspiracy to cover up the “truth” that evolution doesn’t hold up. They think that if people get “all” the facts, then their kids will see that it’s all just a farce. (whew, I’m relieved, aren’t you? no need to waste any more brainpower on that futile evolution stuff)

What’s smart about this request is that (1) they don’t need any science of their own and (2) it comes off as eminently reasonable to the generally unscientific administrative politico type that is a school board member. Finally, I’m no mind reader, but I think that even if they get their wish, they’ll cry foul and say that the teaching is still “dogmatic.” They can complain eternally, because nothing short of denying evolution will truly please them. It’s a no lose proposition, as far as they’re concerned.

I have not at this point witnessed an actual request for creationism in the science classroom; however, the average person I talk to seems to believe that including creationism is what these proposals for “fair and balanced” teaching are asking. And no, they’re not nearly as outraged as one would hope; Many shrug their shoulders as if it “sounds fair” to them. And this is what we’re dealing with: apathy and mental atrophy

Actually, Charles, there are innumerable such Genesis rewrites available, including one of the more recent incarnations, Gerald Schroeder’s entirely balmy books.

Mike O'Risal Wrote:

It’s all about old-fashioned Creationism now…

From what I can tell, most school boards never quite “got the memos” of the ID movement. Specifically the part about “don’t ask, don’t tell what the designer did, when or how,” as opposed to the “don’t mention the designer’s identity.”

If so, we should be able to get them to “sing” (a la Bill Buckingham), and in the process shine some light on the hopeless contradictions among the YE and several OE versions. Many board members themselves probably never gave it much thought, and would be surprised at the mess of contradictions, if not at the fact that the evidence supports none of the versions. Board members that have been clued in, seem to “intuitively gravitate” to evasiveness.

It’s long overdue to highlight that to the public instead of the same old “sneaking in God” part. That’s the courts’ job anyway.

Stacy S. Wrote:

I want to know how this comment is even POSSIBLE!! … (from Jacksonville.com)

Clay County’s retiring superintendent, David Owens, said the state is “interfering” in what should be a local matter. Other theories on the origin of life should be presented along with evolution, he said.

“I believe in the separation of church and state, but I also believe there is important information available on both sides of [evolution],” he said. “To present it in just one way is wrong.”

Possible but rare, because nearly everyone who parrots those sound bites about evolution also parrots the one about “there is no separation…”

The obvious question is how Owens will respond whan someone tells him that evolution is not a theory of the origin of life. One can have even more fun asking what he thinks of Lamarckian evolution. Or my favorite: “Do you agree with Michael Behe that the only other promising ‘theory’ for the origin of species includes common descent and a ~4 billion year of life?”

The obvious answer from a Florida fundie school board member to Frank J’s favorite question would be: “Who is Michael Behe?”.

What we are witnessing is a protest movement from the unthinking and uneducated politicians in the unpopulated and undeveloped part of Florida. Look at the demographics at Wikipedia. The Dover school district represents a degree of urbanization and sophistication that many counties in Northern Florida could never dream of.

Oh yeah? Well, if man evolved from monkeys, then why are there still FL school boards?

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I sent Beverly Slough a copy of Shubin’s Your Inner Fish today. It’s due to be delivered to her on January 28 according to Amazon. This explains why.

If you’re in Florida and up to it, maybe you could check in with her in about a week and ask her if she’s read it yet? That way, she knows that people in her state who actually know something about evolutionary science are aware that she owns a copy of the book, so she can’t make statements about great leaps from fish to man not being evidenced in the fossil record when the State Board has its standards meeting in February.

Somebody who might be at that meeting might just point out that she got a copy of Shubin’s book and still failed to educate herself as to what evolutionary theory actually claims and what the evidence is if she tries to do so. That would make her look pretty bad, IMO, going into her new statewide responsibilities.

That would make her (Beverly S.) look pretty bad, IMO, going into her new statewide responsibilities.

It is a cute idea but probably won’t work. Fundies are prohibited by their religion from using education, common sense, reason, or logic. She will just say she read it and it is all wrong and Genesis makes perfect sense and science is all wrong too.

This would be amusing if she was just a homeless derelict or some hillbilly out in boonies somewhere, shooting an oppossum for dinner. But as an official in the Florida state school board, this is appalling.

The Beverlys of the world make great witnesses in court. Like the creo guy in Arkansas who claimed that UFOs are real and piloted by demons from hell. There are lots of times when an education and ability to think comes in handy.

Mike O’Risal:

I sent Beverly Slough a copy of Shubin’s Your Inner Fish today. ies.

That was really nice of you!:-) You really went “above and beyond’ Thank you!

She claims to have a degree in biology though - so she probably thinks she knows everything already.

I would really like to “investigate” her degree. (We spoke earlier about this on your blog)

Here is what her “Bio” says -

“ Beverly Slough, District 1 representative to the St. Johns County School Board, is a 27 year resident of the Switzerland community in northwest SJC. Bev graduated with a degree in biology from Stephen F. Austin State University and worked as respiratory therapist for 10 years. She moved here from Dallas when her husband, Wes, accepted a call to pastor Switzerland Community Church. She is the mother of two daughters, Julie, 26, and Elizabeth, 23, who are the products of St. Johns County Schools. Bev began her association with our local schools as a volunteer who decided to become a substitute teacher. Finding herself working every day with no benefits, she accepted a job as the secretary/bookkeeper of Julington Creek Elementary in 1994 and helped open Cunningham Creek Elementary in 1995, where she worked until she was elected to the School Board in 2002. Her community activities include: Chair of NE Florida Coalition of School Boards, Vice-Chair of Florida School Boards Association, Chair of PACT Prevention Coalition, immediate past Chair of Character Counts! of St. Johns County, Board of Directors of EPIC Community Services, Board of Directors and NW Chair of United Way, and Leadership St. Johns-Class of 2006. Bev is very actively participating in her church, is an avid reader, and enjoys traveling.”

So - my questions are … Is her degree in biology related to Respiratory Therapy? (a Master of Science degree with a degree in Criminal Justice does NOT make the person who holds that degree a scientist)—-If so - I checked the curriculum for a respiratory therapist and here’s what it lists —- Respiratory Care Program Curriculum 9/2006 Summer I Applied Mathematics OR MA 109 College Algebra 3 BIO 137/BSL 110 Human Anatomy & Physiology I 4 7 Summer II BIO 139/BSL 111 Human Anatomy & Physiology II 4 ENG 101 Writing I 3 7 Fall ENG 102 Writing II 3 Medical Microbiology OR Principles of Microbiology 4 or 3 Heritage/Humanities/Foreign Language 3-4 Oral Communications 3 12-14 Spring RRT110 Cardiopulmonary Anatomy & Physiology 3 RRT120 Fundamentals of Respiratory Care 4 RRT121 Respiratory Care Practice I 1 RRT130 Cardiopulmonary Pharmacology 2 PY 110 General Psychology 3 13 Summer I RRT131 Respiratory Care Practice II 2 RRT140 Cardiopulmonary Evaluation 2 4 Summer II RRT141Respiratory Care Practice III 2 RRT150 Introduction to Mechanical Ventilation 2 4 Fall RRT200 Patient-Ventilator System Management 4 RRT210 Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology 3 RRT220 Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care 3 RRT221 Respiratory Care Practice IV 4 14 Spring RRT230 Preventive & Long-term Respiratory Care 2 RRT231 Respiratory Care Practice V 4 RRT240 Advanced Cardiopulmonary Evaluation 3 RRT250 Advanced Cardiac Life Support 2 RRT260 Respiratory Care Seminar 1 12 Total 73-75 Sorry that was so long but I don’t want to be accused of diluting the curriculum.

So question #2 - Shouldn’t she have 2 degrees listed? (If in fact her degree is actually “Biology”

RM Wrote:

The obvious answer from a Florida fundie school board member to Frank J’s favorite question would be: “Who is Michael Behe?”.

I have no reason to doubt that, but if it is brought up, I would imagine that, to avoid further embarrassment, at least some of them would spend a few minutes googling to find out.

But this is what gets me more than anything. Both sides often act like it is still 1987, and if students don’t learn something (creationism, ID, the phony “critical analysis” etc.) in science class that it is for all intents and purposes out of reach. Today, a few minutes online (at libraries for those who don’t have Internet access) can find more anti-evolution sound bites than anti-evolution activists dreamed possible 20 years ago.

And they have the unvbelievable chutzpah to whine “censorship.”

RM,

About googling Behe:

I am, however, aware that it’s much easier to find “Behe’s just a creationist” than to find “Sorry to break it to you Biblical literalists, but your best hope conceded an old Earth and common descent.”

I have been trying to do my part over the last 10 years to populate the web with more comments like the latter. I wish more people would.

Excellent. Sorry, obligatory nitpick in passing:

The editorial reminds us how so called alternatives to evolutionary theory remain without any explanatory, predictive powers.

Modulo what “evolutionary theory” is supposed to reference, don’t throw lamarckism et cetera predictive alternative theories out with the bath water when reviewing/talking to the press.

[FCS got it right tho’: “Other biological theories or beliefs lack such physical support.”]

Mark O:

Another way to approach the whole alternative theory part is to simply mention the fact that they were not teaching evolution in schools the day after Darwin published his book. The Scopes monkey trial was a full 50 years later and technically a loss for evolution. Theories are vetted by scientists at large and over time. We may as well teach the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory. There will be plenty of time to change curriculum should a viable alternative is presented. (which we know will not). We know from many sources, including the Dover trials that ID is not a viable science.

The other idea I had is if all those that do not believe in evolution be bereft of all the benefits, namely the medicines, that were possible from this science. We would soon have natural selection take care of the problem for us, Ironic, eh?

You would be misrepresenting the problem if you called the ID alternative a recent notion. It is probably as old as the first person that claimed that the spirits or gods were doing unexplainable things.

If you are talking about the use of molecular machines, that is just the latest assertion along a long line of such assertions dealing with what we do not understand at this time. Babies are pretty complex molecular machines, and what happened to the ID notion that the designer was responsible for making babies? Not only that, but it was just a pick up replacement scam for scientific creationism when it fell on it’s face. All ID was used for was to keep the creationist scam artists in the game and keep the rubes satisfied. The ID perps knew that it wasn’t going to make the grade years ago. It was the ID perps that began running the bait and switch on their own supporters. Just look what happened recently in Florida. The rubes had been conned by the ID scam, but now they are talking about teaching the controversy, but they are so incompetent that then can’t keep religion out of the discussion.

There was nothing new about the creationist intelligent design scam, just another layer of dishonesty layered over the previous attempts.

Just look at the fact that the same ID perps are running the critical analysis or teach the controversy scam, and all it is, is just the old creationist obfuscation scam with the only difference being that they are not supposed to mention why they are obfuscating. Just another layer of dishonesty. The public face of the ID replacement scam doesn’t even mention that ID ever existed, so how much faith can the ID perps have had in ID when they came up with the replacement scam as far back as 1999? The ID perp’s main problem at this time is that the ignorant masses that they depend on for support are too ignorant and incompetent to impliment the ID, teach the controversy, replacement scam effectively.

Ron O Wrote:

The rubes had been conned by the ID scam, but now they are talking about teaching the controversy, but they are so incompetent that then can’t keep religion out of the discussion.

I guess we’ll know for sure after “Expelled” is out for a few months, but it seems that the DI is mostly abandoning its “ID is not religious” charade. Maybe I’m just more aware (I hope), but I have been noticing more of the “‘Darwinism’ is religious too” style arguments after Dover. IANAL, so I hope I’m wrong, but I see a lot more opportunity for wordsmithing if the DI tries to show that “religion” is being taught already. There’s always the Kansas 1999 fallback strategy of just trying to eliminate evolution: (“if you won’t let me teach my pseudoscience then you shouldn’t teach ‘Darwinism’ either.”)

Frank J:

Ron O Wrote:

The rubes had been conned by the ID scam, but now they are talking about teaching the controversy, but they are so incompetent that then can’t keep religion out of the discussion.

I guess we’ll know for sure after “Expelled” is out for a few months, but it seems that the DI is mostly abandoning its “ID is not religious” charade. Maybe I’m just more aware (I hope), but I have been noticing more of the “‘Darwinism’ is religious too” style arguments after Dover. IANAL, so I hope I’m wrong, but I see a lot more opportunity for wordsmithing if the DI tries to show that “religion” is being taught already. There’s always the Kansas 1999 fallback strategy of just trying to eliminate evolution: (“if you won’t let me teach my pseudoscience then you shouldn’t teach ‘Darwinism’ either.”)

Yeah, but when they actually get around to putting forward the junk that they don’t want taught we find out that it isn’t “Darwinism” but just any science that they can’t fit into their “literal” interpretation of the Bible. The age of the earth was Darwinism to the Kansas mob back in 1999. They dropped out mentioning the Big Bang too, radioactive decay was Darwinism. Geology was Darwinism if they talked about geologic ages. They dropped a lot out of the science standards and it wasn’t just biological evolution.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on January 23, 2008 11:52 AM.

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