Florida: The Final (Public) Word

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There was a meeting held in Orlando, Florida today to allow public comment on the proposed new Florida science standards. The new standards incorporate evolution, both word and concept, into the benchmarks. That sort of thing might cause a Bill Buckingham to exclaim, “It’s laced… with Darwinism!” And it pretty much did.

I spent a fair amount of time between 10 AM and 2:30 PM today listening to the webcast of the event, when it was working. (The remainder I used tending Diane, who has the flu.) The event ran from 10 to 3:30, so I heard most of it.

I have a retrospective overview at my weblog:

Barring any media bombshells, the public commentary phase of responses to the proposed Florida science standards is now over and done with. I have not yet seen every minute of the meeting today in Orlando, but I did sample several hours of it.

There are several things to be said. The first is that I am very proud of the leadership role that the Florida Citizens for Science group played in bringing things to this point. While the pro-science side was numerically under-represented among the commenters, I recognized many of them as members of Florida Citizens for Science. Among those, FL CfS President Joe Wolf presented the petition supporting the standards that so many of you have signed, noting the total number collected in less than two weeks as over 1,500 signatures, and that somewhat more than 1,000 of those were Florida citizens. FL CfS Treasurer Pete Dunkelberg made excellent use of his three minutes at the podium, reminding the Florida Board of Education that they have the opportunity to change Florida’s standards score from “F” to “A” – if only they don’t mess up at the last minute by capitulating to the anti-science crowd.

Read here for more.

I also have a series of posts from summarizing various speakers while the webcast ran:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

Comment either here, there, or at After the Bar Closes.

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With Florida deciding if they should adopt good science standards or insert nonsense from the usual suspects, I think a quick reminder of my previous “turtles all the way down” essay is in order. Despite the age of this and that it’s ... Read More

44 Comments

Comments need to be substantive to stay in this thread. See linkspam and other stuff at the Bathroom Wall.

I don’t think the meeting in Orlando will make any difference whatsoever on the decision that the BoE makes on the 19th.

We already know that there are -2 for and 2 against - just waiting on the other 3 to make their viewpoints public. I’m pretty sure that they have their minds made up already though.

I’m optimistic that they will make the right decision. If they are “on the fence”, they are certainly aware that their jobs are at stake if they do anything stupid.

Thanks for compiling the synopsis of the webcast, Dr. Elsberry. Frankly I’m dismayed at the stupidity on display. Even after all these years, how can you stop the bogus nonsense when it’s delivered with such conviction? Telling people there’s a shadowy conspiracy spreading this misinformation just makes us look paranoid and stupid - even though it’s actually true.

I’m sorry for the framing and writing committees of the new standards, who selfless work for the betterment of our students has been cast into doubt by bureaucrats. Why would they even entertain the fact that all their expertise and knowledge of science could match that of Pastor Bubba from the Swamplick Church of (lets keep science in the 16th century). Why do a small minority of religious fundamentalists think that their beliefs drawn from scripture will remain the only statement of truth until world’s end? If so, why would they bother with anti biotics or flu shots when it was the evidence of biological evolution that propagated these discoveries? As a Floridian I am shocked by this level of anti science.

Telling people there’s a shadowy conspiracy spreading this misinformation just makes us look paranoid and stupid - even though it’s actually true.

It’s hardly shadowy. It’s overt.

Julie Stahlhut:

Telling people there’s a shadowy conspiracy spreading this misinformation just makes us look paranoid and stupid - even though it’s actually true.

It’s hardly shadowy. It’s overt.

I don’t think they ALL know what they are doing. I’ve been wondering - at what point do you go from being a “pawn” to being a “bishop” ?

Conspiracies have always been a greater comfort than reality to those who can’t deal with the truths that life deals them.

Happy 199-th Darwin day, everybody!

A victory is a victory. Congratulations to the Florida Citizens for Science for standing up for the forces of light.

Someone lit a candle against the Darkness despite the constant drizzle of bronze age mythology and stupidity.

What struck me from the post, the creos aren’t advocating a Xian religious viewpoint. It is cult nonsense.

I’ve heard that it is quite effective when mainstream religious leaders get up and point out that the majority of Xian denominations worldwide don’t have a problem with evolution or reality. Xians are very good at wrangling over doctrinal points, sometimes with guns and bombs.

No matter what happens at the FDOE or FBOE, it won’t matter that much. In creo areas, the teachers simply won’t teach evolution no matter what the state standards are. What happens in Texas and Arkansas among other places.

I’m starting to think granting religious waivers to cultists to get out of evolution teaching in biology classes might be a good idea. If the fundies want to keep their kids stupid, ignorant, and poor, why not?

In the long run reality always wins and someday creationism will be like geocentrism 400 years after Copernicus. Only a quarter of the population will believe it and the other 75% of the population will laugh at them and get all the good jobs requiring education. Unfortunately, this could be after a detour to a new Dark Ages.

raven:

I’m starting to think granting religious waivers to cultists to get out of evolution teaching in biology classes might be a good idea. If the fundies want to keep their kids stupid, ignorant, and poor, why not?

I’m afraid that would open up a whole new can of worms.

Just off the top of my head … as many different schools that would end up being funded by government funds, as there are churches. ( School of Scientology? FSM-perhaps?- Protestant school, Catholic school, Baptist school, etc…)

THEN - how do Universities choose? Are they going to get sued like UC?

Yes, the fundies outnumbered the science advocates 5-to-1, but all they had was religious fundamentalism; not one coherent science-based refutation of Evolution. Kinda sucks for them. The people in charge of the school science standards have been charged by the state to design a curriculum that is comprehensive and fact-based. They will need to live in denial of reality to ignore the scientific community, and that is not what they will do. The state is going through the motions of “public input” after having made up it’s mind about the new standards. Game over, dude!

IVORYGIRL Wrote:

Why do a small minority of religious fundamentalists think that their beliefs drawn from scripture will remain the only statement of truth until world’s end?

I think you’ve just defined “religious fundamentalists.” There is no doubt some psychological phenomenon (or malady?) at work here, and it would be interesting to see someone do a clinical study, not to mention the resulting discrimination lawsuits and press hoopla.

Raven said: “I’m starting to think granting religious waivers to cultists to get out of evolution teaching in biology classes might be a good idea. If the fundies want to keep their kids stupid, ignorant, and poor, why not?

In the long run reality always wins and someday creationism will be like geocentrism 400 years after Copernicus. Only a quarter of the population will believe it and the other 75% of the population will laugh at them and get all the good jobs requiring education. Unfortunately, this could be after a detour to a new Dark Ages.”

Sorry Raven, but I have to disagree: that sort of hands-off approach and wishful thinking on the part of many scientists and professors in the past is what, in my opinion, has gotten us to the point we’re at today.

Sorry Raven, but I have to disagree: that sort of hands-off approach and wishful thinking on the part of many scientists and professors in the past is what, in my opinion, has gotten us to the point we’re at today.

Waivers might be an improvement over the present system. In most of Arkansas and much of Texas, the schools just flat out ignore the state standards. There doesn’t seem to be any enforcement mechanisms or desire to enforce anything.

It could defuse much of the fanaticism displayed by some. It is peculiar that these people are so terrified of simple scientific facts about the universe. Doesn’t say much for their faith.

Besides how many fundies would apply for waivers? The hardcore bigots and fanatics might, but they are probably a minority. The few fundies I’ve talked to parrot the creo line without much interest because that is what they have been told. But they don’t seem to really care that much. Xianity is about how to live and why. The nonsense about geocentrism, the flat earth, and creationism is a side show. IMO, they do a huge disservice to the religion by ignoring the main points to tilt at mythological windmills based on the understanding of the world by bronze age sheepherders.

Not to mention that fundamentalism is not inherited. Many of their kids will develop into other postions and professions–even becoming scientists if given the chance.

Wes quotes from someone’s public comment: “Please consider the quality of the teachers, we will not disregard the sensitivity of our students, and we will present both sides.”

Google “AP Biology” and Behe, or “intelligent design”. You’ll see its common to “present both sides” as an exercise in scientific critical thinking, either in class, or as supplemental material, even in a class that’s supposed to be college level. I teach AP Biology, and participate on the College Board’s AP Biology teacher’s email list. Roughly half of the correspondants on the topic insist that their students are smart enough evaluate anti-evolution arguments, and are angered by the suggestion that they’re presenting anti-science propaganda that can’t be completely evaluated by the non-scientist. A portion of the other half proudly proclaim anti-religious views.

The problem is that we STILL teach biology as a bucket of relatively unrelated facts. The years of emphasis on educating teachers to present method and an unstanding of what science is has been translated by colleges of education as a necessity to recreate the science in the classroom in the most dramatic way possible. There is no understanding of the scientific community, how it operates, peer review, and the necessity of referencing recognized authority in established science. The result is the presentation of a bucket of facts each of which has no more legitimacy than any alternative that might be proposed.

Many (most?) teachers, no different than the rest of the public and media, view the “controversy” as the “inevitable” opposition of science and scientists to religion. This misunderstanding is produced by the two extremes using similar tactics. So two things have to happen. Science education needs to include the sociology and philosophy of science, as well as the methods, and the silent majority of scientists and educators have to do more unapologitic pushing back against extreme atheists using science to attack religion.

extreme atheists using science to attack religion

Huh? Who are you referring to?

On the surface this sounds like a victory. Keep in mind, though, that there are numerous stealth creationist biology/science teachers out there in the classroom whose desks are full of creationist literature and they will at every opportunity subtlely inject their views into the discussions.

An argument for cooperatively in combating misinformation in teaching standards

“Why do a small minority of religious fundamentalists think that their beliefs drawn from scripture will remain the only statement of truth until world’s end?” “Frankly I’m dismayed at the stupidity on display”, but “I’m optimistic that they will make the right decision.”

Fortunately “[s]omeone lit a candle against the Darkness despite the constant drizzle of bronze age mythology and stupidity” but “[unfortunately, this could be after a detour to a new Dark Ages.”

Though “I’m starting to think granting religious waivers to cultists to get out of evolution teaching in biology classes might be a good idea”. In fact “[w]aivers might be an improvement over the present system” although “I’m afraid that would open up a whole new can of worms.” I know, “the fundies outnumbered the science advocates 5-to-1, but all they had was religious fundamentalism; not one coherent science-based refutation of Evolution.” While “[i]t could defuse much of the fanaticism displayed by some”, others “see that sort of hands-off approach and wishful thinking on the part of many scientists and professors in the past is what, in my opinion, has gotten us to the point we’re at today.” A hard day at the quote mine

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

David:

On the surface this sounds like a victory. Keep in mind, though, that there are numerous stealth creationist biology/science teachers out there in the classroom whose desks are full of creationist literature and they will at every opportunity subtlely inject their views into the discussions.

I agree, but that means that this is of course only step one of the process. Step two is to advocate in your own communities to ensure that the local school boards actually teach to the standards. That won’t be as sexy as working state-wide standars, granted, but as or more important.

dpr

Getting good science into the standards is a necessary first step, IMO. If that doesn’t happen, then you get statewide antievolution mandates, much as Ohio was dealing with between 2002 and 2006. Ohio politicians went for the “compromise” language suggested by the DI, were told over and over that “intelligent design” wasn’t part of what was going into the curriculum, were kept in the dark about negative evaluations of the “critical analysis” lesson plan, and only learned how thoroughly they had been taken when internal emails from the governor’s office (obtained in investigation of an unrelated scandal) were released. The Ohio “critical analysis” lesson plan had started with outright creationism content, then was amended to rely heavily on resources prepared by IDC advocates and using many of the same arguments associated with those IDC arguments. The “just change a few words” crowd there managed to use those few words to hijack science education throughout the whole state.

So, yes, you are going to always have local problems, because when national or statewide antievolution gambits fail, that is the standard tactic the antievolution forces turn to. But it really could be worse. And with Florida, we don’t yet know whether they will be like West Virginia, who (IIRC) recently told the antievolutionists to get lost, or like Ohio, and invite them over the threshold by attempted appeasement.

Eternal vigilance: The Washington State Legislature is in special session just now, and somehow David Horowitz convinced some state senator to introduce S.B. 6893, entitled “Intellectual Diversity”. This bill violates academic freedom, by requiring professors to present ‘different viewpoints’ and create grievance procedures against professors who do not represent ‘all sides’.

State universities, under this bill, wold be required to “develop a procedure in which a student may present his or her objection to a classroom assignment due to its opposition with the student’s conscience.”

While consideration of S.B. 6893 was postponed last week, and so it may well die unread, long-time readers here will recognize this for what it is. I encourage e-mail to, for example, the Governor (Governess(?)), expressing dismay that S.B. 6893 was even introduced. World-wide (informed) opinion makes a difference in the State of Washington. Thank you.

Vince Wrote:

In the long run reality always wins and someday creationism will be like geocentrism 400 years after Copernicus. Only a quarter of the population will believe it and the other 75% of the population will laugh at them and get all the good jobs requiring education. Unfortunately, this could be after a detour to a new Dark Ages.

Geocentrism is a form of creationism, so I assume that you mean the more modern strategies. AIUI, the more educated creationists were conceding at least an old-earth by the 1960s when “scientific” creationism was concocted to stem the defection with a young-earth, heliocentric compromise that sounded scientific enough to probably win back many OECs. Unfortunately OEC also had scientific-sounding language and refused to go away, so by the 1980s, when the irreconcilable differences, plus the failure of any YE or OE anti-evolutionary account to fit the evidence became too much for some groups to handle, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” strategy that “evolved” into ID was born. These are the new Dark Ages, with a disturbingly “new age” feel.

My fear is that we are helping anti-evolution activists by carelessly treating it as “evolution vs. creationism” instead of “mainstream science vs. various misrepresentation strategies, mostly trying to hide their differences under a big tent.” And by focusing on the religion aspect (which the courts handle quite well) instead of the fact that anti-evolution activism is a pseudoscientific scam, perpetrated by people who might not even believe what they lead the audience to infer.

I agree that 25% are essentially hopeless, but as you probably know, there’s another ~25% that, due to correctible misunderstandings, believes some anti-evolution pseudoscience (mostly YEC), another ~20% that claims to accept evolution but still falls for “it’s only fair to teach the controversy” - as I did as late as 1997, with 20 years as a chemist behind me.

With ~50% of the public believing in astrology and ~90% that can’t describe a molecule, however, it won’t be easy to get 75% on board. But it will be impossible if we keep taking the activists’ bait.

Here’s the home run that was hit out of the park:

“But Debra Walker, chairman of the Monroe County School Board, urged passage of the new standards as is. She said the current “political meltdown over Darwinian theory” was proof that too many people had received a poor-quality science education. She noted that the school districts with some of the lowest science scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test were the ones complaining loudest about the new standards. “Do we want these boards setting science policy in Florida? I think not.” ( http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news[…]927839.story )

Frank J said:

Vince Wrote:

In the long run reality always wins and someday creationism will be like geocentrism 400 years after Copernicus. Only a quarter of the population will believe it and the other 75% of the population will laugh at them and get all the good jobs requiring education. Unfortunately, this could be after a detour to a new Dark Ages.

Sorry Frank J - but it was not me who said that, it was Raven. Probably a mix up because of the format of the page and the fact that this neophyte hasn’t figured out how to get those neat looking quote boxes to work (is that what they call “HTML tags”?). Vince

There is video available online from the public meeting.

Vince:

Probably a mix up because of the format of the page and the fact that this neophyte hasn’t figured out how to get those neat looking quote boxes to work (is that what they call “HTML tags”?).

Just left click on the Quote at the end of the comment. This will produce the HTML tags for you. You may edit the quotation, as I have done just above.

David B. Benson:

Vince:

Probably a mix up because of the format of the page and the fact that this neophyte hasn’t figured out how to get those neat looking quote boxes to work (is that what they call “HTML tags”?).

Just left click on the Quote at the end of the comment. This will produce the HTML tags for you. You may edit the quotation, as I have done just above.

Thanks!

Hi all! If you want a feel good moment before retiring for the night - Go here!! :-) http://www.flascience.org/wp/

David:

On the surface this sounds like a victory. Keep in mind, though, that there are numerous stealth creationist biology/science teachers out there in the classroom whose desks are full of creationist literature and they will at every opportunity subtlety inject their views into the discussions.

What do you propose that we do about this? Float test at the trough?

What do you propose that we do about this? Float test at the trough?

Maybe if we ask nicely, they will obey the law of the United States. Separation of church and state. It is illegal for teachers to propagandize students with bizarre religious cult nonsense in public schools. This has been ruled in court over and over.

You [Wallace] probably don’t care if a teacher states in science classes that the earth is 6,000 years old or that every time someone eats a shrimp, satan wins (Leviticus). OTOH what if the teacher is a Scientologist and tells the students that they are infected with dozens of Thetan ghosts left over from the reign of Xenu the Galactic overlord 75 million years ago? Or a Mayan and that this cycle of the calendar is coming to a close [it is] and the universe might end?

Separation of church and state protects everyone.

On the West coast, teachers who start babbling gibberish can get fired. But I can only recall only one case where a substitute teacher injected Coral Ridge class insanity into a science class and lasted a few days.

Separation of church and state protects everyone.

Bingo.

People who think they can subvert government authority for pushing their own narrow sectarian agenda promoting antievolution seem to have a cognitive disability in understanding this point.

I disagree (sort of). That’s why they are NOW trying to claim that science is ‘Dogma’.

Question : What are some “Holes” in sciences other than Biology? This might be the way to combat the science is Dogma argument.

If it is to become illegal for schools to teach biology then what else should be illegal to teach as well?

Physics? - Chemistry? - Aeronautical Science? - Marine Science? - Geology? How about architecture?

Do we have questions relating to these fields that haven’t been answered yet?

Are these subjects ‘Dogmatic’?

What about the Law? It is constantly debated.

Oh, here’s a good one … the English dictionary adds (estimating here) 50 or so new words every year.

William,

This is the 3rd try. Would you mind answering my questions on the “Reconstruction of Ancestral Protens” thread?

There is a reason I ask such questions. As I’m starting to suspect that you know already, even if there weren’t Church-State issues, there really is no alternative science to teach. Phillip Johnson, the chief architect of the ID strategy, even admitted that in so many words. But by answering those questions, you have a shot at being the first to change that.

Just a sidebar note to y’all: the local paper - the Orlando Sentinel - reported on this meeting, but failed to raise the courage to offer an editorial opinion one way or the other. they were in favor of Girl Scout Cookies, though

Eternal vigilance: The Washington State Legislature is in special session just now, and somehow David Horowitz convinced some state senator to introduce S.B. 6893, entitled “Intellectual Diversity”. This bill violates academic freedom, by requiring professors to present ‘different viewpoints’ and create grievance procedures against professors who do not represent ‘all sides’.

Cool. If I ever teach a human-biology class in Washington, I’ll be sure to present the viewpoints that cancer, malaria, and alcoholism are actually good things.

Or is this not what Horowitz meant?

Julie Stahlhut:

Eternal vigilance: The Washington State Legislature is in special session just now, and somehow David Horowitz convinced some state senator to introduce S.B. 6893, entitled “Intellectual Diversity”. This bill violates academic freedom, by requiring professors to present ‘different viewpoints’ and create grievance procedures against professors who do not represent ‘all sides’.

Cool. If I ever teach a human-biology class in Washington, I’ll be sure to present the viewpoints that cancer, malaria, and alcoholism are actually good things.

Or is this not what Horowitz meant?

LOL!

Kindly pass this on to Governor Gregoire:

http://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/

Thanks!

Cool. If I ever teach a human-biology class in Washington, I’ll be sure to present the viewpoints that cancer, malaria, and alcoholism are actually good things.

Or is this not what Horowitz meant?

Well, after all, all those things were designed to be what they are, right?

They weren’t?

oh.

Never mind.

Henry

Hi everybody. Wesley mentioned Ohio as a state where ID creationism was blessed into our science curriculum through appeasement of creationist board members. Shortly after the Dover decision, the DI material was summarily removed from the standards. New elections for state board members saw creationist leader Deborah Owens Fink, a professor of marketing at Akron University, tossed out for open supporter of evolution education candidate Tom Sawyer. The governor made public comments about having been schooled to more closely vet the potential board members whom it was his duty to appoint, to avoid a repeat of this mess.

Nice to hear Theda :-)

Theda,

The elections, and the hard work activists put into them, were helpful, but not decisive. What turned it was the hard work some select academics did in obtaining documents through the Freedom of Information act, and then putting the DOE’s and BOE’s noses in the fact that it can be easily shown that the anti-evolution language was being inserted for religious concerns. Post-Dover the politicians had to finally realize that their “compromise” wasn’t going to work, and the pro-science board members finally got the upper hand. Both the election activism and the documentation and presentations was alot of hard work by just a few individuals in Ohio. I’d praise their names here, but I’m certain how much they want that done.

Should read “I’m not certain how much they want that done.” Also afraid of who I might leave out, not having been intimately involved myself. Any other Ohioians here? What should be done to honor the unsung heroes? I know of at least one person who encountered work difficulty because of their activism. There should be some acknowledgement of it. The way things were handled in Ohio saved everyone in the state alot of expense and trouble, even the creationists.

One more thing. Wes missed a speaker toward the end, at 3 hours 15 minutes of the FDOE recording http://www.fldoe.org/meetings/2008_[…]gArchive.asp that I think is an important indicator of the state of biology education. An AP Bio teacher from a evangelical school professes what I’ve often seen on the AP Bio teacher’s email list: the supposed necessity of “presenting both sides” for teaching “critical thinking”. The College Board instituted an audit process to impress universities of the quality of AP curicullum overall, but have refused to address evolution education in religious schools authorized to teach AP Biology.

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on February 11, 2008 9:10 PM.

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