My Comment on the Petition in Support of Florida’s Proposed New Science Standards

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I entered a comment when I signed the Florida Citizens for Science online petition in support of the proposed new science standards there.

I was born in Florida, and I care about the state of science education there. There are two main things that I want to say about antievolution and science education.

First, antievolution is not based in science, does not represent an alternative scientific understanding of the evidence, and it specifically conveys a narrowly sectarian religious doctrine. It is disruptive of the tolerance towards diverse religious faiths, or the lack of them, that help maintain amity and civility in our country. We are fortunate here to have avoided the deadly struggles over doctrinal positions that are common elsewhere and that have left their stamp on history. Antievolution efforts include attempts to rewrite the operating principles of science by fiat, and this alone should be sufficient to demonstrate that its promoters are not working for the common weal, but are bent upon achieving their own aims without regard for anything but their own satisfaction.

Second, science education needs to incorporate those concepts that have accountability, that have been proposed, argued, tested, revised, and that have by the record of empirical investigation and substantial engagement of criticism convinced the scientific community of the worth of the concept in question. Evolutionary science has met that high standard, and antievolutionary attacks upon it have no such claim to legitimacy. Science education should not be weakened by spending precious class time on material whose inclusion only serves the purposes of evading those stringent standards of accountability, undermining the principle of science’s ability to wholly reject hypotheses that predict false consequences, and gainsaying well-tested theories without substantiating a basis for such attacks.

It can do no one harm to come to an accurate understanding of what science is, and what has been discovered and supported through the scientific method. Please adopt the new science standards as written by your domain experts and experts in science education, and avoid the error of capitulating to the demands of the antievolution movement that evolutionary science be “balanced” with material that sows broad distrust of scientists and findings in biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geology.

This thread is for comments sent to the online petition only. Let’s keep things tidy; I’ll remove comments that have extraneous remarks to the Bathroom Wall.

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Sign the Petition! from Missing The Point on February 8, 2008 4:29 PM

As many of you may be aware, the Florida Science Standards are up for final review this month.  Many school districts have been passing resolutions in opposition to the proposed standards, because the standards are forthright about the role evolution ... Read More


Is there any way a Canadian can sign this petition? I would love to add my voice, but the petition has no mechanism for an out-of-country entry.

Sorry for the slightly OT post, please remove as you see fit.

I’ll allow that.

Unfortunately, the petition site does appear to be USA-centric. I was thinking that I had seen commentary on the Florida Citizens for Science weblog about this issue, but I’m not finding it now.

Here’s what I wrote. I don’t live in Florida, so I tried to address why Florida’s standards matter even outside the state:

“It is unethical for biology teachers to deliberately mislead students by conflating science with religion in a public-school classroom. But, that is exactly what school boards are demanding when they pressure teachers to confuse their students about the differences between scientific evidence and religious faith. Incidentally, Florida’s major universities have highly regarded research programs in evolutionary biology, and in closely related fields such as medicine, agriculture, and ecology. Many graduates of these programs go on to establish science-related careers both in Florida and elsewhere. The Florida Board of Education owes it to Florida, the U.S., and the rest of the world to make sure that its own K-12 students are properly prepared to study science at the university level if they so choose. But, most of all, the Board owes a good education to the public-school students themselves.”

perhaps not so very productive but definitely very straightforward:

“Science class should teach science. Let churches teach religion. How hard is that? If you don’t like what science has learned about the real world, well then go find a different reality to live in.”

Here’s my comment:

“Many Florida school boards are crafting resolutions in oppostion to the proposed standards. The opposition takes form in three major arguments. The first is that evolution is no longer being taught as theory, but rather as “the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.” However, according to Benchmark SC.6.N.3.1, that is the definition of a scientific theory. In fact, these school boards are promulgating the very misconception that benchmark is trying to avoid when it continues on to explain that “the use of the term theory in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life.”

The second argument is that if we are to teach evolution and Big Bang theory, we should teach other theories as well. To which I respond, “Go ahead.” But we must use only teach theories that meet the definition given in the standards - that is, scientific theories. When pressed, these school boards either can’t provide alternate scientific theories, or else provide “theories” that do not meet the criteria set forth in the standards, but rather are theories only in the sense used in everyday life. How do you teach a non-existent theory? These alternate “theories” would be quickly exposed under Benchmarks SC.912.N.2.1-3 - imagine the hue and cry if they were included under those benchmarks! It should also be pointed out that several benchmarks require students to understand the role alternative explanations play in developing science (e.g., SC.912.N.1.3).

The final argument is that we should “teach both the strengths and weaknesses” of the challenged theories, with thte implication that only the strengths are taught. But the standards already do that. The weaknesses of the challenged theories are no different than the weaknesses of the other theories in the standards that haven’t been challenged. All one has to do is read through the Nature of Science standards to find these weaknesses. Even within the Life Science standards, specific examples are given (e.g., SC.912.L.15.12).

It is apparent that these school boards are either not familiar with the standards they are purporting to improve, or that they are ignoring them in pursuit of an ideological goal. This shows a disturbing contempt for the educational standards of Florida. I urge the BoE to treat these resolutions with the same respect shown by the school boards - none at all.”

i signed as anonymous (i live around too many creationists and its caused a tiny bit of static already and since i dont want more…)

Evolution is the grand unifying theory of biology and a thorough understanding of evolution is vitally important in medicine. A lot of the things that go wrong with people are due to the common descent of vertebrates. A lot of the cures for human problems are found in the common descent of all organisms. The cause of diabetes was elucidated in dogs and that researcher won a Nobel for that . The early treatment for diabetics was to give them pig or cow insulin because human insulin just wasn’t available then. Currently within the life sciences communities there are no valid alternative scientific theories in contrast to evolution. When you pretend that evolution doesn’t happen you could cost people their lives because of the damage this could cause to medical research.

Luskin is spewing his garbage in a Tampa newspaper article here[…]r-evolution/

This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone.

Hazel Knight

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on February 6, 2008 3:18 PM.

The double edge sword was the previous entry in this blog.

ID: Intelligent Design as Imitatio Dei (report on the 2007 ‘Wistar Retrospective Symposium’) is the next entry in this blog.

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