Reporting on Clay County and St Johns County

One of our visitors (DC) left a description of what happened in Clay County. Keep those reports coming. On a somewhat more somber note, rumors have it that “some folks may have been receiving threats and personal attacks”.

Such attacks and threats are not only illegal but also very counter productive. I hope that those people reading PT can focus on the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design, the fact that many ID proponents agree that ID does not provide an alternative theory and the fact that many of these people seem to be confused by the meaning of such terminologies as theory and fact. Educate not alienate…

DC wrote:

The Clay County School Board just approved a modified form of the resolution by a vote of 5-0. 22 of the 27 speakers at the meeting opposed the resolution and they covered pretty much all the bases. Some were quite eloquent, including several retired pastors. The five supporters said nothing we hadn’t heard before although the word dogma and its variants showed up a lot when referring to Darwinism. Two (Including a teacher at my own school. Sigh.) emphasized teaching all the “facts” and letting students decide. I was surprised that the local churches didn’t try to pack the meeting room until someone pointed out that this didn’t start to get publicity until after last Sunday’s services.

The resolution that passed had two, maybe three significant wording changes made. In paragraph two, the word “fact” at the end of the last line was changed to “theory.” The new line reads, “…direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is clarified as a theory.” The last paragraph was also modified so that the last phrase reads, “…revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is designated as a theory.” I think they also voted to change the word “concept” in the standard to theory (nobody on the board was too sure of what the difference was, the lawyer for the board wouldn’t say anything without first looking it up in a dictionary, and nobody wanted to ask the two actual standards writers in the audience what the difference might mean.) It was all reminiscent of Bacon’s tale of the monks trying to figure out how many teeth a horse has with none of them willing to just look in its mouth and count. I’m pretty sure they made the change but it was getting late. One of the board members said we wouldn’t have spent two hours discussing the resolution if evolution was a fact.

I wasn’t surprised that the resolution passed but I was dumbfounded when a board member asked about the origins of the resolution, who wrote it and who brought it to the board, and our superintendent, David Owens said he was responsible for, “all of the above.” He said later that he worked with Paula Barton to write and distribute it. A couple of us are working to get a copy of the recording of the meeting (video and audio). Earlier in the meeting Owens said that everybody in the room was obviously passionate about their ideas and beliefs. He asked how many concepts in science changed over the years when the information changed? How did we know evolution wouldn’t do likewise. We shouldn’t be so dogmatic about this.

We should pass this resolution because it reflects our beliefs. Beliefs equals experimental data. No wonder we have such low science scores down here.

The attorney for the board said that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. The board members were, I think, voting on this as a CYA thing and at least three of them said it wouldn’t make a difference with the state BOE anyway. Maybe if we start good science education now we can have more scientifically literate adults on school boards in the future.

On Florida Citizens for Science we read about St Johns County

Florida Citizens for Science member Kristine Hoppenworth attended the St. Johns County school board meeting during which the board approved an anti-evolution resolution. Here is Kristine’s report:


Hello! I attended the St. Johns School Board Meeting last night in St. Augustine at 6 pm. Although the resolution wasn’t on the agenda, it was added at the beginning of the meeting as the last resolution, CR 6, to be presented. Before CR 6, the audience was packed because this meeting also included recognition of Teachers of the Year, Retirees, etc. By 7:20, the final ceremony, listed as CR 5, was complete. The board called for a short break in which the room emptied out. This break could have come after CR 6, which was the last resolution on the agenda for this section of the meeting, but they chose to place the break before they got to this important matter.

At 7:30, the issue was introduced as follows, to a handful or audience members:

“This Resolution urges the State Board of Education to direct the Florida Department of Education to review the new Sunshine State Standards for Science to allow for balanced, objective, and intellectually open instruction in regards to evolution, teaching the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory rather than teaching evolution as dogmatic fact.”

The resolution was then read. [Copy can be seen here.]

Tommy Allen, District 2 board member, talked for about 6 minutes before members of the public were invited to speak. He explained that he was taught both evolution and other theories in school, and he found that another theory, that of a grand clock-winder, stood out to him. He explained that it was impossible that “things could just happen” and that when he gardens, he never plants a seed for it to grow into a different type of plant than it should. He wants the standards to include other theories which are “just as logically likely”.

From the public, Faye Armitage spoke, worried about science being watered down and about the attempt to insert Christianity into public schools under the guise of teaching the controversy.

Kim Kendall was next, and gave practically the same talk that she did at the Jacksonville meeting. She agrees with everyone, but she wants evolution taught with its flaws. She states that over 700 scientists discredit evolution (counting the hits, ignoring the thousands of misses). She gave her anecdote about her son coming home from school to tell her that scientists “discovered” that Pluto was not really a planet after all, as she was taught. Despite this being a gross misunderstanding of what happened with Pluto, I think she means to use it as an example that evolution is just another old piece of misinformation hanging around which needs to be updated. She emphasizes academic freedom (as science without “blinders”) and not religion, but the most current scientific research.

Niki Abate spoke next, and pointed out that science is happy to accommodate theories supported by scientific data, but that ID has failed to publish one peer-reviewed article. She counted the misses that Kim Kendall left out, and also restated that the idea of academic freedom was simply being used as camouflage. She concluded by leaving “other theories” to be included not in the science curriculum, but instead in philosophy or religion classes.

After these speakers, the board voted, and the result was an immediate, in-unison, unanimous “Aye.”

And that’s that.


Our sincere appreciation to Kristine for attending and reporting. Also, thanks to Faye Armitage for providing to us a copy of the resolution.