December 19, 2007

Another Creationist School Board in Florida

Members of the Polk County School Board have previously stated their opposition to new science education standards for the state of Florida that include explicitly teaching evolutionary biology. They intend to include alternate "theories," such as Intelligent Design Creationism, in classes in that county. This is relatively old news.

Now comes word that the majority of members of another school board, this one in Pinellas County, has also come out against teaching students explicitly about the theory that underlies all of modern biology. They intend to push for the adoption of a similar strategy to that suggested by the pinheads of nearby Polk:

Origin theories clash in Pinellas

Four School Board members would teach intelligent design alongside evolution.

A majority of Pinellas County School Board members think that if Florida children are taught evolution, they also should learn other theories on the origin of life.

Board members Jane Gallucci, Carol Cook, Peggy O'Shea and Nancy Bostock stopped short of saying that faith-based theories should be included in the state's proposed new science standards, which the Board of Education likely will vote on in February. They would include Darwin's theory of evolution but not faith-based theories such as intelligent design or creationism.

But in interviews, all four said such theories should be taught in public school classrooms.

"I think that students should be given the opportunity to view all theories on how man evolved and let their science background and their religious background take over as to which one they believe in," said Gallucci, also the immediate past president of the National School Boards Association.

"To teach one as if nothing else existed, I think we're doing our students a disservice," Cook said.

O'Shea worries that children who are taught creationism at home might be confused by evolution. And Bostock wonders if creationism could be taught without saying it's science...

...That a majority of the school board in politically moderate, highly urbanized Pinellas County is having trouble embracing evolution mirrors the disconnect between the scientific community and the public at large - and hints at the dilemma that could face the state Board of Education...

...A St. Petersburg Times poll taken two years ago when the issue of intelligent design raged nationally found that 58 percent of Pinellas parents who had been following the controversy believed intelligent design should be taught in classrooms...

Rep. Will Weatherford, the Wesley Chapel Republican who has already lined up enough votes to become House speaker in 2011, has said he wasn't a "big fan" of the evolution-only approach in public schools, and the Polk County School Board has said it might allow its schools to teach alternatives to evolution.

The proposed standards refer to Darwin's theory as a "big idea" that Florida students must grasp to be well-grounded in science. Pinellas Board member Bostock doesn't have a problem with that, but she thinks intelligent design "can explain some of the gaps or holes in the theory of evolution."

"The entire theory of evolution is not scientific fact," Bostock said. "Intelligent design balances it out..."
I particularly like O'Shea's concern that children who are homeschooled by Biblical literalist parents will be confused when they go out into the real world and are expected to understand evolutionary theory. Gee, ya think? They've got a true genius on their hands in Pinellas County. Of course such students will be at a loss on the subject. If they don't learn how to read, they'll be illiterate, too. Should the education curriculum of public schools be tailored to accommodate illiterate students who don't attend them? Is it expected that such students will never venture outside of the benighted areas in which evolutionary theory has been abandoned in favor of capitulating to the mythology to which fundamentalists and science-deniers subscribe? The onus in this situation is upon parents who choose to use education as indoctrination and whatever state agencies are involved in determining what passes for acceptable education in homeschooling. If anything, the solution is to mandate that homeschooled students have the same competency in basic science as those who attend public schools, not the other way around. In any case, that some group of parents has chosen to enforce their own illiteracy upon their children is not a justification to include religious training in science classes.

Of course, this nonsense about intelligent design being an alternative theory is just a cover for religious accommodation. Even leading proponents of the ID movement have come to the realization that what they have is not a scientific theory by any means and they have uncovered nothing to corroborate it. No less than Philip Johnson, who started the current ID movement in the first place, has said
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.
By no means does Intelligent Design "balance" anything out. It's merely a hollow shell that serves as a disguise to allow religion to be slipped into science education if nobody's looking.

Judging by the comments on this article, there do seem to be some people who are, indeed, looking.
Hello modern world. Why would some elected school board members want to bring their religious bias into our science classrooms? Careful, you may go extinct like the school board members who were not re-elected in Kansas and Dover, Pennsylvania.

— Donald, 12/18/07 3:59 PM

Unfortunately, there are also those who are so profoundly ignorant of what the word science means that they believe things like this:
Nothing is proven. Not science, not religion. And teaching is much different than enstilling. I'd have a big problem if evolution was being practiced at school...

— Heather, 12/18/07 4:24 PM

How exactly does one "practice" evolution? Heather clearly has no understanding of the differences between science and religion. Evolution isn't a practice, it's the culmination of a number of forces that we see throughout the living world time and time again. Evolutionary biologists don't attend services and offer propitiations to a deity. We don't have rituals that we believe need to be performed. Still, people like Heather, as utterly clueless as she is, feel that they have a right to be heard without the listeners pointing and laughing. Heather is a very good example, in fact, of why science education standards need to be strengthened and why it's time to stop listening to those who want to set their religious beliefs on par with empirical investigation.

Of course, I'm sure that the Pinellas school board science-deniers are glad to have credible people like this guy on their side:
because ark anchors have been found in tarpon springs and along the west coast of florida than the lesser god theory comes into play as a way of bridging the gap between evolution and creationism theories:call editors for compete details edenatlantis.

invite your editor to study the ramifications of finding remnants of atlantis in the form of gient ark anchors and we will all come to a greater understanding how apprpo that this discussion takes place at the former sight of Poseidon,s Edem Port

— avatar, 12/18/07 12:16 and 12:21 PM

That makes perfect sense to me; surely finding anchors in Tarpon Springs disproves evolutionary biology, particularly when they're gient ark anchors. No doubt this proves the "lesser god theory." Everybody knew that Florida was once part of Atlantis, right?

I'm sure that Gallucci, Cook, O'Shea and Bostock will be pleased to welcome "avatar" as a new Pinellas County science teacher, as will everyone in Florida who advocates opposition to teaching evolution and/or inclusion of alternative theories. After all, avatar also has an alternative theory and it's contributed every bit as much to science and to human knowledge as has their own pet theory. We can call it the "There Must Be Something In the Water in Florida" theory.

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