January 24, 2008

Even More Florida School Board Creationism: High Snark Levels Ahead

I woke up feeling particularly snarky today. I'm not sure why; I had a clam boat special at Friendly's last night, so it may simply be the after-effect of too much fried food. Whatever the cause, though, an article in the Saint Petersburg Times caught my eye this morning. The snark levels contained in my response too it may be damaging. Proceed with caution.

North Florida weighing in against evolution
Several school boards say they want to teach alternative theories.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer

...Evolution is "going to be taught as fact, and everyone knows it's not fact," said Dennis Bennett, the superintendent in Dixie County, west of Gainesville. "There's holes in it you can drive a truck through..."
This guy's knowledge of grammar might be as meager as his knowledge of evolutionary biology. Dennis, Dennis, Dennis, you need to learn how to conjugate verbs in English properly. There ARE holes in it, not there IS holes in it. Coming from someone who can't quite grasp spoken English, the whole objection loses a lot of its impact. I doubt whether Dennis is qualified, or even capable, of analyzing evolutionary theory well enough to identify a hole. I'm more inclined to believe that he can't distinguish between a scientific theory and a hole. Which hole? I leave that to the reader's imagination. We'll leave it to Bennett to attempt driving his truck into that hole on his own time.
At least seven of Florida's 67 school boards - all north of Ocala - have passed opposition resolutions, according to the Florida Citizens for Science, a group that supports the standards and has been methodically searching board minutes.

That number could double by the time the state Board of Education votes on the standards Feb. 19, said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.

"It just shows the nature of Florida," Blanton said.
What is this nature, then? A backwards-looking, anti-science peninsula laden with uneducated people who serve as district superintendents and can't quite use proper grammar? A landscape in which religious fundamentalists cover their ears and sing "la-la-la" when confronted with the scientific shortcomings of using ancient tomes written by people who knew even less about the world than they do as the basis for education? Is that "the nature of Florida" to which Blanton is referring?
Dominated by Baptist churches and dotted with military bases, most of North Florida makes no bones about its political and cultural conservatism...
Oh yeah, I guess it was!
...while the Dixie board did not pass a resolution, Bennett said all five members raised concerns at a recent meeting.

"We just wanted to get it on the record that we're a Judeo-Christian community, and we believe in academic freedom," Bennett said...
Did he actually say this, or did he really say, "Us want get on record that we am Chrischunz." Academic freedom doesn't mean that one gets to throw out any sort of unsupported claim and call it legitimate scholarship without being laughed at, scorned, and left behind by the rest of the planet. Academic freedom means that one is able to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even when it conflicts with the majority view. Being able to do that presupposes that evidence exists and that this evidence is interpreted in light of other evidence. One thing that Bennett and fellow "Judeo-Christians" like him seem incapable of comprehending is that academic freedom rests entirely on the proposition that we know something to begin with, not that we are allowed to simply ignore anything that contradicts what we believed in to begin with. By Bennett's definition of academic freedom, it should be perfectly legitimate for someone to teach that George Washington was a giant lizard-monster who once stomped on Tokyo. That's an "alternative theory," too.
"I'm a Christian. And I believe I was created by God, and that I didn't come from an amoeba or a monkey," said Ken Hall, a School Board member in Madison County, east of Tallahassee...
Uhhhhhh, yeah, and..? Who exactly told Ken here that he "came from an amoeba or a monkey?" Ken came out of his mommy, of course. See, Ken, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much...

Of course, this is just the usual Creationist idiocy. Evolutionary theory doesn't posit that humanity hopped out of an amoeba, monkey, pile of dirt or Twinkie spongecake with creamy amino acid filling (mmmmmmm). In fact, monkeys aren't even in our direct evolutionary lineage and it's a matter of some debate whether amoebas can be considered to have been... many millions of years ago.

I don't know much about Ken Hall's parents, but I doubt that either one of the was actually a monkey. Monkeys aren't native to Florida. A slug? Well, maybe. We could investigate that possibility. We'll need some DNA and a salt shaker...
"Anybody with half a brain can see that natural selection takes place," said Beverly Slough, a St. John's board member who is president-elect of the Florida School Boards Association. "But to make great leaps from a fish to a man ... the fossil record doesn't support all that."
No, it doesn't. Can I empty your drool cup of the glaringly obvious there, Bev? In fact, evolutionary theory predicts an slow accumulation of very small changes over a geological time scale to move between highly dissimilar organisms. We see plenty of evidence of that; there's even a recent book about that evidence written by a fellow named Neil Shubin. Slough obviously hasn't read it, though. Let's all send her a copy, shall we?

Oops, that cup's filling up again. Somebody empty Bev's cup before it gets all over the carpet!
If the board votes yes, the repercussions in North Florida are also unclear. Some opponents say parents will pull their children from public schools...
Meh, the public schools will be better off without them taking time away from students who are open to actually learning something. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that you could close down all of the schools in a lot of these counties and not see much change because of it. It doesn't take that much education to pick oranges and sell cotton candy at Busch Gardens, so who needs schools? Those counties where modern education is a priority can keep their schools — the money that's going to keep the doors open in Creationist Fundie Land could be diverted to places where students still have a chance of getting a good education — and the rest of the counties could be used as sources of cheap menial labor. Somebody's got to mop the floors and sod the lawns at the schools that remain open, after all. Jonathan Swift may have had something there after all.
Hall, the Madison board member, said his wife is threatening to do just that with their daughter, but he's not going to let that happen. It'll be his daughter's duty to learn the material, and "my duty to tell her I don't necessarily believe that," he said.

"I'm not buying (evolution)," Hall continued. "But I'm not boycotting it either."
I have to admit that Ken has something there. I would rephrase it as, "I'm not going to let my own ignorance and fears get in the way of my daughter receiving a decent and useful education in biology," but heck, it's a start.
There. I've vented my morning snarkiness. Needless to say, I wouldn't want to see public schools getting closed down, nor would I actually want to see that Bennett schmoe attempting to use his truck to fill one of his holes (although I'm sure video of the event would garner many hits on YouTube). These arguments never change, though. This is the same nonsense that's been put forth again and again and again for more than 100 years by the religiously insular and scientifically illiterate. Such positions deserve precisely zero respect; they betray an ignorance not only of science but of history as well.

And somebody get Bennett a copy of Elements of Style, please! Me, I'm sending Bev Slough a copy of Neil Shubin's book today.

Sphere: Related Content