April 29, 2008

Florida House and Senate Pass Different Stealth Creationism Bills

The Citrus Taliban continues to make way in Tallahassee. Earlier this week, the state Senate passed a scaled-down version of the "Academic Freedom" bill, legislation drafted with the help of the Neocreationist Discovery Institute and introduced by Ronda Storms. Yesterday was the state house's turn, and they passed the measure largely along party lines with a couple of defections from the Republican side to the pro-education side.

Florida House passes bill ordering 'critical analysis' of evolution in schools

The House today voted along party lines to require Florida's public school teachers to challenge the theory of evolution, a move that some say could bring religious-based alternatives like creationism to the classroom.

But the House's version of the evolution bill differs widely from the Senate's, which already rejected the House's approach of instructing that teachers present a "thorough presentation and scientific critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution."

The House vote was 71-43, with the bill now moving back over to the Senate. The two chambers' versions must be merged in order to gain final legislative approval...

Gov. Charlie Crist, who visited the House press gallery during today's evolution floor debate, was noncommittal on the bill.

"I don't know, let's see what the final product is," Crist said.

Asked whether he believes in evolution, he said: " I believe in a lot of things. We should have the freedom to have a good exchange of ideas, right?"...

"This bill does not permit, nor authorize, nor allow, the teaching of creationism or intelligent design," said Hays, R-Umatilla. "This bill does not permit the teaching of religion in the classroom."

But whether the state-mandated "critical analysis" of Darwin's theory would include alternatives like intelligent design would be left to teachers.

The bill, called "The Evolution Academic Freedom Act," is needed because teachers are fearful of presenting a critical view of evolution, said Hays.

However, no teachers in Florida have filed complaints about their lessons on evolution, according to the state Department of Education.

"I'm not here today to give you a specific instance where teachers have been chastised or penalized," Hays said. "It's a preventative measure..."
Let's stop right there for a moment. The bill doesn't allow the teaching of creationism or intelligent design, but it allows teachers to teach them if they want to? That makes perfect sense — almost as much as claiming that teachers are fearful of presenting a critical view of evolution, but Hays can't name any instances in which a teacher has been prevented from doing so. This has been the same song and dance all along, right from the get-go, as when Ronda Storms wouldn't answer the question of whether or not the bill permitted the teaching of intelligent design when asked repeatedly. These are profoundly dishonest people, and even other Conservatives are beginning to call them on it — a situation that has been facilitated by the release of the propaganda piece "Expelled." For a very good example of this, see John Derbyshire's "A Blood Libel on Our Civilization" in the current National Review.
Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, said the bill would lead teachers to present their personal opinions on evolution in the classroom.

Noting that some people believe the Holocaust never happened or 9/11 was an Israel-hatched plot, Domino said he doesn't want fringe theories introduced in public schools.

"There are a lot of strange things out there that I don't want teachers teaching," said Domino, who joined the Democrats in voting against the bill.
Another possible reason that Carl Domino voted against this nonsense may lie in the fact that it is his district that will most benefit from the opening of a Max Planck Institute facility. It is to be located right in Jupiter and legislation that waters down science education in Florida could pose a threat to that deal.
The Senate version of the evolution legislation, passed last week on a 21-17 vote, created a right for teachers to present the "full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution."

The bill defined the information that could be presented to challenge evolution as "current facts, data and peer-reviewed research."

The two chambers are at odds.

House Republicans say their version is "simpler and more straightforward than the Senate bill on the subject of evolution. Also, unlike the Senate bill, this bill does not create any new 'rights' for teachers," according to memo from the House majority office.

But the Senate seems unlikely to accept the House version, since that chamber already rejected that approach last week.
Yes, the House bill is more straightforward, because it doesn't make any attempt to define what a legitimate critical analysis would look like. I suspect that the House version would result in something that looks very much like Hays' response when asked to cite examples of teachers who had been prevented from critically discussing evolutionary biology in the first place.

Look, as John Derbyshire has pointed out, its time to quit all this dancing around the issue. It isn't a coincidence that religious groups have been at the forefront of the effort to insure that Florida's students receive as little education about modern biology as possible. The First Baptist Church of Florida, of which both Hays and Storms are members, have been trumpeting their own leadership since all of this began. Almost every Floridian who has been a major player in this effort is affiliated with the FBC directly or else is one degree removed and a member of some other religious organization. The FBC and its membership have certainly been ready and willing to embrace Ben Stein, and in light of that the following video ought to be played on the floor of the House as well as for Charlie Crist:

Got that? Science leads to killing people says the media face of the Neocreationist movement while being interviewed on a Fundamentalist religious TV show. Not just evolution, not just biology, but science. Religion good, science bad. Do Hays and Storms and the rest of the Citrus Taliban have anything to say about this? Well, they do, but they're not about to say it in public because Ben Stein has given the game away with statements like this. What's happening in Florida is an attack on science itself, not just on one particular discipline. No wonder Carl Domino voted against this ridiculous proposed legislation. Do you think the folks at the Max Planck Institute would want to locate their facility in a state wherein the legislature was nodding its ascent to calling their people killers? MPI is composed of some of the smartest people in the world; I think it's safe to assume that they're not going to want to locate their assets in a place where the possibility of mobs of angry, torch-and-pitchfork-bearing peasants cannot be entirely ruled out.

And make no mistake about it, that's essentially what the Citrus Taliban is. They're the legislative wing of a frightened peasantry that really has no understanding at all of what it is they're opposing — hence the fear, so often born out of ignorance. If that's what Florida is to become, then the safest thing that scientists can do is choose a more accommodating place to work. There are, after all, 49 other states in the US alone. If this bill passes, if anti-science rule comes to pass in the state, then perhaps its time to pull up stakes and abandon the crumbling university system and lackluster economy and abortive attempts at creating biotech corridors and go somewhere they're actually wanted. If the government of Florida wants to erect a wall of ignorance along the border with Georgia, why not just give them what they want? Building an educational ghetto is just as good for keeping people in as it is for keeping knowledge out.

Sphere: Related Content