Florida and Antievolution

My native state hasn’t had headlines go nationwide over antievolution lately. But there are indications that Florida may be one of the next big targets of the antievolution advocates.

Ron Matus at the St. Petersburg Times wrote about this in today’s paper:

Nationally, it’s a raging debate. President Bush weighed in this month. Time magazine devoted its cover story to the subject two weeks ago.

But in Florida, the teaching of intelligent design – the newest, faith-based counterpoint to Darwin’s theory of evolution – is not an issue.

At least, not yet.

Some observers expect the other shoe to drop next year, when Florida education officials revisit state science standards as part of a routine review of what should be taught in Florida schools.

“The question is going to come up,” said Bob Orlopp, science supervisor for Pinellas County schools.

“That’s a healthy time to have discussions of that nature,” said state Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who chairs the House Education Council and supports alternatives to evolutionary theory.

And even I got quoted a little:

A spokesman for the National Center for Science Education, which tracks intelligent-design skirmishes around the country, said anti-evolution forces typically rev up their campaigns when state science standards are reviewed.

“Florida is primed for the sort of large-scale evolution/creation incident that has grabbed headlines in other parts of the country,” Wesley Elsberry, the center’s information project director, wrote in an e-mail.

If you are in Florida and have an interest in getting involved in having only science taught in science classrooms, drop me a note. It’s not too early to start getting organized.

Florida will be, I expect, one of several places where antievolution is pushed next year as states review their science standards.

Update: I spoke with another reporter today, and sent the following as a followup email.

  • Science education is critical to our continued economic competitiveness in an increasingly technical world economy.
  • “Intelligent design” and “teaching the controversy” initiatives in various states have started by changing the definition of “science” in the science standards, or proposing to do so.
  • A process exists for getting new ideas into the science textbooks, which is to convince the scientific community that an idea is scientifically justified. Ideas in biology that have made their way into the textbooks in this manner include endosymbioosis, transposons, and punctuated equilibria. ID advocates seek to short-circuit this process.
  • “Teaching the controversy” uses the same arguments that were seen in “intelligent design”, which is turn is entirely comprised of arguments that were used in “scientific creationism”.
  • The reasons that ID advocates would be satisfied in getting “teach the controversy” arguments into science classrooms are that these are the same arguments as those labelled as “intelligent design” and because of the “two-model approach”. The “two-model approach” is the logic behind the “equal time” and “balanced treatment” measures, where arguing against evolution was asserted to demonstrate the truth of “creation”/”intelligent design”. Even though ID would not be mentioned by name, the thought in the ID community is that if evolution is deprecated, people must then accept ID as the only available alternative.

Update: Fixed an infelicity in the above text, and Florida has appointed Cheri Yecke, antievolution advocate from Minnesota, to be its K-12 Chancellor. This is about as clear a signal as we could expect that a major push to undermine Florida science standards is underway.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

30 thoughts on “Florida and Antievolution

  • 2005/08/29 at 2:06 pm

    Found you via the Panda’s Thumb, and thought you might want to know about the science project I have going to collect more evolution theories. I’m collecting enough that schools will be able to teach a new theory everyday, while providing the teachers with a one-stop shop to make their lives easier (I have high-school teacher relatives and know they could use the help.)

  • 2005/08/29 at 3:45 pm

    Wesley –

    I’m in Florida (Tampa Bay area, to be slightly less vague) and am interested in helping out. Drop me a line at the email address I provided.

  • 2005/08/29 at 5:00 pm


    Nice page of ‘alternative theories’.

    Unfortunately, even if ID advocates “lose” by having a whole bunch of alternatives presented in the science class rather than just their set of re-labelled but otherwise antique antievolution arguments, they win by taking away valuable class time from teaching science.

  • 2005/08/29 at 5:15 pm

    I’m in Pensacola, FL and am interested in helping out. Let’s get started early!

  • 2005/08/29 at 6:27 pm

    I just heard on Minnesota Public Radio that Cheri Pierson Yecke who served as Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education during the development of academic standards for science, social studies and mathmatics has been appointed by Governor Jeb Bush as Chancellor of K-12 Education,” a job that is similar to that of her appointment here. Ultimately, she was not confirmed after 14 months on the job. She was a leader in the repeal of the Profile(s) of Learning (the Fordham report had given MN an A for the Profile’s science standards and either a D or F for the mathmatics standards.)

    As I observed the development of academic standards in science, while the standard documents such as the NSES and Benchmarks as well as the old Profile were readily available to the development team, some of the handouts distributed had a distinctive “teach the alternative” point of view and the Santorum amendment had a prominence at times that was all out of proportion to its “force.” Indeed, I recall a clarification that was asked of Representative Boehner (R-OH) on its implications for teaching science and which was distributed to the development team.

    In addition, one of the reviewers of the standards was Chris Macosko, a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University who has taught a freshman/sophomore seminar on ID. It is often touted by the intelligent design community as an official class with the implication that the UM teaches ID in its “science” department. It turns out that the UM does indeed teach ID BUT it is in the College of Architecture and is about better building design, e.g., green buildings) on intelligent design. His review was narrowly focused on evolution standards and the recommendations pushed the idea of design. I believe that he was an official reviewer. He also testified at hearings on standards, one time spending an inordinate amount of time on the origin of life, until the chair asked a question along the lines of “The OoL is not a part of the standards, right?!” The reply was that it wasn’t but he was using it for illustrative purposes (along with the classic construction of a 747 from a windstorm to indicate that these things have to be designed and so do many features of organisms).

    So, I suspect that this appointment only adds support to the idea that there will be a push for IDeist/DiscoID ideas in the curriculum. I certainly agree with Mr. Neufeld: get started now.

    I may not have some of these facts straight but they are close!

  • 2005/08/29 at 6:33 pm

    Your third statement in your follow up email reads:

    A process exists for getting new ideas into the science textbooks, which is to convince the scientific community that an idea is scientifically justified. ID advocates seek to short-circuit this process. Ideas in biology that have made their way into the textbooks in this manner include endosymbioosis, transposons, and punctuated equilibria.

    The order of the sentences implies that endosymbioosis, transposons, and punctuated equilibria made it into textbooks by short-circuiting the scientific review process. Not so. Perhaps you can send the journalist a follow up to your follow up?

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  • 2005/08/29 at 7:04 pm

    Check out my trackback up there. I just learned that Florida is also hiring Cheri Yecke, who was the leader in the attempts to sneak ID into the Minnesota curriculum a while back. She’s the one who supported a committee sans qualified educators and scientists to cobble together a ‘minority report’ that would have inserted the familiar DI fuzz into our public schools.

  • 2005/08/29 at 7:05 pm

    And I see Ed is already here with the grim news!

  • 2005/08/29 at 9:07 pm

    I would be very interested in getting involved with the nascent Florida Citizens for Science, and there are a number of us here in Tallahassee who would all like to help out. Please send info to the email address I provided. Thank.

  • 2005/08/29 at 9:56 pm

    I’m another Tallahassee citizen ready to lend a hand. Please keep me appraised of any developments and attempts to organize a response (I have provided an e-mail address).

  • 2005/08/30 at 1:19 am

    As a Minnesotan, let me express my condolences that Ms. Yecke has relocated to your state. Keep an eye on your history curriculum too; Yecke has said American Indians were not victims of genocide. What is it with Florida and rewarding incompetence? I understand Katharine Harris’s punishment for rigging the 2000 election was to get elected to Congress.

  • 2005/08/30 at 9:07 am

    Hi – also from Tampa, very interested in getting organized early – I am horrified at the thought of my children being taught ID alongside evolution. Email address provided.

  • 2005/08/30 at 9:34 am

    I’m in Fort Lauderdale and I’m interested in helping out. My biggest concern is that this country is falling behind the rest of the world scientifically and it will continue to get worse as we sink further into the dark ages while the rest of the world becomes more enlightened. Creationism has no place in a science classroom. There is absolutely no scientific controversy over evolution, only the controversy created by flat-earthers and creatonists.

  • 2005/08/30 at 10:50 am

    I’m in Jacksonville and am interested in helping out in any way I can.

  • 2005/08/30 at 10:57 am

    I’m in Panama City; count me in. I’m already trying to deal with the other kids teasing my first grader about not knowing anything about God or angels; I don’t need this too!

  • 2005/08/30 at 11:28 am

    I live in the Orlando area and would be willing to help fight to keep pseudoscience out of our science classrooms.

  • 2005/08/30 at 2:29 pm

    Sign me up! I’m in Maitland (Orlando) and would love to help in any way possible.

  • 2005/08/30 at 3:23 pm

    Yes please include me in any mailings. I am also forwarding this to a progressive group drawn from our local UU fellowship.

  • 2005/08/30 at 5:04 pm

    Please add my name & location (Gainesville, home of U of Fla) to the list.

  • 2005/08/30 at 6:54 pm

    I can use two factors, each apparently agreeable with religionistsm ti prove that christianity is a fraud.

    Factor 1: God is successful

    FActor 2: Evolution is the result of intelligent design.

    This leads to the conslusion that we are doing what we were designed to do, but the fact is we do only one thing, we create new knowledge. Therefore, that is what we were designed to do, and christian ‘conservatism’ and teachings is anti-god.

  • 2005/08/30 at 8:59 pm

    Please include me among those willing to work against the devaluing of science education in FL via “Intelligent Design”–or, as I heard it called lately, “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”

  • 2005/08/31 at 5:58 am

    In response to your comment on my post at FloridaBlues, sign me up for the fight against ID. I’m not a science teacher (I teach history), but I am seeing the consequences of that silliness in my area too. I fear for Florida.

  • 2005/08/31 at 7:24 am

    Please sign me up to help in any qay — one group we should approach are geologists.

  • 2005/08/31 at 9:59 am

    I would love to be involved in whatever way I can. I am a clincal psychologist and on faculty at USF in Tampa.

  • 2005/08/31 at 10:31 am

    As a reporter, I did one column on “intelligent design” last year. Maybe I’ll have to do another one (not that in this branch of the Bible belt it will have much impact).
    Yecke’s appointment doesn’t surprise me at all. The Terri Schiavo nightmare showed how willing Gov. Bush is to kiss up to the religious right (hey, he’s going to need them when he makes that Presidential run he keeps saying he hasn’t yet decided on).
    Baxley is notorious for proposing a statute that would let students sue a professor who criticized a position they took in class. He specifically cited intelligent design, but admitted a student who claimed the Holocaust didn’t happen would also be protected; his comment was something to the effect that freedom means hearing things you don’t like (his official position being that his bill would liberate poor oppressed students from the tyrannical grip of Saddam—er, their professors).

  • 2005/08/31 at 11:35 am

    Count me in for Okaloosa County. I will be more than happy to donate time to take the fight to the creationists. I have been preparing for this for years.

  • 2005/09/03 at 9:29 pm

    I teach science in Marion County, Rep Baxley’s home town. Please count me in!

    I have been reading and collescting articles on this issue for the last year or so and have attended several presentations on intelligent design held in the Gainesville area, home of University of Florida which is right down the Interstate from Ocala, FL where Baxley resides.
    A couple of interesting recent reports include a Mother jones article on how this issue attacks the very basis of science and technology by denigrating the scientific method, which could be descibed as the process that is the basis for our technological civilization. check it out at http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2005/08/what_do_you_know.html

  • 2005/09/25 at 1:15 am

    Have you heard of the “Creation Science Institute” in Fort Lauderdale, Florida???? They have what seems to be unending financial resources and are mounting a campaign against evolution. They are demanding that children be taught the TRUTH of creationism.

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