Florida: Taylor County Flies Under the Radar

The Florida Citizens for Science weblog picked up on a new report of what is now an old story, that the Taylor County School Board passed a resolution against the draft Florida science standards, back in November.

Upon motion by Danny Lundy, seconded by Darrell Whiddon the Board adopted/approved the: 1.) Resolution regarding the new Sunshine State Standards for Science.

The adoped resolution is as follows:
Whereas, the Florida Department of Education has drafted and is now proposing new Sunshine State Standards for Science, the Taylor County School Board opposes the implementation of the new standards as currently presented.
Whereas, the new Sunshine State Standards for Science no longer present evolution as theory but as “the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported in multiple forms of scientific evidence,” we are requesting that the State Board of Education direct the Florida Department of Education to revise/edit the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed.
Whereas, the Taylor County School Board recognizes the importance of providing a thorough and comprehensive Science education to all the students in Taylor County and to all students in the state of Florida, it recognizes as even more important the need to present these standards through a fair and balanced approach, an approach that does not unfairly exclude other theories as to the creation of the universe.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Taylor County School Board of Taylor County, Perry, Florida, that the Board urges the State Board of Education to direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is not presented as fact, but as one of several theories.

Here’s a problem: the Taylor County School Board, unanimously, doesn’t have a clue about what constitutes a scientific theory. Some telltale signs of a valid scientific theory:

  1. It generates testable hypotheses
  2. It appears in the scientific literature
  3. Tests of its hypotheses occur, support the theory, and are also published in the scientific literature
  4. Advocates of the theory respond substantively to criticism, also in the scientific literature
  5. The scientific community generally assents that the theory is well-tested

Cold fusion falls down at having tests support the theory and, of course, the general assent of the scientific community. “Intelligent design” creationism, and other forms of creationism, don’t score on any of these signs; they are not scientifically accountable, and responsible educators should not be wasting students’ time in science class with non-science. That, besides the obvious drawback that all the ‘alternatives’ in question would be various labels for the same ensemble of religiously motivated antievolution arguments.

In contrast, real scientific advances may go through periods (sometimes long periods) of critical scrutiny before general acceptance occurs. Things like transposable elements in genetics, punctuated equilibria in paleontology, the endosymbiotic theory, and the bacterial theory of ulcer causation all managed to become accepted because their advocates spent their time actually doing the scientific work, including serious and substantive responses to criticism, that convinced the scientific community of the worth of their ideas. It is because of that dedication to hard work that their ideas have achieved respect.

The advocates of religiously motivated antievolution, on the other hand, despise that sort of hard work. They think that subverting the political process is an easy and cheap way to circumvent the scientific process. It also neatly sidesteps any need to consider or even respect critics and their criticisms.

The Taylor County School Board has cast its lot with the layabouts and scalawags. The students in Taylor County will receive the message, loud and clear, that hard work is not to be respected in Taylor County.

Wesley R. Elsberry

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

7 thoughts on “Florida: Taylor County Flies Under the Radar

  • 2008/01/09 at 5:44 am

    Not only do they not have a clue about what constitutes a scientific theory, they don’t have a clue that biological evolution is not a theory of the “creation of the universe.”

    They do have a clue, however, that it is politically incorrect to use the words “intelligent design” or “creationism.” Unless that other “theory” they had in mind was astrology.

  • 2008/01/09 at 11:33 am

    C’mon people, who knows more about science – the virtually entire scientific community or a few non-scientists on a Florida county (population 19,256) school board?

  • 2008/01/10 at 6:42 am

    Of course, this resolution is in no way representative of the possibility that Taylor County is a massive heap of FAIL. The place seems particularly unwilling to acknowledge that the 18th century ended some time ago.

    Have they even gotten around to acknowledging that all humans are the same species yet?

  • 2008/01/10 at 7:36 am

    Oh, and not to be outdone by Taylor County, Baker County and Holmes County have their own stabs at overturning 350 years of science.

    I love how they bring up these mysterious un-named “other theories”, and how evolution seems to be the only science they are concerned with when they talk about science as being presented as a “fact”.

  • 2008/01/10 at 8:55 am

    Brandon Haught notes that one of the antievolutionists is claiming that school boards in 11 counties have passed similar resolutions.

  • 2008/09/08 at 9:47 am

    If you believed science you would know evolution has not been proven. It is a theory and that is why Darwin called it a theory.

  • 2008/09/08 at 10:59 am

    If Lamar knew philosophy, he’d know that proof is something done in formal systems. Science works on empirical enquiry, not the proof available in formal systems like propositional logic and mathematics.

    Empirical enquiry shows that the phenomena defining evolutionary processes have been observed. Outcomes predicted from evolutionary mechanism theories have been sought out and also observed to occur. It may not be proof within a formal system, but it sure is something useful. “Theory” in science does not mean “just a guess”.

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