Florida: “Academic Freedom” Label for Same Old Antievolution

There’s a website in Florida parroting the Discovery Institute’s faux concern for “academic freedom”, the Florida Coalition for Academic Freedom. So far, the “coalition” appears to mainly be the person of David Gornoski, Bartow High’s 2006 valedictorian. Gornoski’s evolution in antievolution is apparent, starting from his 2006 address at the Bartow High School graduation ceremony (he openly advocated teaching “intelligent design” creationism as science in public schools, and said of “anti-religious groups” to “Bring it on”), through a late 2006 effort to place a nativity scene on public grounds, and now to the DI-approved “academic freedom” for teaching “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.

From Gornoski’s 2006 press release concerning his speech supporting IDC:

The student went on to address the hotly debated issue of Intelligent Design in public schools: The majority of our country believes in an intelligent designer with a plan for our lives yet public schools teach children that we are but accidents with no real purpose. I feel sorry for any student convinced through evolution science that mating and protecting territory is their highest purpose in life. It is no surprise then that since the decades when creation was replaced by survival of the fittest violent crime has surged over 330% according to Specialty Research Associates. Gornoski went on to provide a personal experience of the supposed violence increase. When you’sve seen students laugh as they stomp on a person’ss head, you’sve seen this statistic.

It seems obvious that being a valedictorian at Bartow High School does not necessarily indicate competence in logical argument. In the above, one finds the summary to be comprised of fallacies one after the other: argumentum ad populum, strawmen, and post hoc ergo propter hoc. (The repeated references to general audience approval indicates that this is a lacuna that affects more than just those at the top of the class.)

I wonder why obviously sincere, if somewhat over-zealous folks like David Gornoski never seem to tumble to the fact that they are participating in a con job. Gornoski’s original stance was a pleasantly honest, revealing advocacy of unconstitutional acts. In the nativity scene caper, Gornoski slid toward deceit with the statement that no, his nativity scene wasn’t about religion, but rather the historical relevance of Jesus. That sort of fibbing was just a warming-up period, though. This latest manifestation of Gornoski’s evolution follows the DI-approved tactics for getting the same old, tired, bogus antievolution arguments fed to students as if they were science, and a set of more mendacious tactics would be difficult to find. It includes the DI talking point about not mandating the teaching of “intelligent design” creationism. It parrots the DI-speak about wanting to teach “more” evolution, when what they mean is that they want equal time for evolution and antievolution. And an antievolution site without a quote-mine of Darwin would be incomplete, so obviously Gornoski’s site dishes it up in the header of his theme. Darwin’s message was that his book was too short to collect all of the opposing arguments, too, not that he would be seeking that fair result. In our modern situation, the clear message is that science classes have too little time to spend on teaching students both science and anti-science as if they were the same thing. Evolutionary science has passed muster through rigorous test and scrutiny; the “weaknesses” that the DI promotes are just the same old discredited tosh that has been seen from religiously motivated antievolutionists for decades and centuries. Evolutionary science is accountable through the record of hard work of scientists seen in the scientific literature, and antievolutionary drivel is not.

Instead of the forthright, honest, though misguided advocacy Gornoski started out with when he plumped for IDC back in 2006, the current website seeks to obscure those things that clearly speak to Gornoski’s obvious religious motivations in pursuing his goals. Probably the clearest sign of this lies in Gornoski’s misuse of the Darwin quote about achieving a fair result; if Gornoski really believed in his misinterpretation, one should find that his own list of external links would include both IDC and other antievolution advocacy, and sites explaining evolutionary science and criticism of antievolution. Instead, Gornoski’s blogroll is this:

* Dissent from Darwin
* Evolution News
* Explore Evolution
* Florida Science Standards Review
* Icons of Evolution

It only contains links to DI-sponsored websites and one link to the public commentary page for the new Florida science standards. I guess we can add “hypocrisy” to the moral decay that DI-style antievolution induces in its advocates.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

7 thoughts on “Florida: “Academic Freedom” Label for Same Old Antievolution

  • 2008/01/10 at 7:26 am
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    The majority of our country believes in an intelligent designer with a plan for our lives yet public schools teach children that we are but accidents with no real purpose.

    Like many avid ID supporters, not only does he not understand evolution theory, he also doesn’t seem to understand ID. At least, he’s not following the talking points. Granted, this can be excused because even the major ID players will say different things depending on who they are talking to. Here for instance he seems to have missed the fact that the motives and identity of the Designer are supposed to be forever removed from ID “theory” as non-scientific questions, so says Dembski for instance. But as I say, ID advocates, like we recently saw with that same Dembski, say that the Designer of ID is the Christian God.

    Anyway, I wonder if he’d be impressed with the fact that the vast majority of scientists, especially those in relevant fields, accept evolution? Oh course not! Then suddenly being in the majority doesn’t mean anything.

    I feel sorry for any student convinced through evolution science that mating and protecting territory is their highest purpose in life.

    I’d feel sorry for that student too since s/he has obviously learned no more about it than Mr. Gornoski.

    It is no surprise then that since the decades when creation was replaced by survival of the fittest violent crime has surged over 330% according to Specialty Research Associates.

    Specialty Research indeed. I wonder how it is that the United States is the country in the western world that has the highest levels of belief (and lowest levels of acceptance of evolution) and at the same time is also the most violent country?

    We have to commend the kid though for learning from the pros on how to be dishonest and to hide his agenda better.

    God likes that sort of thing.

  • 2008/01/10 at 8:59 am
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    Thanks for filling in some of the points I didn’t get to.

    One of the AtBC regulars posted a comment at Gornoski’s site concerning the one-sided blogroll while pushing the “fair result” quote.

  • 2008/01/10 at 9:37 am
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    I’ve always wondered how this “academic freedom” is supposed to work in practice. Do the teachers spend one class teaching the mainstream thoery, and then the next class teaching that what they just taught in the previous class is wrong? And when the students ask which is it, right or wrong, are the teachers supposed to answer that they can’t take a position on that since the side deemed wrong would have their academic freedom suppressed, but the students can decide for themselves!

    Such is life in PoMo High kids, where the cheerleaders have to cheer for both teams and nobody ever wins. Especially the students.

  • 2008/01/10 at 10:29 am
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    This is a theme that I’ve noted before, that science itself is impugned by these people, because they have to take the stance that science never decides anything; stuff is never found to be wrong and can always remain on the table. Science, though, works in about the opposite fashion: we learn most clearly not what is correct, but what cannot be correct. Phlogiston is wrong and won’t be making a comeback. “Young-earth” views of the age of the earth (6 to 20 thousand years, tops) are wrong and will not be making a comeback. Students need to learn that science means that we can know with high confidence that some things are just wrong. The antievolution forces have to deny this at every opportunity.

  • 2008/01/10 at 12:10 pm
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    The phrase I sometimes use is that science is stable, but it doesn’t stand still. One of the ironies of science is that the experiments by Lavoisier used to finally demolish phlogiston theory lead to the caloric theory of heat, which was itself eventually overturned.

  • 2008/01/10 at 3:02 pm
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    Still no comments on his site. I guess God worked another freakin’ miracle and wiped it out. Either that or the guy is just the usual dishonest reationist.

  • 2008/01/10 at 3:48 pm
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    The problem is that these people have no concept of open-ended inquiry or of inquiry-based research, so their model of “learning” is the Crossfire/FoxNews is-not/is-too screaming that characterizes what is supposed to be our modern political discourse. This contrivance is not a good way to learn about anything, or for that matter, how to pick a President.

    I heard a wonderful quote as we were watching a DVD at work regarding the VTS curriculum: “Education is what you do when you don’t know.” When you don’t know something, there isn’t “two sides,” but a void. True education teaches one to confront the unknown, not to passively choose between an answer and a superstition.

    I wouldn’t suppose that these people are well versed in or respectful of learning theory, either.

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