Florida: This Year’s Antievolution Bill Appears

By | 2011/03/07

As predicted by Joe Meert, Florida’s legislature is once again considering antievolution legislation. This particular attempt is done as a change to a law rather than as a standalone effort.

And the strategy in this one is to label it “critical analysis”, like Ohio did in 2002.

1 A bill to be entitled
2 An act relating to required instruction in the public
3 schools; amending s. 1003.42, F.S.; requiring that the
4 instructional staff of a public school teach a
5 thorough presentation and critical analysis of the
6 scientific theory of evolution and certain
7 governmental, legal, and civic-related principles;
8 revising the curriculum of the character-development
9 program required for students in kindergarten through
10 grade 12 and requiring school districts to annually
11 inform certain personnel of that curriculum; amending
12 s. 1006.148, F.S.; conforming a cross-reference;
13 providing an effective date.
14
15 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
16
17 Section 1.?Subsection (2) of section 1003.42, Florida
18 Statutes, is amended to read:
19 1003.42?Required instruction.—
20 (2)?Members of the instructional staff of the public
21 schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education
22 and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and
23 faithfully, using the books and materials required to that meet
24 the highest standards for professionalism and historic accuracy,
25 following the prescribed courses of study, and employing
26 approved methods of instruction, the following:
27 (a)?A thorough presentation and critical analysis of the
28 scientific theory of evolution.

Of course, what Ohio got was a lesson plan whose specifics were falsehoods about evolutionary science and recycled religious antievolution arguments, including those associated with “intelligent design”, which the “critical analysis” advocates (falsely) swore up and down would not be presented to Ohio’s students.

No, people opposed to bills like Florida’s SB1854 are not against “academic freedom” or even actual “critical analysis”; they are opposed to using the power of government to force teachers to tell lies to students, which is all that the ensemble of long-rebutted religious antievolution argumentation is. While the bill doesn’t explicitly mandate that crap like what was delivered in Ohio will have to be used in Florida classrooms, the track record is clear that we can expect only that.

Floridians should tell their representatives that there’s too little time and definitely too little money in our education system to spend any of either telling kids narrow sectarian religious antievolution lies. The folks pushing hardest for this are not generically for religion; they are for an exclusionary view that aims to undercut not just atheism and agnosticism, but also any Christian denomination that accepts “theistic evolution” or “evolutionary creationism”. Besides the unconstitutional implementation that we can see coming from light-years away, there is also the small issue that the way that “critical analysis” gets done by the religious antievolution crowd is that students get told, explicitly or implicitly, that both scientists and the scientific method are untrustworthy. Science doesn’t get legal protection from bad science or anti-science, so if you sit back and relax over this, don’t be surprised when Florida’s school-kids turn out not to either have the motivation to take up careers in science or the training.

Tune into the Florida Citizen’s for Science (FLCfS) blog, which will be covering developments and giving advice on how to take action on this. FLCfS was an effective part of the push for Florida to adopt sound science standards in 2008, and will be involved now in defending the standards and what they represent. Please consider joining or donating to show your support.

Update: The religious antievolution effort is not the only legislative offering going to 11 on the Wacky-Meter. There’s also a bill to make it a felony to photograph a farm without written permission. Apparently intended to discomfit animal rights activists, it’s an example of a problem that someone is proposing a highly unreasonable — and facially unconstitutional — solution for.

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5 thoughts on “Florida: This Year’s Antievolution Bill Appears

  1. Wheels

    I pointed this out on Panda’s Thumb, but check out the ammended text lines 117-140. References to the secular nature of the character-building curriculum, as well as anti-bigotry topics, are up for deletion.

  2. Wesley R. Elsberry Post author

    In reply to the trolls at PT, I wrote:

    For FL and IBIG, since they seem to be incapable of either following links or reading the text that is there, I had rather more on the topic at my personal blog. I noted that the “critical analysis” language was just like what Ohio got handed by the Discovery Institute back in 2002. So what happens after a policy or law goes into effect mandating “critical analysis”? We actually know about it because Ohio ran the experiment for us:

    Of course, what Ohio got was a lesson plan whose specifics were falsehoods about evolutionary science and recycled religious antievolution arguments, including those associated with “intelligent design”, which the “critical analysis” advocates (falsely) swore up and down would not be presented to Ohio’s students.

    No, people opposed to bills like Florida’s SB1854 are not against “academic freedom” or even actual “critical analysis”; they are opposed to using the power of government to force teachers to tell lies to students, which is all that the ensemble of long-rebutted religious antievolution argumentation is. While the bill doesn’t explicitly mandate that crap like what was delivered in Ohio will have to be used in Florida classrooms, the track record is clear that we can expect only that.

    Much more on the faults of the Ohio “critical analysis” crud is available here. That includes links to the original files, so you can see exactly what the religious antievolutionists were trying to wedge in the door.

    Personally, I would love for Florida’s students to get a good enough grounding in evolutionary science that they could be introduced to Elliott Sober’s book, Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, 3rd Edition. That provides an example of what real critical analysis is.

    Our experience in other places, however, is that none of the people talking up “critical analysis” aimed solely at evolutionary science (and perhaps one or two other wingnut-bugbear topics tossed in to avoid the “singled out” criticism) are interested in good or excellent education in evolutionary biology. They are solely interested in giving cover to teachers who are willing to subvert science by including arguments from the long-rebutted religious antievolution ensemble.

    The pretense is that we might get Sober in the classroom, but the reality is the kids only get Gished.

  3. square-foot

    Floridians should tell their representatives that there’s too little time and definitely too little money in our education system to spend any of either telling kids narrow sectarian religious antievolution lies. The folks pushing hardest for this are not generically for religion; they are for an exclusionary view that aims to undercut not just atheism and agnosticism, but also any Christian denomination that accepts “theistic evolution” or “evolutionary creationism”.

    Hey, Wesley, is the following a reasonable interpretation of what you meant (maybe lacking some nuances)?

    “Wesley was saying that the folk pushing for this aren’t for generic religion, but rather a specific religion (fundamentalism) that excludes other religious beliefs.”

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