Polk County School Board Backs Off “Intelligent Design”

The Tampa Tribune article by Billy Townsend reports that the Polk County School Board members have decided not to pursue inserting “intelligent design” into the schools there. They apparently were not prepared for the national response they got, and especially the satirical focus of Pastafarian Flying Spaghetti Monster boosters.

Lofton, a former geometry teacher with a master’s degree in mathematics and one of the pro-intelligent design board members, said she has no interest in engaging with the Pastafarians or anyone else seeking to discredit intelligent design.

She describes herself as secure in her beliefs. “I’m a Christian. I personally believe that the Bible is inerrant truth and the word of God.”

Ms. Lofton doesn’t seem to care to increase any cognitive dissonance. And the quoted statement would indicate that Ms. Lofton is not merely an advocate of “intelligent design”, but also falls into the category of young-earth creationist, one of those people whose religious faith is so flimsy that it is threatened if the earth is more than just a few thousand years old. Science says the earth is 4.55 billion years old. Teaching kids that the young-earth scenario is still a legitimate position supported by credentialed scholars is about on the level of saying that the American Revolution is held by some scholars to have happened two and a quarter centuries ago, and by other scholars to have taken place between, oh, four and five hours ago, and it will be up to them to decide between these equally credible positions.

That’s complete nonsense, of course. Science can figure out when certain conjectures are wrong. Phlogiston is gone and isn’t coming back. So is geocentrism and the young-earth assertion. Students deserve to learn that science means that not every idea can forever be considered arguable. Antievolution depends upon an ongoing denial that science can accomplish this modest task; it is, in practice as well as in philosophy, anti-science in all its forms.

I’m glad that the Polk County School Board members have decided, pragmatically, to put away the desire to dally with “intelligent design”. I’d be even gladder if they had taken the opportunity to pick up “Why Intelligent Design Fails” and “Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism” to learn why students would be ill-served to to forced to spend their limited science class time in covering the anti-science notions of the antievolution movement.

Wesley R. Elsberry

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

6 thoughts on “Polk County School Board Backs Off “Intelligent Design”

  • 2007/12/22 at 6:59 am

    I also think the efforts of the Florida Citizens for Science (Joe Wolf and myself) had a influence on the
    Polk School Board.At the last board meeting we (Joe and I) made it very clear what the ramifications of
    trying to place ID in the school system could be.

  • 2007/12/22 at 9:23 am

    After reading Kay Fields’ contention that she didn’t know that The Ledger would do a front page story on Creationism on the school board, I’m left wondering what would have happened if the paper hadn’t broken the story. There’s nothing like shining the light of day on sneaky Creationists to make them scurry for cover.

  • 2007/12/22 at 9:33 am

    I know for a fact that as soon as the “controversy” started, one Lakeland college library immediately added “Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism” to their collection.

  • 2007/12/22 at 10:57 am

    Jonathan, I’m pretty sure that I discussed Florida Citizens for Science with Townsend in the interview. I’m not sure why he chose not to include FLCfS in the article.

    Mike, there’s a continuing problem that “stealth” candidates often get no scrutiny in the election process. The Kansas state board of education is an extreme example, with alternations between antievolutionist majorities and moderates leading to alternations between science standards and denial-of-science standards.

    Chuck, that’s encouraging news. It would be nice if the Lakeland Public Library would add some titles. They have antievolution books, for sure: two by William Dembski, “The Design Revolution” and “Darwin’s Nemesis”, five of Phillip Johnson, two by Michael Behe, two by Jonathan Wells… I think I’ve had enough of that. On the critical side, the LPL has the 1983 “Scientists Confront Creationism” and a few other titles, but not absolutely critical volumes like Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross’ “Creationism’s Trojan Horse”, and Matt Young and Taner Edis’ “Why Intelligent Design Fails”. I have links to a wider selection of current critical volumes here.

  • 2007/12/22 at 1:39 pm

    Just a note: Dr. Elsberry is correct. He did mention Florida Citizens for Science to me, just as PZ Myers mentioned Panda’s Thumb, who also didn’t get a mention. I was not claiming to put together a complete census of who makes up the network. Just wanted to show the network exists. No ulterior motives I’m consciously aware of in who I picked ot mention. The people I mentioned were the people who were in my head at the time I was writing the story. Just FYI.

    I’m flattered you would all take the time to read and discuss. Thanks.

  • 2007/12/28 at 1:37 pm

    I know I’m late to this conversation, but I need to point out that Florida is not out of the woods on this issue by a long shot! Polk County was just one hot spot. The real concern is the STATE board of education. Just because one county cried uncle doesn’t mean the fight is over. In reality, the war is still raging!

    Here’s what I mean:

Comments are closed.