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The state of Florida is considering a new science teaching standard that presumes the accuracy of the theory of evolution, much to the consternation of parents and other leaders who say society too often has been embarrassed by such “Flat Earth Society” thinking.
At issue is a set of standards under consideration by the state Board of Education that will mandate the teaching of evolution as fact and, essentially, forbid the discussion of facts that may contradict the theory.
“The proposed standards [for evolution] … presume ideas to be facts and leave no opportunity to study them beyond their narrow presentation,” Fred Cutting, a retired aerospace engineer, said.
He served on the state’s Science Standards Framers Committee because of his expertise in biology, specifically species origins and the human genome project, and found the treatment of evolution “very one-sided, bias[ed] and narrow in its final views.”
The standards, he said, “are dogmatic and not scientifically neutral. … In the biology standards for evolution that were proposed, there was no room for any critical thinking or criticism of prevailing science theories. Students are not encouraged to do any critical thinking or evaluations within the proposed standards being questioned. The life sciences subcommittee refused to distinguish between what can be observed, tested and objectively verified, on one hand, and what is speculation and/or mere hypothesis on the other.”
He said he was trying to promote a curriculum that was even and “would present both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution.”
“Those attempts were met with hostility and aggressive opposition,” he said.
Some other committee members were “very intolerant, aggressive and dogmatic about protecting what appears to be a closely held personal philosophical commitment over what is the best science available to Florida’s students.”
Pastor Neal Ganzel Jr., of Ormond Beach, Fla., wasn’t so restrained in his criticism of the emphasis the new standards place on evolutionary theory.
He called Darwinian science the “reigning” theory of the day but said the committee members “arrogantly assume that this one theory is the final and only model for the explanation of the existence and variety of species. …”
“People have made this kind of mistake before,” he said. “May I remind us all that Alchemy was once the ruling theory of science? Newton and Galileo gave us one authoritative understanding of time, then came Einstein and relativity. The human family has been embarrassed many times by versions of the Flat Earth Society,” he said.
“What we have here, in effect, [is] the same kind of situation that faced Galileo the scientist in 1633, and John Scopes the high school teacher in 1925. The educational standards and politics of their day plunged them into terrible crises of conscience, professional harassment, public humiliation, termination of employment and even trial for religious heresy. This is what inevitably happens when a particular scientific theory or religious doctrine utilizes the coercive powers of government as a means of advancing its influence,” he said.
John Stemberger, chief of the Florida Family Policy Council, told WND the “Neaderthals” are fighting hard to prevent the introduction of information into public schools that would contradict their belief in evolution.
“It’s apparent that evolution has become almost like one of the prongs of the Apostles’ Creed for the secular humanists. They guard it as if they were guarding a doctrinal truth,” he said. “They’re not open to discussion and debate and examination of evidence.”
The statement triggering the protests would be mandated for all schools, teachers and students in Florida if the state board adopts the standards in a vote scheduled Feb. 19. It says, “Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.”
That, Stemberger said, leaves those open to scientific debate “in the position that Galileo was in, when he was trying to establish an order of the day and come against the Flat Earth Society.”
Stemberger and others have assembled a campaign to try to influence the state board to reject the recommended standards or modify them.
“Members of the coalition stressed that they are not opposing the inclusion of evolution in the science curriculum but are opposing an orchestrated attempt to censor relevant scientific evidence regarding evolution from Florida’s school children,” the group’s announcement said.
“If science is anything, it must be a search for the reality of the physical world we live in,” Stemberger said. “We think kids should learn about evolution, but they should learn it is a theory with evidences of both its strengths and weaknesses.”
The committee said although comments from the public have been allowed at several public hearings, “that input was largely ignored by the committee and all communication now to the seven voting members of the State Board of Education regarding this issue is being filtered and redirected.”
WND asked for a comment from the communications office of the state board, but when a woman called back she said she was not a spokeswoman.
But advocates of allowing students to ask questions about evolution, and challenge the assumptions on which it is based, posted a list on their website of hundreds of internationally recognized experts and professionals in their various scientific fields who agree with the statement: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
“These revisions,” added Ganzel, “will also blind the Florida student to any other interpretive viewpoint than the Darwinian Theory. Our standards should make sure the student knows and loves the scientific process and is encouraged to pursue, in an unfettered way, science as an exciting, changing profession. Students should not be predisposed to only one scientific theory.”
Parent Kim Kendall, formerly an air traffic controller and now a homemaker, said her frustration from having such standards considered was surpassed only by the fact state officials apparently do not want even to hear concerns.
“I have devoted weeks and weeks to just trying to be heard but I have been met with nothing but frustration and disappointment. There have been public hearings that were abruptly canceled; there were no press releases issued for the hearings that were scheduled – or for the canceled hearings, the computerized survey for public comment was too complicated. … The multiple attempts by all of us to meet personally with members of the Board of Education have been totally unanswered,” she said.
“It is simply remarkable that the very people who are making this decision are refusing to hear directly from the people whose children’s lives and educations are being affected by these standards.”
The Jacksonville Times-Union reported that school boards in the northeastern part of the state are objecting collectively, endorsing resolutions that urge the state to back down from the new standards promoting “evolution,” not the “theory” of evolution.
Nassau Superintendent John Ruis said the theory of evolution has many holes, and having the state present it as an undisputed fact “is certainly contrary to the beliefs of many people, including myself.”
How to present such information should be left to local districts, said Clay Supt. David Owens.
“I believe in the separation of church and state, but I also believe there is important information available on both sides of [evolution]. To present it in just one way is wrong.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported more than 10,000 people have logged on to the state website to denounce or praise the science blueprint.
The newspaper’s own forum on the issue had collected nearly 1,000 comments, ranging from Woody Smith’s endorsement of evolution: “Evolution by natural selection is an established PRINCIPLE of science – the fact that it is still called a ‘theory’ seems to imply to some ignorant people that it is somehow in doubt. … It is supported by the fossil record. It has been observed in the laboratory. It has been observed in nature. It has been supported by advances in genetic science. NO evidence whatsoever has ever been discovered to contradict it.”
But Bob W. followed with a different perspective.
“Evolution has never qualified as anything more than a theory. The theory caters to secular thought and the presupposition that man is the highest order of all beings. But the problem is that none of what the theory promotes has ever been observed, much less proved. No transitional forms, no new species and no new anything. … Evolution is such a mass of mumbo (sixty billon years ago) jumbo (the mountain turned upside down), that most folks taught this stuff still have no idea of what it is. They have to replay their Jurassic Park DVD to refresh their memory. Think of the markets that feed off this nonsense and folk’s pocketbooks. Well, gotta go. Two Yugos just wrecked outside my window and I want to see the new Caddies that resulted – that’s evolution.”
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