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Educators say evolution still 'theory'

A decision by the Florida Board of Education to qualify evolution as a “theory” when the concept is taught in public schools has triggered a gusher of outrage from those faithful to Darwinian philosophy.

“Creationism is NOT science and is for fools who believe in fairy tales,” wrote boston85 on a Tampa Bay Online forum after the state board simply voted to describe evolution as a “theory.” It wasn’t even considering allowing teaching alternative beliefs about the origins of the universe, such as creationism or intelligent design.

Added Brian06, “What is the problem? Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection has stood the test of SCIENTIFIC studies and investigations. Why are the people against the writings in Darwin’s book and have yet NEVER read it and yet they ‘claim’ to live their live (sic) by bible (sic) which they have also NEVER read!”

And lornoborno wrote: “You religious fanatics make us look like backwards fools to the rest of the world. Asia will overtake us in science and technology – you are hurting the USA worse than any terrorist or communist regime. Your stupid medieval myths do not belong in our classrooms. Go to your cult mega-churches and bask in your ignorance there – leave our children alone. EVOLUTION is REAL – the Bible is MYTH!”

The outpouring of goodwill and tolerance followed today’s vote by the state board that in order for evolution to be taught in Florida’s public schools it must be qualified by being described as a “theory.”

“Although the Florida Board of Education approved the use of the word “evolution” it did so with the qualification that it is taught as scientific theory instead of scientific fact,” said the Florida Family Association, which lobbied for considering evolution a theory, not fact.

“Supporters of Florida Family Association’s e-mail campaign delivered more than 13,800 e-mails to the Florida Board of Education board members. They heard your request that evolution not be taught as scientific fact,” the association said.

However, the board really should have gone further and adopted a plan that would have protected teachers’ freedom to open discussion to other ideas.

John Stemberger, the Florida Family Policy Council president, said the reference to “theory” fell short of what parents deserve.

“This is a sad day in Florida, when a handful of religious Darwinists can hijack the curriculum framing process and push their ideological agenda at the expense of the education [of] our children.”

Kim Kendall, a concerned parent, expressed concern the new standards “do not allow for academic freedom and protection for teachers who teach the weaknesses in Darwinism.”

Existing policy for the state required that teachers refer to evolution in terminology such as “change over time,” so the addition of the word evolution is new.

The definition of evolution as a “theory” was a modified proposal some considered a compromise, because it fell far short of the mandate that had been proposed by a state committee, one that stated as fact: “Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.”

Board member Roberto Martinez took exception to the adjustment, saying the theory description was nothing more than an attempt to “placate” people who did not believe in evolution.

Board member Donna Callaway, however, called it a “minimal” change.

Board Chairman T. Willard Fair voted last and cast the deciding vote in the 4-3 decision.

The original proposal to the Board of Education, essentially, would have presented evolution as proven fact.

“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, had warned.

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.”

He said, “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.”

Pastor Neal Ganzel Jr., of Ormond Beach, Fla., said such dogmatism isn’t appropriate in science. “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.

The Jacksonville Times-Union reported that school boards in the northeastern part of the state objected collectively, endorsing resolutions that urged 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.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported more than 10,000 people 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, including 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.”

The outrage after the board’s decision evidenced itself in the newspaper forums.

“This is all a crock,” wrote lolalove222, “Believe what you’d like, but there is a clear constitutional issue here: seperation (sic) of church and state. Since the PUBLIC schools are run by the state, NO religion has the right to demand ANY religious teachings be taught in schools…”

“I know! Why don’t we teach science in school and religion in church! … If you want your children to know about the Bible, please don’t ask schools to teach it. Take your kids to church on Sunday,” wrote DarthRandall.

Paige, however, pointed out one other major point. “Evolution cannot be scientifically proven! That is what is so ironic about this debate…”


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