Compromise for no one
Supporters of the state's proposed new science standards say a Department of Education proposal to add the words "scientific theory" to the draft description of evolution isn't a good idea after all. The Florida Citizens for Science issued a statement this morning objecting to the last-minute proposal, and reversing course on more accommodating statements made Friday by the group’s spokesman (see St. Petersburg Times story on that here.)
"The proposed changes confuse the difference between fact and theory," the statement says. "As an example: Gravity is both a fact and a theory. Gravity happens no matter how it is explained. It is the same with evolution. Evolution is theory in that it has tremendous explanatory power for understanding living systems. But it is also a fact: it happened in the past and is happening now. Thus, adding 'scientific theory of' in front of evolution everywhere it appears in the science standards is an uninformed idea that diminishes the value of the standards."
Though it doesn't agree with the Florida Citizens for Science on the subject, the Florida Baptist Convention concurs on one point: It doesn't like the "scientific theory" option, either.
"We do not believe that the mere adding of the phrase 'scientific theory of' before the word 'evolution' in the standards will really fix the problem," the group says in its statement, posted in full on the Florida Baptist Witness web site and also delivered to the State Board of Education. "As we have stated, this will not address the standards' silence about teaching scientific criticisms of evolution."
DOE officials told The Gradebook on Friday that they ran the idea past several members of the writers and framers committee that crafted the proposed standards – and that those members agreed the wording was "scientifically accurate." But other members were not happy with the proposed change, and let the Florida Citizens for Science know, said FCS spokesman Brandon Haught.
Today's statement quotes committee member Debra Walker, an archaeologist and Monroe County school board member, as saying, "The Board of Education charged this expert panel to do the work and we did it. To edit it without specific expertise makes no sense, diminishes our work, and, more importantly, sets a dangerous precedent belittling the value of scientific knowledge in Florida for this generation and the next."
DOE officials say the proposed wording change does not replace the draft that the Board of Education will consider tomorrow, but is offered as an option. They say additional language would be added to the standards wherever appropriate, not just to the sections covering evolution.
- Ron Matus and Jeff Solochek