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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

FSU prof: Gibbs memo is 'hollow threat'



Gey The legal memos recently written by Pinellas attorney David C. Gibbs III and a curriculum expert working for his firm suggests the possibility of a court challenge if the Board of Education adopts science standards that embrace evolution. But the challenge wouldn't get very far, says FSU law Professor Steven G. Gey (left), a leading scholar on religious liberty issues. "I have written, litigated, and taught in this area of law for over two decades," Gey wrote in an e-mail to The Gradebook, "and I can tell you that this is as hollow a threat as could ever be mustered."

The Gradebook asked Gey for his take on the Gibbs memo (which was written about in a previous post here, and in the St. Petersburg Times here) and a detailed follow-up memo by Francis Grubbs, a consultant working for both Gibbs' law firm and the Christian Law Association (see post here). Gey agreed to let us publish his response, which focuses on the arguments made in the Grubbs memo.

Here's an excerpt:

"The third set of recommendations, starting on page 7 of the memo, suggests that evolutionary theory is equivalent to atheism. Again, this is inaccurate, misleading about the very nature of science in general, and in some of the references in this section, deeply offensive to the large group of scientists who are both evolutionary biologists and religious adherents."

"In this section, the memo does what creationists always try to do, which is conflate scientific naturalism – which is the explanation of natural phenomena by natural explanations – with philosophical naturalism – which denies that there is any reality beyond the physical world. Evolutionary biology is clearly naturalistic in the same sense that all science is naturalistic. To reject the claim of scientific naturalism is to adopt the claim that natural phenomena should be explained by supernatural explanations."

"This leads to absurd conclusions like that offered by Michael Behe in his testimony at the Dover, Pennsylvania intelligent design trial, in which he acknowledged that under the definition of science proposed by intelligent design advocates, astrology is science. It doesn’t take someone with a Harvard Ph.D in biology to understand the foolishness of that statement."

To read Gey's comments to The Gradebook in full, click here. To really see a Gey critique, click here.

- Ron Matus, state education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:32am]


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