With newly passed science standards that require the teaching of evolution, Florida is finally on track to give its young people a solid educational grounding for careers in biology and medical science.
Not so fast, says state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. Because evolution, the scientific theory that undergirds modern biological science, conflicts with her religious beliefs, Storms is willing to sow confusion and misinformation in science classes around the state.
Storms' "Evolution Academic Freedom Act" (SB 2692), which passed the Senate Wednesday, says that educators cannot be discriminated against "for objectively presenting scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological or chemical evolution." The not-so-subtle purpose of the bill is to allow public school teachers to present religious ideas such as "intelligent design" that masquerade as science.
Were Storms' bill to become law she would be buying the state an expensive church-state lawsuit it is sure to lose and embarrassing Florida as a state where religion trumps science in public education.
The debate over evolution ended nearly a century ago in places that sincerely want to prepare young people for the future. If Florida expects to encourage the biotechnology sector to relocate here, it needs to reject both the House and Senate bills.
We commend Republicans Jim King, Evelyn Lynn, Paula Dockery, Mike Bennett and Dennis Jones for joining with Senate Democrats in opposition. But the bill still passed 21-17. The House bill (HB 1483) takes a different approach, but with the same ultimate purpose.
As a legislative staff analysis of the House bill points out, Florida's newly adopted science standards already state that scientific claims should be analyzed using "critical and logical thinking," and "active consideration of alternative scientific explanations" shall be part of the educational process. But "alternative scientific explanations" means those tested and testable, not a simple belief in supernatural intervention.
Storms and those who supported her bill should leave science education to the experts, and they should leave their religion out of state law.