The state of Florida, in an admirable attempt to lurch into the 21st century, is considering adopting new science standards that actually mention the word "evolution."
Current standards talk about "biological changes over time." The new standards, if adopted in January, will promote evolution as one of several key ideas in science that students need to learn.
Naturally the Religious Right is throwing a fit – and at least one local school board is right there with them. The Lakeland Ledger reported recently that if the new standards are adopted, members of the Polk County School Board are ready to fight them.
Of the seven members on the board, five expressed support for teaching "intelligent design," the latest variant of creationism.
Member Margaret Lofton said, "If it ever comes to the board for a vote, I will vote against the teaching of evolution as part of the science curriculum. If [evolution] is taught, I would want to balance it with the fact that we may live in a universe created by a supreme being as well."
Tim Harris added, "My tendency would be to have both sides shared with students since neither side can be proven." Hazel Sellers chimed in: "I don't have a conflict with intelligent design versus evolution. The two go together."
These folks need to do some reading. I'm tempted to tell them to start with On the Origin of Species, but I'll admit that can be an intimidating place to begin. Instead, I'll give them an easier assignment: 40 Days and 40 Nights by Matthew Chapman. It's a good overview of the court case against intelligent design that was litigated in part by Americans United in 2005. Members of the Polk County board should digest it fully before launching a crusade on behalf of teaching religion in science class.
The Dover case has been dissected, analyzed and even recreated in a PBS documentary. Its national implications have been debated. With all of that talk, some tend to forget that back in Dover, the fallout was pretty serious. Voters tossed out the school board that made the foolish decision to pursue ID. The board ended up with a steep bill as well: They had to shell out more than $1 million to pay plaintiffs' legal fees. Many townspeople felt that their community had been made the focus of unwanted attention.
Focus on the Family is already hectoring its supporters to besiege Florida education officials with e-mails and calls demanding that the new standards incorporate intelligent design. Of course, Focus on the Family won't have to pay the legal bill if Polk County or any other school board in the state follows this bum advice.
If you live in Florida and are concerned about quality science education in our nation's fourth most populous state, perhaps you should be on the phone as well.