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Sunday, March 1, 2009

State Senator Stephen Wise of Florida recently filed a bill that encourages the "critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in Florida public school classrooms.

Florida Citizens for Science responded thusly:

Wise's antievolution bill is an insult to citizens who are tired of stomping over the same ground over and over again. The Florida Board of Education and last year's state legislature have already debated the teaching of evolution ad nauseam. To insist on bringing this up again is irresponsible because it will distract our lawmakers from the important tasks at hand, and could burden one of our school districts with a million dollar legal bill.

It is quite obvious to the well-informed observer that this bill is not intended to promote true "critical analysis" of evolution.

Indeed, a critical analysis of this "critical analysis" bill demonstrates that it is merely an attempt to undermine the teaching of evolution by encouraging sympathetic teachers in Florida to introduce religiously-motivated antievolution arguments in their classrooms under the guise of critical thinking.

The first obvious clue is that the bill only subjects evolution to critical analysis. It does not encourage the critical analysis of other scientific theories such as germ theory, atomic theory, gravitational theory, or plate tectonic theory. The singling out of evolution reveals an underlying concern about the perceived conflict between evolution and certain religious beliefs, not a genuine concern for scientific accuracy.

Another obvious clue is that the bill does not specify what the critical analysis should actually entail. There are several arguments worth having when it comes to evolution. An investigation of these open questions concerning evolution would be a legitimate educational strategy. The fact that the bill does not specify what the critical analysis should entail suggests that it is solely intended to cast doubt upon evolution by the uncritical promotion of religiously-motivated antievolution arguments.

Keep in mind that Sen. Wise apparently thinks that this is a valid criticism of evolution (my emphasis):

"I always like the story, the person says, well, 'You know, we came from monkeys, we came from apes.' Well, why do we still have apes if we came from them? And those are the kind of questions kids need to ask themselves."

While we're at it, here's a question that I think kids need to ask themselves: If the Earth is a big ball, why don't people in the southern hemisphere fall off the bottom of it?

I bet you Newtonists never thought about that one.

The final obvious clue concerning the bill's true intent is that Sen. Wise initially said that he was going to submit a bill that would require teachers to present "intelligent design" as "the other side" when evolution is taught. He originally offered this as the only way to encourage "critical thinking" in the classroom.

And now Sen. Wise wants us to believe that his motivations for filing this "critical analysis" bill are purely secular and completely scientific.

Uh huh.

Maybe he should change his middle name to "Un."

posted by Jeremy Mohn

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