Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views
Academic Freedom/Free Speech NEWS

Florida State Board Tricked into Meaningless "Compromise" to Retain Dogmatism and call Evolution "Scientific Theory"

Today the Florida State Board of Education voted 4-3 to adopt science standards that call evolution "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology." While it is good that students will learn about evolution, these standards will make for bad science education because they elevate Darwin's theory to a dogma that cannot be questioned. Even worse, some board members thought that they could rectify the dogmatic tone of the standards by calling evolution a "scientific theory." Some news articles are even calling this a "compromise." Those board members were tricked into a false compromise: inserting the word "scientific theory" before the word "evolution" is a meaningless and impotent change that will do absolutely nothing to actually inform students about the scientific problems with evolution.

Despite the fact that the meaningless words "scientific theory" were inserted into the standards, the standards still retain dogmatic language and reject the excellent suggestions of the Minority Report that would have required that "Students should learn why some scientists give scientific critiques of standard models of neo-Darwinian evolution or models of the chemical origin of life." If the State Board of Education wanted to do it right, then they should have protected the academic freedom of teachers to teach students about both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution.

One good aspect of Florida's new standards is that their section on the Nature of Science states that students should "use critical and logical thinking, and the active consideration of alternative scientific explanations to explain all the data presented." But as Mr. Fred Cutting, writing-committee member, wrote in the Minority Report, "Somewhat inexplicably, there is no indicator in the proposed standards that applies this philosophy of science education to biological origins."

Unless Floridans now demand change, Florida's biology classrooms will follow the dogmatism of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which recently published a booklet, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, similarly proclaiming that "[t]here is no scientific controversy about the basic facts of evolution" because "no new evidence is likely to alter" it. Contrary to what the NAS and the Florida Science Standards assert, there are fundamental questions among scientists about Darwinian evolution.

Darwin didn't know how the cell worked, but modern biochemists have discovered our cells contain a micro-world of molecular machines that function like a factory, or a miniature city. Over 700 scientists have signed a statement agreeing that the integrated, organized complexity of life is not what we would expect from a random and unguided process like Darwinian evolution (see www.dissentfromdarwin.com). As biochemist Franklin Harold observed in an Oxford University Press monograph, "there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations."

Leading scientists also disagree with the NAS's claim that evolution is "a cornerstone of modern science." In 2005, NAS member Philip Skell wrote in The Scientist that, "Darwinian evolution ... does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology ... the claim that it is the cornerstone of modern experimental biology will be met with quiet skepticism from a growing number of scientists." (For a further response to the NAS, see here.)

Sadly, academia is commonly intolerant of dissent from Darwinism. Consider the NAS's statement that "there is no scientific controversy" over evolution. Imagine you are a scientist with fundamental doubts about Darwinism and you see the top science organization in the USA asserting that your views don't exist.

Or imagine you are a Florida biology teacher who feels compelled to inform students about scientific dissent from Darwinism, but Florida's science standards dictate that you must praise evolution as "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology."

Do these statements support academic freedom to express such dissenting views in the laboratory or the classroom? I think not.

This spring, a documentary will be released featuring Ben Stein entitled Expelled that recounts the stories of scientists who have experienced persecution of their academic freedom because they questioned evolution. One such scientist is Dr. Richard Sternberg, a biologist formerly at the Smithsonian with two Ph.D.'s in evolution who was harassed and intimidated because he is a skeptic of Neo-Darwinism. Another biologist lost her job at George Mason University because she challenged evolution in a classroom.

No wonder Darwinists confidently declare there is no debate over evolution: they shut down such debate and prevent it from taking place.

Sadly, the proposed Florida science standards stifle will free inquiry because they too censor any real scientific challenges to evolution.

Change is now necessary if Florida teachers are to be given the academic freedom to inform students about scientists who dissent from evolution. Let us hope that there are still smart people in Florida who want to teach evolution the correct way, and not implement meaningless "compromises" like calling it a "scientific theory."