Focus On Science, Not Ideology In Setting Education Standards

Focus On Science, Not Ideology In Setting Education Standards
Editorial - The Tampa Tribune - 12/27/2007 - original
Americans interested in science education have long supported teaching evolution in schools, yet Florida's science standards do not even mention "the e-word." We hope that's about to change.

The state Board of Education is set to approve new teaching standards that clarify that evolution is the "fundamental concept underlying all of biology."

One board member, however, says she will vote against the revision unless other origin-of-life theories also are taught. Her colleagues on the board should stand firm against allowing religious beliefs to determine the science curriculum taught in Florida schools.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is central to science curriculum because it explains more observations than any alternative. It has been debated for nearly two centuries. It has been tested and substantiated, and modified and refined, by generations of scientists. This is how science works.

Yet opponents of evolutionary theory want to impose their religious beliefs on science classes. They want Florida to also teach a theory of "intelligent design" that says the world is too complex to have developed without the oversight of a higher intellect.

Intelligent design is little more than creationism resurrected. It is a hypothesis that cannot be tested and so cannot be science. It is a leap of faith that has no place in the science classroom.

It's why two years ago a federal judge in Pennsylvania struck down a law that required teaching "the two sides," as President Bush called it at the time.

"Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," wrote Judge John E. Jones III. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis, grounded in religion, into the science classroom."

Certainly public school teachers should acknowledge that some people, because of their faith, don't believe in evolution. That's a fact. However, a better place for such discussions would be in religion or history classes.

The 45 teachers and scientists who worked to develop Florida's new science standards understand the need for objectivity.

If the United States is to keep abreast of global competitors, we need a work force steeped in science and math.

The state should give our students a proper science education and for that, evolution is key.

The new standards are based on science, not religion. They should be adopted.