Evolution being taught, so call it 'evolution'

Evolution being taught, so call it 'evolution'
Palm Beach Post Editorial - 01/03/2008 - original
Evolution is scientific theory. Creationism is religious belief. Only one of them should be taught in Florida's science classrooms.

The state Department of Education holds hearings today in Jacksonville and Tuesday in Miramar on a proposal to explicitly acknowledge that Florida's public schools will teach evolution. That would be one change among many designed to improve science education.

The curriculum already requires science teachers in the state's public schools to teach their students that forms of life change over time. That's evolution in all but name. Still, some groups object to specifying evolution. Inevitably, critics of the change will argue that students who learn about evolution also should study intelligent design, which is creationism that has been repackaged and rebranded.

There is no official proposal to require teaching of intelligent design. Still, as The Post reported this week, some school board members in this area support teaching intelligent design in science classrooms. Those board members include Carol Hilson and John Carvelli in St. Lucie County. Debra Robinson of Palm Beach County has supported it. Martin County's David Anderson opposes the teaching of evolution because "I am a Christian."

In fact, many Christians are persuaded by the extensive scientific evidence that supports the theory of evolution. They also understand that Darwin's theory is about the origin of species, not the origin of life. Acceptance of evolution doesn't rule out accepting the belief that evolution is one of God's tools.

The accumulation of scientific evidence also is why critics of evolution are wrong to dismiss it as "just a theory." The word theory, as scientists use it, doesn't just mean something that somebody believes in. A theory is a reasonable explanation supported by considerable empirical evidence. Students in Florida classrooms already learn about that evidence. Most already are taught that the evidence supports the theory of evolution.

But students are not taught the empirical scientific evidence for creationism and intelligent design because there is no empirical scientific evidence for creationism and intelligent design. If those subjects are worth teaching, they belong in comparative religion classes or, these days, classes on politics.

Florida hopes to become a leader in scientific discoveries. Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast want to play a major role in the biotech industry. To have any chance of achieving those goals, Florida has to teach science in its science classrooms. The state Board of Education votes next month on whether to require students to be taught evolution. If Florida can't do that, the state has little hope of evolving into a world leader in science.