Public debates evolution, intelligent design
Public debates evolution, intelligent designBy RON WORD - Associated Press Writer - 01/03/2008 - originalJACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The pros and cons of evolution and intelligent designed were hotly debated for several hours Thursday as the state school board is considering revisions in science standards that would substitute the word evolution for "biological changes over time."
Lon and Ruth Klingman, missionaries from Hawthorne, arrived with Bibles in hand to express their opinions against the new proposed standards.
"I believe that God created the Earth and everyone that is on it," Lon Klingman said, adding that he felt evolution was not compatible with his religious views.
His wife, Ruth said that if evolution is taught in public schools, "I want it presented with its pros and cons."
"I've never seen an ape turn into a human. It is not observable," she said.
The State Board of Education will discuss the standards and vote on them Feb. 19. The rules also would require more in-depth teaching of evolution and other scientific topics while setting specific benchmarks for students to meet.
Many public school teachers appeared at the public hearing, supporting the teaching of evolution.
David Campbell, a teacher in Clay County, said he helped develop the standards being argued. The standards should include evolution, he said.
"It is the glue that holds biology together," he said. "The new standards are a vast improvement. Evolution is not presented as dogma."
Dr. Wesley Johnson, who runs a biomedical company in Tampa, argued in favor of the new standards.
"Science is a method or process. It is not a belief system or a religion," he said.
But Terry Kemple, of Tampa Bay, president and founder of the Community Issues Council, disagrees.
"This isn't about whether or not our children should be taught that evolution is a fact. The issue goes to whether our schools are places of learning or indoctrination centers," he said.
"The science standard is a set of beliefs - unproven," Kemple said. "Leave the science standards as they are, so our children are taught to think."
The pending changes have drawn a flood of public comment - pro and con - and are part of the national debate over how evolution should be taught. A Gallup poll released in June said the country is about evenly split over whether evolution is true, despite decades of overwhelming scientific evidence that it is.
Mary Jane Tappen, executive director of the Florida Office for Math and Science, said religion is not appropriate for a science curriculum, noting that some schools teach Bible classes in their humanities programs.
The proposals were developed by a committee of 33 framers and they looked at world class standards.
"These are research based," she said.
Advocates say the standard changes are needed to improve Florida's poor performance in science and prepare students to compete on a global level. The new standards are based on those in other states and nations considered leaders in teaching science.
In 2005, the Fordham Institute, a Washington-based education group, gave the current standards an F, saying they are "sorely lacking in content." Florida students also score below the national average on college entrance tests and the gap has widened in recent years.
The present standards have been criticized for being "a mile wide and an inch deep," covering too many topics for students to fully understand them, education officials say. The new ones would be narrower but deeper.
More changes to the standards developed by two committees of scientists, educators and citizens may be made when the panels meet Jan. 9-11 in Tallahassee. The next public hearing is Tuesday in Miramar.
In Washington, the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine emphasized in a report the importance of teaching evolution in public schools.
The new document includes recently discovered evidence supporting evolution, including an important fossil find.
The report released Thursday also takes swipes at creationism and other anti-evolution theories.
"Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes," the report says.
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