Spiritual tenets don't belong in state's science standards

Spiritual tenets don't belong in state's science standards
Editorial - Daytona Beach News-Journal - 01/09/2008 - original
Florida badly needs to upgrade its public school science standards: Our students, on average, perform poorly in science compared to those in other states and nations. Our science standards are not specific enough to develop uniform curricula. Our students are not being prepared for jobs in the science and high-tech industries that the state and local governments are so vigorously courting.

So, it would be a disservice to Florida schoolchildren if the State Board of Education does not adopt proposed new science standards at its Feb. 19 meeting in Tallahassee.

What might prevent that? Some groups believe that the science of evolution, which is specifically mentioned for the first time in the new standards, conflicts with religious beliefs that God created the world. If evolution is to be taught, some argue, it should be taught alongside "creationism," also known as "intelligent design."

Yet, evolution is based in science; creationism by any name in spiritual tenets. We agree that schoolchildren whose religious beliefs support creationism or intelligent design should be presented with those concepts -- but not in public schools' science classrooms.

There is clear empirical evidence to support evolution as scientific theory -- which is taught to students worldwide, including in Florida schools. Ironically, this pseudo debate is about a change in wording more than philosophy. The state would use "evolution" instead of elusive language that refers to forms of life changing over time.

There is a lot at stake in the "e" word, though. If Florida and its communities want to market themselves as capable of supporting biotechnology, medical technology or other sciences, they cannot do so with fuzzy science curricula. They have to teach to the best standards of other states and nations, which include evolution.

Moreover, belief in a God-created world and the acceptance of the science of evolution are not mutually exclusive. The theory of evolution explains change -- how species evolve over time, from generation to generation, and why some disappear. It does not explain the precise origin of life. Even Charles Darwin acknowledged that in 1859 in his "Origin of Species:" "There is grandeur in this view of life," he wrote, "with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one. . . ." Indeed, some faith-based groups view evolution as one of their Creator's tools.

This debate is not about how the world was created. It's about how species in this world change. It's time for an unequivocal evolution in Florida public school science standards.