Science classes need to evolve

Science classes need to evolve
Editorial - TCPalm - 1/23/2008 - original
It’s time Florida Board of Education proceeds with requirement for teaching evolution
The formal period for public comment on proposed changes to the state’s science curriculum ended last week, but the public may continue to express opinions by contacting members of the state Board of Education. Addresses, phone and FAX numbers can be found at the board's Web site. The board is expected to vote Feb. 19.

The Florida Board of Education is getting an earful — pro and con — as it prepares for a Feb. 19 vote on new science standards for the state’s public schools.

At the center of the debate is the proposal to require the teaching of evolution rather than the current terminology, “biological changes over time.”

It’s that word “evolution” that has stirred a strong reaction from the religious front. Failure to use the word, however, has also stirred strong reaction from the scientific and education fronts.

The differences are over faith, stemming from religious beliefs, and facts, to the extent that man is capable of discerning facts based on scientific discovery and analysis.

The new standards describe evolution as “the fundamental concept underlying all biology and is supported in multiple forms of scientific evidence.”

For some, evolution and creationism or “intelligent design” are incompatible. For others, they are complementary.

Even the National Academy of Sciences, which recently entered the discussion through a new report, said, “Science and religion are different ways of understanding the world. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of each to contribute to a better future.”

The issue is not over right or wrong, but what should be taught in science classes. Religion can certainly be discussed in history and social studies classes, but, by its very nature, it doesn’t belong in science classes, especially not as an alternative to fact-based science.

How are biology students, for example, expected to understand biological changes in plants and animals without a knowledge of evolution?

And, since Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, in which his theory of evolution was first introduced, scientific research and discoveries have added immensely to confirming his theory as factual. The physical evidence — including DNA — is on the side of evolution. Other biological theories or beliefs lack such physical support.

Florida students test poorly in science. They need the best, most reliable scientific observations and explanations to enhance their understanding.

The teaching of evolution must be part of that experience.