Don't monkey around with evolution

Don't monkey around with evolution
Miami Herald - 2/7/2008 - original
Teaching evolution is about science, not politics. Gov. Charlie Crist apparently understands this. When asked recently if he supported adding the word "theory" to the State Board of Education's revised science standards for teaching evolution in schools, the governor said: "I think the way it's handled now [the new standard] is just fine.' Good for you, Gov. Crist.

Personal beliefs

Although Gov. Crist is content to leave education to educators, some lawmakers are not. Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, wants the board to revise the standard to include the word "theory." If the board doesn't do her bidding, Rep. Coley says she will consider asking the Legislature to force the board to do so. Other lawmakers say they will support this move, including future House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville.

These lawmakers are responding to their personal beliefs and to complaints from many of their constituents who believe that teaching evolution contradicts religious belief about the creation of life. Sen. Wise, in fact, said that biblical creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution.

But evolution isn't about religion, either. It doesn't challenge religious belief or present a conflicting view of creation. Evolution is just science, pure and simple, which by definition is "systematized knowledge derived from observation, study and experimentation."

The problem is that too many people, including many lawmakers and students, don't really understand evolution. They believe, incorrectly, that evolution teaches that people come from monkeys. It doesn't. They posit a ''straw-man'' theory of evolution that says life happens accidentally when molecules and atoms randomly crash about and magically produce dogs, cats, people and trees.

That's not what evolution does nor what it teaches. Real evolution teaches how life forms change over time -- sometimes thousands or hundreds of thousands of years -- and how the most successful traits of a species are passed from generation to generation. It describes how gradual transformations, over time, can evolve one species from another. Evolution shows that change isn't random, but the result of nature at work.

Biological science

Proof of evolution is contained in the fossil record and laboratory tests. It can be seen by careful, meticulous observations. It isn't conjecture, speculation, guesswork or an unproven hypothesis. It is real.

Florida cannot afford to deny school children the chance to acquire a clear understanding of evolution, which is the basis of modern biological science. Evolution is not politics, and it is not religion. It's just science. It belongs in the classroom, not in the Legislature.