Our position: It would be a mistake for legislators to dilute evolution decision

Our position: It would be a mistake for legislators to dilute evolution decision
Editorial - Orlando Sentinel - 2/23/2008 - original
The state Board of Education approved the teaching of evolution in Florida schools after a long public debate and embarrassing political compromise that angered Darwin's supporters and failed to satisfy his detractors.

It's time now for the bureaucrats and politicians to get out of the way and let teachers do their job. That job is to educate Florida's school children about the process of evolution, which is the central principle of biology.

But don't hold your breath.

Evolution's opponents -- the same folks the Department of Education were hoping to mollify by adding the words "the scientific theory of" before the word "evolution" in the standards -- now look to the Legislature to further weaken this important change in Florida's curriculum.

The Trojan horse at the science classroom door is the call for an "academic freedom" law. Such a law is said to allow teachers to "engage students in a critical analysis" of evolution. What's wrong with that?


The essence of science is to inquire, observe and challenge concepts. Science teachers will encourage their students to ask questions about evolution and they'll have scientifically valid answers for them. The scientific method has led evolution to be widely accepted as fact.

This academic-freedom law is just an attempt to sneak creationism through the schoolhouse's back door. Creationist theology that life on Earth is so complex it must have resulted through God's intelligent design belongs in a comparative religion course, not in a science class.

And to couch this in the noble principle of academic freedom is shameful. Would you defend a math teacher who fervently believes 2+2 = 5 and offers that as an alternative theory?

In teaching evolution, and Charles Darwin's thoughts on natural selection, the new science curriculum challenges students and encourages critical thinking.

Lawmakers should butt out.

The protracted debate over evolution was embarrassing enough. Florida's old science standards were a national joke that held the state's students back for years while children in other states excelled. And, yet, there was so much resistance to this basic scientific concept that the Board of Education felt the need to pander to evolution's deniers.

All this in the nation's fourth-largest state, where leaders are desperately trying to build a new economy around life sciences and research. Imagine the impact a veritable monkey trial on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives would have on efforts to attract research dollars.

Lawmakers can't let that happen. Even with the last-minute compromise, the new science curriculum is a huge improvement. Leave it alone.