Science-classroom bill on evolution is toned down

Science-classroom bill on evolution is toned down
A state senator watered down her own bill that might have led to teaching intelligent design in science classrooms.
BY MARC CAPUTO - Miami Herald - 3/27/2008 - original
TALLAHASSEE -- A bill to ensure teachers can scientifically criticize evolution was made less controversial Wednesday when it was rewritten to all but bar the controversial theory of intelligent design in science classrooms.

Originally, the bill encouraged teachers to present the "full range" of "scientific information" about evolution, but didn't define that information.

That led to the possibility of teaching intelligent design, which a 2005 federal court banned from Pennsylvania science classrooms. The court said intelligent design is a religious theory because it posits that an intelligent cause -- God, to most adherents -- designed biological organisms.

To quell critics who thought she was trying to sneak religion into the classroom, Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican, decided to define scientific information as "germane current facts, data, and peer-reviewed research specific to the topic of chemical and biological evolution as prescribed in Florida's Science Standards."

Storms said the standards are too "dogmatic" and could unfairly lead to penalties of teachers and students who question evolution.

Storm's changes pleased scientists such as Paul Cottle, a Florida State University physics professor, and Gerry Meisels, a chemistry professor at the University of South Florida.

Both men helped form the new state science standards, approved last month by the state Board of Education, which say evolution will be taught clearly and consistently for the first time in Florida public schools.

Both men noted that the standards already call for critical thinking, so they questioned the motives of the religiously minded groups pushing for the bill.

"The standards are not broken. Please don't try to fix them," Meisels said.