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Creationism in Florida

The St Petersburg Times ran a fascinating article last week on the issue of evolution education.  Mike the Mad Biologist already commented on one point that really jumps out at you – when asked what evolution is, 45% of the Floridians they surveyed picked “Human beings were created directly by God”.  Is this what they want kept out of the science standards?  But I actually find the rest of the article even more interesting.

“I have a very firm religious background,” said Betty Lininger of Lecanto, who is raising her 15-year-old niece and thinks public schools should teach intelligent design but not evolution. “I can’t just shove it out the door.”

What is it about a religious background that makes intelligent design more palatable than science?  Why should a religious background want you to have children taught lies and half-truths?  What is it about a religious background that makes the idea that God specifically tinkered with the genetics of malaria so that children could die in their mothers’ arms (as Michael Behe asserts)?  What is it about a religious background that makes you want children to be taught that God is so limited that he can only act as a tinkerer, and an inefficient tinkerer at that?  Sounds more like something that would appeal to someone trying to make religious people look like IDiots.  Or maybe you aren’t familiar with this thing you want taught in schools.

Sue Sams of Spring Hill, a retired English teacher who describes herself as Protestant, said schools should teach creationism only.

“I don’t disagree with the theory of evolution,” said Sams, 65. “I’m just not sure it’s 100 percent right.”

Because you aren’t convinced that evolution is “100% right”, you believe that children should be taught something that is demonstrably false?  I’m assuming she means “creation science”.  Or maybe she believes that children should be taught creation stories in class – there are two of them in Genesis.  Since she only wants something that’s “100% right” taught in schools, which story does she pick?  They can’t both be “100% right”.  I can just see it now…

“Children, put away your textbooks and take out your bibles.  We’re going to teach creation today.”

“But in Chapter 1 it says that plants were created before humans, and in Chapter 2 it says humans were created before plants…”

“Now children, don’t be silly…”

“No, really, look…”

“Hmm…I never really read the story, you know, I just heard the TV preacher talk about it…”

Worse yet, of course, if your children actually were taught about the Yahwists and the Elohists, and the redactors…

But Dennis Baxley of the Christian Coalition of Florida really takes the cake.  The arrogant ignorance is stunning

“There is no justification for singling out evolution for special skepticism or critical analysis,” wrote Richard T. O’Grady, executive director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences in a Feb. 8 letter to the Board of Education. “Its strength as a scientific theory matches that of the theory of gravitation, atomic theory and the germ theory.”

The response from Dennis Baxley, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida: “He’s in error.”

Baxley (who is also a funeral director and former member of the Florida House of Representatives) takes it upon himself to say that the head of AIBS is “in error” about science.  Not content with claiming that he knows more about science that the head of AIBS, Baxley goes on to demonstrate his total lack of comprehension of what science is

“At one time, the scientific community thought that for good health, you should attach leaches to your body,” said Baxley, a former state representative from Ocala. “We’re just asking them to leave the door open a little bit” for other evidence to be considered.

For one, “bleeding” was a feature of pre-scientific medical practice.  For another, science is self-correcting.  The door is open wide for other ideas – if there’s some way to test them.  But evolution has overwhelming scientific evidence, while every explanation put forward by creationism has been disproven.  The door is open.  No one is keeping the creationists out of the academy – they are choosing to exclude themselves.

Perhaps the most interesting comment in the whole article comes from Michael Ruse.

Florida State University professor Michael Ruse said the numbers are not likely to change any time soon. He likened the clash over evolution to the civil rights movement.

“People are going to have to be carried kicking and screaming over the threshold,” said Ruse, an authority on the history and philosophy of science. “If we can only get over this hangup about the sciences and evolution, 20, 40, 50 years from now, people are going to be looking back and saying, ‘Am I ever glad we don’t have to fight that anymore.'”

Quite honestly, I never saw that parallel, but it certainly makes sense.  The southern racists refused to allow desegregation, despite the fact that they were (a) wrong and (b) breaking the law of the land.  Having failed, their children and grandchildren are fighting to impose another evil on children – not racism, but ignorance.  Like creationism, racism was once a fashionable pseudoscience.  It’s still there, it has just gone out of fashion.  The sooner people discard both lies, the better.

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2 Responses

  1. This is, of course, why those who support ID and YEC oppose allowing serious academic education about religion in schools. On the other hand, a childlike faith will see the problems in the way you described, and be honest enough to say ‘the emperor has no clothes on’!

  2. Very true. I’m always amazed at the people who want “bible as literature” electives in public schools…I think most of them would be horrified if their children were taught the bible from an academic perspective. When it comes to being a foil against literalism, the evolution is far less of a threat than is an actual understanding of the bible…

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