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When a member of the state Board of Education puts her religion before the educational needs of Florida students, she forfeits her standing as an education expert and should resign her post.
Donna Callaway of the board is objecting to the state's new proposed science standards because they include the teaching of evolution as the basis of modern biology. She told the Florida Baptist Witness, a religious newspaper in Jacksonville, that evolution "should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of the origins of life."
Callaway clearly doesn't understand that there are no other scientifically grounded theories on the origins of life. Somehow Callaway, who is charged with making educational policy for the state, missed out on some basic education herself.
Unfortunately, she is not alone at the Department of Education. Charlie Carraway, director of instructional materials, dispatched e-mails using her job title and imploring people to "join me in keeping these standards from being approved." A department spokesman said Carraway was "counseled" for her actions. Firing would be more in order.
Evolution is a scientific theory the way gravity is a scientific theory. It has been repeatedly tested using the scientific method for more than a century. The more we learn about genetics, the fossil record and bio-diversity, the more Darwin's theory is confirmed as an accurate accounting of life's origins.
What Callaway wants is to bring religion into Florida's schools in the guise of science. The movement to teach "intelligent design" is really just a slightly more respectable version of creation theology. It presumes that a supernatural force, aka God, designed things and poof, creatures appeared on Earth fully formed in their current state.
And while this might be fine to teach in Bible studies courses, it is not by any stretch science. Intelligent design is not an alternate "theory;" rather it is an untested hypothesis for which there is no objective proof. Teaching this alongside evolution would be like teaching about a 6,000-year-old earth as an alternate view in a geology course. You may graduate a few extra preachers that way, but you are not going to add many Florida students to the ranks of medical doctors or scientists.
Florida's newly revised science standards finally raise the bar for our state and have been widely applauded by science teachers. But until we adopt and implement the changes, our students will continue to be competitively disadvantaged, making it harder for them to succeed in this technologically advanced world.
Callaway and her supporters, including Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who is likely to become House speaker in 2011, are probably going to make a lot of noise trying to dumb-down the standards for the study of science. Their ignorance should be ignored. Florida's reputation as a place that prepares young people for the challenges of the future depends on it.
[Last modified December 10, 2007, 00:27:18]