by Robin Gerber | bio

Students in Florida haven’t been doing well on national science exams. So, what’s a board of education to do?

Why, pass a new curriculum that mandates the teaching of evolution (good, so far) but calls it “a scientific theory.” Sort of like the “scientific theory” that the earth revolves around the sun?

We don’t yet know all the facts behind the process of evolution, but the idea that Darwin proved and popularized is no longer a theory. Unless, of course, you’re a member of the 4-3 majority on the Florida State Board of Education.

Advocates of teaching creationism instead of or along with evolution prevailed on the not-so-evolved Board of Education. After receiving hundreds of negative emails, the Board agreed to water-down the final language of the state standards, which represented months of work by scientists and science teachers. But, after all, what do they know?

As Board member Donna Callaway, who voted for the weakened standards put it, “I believe in teaching evolution with all its blips, all its warts, all its blemishes … But leave the doorway open for people, teachers and kids who want to explore whether they accept that whether they have another theory.”

No, Ms. Callaway, the political cowardice of the Board leaves the door open for those who want to impose their religious beliefs on others to do so. Accepting or not accepting evolution because you believe in divine intervention in the creation of humans is a perfectly fine debate to have in church, synagogue or mosque, or even sociology class. But it doesn’t belong in a science curriculum.

The door the Board opened is welcoming the creationist crowd to march further into dictating education standards. They’re already planning their next assault. The Florida Family Policy Counsel hopes to persuade legislators that science teachers need to be protected if they choose to teach alternatives to evolution.

I suppose it’s heartening to see that the creationists have evolved enough to understand how the political process works. Now the rest of us who believe in science and God have to pray they don’t succeed.

Robin Gerber writes about women and politics for Women’s Voices for Change. Her new novel is “Eleanor vs. Ike” (Harper/Avon January 2008). Visit her website.

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  • natalie February 21, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    I agree that the action of the Board was pretty pathetic, but you have to keep in mind that probably as much as 50 percent or more of Floridians don’t believe in evolution. And residents in many other states are equally uninformed.I remember seeing a recent poll indicating that more Americans believe in the virgin birth than in evolution. By these standards the Board’s decision doesn’t look too bad. On the other hand when compared to other advanced countries this is one more indication that we are losing our edge as a leader in education and knowledge.