Scientists oppose intelligent design bill listen02/23/09 Seán Kinane
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The Florida Legislature begins its regular session next week. Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, plans to introduce a bill requiring teachers who teach evolution to also present the idea of intelligent design.
The website for the Ben Stein movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed features a video message from Stein, who has been an actor, and a speechwriter and lawyer for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Stein asks people to sign a petition for “academic freedom” and to buy the DVD for their science teacher.
Wise cited the film as one reason why he is sponsoring a bill that, if passed, would require Florida’s biology teachers to teach the concept of intelligent design.
“Now, someplace along the line do we not want to have some ability for the young people to see both sides of any issue? And that’s what we’re really talking about. I think that’s academic freedom to be able to have young people be able to do that.”
Under new Sunshine State science standards that were approved and took effect last year, the scientific theory of evolution must be taught in biology classes because: “Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.”
Brandon Haught, communications director and board member with Florida Citizens for Science calls Wise’s bill “absolutely foolish” and a gateway to the next form of creationism.
“There’s a very strong anti-evolution movement nationwide and also here in Florida that has been going on for literally decades. And as time goes on … anti-evolution efforts evolve.”
In 2005, a district court in Pennsylvania found that the Dover School Board acted illegally when they tried to enact a similar requirement for teaching intelligent design.
Harry Kroto is a professor at Florida State University and earned the 1996 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Kroto says he thinks “the Florida Legislature … should obtain some information from the major scientists in the country” before requiring that intelligent design, or ID, be taught. Kroto quotes from the Pennsylvania court decision.
“We find that ID, intelligence design, is not science, and cannot be adjudged a valid scientific theory, as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid scientific scrutiny, which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself should be taught in the science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM, intelligent design movement, is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.”
According to its website, the mission of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, is to "advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people." Peyton West, with the Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, says that because of the Pennsylvania ruling, Sen. Wise’s legislation doesn’t have a good chance of going anywhere.
“Intelligent design – it’s not science. The way we define science is looking for natural explanations for natural events. That’s what makes science doable. And intelligent design looks for supernatural explanations. So it basically says if something is too complicated, it must be because there’s an intelligent designer, it can’t have arisen through natural causes. That’s just a very unproductive way of doing science because it just stops science right in its tracks; it prevents you from looking for the real explanation. AAAS’s position is that science and religion can coexist peacefully and they are not inherently at odds.”
But, despite opposition from the scientific community, Wise is still determined to require that intelligent design be taught in Florida’s science classrooms.
“There’s always a discussion. I mean, you know, I just didn’t get off a pumpkin truck. I have a doctorate degree from University of Alabama. I’m not Cro-Magnon man. ... I think kids -- if they’re given enough information -- they can make a decision themselves of what’s fact and what’s fiction.”
Wise is concerned about students that he says have received failing grades in a college class teaching evolution because they don’t believe in the science being taught.
“I always like the story, the person says, well, ‘You know, we came from monkeys, we came from apes.’ Well, why do we still have apes if we came from them? And those are the kind of questions kids need to ask themselves. You know, ‘how did we get here?’ And, you know, there’s more than one theory on this thing. And the theory is evolution, the other one is intelligent design. And the question is, ‘why would you persecute somebody to be able to have kids have rational thought?’ And if you come in and you discuss intelligent design I’m going to fail you.”
But Brandon Haught from Florida Citizens for Science says that legislators have “to understand what they’re talking about before they can try and pass legislation about it.”
“It’s absolutely amazing to have somebody try to propose a law that affects scientific education when they clearly have no clue what they’re even proposing. One example is this idea of if we evolved from apes then why there are still apes. Number one -- that’s a clear indication that this person doesn’t even have a clue what evolution is about. I will totally and 100 percent agree with Sen. Wise and anybody else who states ‘a man did not come from apes.’ We didn’t. Man did not come from apes, man and apes came from a common ancestor, many thousands to millions of years ago. And so we are different branches of a very bushy tree.”
WMNF's Mitch Perry contributed to this report.