Scientists oppose intelligent design bill

02/23/09 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.”

Sen. Stephen Wise

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a film by Ben Stein

Florida Citizens for Science

Previous WMNF coverage of intelligent design

AAAS – Evolution on the Front Line

American Association for the Advancement of Science - AAAS

WMNF's Mitch Perry contributed to this report.

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The battle is for the mind of MY children... and y

Some facts: 1) Science is a method of learning the truth by observation and experimentation. Unlike religion, faith or belief is not required to accept its conclusions. The evidence is available for you to see. 2) ID is not science. It doesn't give us anything to test. It only gives a supernatural explanation of the origin of life. 3) ID is religion. The only purpose of ID is to challenge evolution because evolution contradicts the Bible's creation story. 4) The Bible's creation story was written when most people believed the earth was flat, and the sun revolved around the earth. 5) Many Americans and Floridians do not literally interpret the Bible as historically or scientifically accurate. We are all free to hold our own worldviews. 5) The religious right is trying to use OUR government to force public schools to teach THEIR religion as a scientific fact to OUR children. Do you want your children to reject overwhelming observable evidence in favor of someone else's religious doctrine? What are you going to do about it? As a Floridian and as an American you should be alarmed that your freedom of belief is under attack! Call your Florida legislator, or write them a letter, or e-mail them. Do it now. It's not that hard.

Doctorate and Dumb

The senator wants to crow about his academic credentials, then resort to the "if we came from monkeys why are there still monkeys" trope - perhaps the dumbest argument creationists have. Here is the answer: It's the same reason why domestic dogs came from wolves and we still have wolves. It's the same reason why we have Italian-Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans, but there are still Italians, Africans and Asians. The entire population of a species does not evolve together, rather, they accumulate changes beneficial to their local environment.

Homosexual Frenzy

We wouldn't need Intelligent Design if it weren't needed for defense against people with an agenda using science to "disprove" religion. The "proof" of human evolution is tenuous at best and there's a reason it's called a theory. If "informed" people would only admit that, the other side would relax their position. It's been my experience that those pushing hardest for the acceptance of "evolution" are almost exclusively homosexuals bent on "disproving" the bible and removing the foundation of society's values (especially that part that doesn't accept homosexuals).

ignorance is bliss

ray, you are uneducated. evolution theory has nothing to do with any homosexual agenda. it also was not developed to disprove religion. believe it or not, your religion is not at the core of everyone's thought processes. go look up the definition of scientific theory, it's not some trumped up explanation, it has a finer definition than the one you're trying to apply to it. also, it's the theory OF evolution, not the theory THAT it occurred. we know it occurred, there is irrefutable and solid proof that it has happened, there is nothing tenuous about it. if you, yourself, were more informed then perhaps you wouldn't repeat the twaddle your pastor has preached at you in order to keep you afraid and compliant and devoted to your bronze-age nonsense.

Other people’s religion is called myth!!!

Hay Ray… I have to agree with c_v on this one!!! Your “Bronze-Age” religion is not at the core of everyone's thought processes. It’s the “Iron-Age” religion of Arabia that’s at the core of everyone’s thought process today!!! But hang in there brother… I believe the "Stone-Age" religions of Eurasia are next in line… and then yours is at bat… again!!!


Let's hypothetically say that this bill passes. Are they going to teach every culture's version of intelligent design? My guess is no. Also, I was learning world religions in the 7th grade. Do they not teach this anymore? Should I have been taught evolution alongside world religions to make sure they are covering both sides of the argument? Evolution is indeed a theory, and it is taught as such. I don't have to believe in another culture's religion to study them and find it interesting. You don't have to believe evolution to study it. You can just appreciate that such ideas could be developed by people just like you and me.

Rainbow Pushers

He's right. The only people I hear pushing to make other people accept this point of view as fact are the rainbow flag boys. Everyone else is non-committal.


Clearly, the folks who are advocating the passing of a law which compels educators to teach *intelligent design* are the same folks who would have us remove separation of church and state from our laws. Parents should teach their children the values and beliefs to which they adhere. The purpose of public education is to educate our children objectively so that they will someday be prepared to be productive members of society on their chosen paths. It is not the job of public schools to teach faith-based ideals. If parents want their children to learn only their way of thinking, they should send them to parochial schools or home school. As a childless taxpayer, I have no qualms about contributing to your child's education; but I'll be damned if I have to pay for your child's religious training with which I may or maynot agree. peace ~diana

If Senator Stephen Wise cannot understand why humans evolved from primates and there are still monkeys around he has to have obtained his PhD by reaching into a toilet - the same place that US education is going as more states try to invidiously force religious beliefs on their younger citizens. In my almost 60 years I have never heard a more stupid question from anyone with a genuine PhD. Evolution is just not that hard to understand. Sadly Wise's self-righteous ignorance is the new partisan pattern. Maybe Wise got his PhD from the same place that some prominent Creationists got theirs - one started a bible school with one correspondence course then issued some Creationist colleagues and himself phony PhD's in geology and archaeology. Then they use these to create phony evidence they fabricate, fraudulently or by negligently and incorrectly misquoting real scientists, to condemn Evolution and support Creationism. These phony academics lobby for Creationism in the schools too. Watching Republicans destroy the integrity of education along with ethics in media and governance, and damage democracy so significantly across the US is both tragic and pathetic. I don't know why but the American culture is very broken. Maybe Americans have heard so many lies for so long they have become complacent about dishonesty, and it seems the ones that are most dishonest are the ones that always try to claim the moral high ground. The more self-righteous they are the more the lies and distortions just flow from them. It's almost like Americans have come to the point where they respect a liar more than they do an honest person - as if being honest and ethical means you're a sucker. That's broken.