Friday, January 4, 2008

Apparently Florida was the place to be

Yesterday the Florida State School Board was debating evolution vs. Intelligent Design. Apparently supporters of both sides were there and a lively debate took place. You can read more about it in Public debates evolution, Intelligent Design, Florida Schools . . . Shhhh . . . might use the word Evolution, Evolution under a Microscope, and Darwin Survives Another Debate.

As far as I know no conclusions were announced, but the last word I heard the state was actually going to start using the word Evolution. Currently state standards refer to "change over time" rather than use the hot button phrase "evolution". Although why that would make much of a difference is beyond me. They have been teaching it for years and now they are owning up to it and using the word. The real test will be 19 Feb when they vote on the new science standards. One report (Darwin Survives . . .) stated that supporters of Evolution outnumbers Intelligent Design supporters! Way to go Florida!

The article also recognized that the latest tactic, inserting doubt into the teaching of evolution was the fourth strategy attacking the teaching of evolution. "This is strategy No. 4," said Michael Ruse, director of Florida State University's program on the history and philosophy of science. The first three - banning the teaching of evolution, then promoting creationism, then touting intelligent design - have all hit legal roadblocks." I believe they also need to be wary of strategy number 5 "Teach the Controversy". I think that point was loosely mentioned when one letter from " . . . Pinellas County attorney David Gibbs III, who represented Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings, argued otherwise in a recent letter to the BOE. He suggested the board might violate the constitution's establishment clause if it did not include alternative theories." What Mr. Gibbs fails to realize is that science is perfectly open and welcoming to alternative theories, but Creationism/Intelligent Design is not a theory! Now matter how you dress it up, it's still just an idea based on the religious viewpoint.

In "Evolution under a Microscope, one of the evolution supporters, "The Rev. Joseph Frazer, a retired Catholic priest living in Penney Farms, said the criticism of evolution was taking place in the wrong venue. "This is not a debate between religion and science. It is totally within the boundaries of religion." He was also wearing a teal pin with the motto "Sound Science," Frazer proceeded to support public school students being taught evolution only."

Years ago I heard a joke that pretty well summed up the use of the word "Evolution." A farmer was traveling and wound up sitting next to a scientist on the plane. After a while the farmer asked, "Now you are a pretty well educated fellow. How come I can use a certain insecticide on my plants and it works real well one year and a couple of year later it has no effect?" "Well," the scientist replied, "what's happening is that when you kill off most of the insects, the ones that remain are immune from the poison. They multiply and their kids are also immune. So after a few insect generations, the insecticide has less of an impact because they are immune." "That certainly makes sense to me. Thanks for explaining it. Do you have a name for what's going on?" "Why yes, it's called Evolution." "Sir, I am a honest God-fearing man and we don't cotton to such talk!"

One of the things that really strikes me funny is that farmers and ranchers have been benefiting directly from evolution. Animal husbandry and the breeding of specific traits in domesticated animals are all explained through evolution. Many of the plants grown are raised with specific disease and insect resistance all through carefully design evolutionary programs. They live with and make their living on the result, and when any one of them holds up a bible and tells me they don't 'believe' in evolution I have to laugh. Right there in a field of blight resistant wheat, beetle resistant corn, certain types of beef animals, or chickens with over sized breasts is evolution in action. Thankfully it doesn't require 'belief' to actually work.

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