Florida still inching toward doom

By Phil Plait | March 27, 2008 9:17 am

As I wrote earlier, Florida creationists are trying to dumbify students by putting forward a bill that lets students say the Earth is 6000 years old, and the teachers can’t mark them wrong.

The bill passed committee yesterday.

It’s not too late to stop it though. PZ has details and ideas, good ones. If you live in Florida, don’t let this craptacular bill become a law! Get on the phones!


Comments (42)

  1. Michael Lonergan

    If this goes ahead, what happens when these kids get into University. Try writing that on a university entrance exam and see how far you go. Honestly, I have no problem with religion, per se, but where I do have a problem is when religion crosses the line and tries to influence things it does not speak to, such as science. If one is religious, evolution does not have to destroy faith.

  2. Can they also pass a bill that requires people to point and make *honking* noises at creationists. It would make more sense than this tosh.

  3. Philip B.

    Couldn’t we just evacuate the intelligent people, then build a wall along the Florida border?

  4. Quiet Desperation

    Couldn’t we just evacuate the intelligent people, then build a wall along the Florida border?

    Or saw off the panhandle and maybe it’ll just float away.

    Or swap it with Xanth.

  5. Well, they don’t know how to vote too well in Florida, either.

  6. Todd W.


    “Or saw off the panhandle and maybe it’ll just float away.”

    That’s one big saw.

  7. Celtic_Evolution

    Couldn’t we just evacuate the intelligent people, then build a wall along the Florida border?

    We’d also need to re-locate Disney World or my 6 year old daughter will be downright PO’d.

  8. Celtic_Evolution

    Ack… darn blockquotes anyhow…

  9. Tim G

    This is happening within a half a mile of where I live.

  10. I firmly believe that Global warming and tobacco’s link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

  11. Todd W.

    I suppose we could take drbuzz0’s idea from the other thread on this topic and declare Florida an enemy of the state, but that feels somewhat draconian to me.

    Best thing, though, as PZ says, it to call up the senators and urge them to quash this bill. If it should happen to pass, I expect someone will start looking for a legal challenge to bring to court, then we can Kiztmiller v. Dover all over again!

  12. geomaniac

    @ Lugosi


  13. Celtic_Evolution

    Lugosi forgot to turn on his “sarcasm” switch… that’s all, geomaniac. :)

  14. Chapio

    I am a firm believer that the Earth is not 6,000 years old but way much older. However, what scientific proof do you we have that the Earth is way older than that? I have heard that carbon dating is the key to know how old the Earth is but isn’t that a very controversial way of dating things?

    I just would like to know some very good key points and scientific facts so when I have someone arguing with me that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, I can have some ammunition to fire back!

    Anyone know any good websites?


  15. Celtic_Evolution

    Quoted from Glen D. over on PZ’s site, the bill apparently has been adjusted a bit, and in a somewhat positive way. See below:

    BY MARC CAPUTO mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

    A bill to ensure teachers can scientifically criticize evolution was made less controversial Wednesday when it was re-written to all but bar the controversial theory of Intelligent Design in science classrooms.

    Originally, the bill encouraged teachers to present the “full range” of ”scientific information” about evolution, but it didn’t define what that information is.

    And that lead to the real possibility that teachers could profess the Intelligent Design, which a 2005 federal court banned from Pennsylvania science classrooms because it was a religious theory in that it posits an intelligent cause — God to most adherents — designed biological organisms.

    To quell critics who thought that she was trying to sneak religion in the classroom, Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican, decided to define scientific information as “germane current facts, data, and peer-reviewed research specific to the topic of chemical and biological evolution as prescribed in Florida’s Science Standards.”

    Storms said the standards are too ‘”dogmatic” and could unfairly lead to penalties of teachers and students who question evolution.

    Storm’s changes pleased scientists like as Paul Cottle, an FSU physics professor, and Gerry Meisels, a chemistry professor at the University of South Florida. Both men helped form the new state science standards, approved last month by the Board of Education, that evolution be explicitly taught clearly and consistently for the first time in Florida public schools.

    They both noted that the standards already call for critical thinking, so they questioned the motives of the religiously minded groups pushing for the bill.

    ”The standards are not broken. Please don’t try to fix them,” Meisels said.


    This is an improvement in the wording, for sure… but then it REALLY makes me wonder the the frakkin’ point of this bill is now.

  16. Michelle

    I wish I was a kid in florida. They would get the dumbest overly imaginative answers they have ever seen. And I’d STILL get 100%!!

    If creationists can make feces up, I hope that any kid will be able to write their favorite nonsense. This better not be limited to mainstream religion, because ANYONE can make up a belief!

  17. @ Celtic_Evolution Sarcasm? Me?

  18. Todd W.

    Here’s a link to the main page of the bill:

    It includes the original bill text, the revisions and amendments, and bill analysis. I particularly recommend reading the analysis, as it makes some very good points that most, if not all, of the people here will appreciate. The revisions are definitely an improvement, but, as noted in the analysis and by others here, the question now is, “What’s the point?” The bill seems to duplicate protections afforded by the Constitution, and some terms are still ambiguous or undefined. They have defined “scientific information” but have not defined “scientific views,” “scientific facts,” and so on.

    The bill does not seem to serve any real purpose, and, again as noted in the analysis, could open up the school system to litigation.


    Carbon-14 dating is only one of many radiometric dating methods:

  20. billsmithaz

    Is it an election year in Florida? Given the revisions, it looks to me like the only remaining point to the bill is that it can be used as a bit of ‘feel-good’ legislation to score election year points with the fundie voters without actually having to deliver anything.

    “See, voters? I’m conservative, just like you! I sponsored this bill to allow the ‘full range’ of ‘scientific thought’ in classrooms!”

  21. Todd W.

    For even more reading fun, there is a version that has also been introduced in the House, but has not yet passed committee:


  22. John

    Speaking of Pareidolia, todays APOD has an interesting image. If that’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I’m born again!

    Pastafarians unite! I demand it be included teaching in Florida schools!

  23. Todd W.

    Rereading the bill, I had to wonder at the following piece:

    “The Legislature finds that in many instances educators have experienced or feared discipline, discrimination, or other adverse consequences as a result of presenting the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”

    Really? There have been many instances? Notice how they cleverly added “or feared” in there to broaden the potential number of cases, thus inflating their claims. I would like to find out the background and justification for this comment. Show me some statistics. Just how many have experienced any of those actions? How many have feared? What is the percentage of each out of all teachers? And how many have presented the “full range”? For that matter, what, exactly, is the “full range” in the context of these bills?

  24. Chapio a good spot to find a beginning to rebuttals to the stupidity that is thrown out by creationists can be found here.

    Yes there.

  25. Greg in Austin

    Hey Chapio,

    Do a google search for:
    ice core samples
    mid oceanic ridge
    continental drift
    k-t boundary
    geologic column
    speed of light
    milky way galaxy
    age of the earth
    radiometric dating
    rocky mountains
    grand canyon

    Ignore links to talkorigins or answersingenesis or other biased websites. Wiki is only good if the sources linked are reliable and unbiased.

    The point is, even though all of these areas still have unanswered questions (like everything else in science) they all independently point to the earth’s age at billions of years.


  26. Chapio

    @ Chuck Anziulewicz and Greg in Austin

    Thanks guys! I will check it out!

  27. Quiet_Desperation

    Typical woo woo speak: “I heard that someone said that they read a web page that said someone heard they saw something that said evolution is wrong.”

  28. Quiet_Desperation

    I wish I were a kid again. :-(

    Q: How and when was the Earth created?

    A: According to my religion, the Earth was created 3.14 billion years ago in an act of pure will by my Dark Lord Guning-Zo Phah, the duoprime overmaster of the Subducted Continuum. It was used as a vast orgasmatarium where Guning-Zo Phah and other elite of his uberspecies would hold what passed for orgies for them until the world was abandoned 2.97 billion years ago.

    Everything alive on the Earth today evolved from the sticky residue left over from nearly 200 million years of spooky, alien sex parties.

    Which explains a lot, actually.

  29. billg

    So, a few years from now, how many of you are going to think twice about hiring a product of the Florida public schools?

  30. LaCreption

    Creationism and ID requires people to believe that there is a world wide conspiracy, well funded, going on for ages now, millions of people involved. Skepticism is a good thing, but this is not skepticism. This is just stupid. It’s sick paranoia. People willing to believe such nonsense are capable of believing anything. That is really dangerous, as history showed us time after time. Young people should not be taught dogmas but to think for themselves. Not to accept anything just because somebody else says so. A major difference between science and religion: science exists because of skepticism. Religion exists because of dogmas.

    Modern US Christianity with its claims we had some CAD-god is not something that has been going on for centuries. It’s a response to the overwhelming evidence that science and technology work, and magic doesn’t. Quantum mechanics is too complex to understand for the majority of people (as if modern biology is not) otherwise we would have ranting people claiming their god makes quarks every nanosecond. Why not question CERN?

    Another thing. Modern US Christianity (that is, the folks who raise their voices) is just plain weird to people in other countries. Especially to other Christians. Even the quite fundamentalist ones. Other people just don’t mind, there are numerous religions and faiths in the world. A worldwide cover up in order to question a few of US Christianity flavors does not make sense at all. The alleged major conspiracy would be directed at Shi’ite Islam or Hinduism. Far more followers there.

    No. The people in the US should be very concerned with people who are pressing their agendas. Medieval times are not that long ago. Teach children dangerous things and you will get dangerous adults. Dogmas are not the answer. Creationism -in the literal sense- or even ID are dogmas. Science isn’t anything like accepting ‘facts’. Science is about questioning ‘facts’ over and over. Creationism and ID are not facts but non-scientific theories with overwhelming evidence against them as soon as you even start to question them.

  31. Zach

    The following is a pretty close to a transcript of a phone call I had with the office of Senator Frederica S. Wilson.

    Me: Hi. I was calling regarding the Academic Freedom Bill, the one that keeps students from being marked wrong if they give religious answers about biology?

    Staff: [my connection was bad, so he asked]The Academic Freedom Bill?

    Me: Yeah. I was wondering what the Senator’s stance on it was since she missed the vote.

    Staff: [very annoyed as soon as soon as I bring it up] Well, first of all she missed the vote because she wasn’t here.

    Me: She wasn’t there?

    Staff: She’s not in Tallahasse.

    Me: Well, as co-chair of the Education Comitte shouldn’t she be there for an important vote like that?

    Staff: Sir, I don’t work for you. I’m just going to tell you that she was away on personal business.

    Me: [can’t believe I’m being talked to like that, I’m even calling from a Miami-Dade telephone number] Um…. alright. Thank you.

  32. LaCreption

    @Chapio on 27 Mar 2008 at 10:35 am

    The first thing that comes to my mind is the question -for those people you’re talking about- : “where did you get the idea that Earth is 6000 years old?”

    If the answer is something like ‘It was written’ then there is no point in continuing talking to those people. For the same sake of argument you could throw in that there is a note that says Earth is 120 billions years old. Which note is right? Who decides? You? Faith?

    People know internet. Don’t expect ignorant people to change their minds by reading something. They won’t. They won’t even read it. Their dogma prohibits anything that does not comply with the dogma. The strongest and only pillar of religion. Have faith, baby.

  33. Michael Lonergan

    Quiet Desperation:

    You mean I’m nothing but leftover spilled Alien “Love Goo”?

  34. Larry

    Oh, to be a kid again, this time in Florida:

    Teacher: No, Larry, your answer is wrong. Two+two does not equal three. The correct answer is four.

    Smart-ass kid Larry: But Jebus teaches me that the answer is five. Are you violating script…, er, I mean, civil laws suppressing my religious beliefs that two plus two does equal five, just a Jebus tells us in the bibble?

    Teacher: I’m so sorry, Larry. Your answer is, in fact, correct according to the laws of god and Florida. You get a gold star!

    S.a.k. Larry: woo-hoo! (suckers!)

  35. Melusine

    From Celtic Evolution’s link: Storms said the standards are too ‘”dogmatic” and could unfairly lead to penalties of teachers and students who question evolution.

    As an aside, I notice a lot of people (politicians especially) throw around the word dogmatic and constantly accuse others of being dogmatic. Often they have no idea what they’re talking about. Since Intelligent Design Creationism and Young Earth Creationism are dogmatic:

    :asserting a matter of opinion as if it were fact : directly affirmed rather than qualified, debated, or discovered by induction b : excessively positive in manner or utterance
    2 a : based on or proceeding from a priori truths or assumptions rather than empirical evidence

    Florida needs better government leaders, no less people who understand what *science* is. They have so many more important problems to address rather wasting their time on this stuff and they’re really embarrassing themselves. And here NASA, a bastion of science and technology, sits in their state. They see rockets go up built by people who have critical thinking skills and understand science.

    As LaCreption said, all the focus is on evolution so they can try to placate their warm and fuzzy-sounding non-science ideas. Most kids don’t even graduate high school fully understanding what the Theory of Evolution is about, let alone other subjects. Heck, what is Florida’s target rate for high school graduation? Sure, a student is going to question evolution (without prompting) by challenging the teacher on fossil records, mutations and what not…righto, MOST don’t even know what good questions to ask. This is about adults fighting about religion in science class, not any real concern with students.

    And Florida needs good natural science students for the future. They’ve had issues with aquifers and pesticide/fertilizer run-off, loss of habitat, encroaching issues with their unique Everglades, beach erosion, hurricanes, wildlife preservation, and on and on. A friend of mine once won the FL State Science Fair competition during his senior year and Florida even used some of his results (regarding water). That was in Melbourne where he did have some good science teachers….at least 25 years ago.

    So, states really need to stop wasting their time and efforts on this pernicious issue, teach science and stop trying to coddle unscientific views for their personal/religious/ideological gains. Questioning theories is fine, but questioning because your parents said “we didn’t evolve from no monkeys” is not fine. We share a common ancestor with apes – great! – chimpanzees are quite clever. We can also transmit diseases to each other…the Theory of Evolution is what helps to inform us of how that works. At least Paul Cottle and Gerry Meisels get it. (-:

  36. MarcH

    and if radiometric dating doesnt convince; look up. Most that light started its trip before the solar system existed.

    All of which is supported by hundreds of different experiments by hundreds of researchers in hundreds of different ways.

    A great parallel to this whole evolution debate is the introduction of the concept of the big bang. It was scary and felt a bit religious (being a beginning and all), but it fit the facts.

    No matter who’s side the observational data seems to support, science will plod on and force people to accept the truth.

    And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
    (broken clocks and all that)

  37. Adam S

    So when a Florida religious bill passes committee, we just calmly describe it and say it passed the committee, but when an Oklahoma religious bill passes committee, we make a big deal about it and claim it has already been passed. (HB 2211 in Oklahoma was sent to the Senate Rules Committee where it has a decent chance to die.)

  38. russ

    This whole controversy is so silly. You are not testing the kids on what they believe, you are testing them on their knowledge of the material. Simply put at the top of the test “According to the Theory of Evolution…” The answer that the Earth is 6 thousand years old is then wrong because that is not what the theory states, it is their own personal belief.

    I’ve learned about the Many World’s theory in my quantum class, and I’ve been tested on it. That doesn’t mean that I believe there is a near infinite number of universes out there, nor is that a requisite to getting a good grade on the test.

    I think a better example would be if I went to a religious studies class and for every question involving god or gods I put down “I do not believe that a god exists.” Obviously that would be wrong. The whole point of the class is for me to learn about those religions.

  39. Jake

    As a student in a Florida high school, I plan to have some fun with my science teacher once this bill is passed.

  40. LaCreption

    @russon 28 Mar 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Excellent point. Reminds me of how many times I read ‘according to’ in school. That is, the Dutch variant ‘volgens’. It was used in many questions.

    Biology in class is not about pushing non proven theories as a truth in order to defy religion. It is about scientific models that until now seem to fit extremely well everywhere within the scientific and -more important maybe- technological boundaries. Nobody should believe ‘evolution’, but before claiming it is rubbish one should at least understand the basics at first. This is also the most typical with ‘skeptical’ creationists: they don’t have a clue what they are talking about. They fight their own straw men, fight obsolete ideas, insist that ‘evolution’ was invented to fight their faith and so on.

    The single most important thing an individual has to learn is to question things. Over and over. Agree on that one, regarding not just accepting theories, even the theory of evolution. However, creationists are not promoting questioning. They demand that their dogmas are not questioned by anybody or anything. The odd thing with ID is that some creationists actually have been questioning their dogmas, were not satisfied with the results, and came with a god who likes 3DsMax in his spare time. What a coincidence and how convenient. He probably uses Internet too. No, he probably invented the thing.

    Gods resume is exciting. First he was thunder, lightning and solar eclipses. Then he was a furious warmonger. Then he became a noble protective lord. Now he is an engineer. 20 years from he will have invented nanofactoring. 20 years later and god will be a quantum mechanics entity existing of quarks.

  41. LoganKF

    Being a resident of Florida, I emailed my representative and registered my disapproval. In looking up info on the bill I found that he is one of its co-sponsors. Wonderful.

  42. EmRodi

    I find this hilarious, because I live in Florida and I’m JUST about to take an astronomy exam. Now there’s no way I can fail with how many options are open to me. xDD

    Seriously though, this is pretty awful.


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