State of Florida Evolution Academic Freedom Act Bill
The senate in Florida on April 23, 2008 voted to pass the Evolution Academic Act to the house for approval. Should the act be passed and go ahead to become a law, it would see a guarantee of rights to teachers and students, to teach and be taught about the shortcomings of the Darwin???s theory of evolution.
This bill has reached this stage after the concerted efforts and lobbying by Florida Board of Education which this year made it a requirement in the syllabus for students and teachers to discuss fully the evolution theory, outlining its weaknesses, criticisms and challenges.The passing of this bill, according to its proponents, will also remove the discrimination that has been there in the past that would see students and teachers being ostracized for presenting any views in class that sought to challenge Darwinian???s theory. This bill has thrown a spanner in the works in the already crowded debate of science and religion in relation to academic freedom. Simply put, academic freedom is but a held notion that in the process of imparting knowledge, teachers and students should have the freedom and to examine all sides of a theory and knowledge with no fear of intimidation or of being looked down upon.Through out history, academic institutions and academicians have been an easy target from critics and authority in recognition of their ability to influence and shape a community???s flow of information.
Academicians and scholars are usually prone to political pressure and manipulations whenever they seek to deviate from mainstream in their teachings. Once in a while, this freedom is curtailed by those in authority and legislature.??Read about??role of extinction in evolutionThese forces claim that academicians should show restraint especially when broaching on topics that are controversial and that deviate from the stated topic. The Florida State Evolution Academic Freedom Act comes in the wake of proposition of such bills in several states in United States. These states range from Alabama, Oklahoma, Maryland, the latest one being Louisiana (Scott 26).
A look at these proposed bills brings out an important aspect and direction of this war between religion and science.What comes into mind is the Butler Act passed in 1925; the only difference is that this act was seeking to outlaw the teaching of evolution theory as an alternative to creation theory. The Scopes trial also comes into mind where scopes a teacher, was taken to court and fined for having purportedly taught his biology class the Darwin evolution theory. The criticism that had sparked against the passing of the Butler Act is likely to be replicated in the state of Florida should the Evolution Academic Act bill be passed into law (Larson 101).This bill was introduced by Ronda Storms.
It is a close replica of the Alabama bill. It was sponsored by Alan Hays in the Florida House of Representatives. According to Hays, the bill is not anywhere close to being controversial, the draft has only a mere intention of allowing teachers and students to analyze and explore fully the Darwin theory of evolution. It would see the social and legal stigma that surrounded such topics and discussions inside the classroom removed. Ronda Storms, the bills sponsor, has been rather ecstatic at the progress the bill has made.A vote of 21-17 is commendable considering the controversy that the bill is likely to spark as it is already doing so.
The battle between science and religion has been raging on for long and the debate is likely to awaken that controversy. Teachers who have in the past contemplated delving into the criticism of the evolution theory or the students that took interest were referred to as religious zealots. The state of Missouri has witnessed a similar bill introduced by Robert Wayne Cooper who is a Republican Party???s Representative.The bill brought to the Missouri house on April 1 2008 espouses similar objectives as that of Florida in addition to having the students exposed to various scientific facts and theories, no matter how controversial they maybe, so that they can develop critical analysis skills. (National Centre for Science Education) The debate in the Florida house was heated with both sides across the board invoking cultural practices and the ruling in Tennessee Scopes Monkey trial (Jeffrey 17) . The sponsor of the bill went ahead to urge the members to watch Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a controversial documentary that is currently on the screens.
This documentary is used to promote the bill due to its convenient depiction of modern science which, according to Ben stein, is suppressing any negative views and criticism to the evolution theory and other controversial topics such as the holocaust. Also being suppressed is the view by academicians who are alluding to the fact that there may be existing evidence of Intelligence Design in the process of human development (Caputo). Intelligence design is an upcoming dominant thought that the universe can better be discerned through the intelligent course rather than through natural selection as postulated by Charles Darwin.Intelligent design is a modern way of accepting that there is a certain Super architect of the universe without necessarily accepting the existence of God (Michael 34).
With the passing of bills in Missouri and Florida, intelligent design, according to critics might be soon be introduced as the academia as a theory refuting the claims in the Darwin theory. The passing of this bill in the Florida senate is not expected to be an easy ride especially considering the dominant pro-evolution sentiments held in the state. Lobbyists and activists are up in arms and have intensified their opposition.Ronda Storms has been quick to refute claims that the bill is seeking to promote the doctrines of biblical teaching and hence is inconsistent with the constitution. Section seven of the proposed bill stipulates that: This section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrines, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non religion (Storms 3) The purpose of this bill is to curb the suppression of any form of criticism to Darwinism.
Ronda Storms together with those that support the bill further argue that the teaching of the Darwinism should not be taught as a fact that is devoid of criticism but rather as a theory that is prone to philosophical criticism. There are a number of civil right activists that are up in arms against the passage of this bill into law. American Civil Liberties Union is such a group. ACLU sees the passage of this bill as likely to lead to the teachings of intelligent design science in spite of the fact that it is not a scientific theory but simply a set of unfounded ideas .In a March 12th 2008 press release, the director of ACLU of Florida Howard Simon clarified ACLU stand on the bill when he said that: Allowing schools to masquerade intelligent design as science would be a blunder and an embarrassment for the Florida legislature .
The courts have spoken on this issue and the message was clear; intelligent design because it relies on supernatural power is a religious view not a scientific view (The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida) This is the sort of criticism that has been facing this bill.A predominant criticism has been on how the bill is quick to advocate for the academic discussion of views challenging the evolution theory but not on other controversial views such as abortion. A Sun-Sentinel. Com columnist argues that the bill is not presenting its true motives.
He sees it as a way of sneaking ???creationism into schools. ??? Majority of those criticizing the Academic Freedom Bill claim that it should be all comprehensive and seek to guarantee the protection of teachers rights when presenting in class opposing views to the mainstream and dogmatic beliefs.An example being given is the opposing views such to abstinence and contraceptives (Mayo). The bills Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement noted that the bill is full of ambiguities as presented in the house . One pinpointed ambiguity lies in how it defines ???biological and chemical evolution???.
It also notes that it is not clear what problem the bill seeks to address as there has not been a reported case of discrimination to teachers or students engaging in the purported academic discussion against the evolution theory.Other criticisms that have arisen claim that the bill will simply insulate educationists from any criticism for any utterances made in class and not necessarily ensure the fundamental right to speech (The Florida Senate). Senator Arthenia Joyner from the Democratic Party sees the bill as forwarding a particular religious view contrary to what its chief architect insists. She insists that the bill will contribute in heightening the controversy that already exists between the creation views as presented b y the bible and the Darwin evolution theory.Where the bill is largely seen as deviating from the science standards currently under application, there are others who claim that what the bill purports to cater for is already covered by the science standards.
(Scott & Branch 42) The Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement noted that the science standards as they are have left an enough window of opportunity to the teachers and academicians in general to critically examine all the held views in all scientific theories .It goes on to insist that the evolution theory has not been accepted . most of the raging criticism centers on the implication of the bill noting that it is more likely to promote creationism rather than give the students and teachers an opportunity to discuss and evaluate fully the evolution theory (The Florida Senate 2692). Majority of those opposed to the bill are Democrats who continue to poke holes into it. This criticism is not unwarranted.
The bill has managed considerable gains and success in the house.Still, however, much is needed to ensure it passes in the senate. There should be no doubt in the members mind that the bill does not seek to promote the disreputed intelligence design theory as both Hays and Storm have been quick to point out. The bill should be amended and reformed to ensure it takes into account the major concerns by the critics. It should be clear to the members that it does not seek to promote creationism but rather it propagates freedom of speech to teachers.Works citedhttp://www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2008/Senate/bills/analysis/pdf/2008s2692.ed.pdf