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Education Science

New Science Standards Approved in Florida 891

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the thinking-of-the-voters-not-the-children dept.
anonymous_echidna writes "Florida has voted to accept the new K-12 science curriculum standards amidst a storm of controversy around the teaching of evolution, which had up until now been the scientific concept that dare not speak its name. There was a compromise made at the last minute, which was to call evolution a 'scientific theory', rather than a fact. While some lament that the change displays the woeful ignorance of science and scientific terminology, the good news is that the new curriculum emphasizes teaching the meaning of scientific terms and the scientific method in earlier grades."
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New Science Standards Approved in Florida

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  • by Protonk (599901) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:14PM (#22490018) Homepage
    I'm moving to another country where crazy isn't an approved religion.
    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:19PM (#22490106)
      For a biting critique of Florida's new standards, and a defense of craziness, see "Our Reputation for Flakiness is at Stake" by Carl Hiaasen [ http://www.miamiherald.com/news/columnists/carl_hiaasen/story/421075.html [miamiherald.com]].
    • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:32PM (#22490300) Homepage Journal
      It's not really a question of religion, if you think about it--it's more a question of politics.

      It just happens that the politics involved are largely being used within the framework of religion in order to maintain a certain population within a given power structure, and to resist attempts to overturn said power structure from the outside.
      • by Mr2cents (323101) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @02:19PM (#22492126)
        So true. This is a prime example of the difference between how science works and how religion works. Simply put, science = (observation + disprovable theories). If your theory conforms to the observations under certain conditions, you can apply that theory again as long as the conditions are met.

        The driving force behind religion is - in my opinion - social pressure. If your parents are christian, you'll be a christian too. Not because it is testable that it is the only true religion, but a) because you are indoctrinated from day one, and b) because your environment won't allow you to think differently. You won't "fit in" anymore. Just think what happens when two people with different religions want to mary. In extremis, even today, young people are killed by their own family because they want to mary somebody with a different belief. Now that's an extreme case, but it clearly shows how strong social pressure can be. The family rather kills it's own than to have to go through the shame. The individual feels the pressure of the family, and the family feels the pressure of the community.

        That's why they want to propagate ID by law instead of scientific proof. It's totally in line with how religion works.
    • by trongey (21550) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:34PM (#22490352) Homepage
      RE: Title of parent post.
      I don't think he could do that, even with miraculous powers. I know, the whole one-in-three business makes it kind of confusing, but I still just don't think it could be done.
    • Approved religion? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hal2814 (725639)
      I'll stick to countries where I don't have to worry about whether a religion is "approved" or not.
  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:14PM (#22490028) Journal

    There was a compromise made at the last minute, which was to call evolution a 'scientific theory', rather than a fact.
    LOL! I can't believe that an actual state school board resolution has basically the same wording as when I troll. (Er, I mean, my *friend* trolls.) "Hey guys, now, let's face it, evolution is pretty much just a theory at this point. You know, THEORY? Theory as in ... NOT FACT?"

    Still, I think it would be an improvement of orders of magnitude if science classes in general focused more on:

    "how did we learn this?" (i.e., the scientific method, how observations have to be done to eliminate bias, the formulation of competing theories, how experiments are designed, how hypotheses were ruled out, etc.)

    as opposed to:

    "here is he official list of truth that you have to memorize and then do cute IQ-test-like problems with".

    The latter gives the wrong impression of what science is and why it matters.
    • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:41PM (#22490462) Journal
      The meaning of the word theory when used in the context of science:

      A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.


      Now, remember, Gravity is just a theory as well, so why don't you test it by jumping out off of a very tall building.
  • by Steeltalon (734391) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:14PM (#22490032)
    There have been too many occasions where the news media has persisted in "dumbing down" the terminology that they use. I even remember watching a "Faith and Values" show on CNN last year where John Edwards (the candidate, not the psychic) was asked his thoughts on Evolution which, in the words of Soledad O'brien, was the belief that man evolved from apes.

    We need the news media to take the lead in helping people understand what a theory is vs. a hypothesis. How fact and theory are not opposites. The fact that a "law" is not the opposite of a theory. Too many people are getting away with murder in these debates because the termnology isn't clearly understood and the news media doesn't care to straighten it out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gat0r30y (957941)
      Dude, nail on the head. I don't believe that the news media is "dumbing down" their language to make it more accessible to viewers, I've always just assumed they don't have a sufficient understanding of basic science to pose good questions.
      I think back to college, and frankly the journalism students didn't seem to be taking many elective science courses. The journalism community as a whole doesn't seem to have a very good understanding of the scientific method.
      On the other hand, there are a good num
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      asked his thoughts on Evolution which, in the words of Soledad O'brien, was the belief that man evolved from apes.

      Speaking of "dumbing down", you have no idea what's going on, do you?

      Referring to Evolution in this way and then asking an opinion (or the reverse) is an example of deliberate spin. You would never say that unless you wanted to get the "I didn't come from no monkey!" camp riled up, or you were an uneducated buffoon.

      P.S. Jesus Christ, that woman looks like Ms. The Joker when she smiles. Plastic surgery, or inbreeding? YOU DECIDE!

      • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:04PM (#22490886) Homepage

        You would never say that unless you wanted to get the "I didn't come from no monkey!" camp riled up, or you were an uneducated buffoon.

        Or you were tossing a softball.

        "Why, yes, O'Brien, according to our best evidence we did descend from apes - mor precisely, we and modern apes descended from a common, ape-like ancestor. And I'm proud of how far our species has developed, how far up from the muck we've come, how far towards grace we've climbed; and I hope that our umptity-great grandchildren will be as far above us as we are above the Australopithecines. My opponent the Biblical literalist, on the other hand, seems to hold that we're all the fallen result of incestuous inbreeding from a single original pair of idiots dumb enough to be fooled by a talking snake. I've got to say I find the scientific account not only more rational, but orders of magnitude more inspiring."

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jollyreaper (513215)
          lol Not that any candidate would have the balls to say something like that but if they did, I'd get online and make a donation once I got up off the floor I was rolling and laughing on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gorbachev (512743)
      There was an interesting interview on PBS by Bill Moyers the other night. He was interviewing Susan Jacoby [susanjacoby.com] who was hawking her newest book "The Age of American Unreason".

      She, also, blamed, partly (among other things she was discussing in the interview), the media for this sort of stupidity. She said the media has gone too far with its equal treatment of different sides of each issue. She said that sometimes one side is right and the other wrong, and giving the wrong side equal weight is not really serving t
  • Florida... aye (Score:5, Informative)

    by godawful (84526) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:15PM (#22490034)
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=6PMhLupcYY4 [youtube.com]

    I saw this guy arguing why evolution shouldn't be taught and i was literally left speechless
  • That's fair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anotherone (132088) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:15PM (#22490050)
    That's fair, because evolution IS a scientific theory. So is Gravity. Hopefully they'll also teach the kids what it means to be a theory, and that "theory" doesn't mean "wild-ass-guess".
    • Re:That's fair (Score:5, Informative)

      by KublaiKhan (522918) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:29PM (#22490266) Homepage Journal
      I have a hobby where I argue with various fundamentalists, creationists, and the like in order to understand their particular points of view--using them as an evolutionary pressure for my arguments, as it were, to see which ones have an effect.

      I've noticed in my various arguments that the chief difficulty is getting them to understand the terminology behind the concepts--they simply do not have the vocabulary necessary to vocalize and understand the concepts in question.

      One of those words that is most egregiously misused is "theory"--the "common" form of the word is almost universally understood, but the "scientific" meaning of the word, even when carefully explained, becomes conflated with the common form.

      (Other difficulties I've noticed are: that those who do not accept evolutionary theory are convinced that evolution is directed towards some 'goal'; that all mutations are necessarily harmful; an ignorance of introns and other means by which genetic material can be added to a genome--one of the current arguments that crops up is the one about how you can't get more information into a genome by evolutionary means, which is, of course, utter bosh; a misunderstanding of the scientific method; the false notion that science attempts to be the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything rather than a best-fit approximation; and the notion that scientists are trying actively to discourage religion)

      Other than teaching the proper meaning of the word 'theory'--which doesn't work very well, frankly; the meaning that they knew first tends to stick no matter how often you teach them the proper one due to recency bias--I'd perhaps recommend a slight change in terminology when speaking of hypotheses that have withstood rigorous testing. Such a change would, of course, have to be accepted by the scientific community as a whole, so it may not be practical--but it's perhaps worth giving some thought to.

      I'd almost recommend 'theorem' rather than 'theory', to leech off of the mathematician's meaning, but while that word is appealing for reasons of similarity and having the proper tone, it may not be ideal due to conflation with mathematical proofs.
    • I thought so too (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PinkyDead (862370)
      Now I'm going to get myself into trouble.

      Because my understanding (as a scientist) has always been that all science was theory - scientific theory and not fact. Some scientific theories, like evolution, have so much evidence that they may as well be fact - but they're still technically not fact.

      And like you said gravity is a theory. The fact there is that when I let go of an apple it ends up on the ground, that's the fact - the most sensible theory that explains that fact and other related facts is the th
    • Re:That's fair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pdxdada (684092) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:51PM (#22490658) Homepage
      Thank you for that. Both sides of this debate drive me crazy as they're both hanging on to their beliefs with religious fervor. Natural selection IS a theory, and most likely there is still a mechanism for change we don't know about. Likewise we still only see macro exolution in the fosil record and haven't observed it in living animals. The fact that science doen't have all the answers doesn't bother me one bit. It's a process. I don't see the need to get defensive about it. Either the scientific method stands on it's own merrits or it's time to look for something else.

      It reminds me of a line from Steven Colbert talking about the "Half Hour News Hour." Something to the effect of "you really need to be on one side or the other because it's hard to be passionately moderate."
  • by EricTheGreen (223110) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:15PM (#22490054) Homepage
    From TFA, boldface added:

    During more than two hours of testimony, scientists and religious representatives argued over whether teaching that humans evolved from a single-celled species over hundreds of millions of years should be taken as gospel.


    Not sure that's the word said scientists would use in this context themselves...
  • woo hoo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by urcreepyneighbor (1171755) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:16PM (#22490062)
    The more dumbasses in the world, the smarter I seem! woo hoo!

    Fear me, for I have studied the dark science of natural selection!
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:19PM (#22490104) Homepage
    Evolution is a fact. For example dinosaurs used to exist and they don't now; horses, dogs and cats have changed. This is accepted by everyone. What is in dispute is the explanation for that evolution. It could be caused by natural selection or by something else (certainly by something else in the case of the three animals mentioned). Natural selection is a scientific theory. So be careful with the terminology.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      "Certainly"? Not certainly. Natural selection is the process by which some animals survive better than others by having certain traits. Horses that run faster are less likely to meet the glue factory before reproduction than slower horses, for example. It's still 'natural selection', it's just that environment has changed.

      Cats and dogs go through similar things.

      Assuming 'natural selection' is true and not a false hypothesis, this fits the pattern. If it's false, then this may not be the same thing at a
  • Isn't that like an Obama supporter lamenting that Obama was called a Presidential Candidate by the press?
  • by saudadelinux (574392) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:20PM (#22490134)
    Let's face it, folks no other state has its own category on Fark.com; the utter lunacy and stupidity down there has been neatly quantified.
  • Terminology? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 (694492) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:25PM (#22490210)
    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I wonder...

    Control the meaning of words, you control how they're percieved. For instance, most if not all the old Soviet republics considered themselves 'democratic' in that elections were held on a regular basis. Of course, there was only one slate of candidates to elect, so calling them 'democracies' was a bit of a misnomer. Likewise, their penchant for putting "People's' in front of just about everything, like 'People's Democratic Republic of'. Double whammy there...

    Now, if the definition of 'approved' now means 'guaranteed not to piss off any J Random NeoCon Fundie', and 'theory' now means 'something that cannot be proved but must be taken on faith', we're in serious trouble here...

  • why complain? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by superwiz (655733) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:30PM (#22490270) Journal
    This is actually a good thing. A good theory stands up to scrutiny. There is not such thing as "ridiculous" challenge. Any challenge which does not deny rules of logic or observed facts has merit. If students are instilled with an extra degree of scepticism, I'd say, "good for them." Dogmatic teaching of scince as facts creates nothing but fudder for pop-culture -- it does not produce thinking minds.
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:31PM (#22490276) Homepage
    ...hasing a tehoree.

    The highest honor SCIENCE can bestow any idea is that of the "Theory". Science cannot claim anything to be a fact because in science, nothing is beyond disproval.

    If science starts stating things are fact, and beyond disproval then the idea in question becomes dogma. Dogma is the realm of religion. Science may be your religion, but you do science a great disservice by making it so, at the expense of the scientific schema and method.

    I know that the creationist/ID crowd LOVES to rub it in that evolution "is only a theory", but you've got to resist the temptation of fighting back by out-dogma-ing the dogmatists.

    Evolution IS only a theory, it's among the most widely studied and tested theories of science. It's the single unifying theory of biology. Everyone say it with me: Evolution IS just a theory. The 800lb Gorrilla, bad-mother-fucker, stomp your colon theory. The king of theories.

    In science, that's as good as it gets. And as science-minded people, we should know that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JWW (79176)
      Sorry, evolution is not the "king of theories". Its a good theory, but definitely not the best.

      The BEST theories have equations and calculations that come with them (some of these are commonly called "Laws"). Gravity and thermodynamics and relativity, and many many others have whole sets of equations that can describe and predict the factually observed behavior. Now with hard core gene sequencing and manipulation we're closer than ever to being able to do X and expect Y, but so far there are no "laws" of
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:31PM (#22490292)
    The Roman Catholic church has recognized evolution essentially as fact and completely compatible with the bible. So I don't really understand what the problem is with Protestants in this country.

    The only reason I see for this idiotic push to marginalize evolution and push creationism as a valid theory is because Christian conservatives see their influence on American culture slipping. This is a desperate attempt to make their religion relevant. I don't understand how this is permitted.

    Evolution is a science. Creationism and Intelligent Design are not science and have no place in the science class. Those concepts don't conform to the standards established by science. There is a place for creationism, and that's the theology class.

    If parents want to compromise their children's education they should do so in private schools or at home instead of trying to force this stupidity on everyone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by value_added (719364)
      The only reason I see for this idiotic push to marginalize evolution and push creationism as a valid theory is because Christian conservatives see their influence on American culture slipping.

      That, at least to me, is the interesting bit.

      On the one hand, we're in the middle of an election cycle where there's serious issues with which to contend, and on the other hand, we have a vocal block of people and their elected representatives whose primary concerns are abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of evolut
  • Devils advocate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cheesey (70139) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:35PM (#22490364)
    Teaching evolution - does it really matter?

    Evolution is the least popular theory ever proposed. It has been under continuous attack ever since it was proposed. During this time, the creationists have tried every trick they can think of to get it out of the schools. They have blamed just about every evil of society on it, and they have brainwashed millions into believing that it's incompatible with their religion. They've tried to make it illegal, and they have even tried (unsuccessfully) to disprove it. And evolution has survived all of these attacks because it is true. You can always argue that the physical evidence doesn't accurately represent reality, and of course the creationists have tried that, but it's no use when they're arguing with proper scientists.

    Given this, I don't think we need to worry about evolution at all. Sure, creationists would like it to be thrown away entirely, but as long as we have scientists, that simply will not happen. You just can't do useful research in any physical science if you think the Bible has greater authority than a ton of physical evidence. There are worse problems in public schools than a bunch of nutcases wanting their crazy beliefs taught as if they were science.

    There is no evidence that will convince a creationist that he is wrong. If Jesus Christ personally appeared in front of John Q. Creationist and said "Hi, John. My name's Jesus, the Earth is billions of years old and evolution is basically true," then John Q. would probably crucify him for blasphemy. That's what the fundamentalists did, the last time Jesus told them they were wrong. "Everyone" knows that God couldn't have created the Universe using evolution: he's omnipotent, sure, but he's not that omnipotent. In summary, there is no point in trying to argue with these people, their beliefs are nuts even in comparison to other Christians, so let's just ignore them..
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911)
      Teaching evolution - does it really matter?

      Yes.

      Sure, creationists would like it to be thrown away entirely, but as long as we have scientists, that simply will not happen. ...and where do you think scientists get their basic education exactly?

      . There are worse problems in public schools than a bunch of nutcases wanting their crazy beliefs taught as if they were science.

      Weapons, and drugs are worse problems. However if your local school has such problems it has failed completely to BE a school.

      There is no ev
  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:05PM (#22490910) Homepage
    One of the rare instances when I'm proud of my home county: they approved a stronger version of the standard on Darwin's birthday. [keynoter.com] This is the county that includes the Florida Keys.

    From the article itself:

    She said the concept of evolution is essential to understanding 21st century biology and that, in her opinion, "people who have never been taught evolution in the first place don't understand that it doesn't really undermine religion." "I'm a lifelong Methodist and I find no conflict between my spiritual life and my rational, scientific self," she said. Walker isn't alone. The Clergy Letter Project, a Butler University initiative that works to dispel the notion that religion and science are at odds, has garnered 11,183 signatures from clergy members who say teaching evolution does not undermine religion.

  • by kryliss (72493) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:25PM (#22491206)
    Don't remember where I found this one but it seems to fit in with this thread.

    Christianity

    The belief that some cosmic, Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
    Makes perfect sense.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:29PM (#22491288)
    The "Theory of Evolution" is not "Evolution."

    "Evolution" is a proven fact. Organisms evolve over time. It has been documented, proved, case closed. Again: it is a fact that organisms evolve. Score one for science and zoology.

    Now, the more complex question, why do certain evolutionary steps take place? That is subject to theory and speculation, research, anthropology, and study. Did human being evolve from "lesser" primates? Almost certainly, barring some unforeseen UFO landing (8 million years to earth -- Quatermas and the pit) or divine intervention, the fossil record is pretty conclusive.

    What is most interesting is the path from lesser primate to our current form, we still do not know everything. For instance, it seems that perhaps the Neanderthals re-joined the genetic pool rather than simply die off.

    The problem is that religious fools require absolute certainty in everything but religion. The evolution of human beings is far more proven then genesis, but they "believe" genesis as "gospel." So, evolution and the path between single cell life and 21st century human beings has to be 100% documented with no missing steps or ambiguous lineage or it is just a wild theory and therefor no more valid than what they already believe.

    They are, by definition, unreasonable. Unfortunately, "unreason" is the common sense of the day because we "elite" thinkers don't represent "real" America.

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl. -- Mike Adams

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