Florida School to Discuss Intelligent Design?

on November 24, 2007

Lakeland (FL) Ledger: “Polk School Board Leans Toward Inclusion of Intelligent Design The Lakeland Ledger reports this week that a majority of Polk County school board members support supplementing public school evolution education with discussions of intelligent design. Polk County is home to more than half a million people, and thus an evolution education battle in the county could draw major media coverage.

Three board members “said they oppose proposed science standards for Florida schools that list evolution and biological diversity as one of the ‘big ideas’ that students need to know for a well-grounded science education,” reports the Ledger, with others holding judgment; two members, however, listed themselves as “unwilling to endorse intelligent design over evolution.” (More on that in a moment.)

Never have the battles, at least not in recent history, dealt with endorsing intelligent design explicitly, but rather merely mention it as a theory that some scientists support.

One of the more substantial dangers of advocating intelligent design instruction is a potential lawsuit. Jonathan Smith, a member of Florida Citizens for Science who will be speaking to the board in favor of the science standards, points to the expensive Dover, Pennsylvania, judicial action and media circus as a downside to the school district flouting state standards.

Interestingly, a full range of rationales is expressed by the board members for why they support, don’t support, sort of support, etc., teaching pupils about the concept of intelligent design:

  • Tim Harris: “My tendency would be to have both sides shared with students since neither side can be proven.”
  • Hazel Sellers: “I don’t have a conflict with intelligent design versus evolution. The two go together.”
  • Margaret Lofton: “[Evolution] crosses the line with people who are Christians. Evolution is offensive to a lot of people.”
  • Brenda Reddout: “The standards seem to be supported by many of our science teachers. It doesn't make any difference what our personal opinions are.”
  • Frank O’Reilly: “You’re talking about separation of church and state. I believe in intelligent design personally, but the court has ruled against it. We cannot break the law if it is set down before us.”
  • Lori Cunningham: “I would have to research [the new science standards] to give you an answer.”

The board seems to represent, in many ways, a cross-section of public opinion toward intelligent design education. Unfortunately, one frequent misstatement is that the school board battles that have been waged around the United States are about “endors[ing] intelligent design over evolution.” Never have the battles, at least not in recent history, dealt with endorsing intelligent design explicitly, but rather merely mention it as a theory that some scientists support. Furthermore, many school board battles over evolution education, such as the media-fueled fight in Kansas, are not even considering the discussion of intelligent design, instead simply including text that notes the controversial, unproven (or unprovable) status of evolutionary theory.

To read AiG’s views on evolution education in public schools, visit the “What are AiG’s views on the teaching of creation and intelligent design?” section of “What happened in Kansas?” as well as our Get Answers: Education section. For AiG’s views on the intelligent design movement, visit Georgia Purdom’s “The Intelligent Design Movement” and “Is the Intelligent Design Movement Christian?

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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