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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Anti-Evolution Bill Still A Fruitless Exercise

TALLAHASSEE - A bill aimed at undercutting acceptance of evolution in Florida science classes, which kicked up a fuss but didn't pass in the Florida Legislature last year, apparently is going nowhere this year. A Senate version of the bill has yet to receive a committee hearing and has no companion bill in the House. That means, said one proponent of the idea, that the bill has little chance of passage in this frantic session, heavily devoted to cutting and balancing the state budget. "With no companion in the House, it doesn't have much likelihood," said Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.
Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, filed the bill in the Senate in late February. It would require that public schools "teach a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in science classes. Last year, Hays filed a similar bill in the House and Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, filed a Senate bill that Hays said had the same goal but different wording. Storms' bill prohibited discipline or lawsuits against science teachers who taught alternatives to evolution as theories on the origins of species. Their bills were proposed in response to a decision by the state Board of Education emphasizing evolution as the foundation of biological science. Storms' 2008 bill passed the Senate, and Hays' passed the House, but the two chambers could not agree on wording. Hays says he didn't try this year because of other priorities, and House members are limited to six bills each. "The goal is not to teach the Bible or creation in the schools," he said. Rather, it's to encourage and protect "those teachers who are accurate in their discussion of the holes in Darwin's theory." But opponents say it's just the latest tactic to infuse religion into science classes. "'Critical analysis' is the latest buzzword in the creationist movement to sneak intelligent design or creationism into the curriculum," said David Karlen, a Tampa biologist and a member of the Florida Academy of Sciences. He said the term became popular in the movement after a 2005 Delaware court ruling against a requirement for teaching intelligent design. Karlen noted that advocates of "critical analysis" don't try to apply it to other areas of science, only to evolution.

Reporter William March can be reached at (813) 259-7761. Reporter Catherine Dolinski can be reached at (850) 222-8382.

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