Bill would require "critical analysis" of evolution (critics fear another battle over science's hot topic)

State Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, has filed a bill (SB 2396) that would add "critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" to the list of things Florida students must be taught.

His bill suggests last year's fight over teaching evolution in public schools isn't over yet.

Last month, Wise told the Jacksonville newspaper that he planned to submit a bill that would allow the teaching of Intelligent Design.

His bill doesn't actually say Intelligent Design -- the theory that an intelligent cause better explains life on earth than evolution by natural selection. But it seems clear from his comments that his intention is to open the door to other ideas and to make evolution seem less certain.

Last year, the State Board of Education adopted new science standards for Florida's public schools that said, for the first time, that students must be taught evolution. The standards called evolution "fundamental" to biology and a "big idea" students must understand.

The decision to include evolution in the standards (though it had been taught routinely in many places, including Centrall Florida) ignited a firestorm of protest and spurred a controversy that raged for months. Some members of the Florida Legislature, upset with the state's board's decision, tried to then pass a law that would give teachers the "academic freedom" to discuss the controversies and arguments about evolution.

Those efforts failed. Wise's bill will restart the argument. In fact, The Florida Citizens for Science quickly put out a press release, criticizing Wise's effort.

It read (in part): "Wise’s antievolution bill is an insult to citizens who are tired of stomping over the same ground over and over again. The Florida Board of Education and last year’s state legislature have already debated the teaching of evolution ad nauseam. To insist on bringing this up again is irresponsible because it will distract our lawmakers from the important tasks at hand, and could burden one of our school districts with a million dollar legal bill."

Wise's bill goes beyond science and also requires that students learn about the Declaration of Independence and conflict-resolution management.

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