Scopes Trial Redux in Florida?

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Get ready for the Scopes Trial Redux. In Florida this month Jacksonville Republican State Senator Stephen Wise introduced a bill -that went largely unnoticed by national news outlets – that would bring lessons about intelligent design and creationism to public schools.

If passed, the bill would require an amendment to Florida law to require “[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution,” including the teaching of more religiously-based theories, along with the usual Darwin, HMS Beagle, evolution fare.

This is the second time Wise has pushed a bill of this sort. Back in 2009 he introduced legislation that would have required teachers to discuss intelligent design in classrooms during evolution lessons.

“If you’re going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking,” he told The Florida Times Union.

Predictably the scientific community is not thrilled about the proposed measure.

“You can have critical analysis of everything, but the idea that you should single out evolution for critical analysis is problematic,” Joshua Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, told The St. Augustine Record. “It’s recognized by the scientific community as the foundation of modern biology.”

Florida Citizens for Science have taken a different tact arguing that such legislation would be bad for the state economy.

“Florida’s leaders have been working for years to bring bio-tech industries to our state. Many scientists, especially biologists, will consider this to be an attack upon an established, core scientific principle,” the group wrote in a statement. “It will be clear to these businesses that Florida’s leaders don’t value science education, and the resulting stigma can only drive away the very industries we are trying to attract.”

Wise’s actions come largely in response to a policy adopted by the State Board of Education in 2008 requiring that evolution be taught in public schools.

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