Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Victory in Florida: for now

The Florida Board of Education met on the new science standards and decided on wording that may begin the slow process of educating the populace about evolution and science. The evolution deniers kept claiming evolution was being taught as a fact rather than a theory, so in a good example of malicious obediance, the board decided to make sure to always refer to evolution as "the scientific theory of evolution", which is exactly what it is. But they didn't stop there. On page 74 of the standards we get this:


Standard 3: The Role of Theories, Laws, Hypotheses, and Models The terms that describe examples of scientific knowledge, for example: “theory,” “law,” “hypothesis” and “model” have very specific meanings and functions within science….

Explain that a scientific theory is the culmination of many scientific investigations drawing together all the current evidence concerning a substantial range of phenomena; thus, a scientific theory represents the most powerful explanation scientists have to offer…."

I'd say that is an excellent summation of what "theory" means in science. But here's the good part. Rather than battle over whether "theory" was applied to evolution, the Board took a cue from Ken Miller and applied the term to ALL the sciences. Thus, the children will be taught about the "scientific theory of cells", the "scientific theory of atoms", the "scientific theory of plate techtonics" and so forth.

I know it is a little optimistic, but it would be great if this led to other school boards following suite and making "scentific theory" a common phrase in science classrooms. Then cries of "but it's only a theory" will more often get the appropriate response that scientific theory is a whole different animal. Way to go Florida.

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