John G. West Political Scientist and Cultural Critic

Florida Darwinists Can’t Get Story Straight about Opposition to Academic Freedom Act

Published at Evolution News

Darwinists in Florida are in a tizzy trying to figure out why they oppose the proposed Academic Freedom Act in their state. Sometimes they claim the act isn’t needed because no one who questions Darwin is being denied academic freedom. Other times they insist the act should be rejected because academic freedom is nothing but “smelly crap.” Still other times, they insist the act is bad because it supposedly authorizes the teaching of religion in science class, even though the text of the act clearly says the exact opposite (“This section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.”)

Many times, of course, Darwinists simply declare that no scientific evidence challenging Darwinism exists for academic freedom to protect. But in an article Wednesday in the Miami Herald, even pro-Darwin reporter Marc Caputo had to concede that “indeed, natural selection is under active challenge from evolutionary-developmental biologists, who say multicellular organisms can dynamically change form under certain environmental conditions, producing major evolutionary jumps.” In point of fact, there are lots of scientific criticisms of Neo-Darwinism made by credentialed scientists. Yet teachers and scientists around the country have been harassed and fired for discussing them. That’s the situation the Academic Freedom Act is designed to remedy.

The Florida Darwinists’ latest gambit to scuttle the bill is to refocus the debate on intelligent design. This was the main point of Caputo’s article.

Misrepresenting the words of Casey Luskin at Wednesday’s press conferences, Caputo insinuates that the point of the Academic Freedom Act is to push intelligent design, despite the fact that the bill doesn’t even mention the term. The bill simply protects the right “to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection.” Does this language protect information about intelligent design? The bill does not decide that question.

Right now, as Luskin correctly pointed out at the press conference, there is a debate raging over whether intelligent design is science. Scientists and philosophers who support ID certainly think it is scientific in precisely the same way Darwinism is scientific. But the proposed Academic Freedom Act does not wade into the design debate one way or another. If and when ID supporters are able to win the debate over whether ID science, then by definition any scientific information about it that pertains to biological or chemical evolution would be protected—just like any other scientific information relevant to those topics. But, again, the bill doesn’t decide the debate over whether ID is science. It leaves that debate alone.

So who would decide what is scientific under the bill?

The same people who currently must make that determination: science teachers themselves in consultation with their science curriculum staff and their school boards. And if they happen to promote something that isn’t science, we can be sure that groups like the ACLU will be ready to police their activities—just like they do now.

Ironically, the only reason Florida Darwinists would have to fear that this bill might protect intelligent design somewhere down the road is if they already have concluded they cannot win the debate over whether ID is science. Indeed, by insisting that intelligent design must be covered by the bill, Darwinists in Florida seem to have admitted that despite their rhetoric, they really believe that intelligent design is science after all! And that may be the most telling admission in the entire debate.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
Discovery Institute