Florida antievolution bill dies

05.01.2009

With the close of the regular legislative session in Florida on May 1, 2009, Senate Bill 2396 apparently died in committee. If enacted, the bill would have amended a section of Florida law to require "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." The bill's sponsor, Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5), originally announced his intention to introduce a bill requiring "intelligent design" to be taught in Florida's public schools, telling the Jacksonville Times-Union (February 8, 2009), "If you're going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking."

The phrase "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" appeared in the previous legislative session in Florida. House Bill 1483, which originally purported to protect the right of teachers to "objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution," was eventually amended — due to concerns about its constitutionality — to require the public schools to provide "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." Both that bill and its Senate counterpart died in committee.

After SB 2396 was introduced, Florida Citizens for Science quickly denounced it, writing, in a February 27, 2009, press release, "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" (a reference to the Kitzmiller case).