Sunday, January 26, 2014

#889: Margaret Lofton and the creationists on the Polk County School Board

Margaret Lofton

You can sort of intuit your way to the conclusion that Zuerrnnovahh-Starr Livingstone is less than ideally hinged, and you’ll be right (the title of the article “Sylphs transmute chemtrails” gives you an idea); but Livingstone is also Canadian, and hence disqualified. Instead we’ll turn to some far less colorful, but also more typical American whackos – what’s more typical than creationists on a schoolboard?

Kay Fields
Apparently the good people of the Polk County School Board in Lakeland, FL, seem to have been relatively unaware of the Dover Trial; at least they didn’t see any problems with introducing Intelligent Design in schools. In 2007, Board members Tim Harris, Margaret Lofton and Hazel Sellers said they opposed proposed science standards for Florida schools that lists evolution and biological diversity as being among the “big ideas” students need to know for a well-grounded science education, and Board member Kay Fields said she wanted intelligent design taught in science classes in addition to evolution.

Tim Harris
“If it ever comes to the board for a vote, I will vote against the teaching of evolution as part of the science curriculum,” said Lofton, adding that “If (evolution) is taught, I would want to balance it with the fact that we may live in a universe created by a supreme being as well,” which has nothing to do with evolution and quite a bit to do with religion. “My tendency would be to have both sides shared with students since neither side can be proven,” Tim Harris said. “I don’t have a conflict with intelligent design versus evolution,” Sellers said. “The two go together,” showing, at best, that she has no idea what she is talking about. “It crosses the line with people who are Christians,” Lofton said. “Evolution is offensive to a lot of people,” and that is, apparently, her criterion for determining scientific merit.

Hazel Sellers
Their attempt to get Intelligent Design into the school curriculum was supported by efforts from Focus on the Family, and encompassed more than just Polk County. In the Highlands County four of five school board members opposed evolution, with School Board Vice Chairman Andy Tuck saying that “as a person of faith, I strongly oppose any study of evolution as fact at all. I’m purely in favor of it staying a theory and only a theory.” They passed their anti-evolution measures as well, as did at least almost a dozen other Florida school boards back in 2008, (and Florida schoolboards were certainly not alone).

Andy Tuck
Fortunately the good folks of Polk County took some beating over the issue, but their antics (and those of other school boards in other counties – school boards are often crammed with creationists due to organized campaigns by creationist organizations) led to a statewide debate on the issues, which overall seem to have gone in favor of science (at least the State Board decided to call evolution “Scientific theory” as a compromise to make everyone happy – it’s scientific, but is also just a theory …). You can read the complicated story here.

Diagnosis: The Polk County School Board can stand as a representative for anti-science, creationist-filled school boards everywhere, and there are lots of them. It’s really a deeply scary affair, for these boards wield quite a bit of local power.

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