The language is subtle, but critics say the bill is a clear bid by the backers of intelligent design to chip away at the credibility of evolution without inviting the ire of a court battle. "They're afraid that if they bring up intelligent design they will set themselves up for a court case," Joe Wolf, the president of Florida Citizens for Science, a group that supports evolution, told AOL News by phone today.
Wolf said singling out the field of evolution for "critical analysis" was tantamount to an attack against the science. "Evolution is the framework of modern biology," he said. "You can't understand biology without understanding evolution."
The evolution debate has a long history in Florida, where in 2008 state officials approved science standards referring to evolution as the "fundamental concept underlying all of biology" against fierce opposition from religious conservatives.
The latest bill, SB 1854, was introduced by Florida State Sen. Steve Wise, a Republican. In 2009, Wise sponsored a bill that would have introduced the teaching of intelligent design in Florida schools. "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 at the time. That bill failed, however.
The bill would also require Florida teachers to instruct students on the historical significance of the Declaration of Independence, the Holocaust, the history of African-Americans and the "true effects" of drugs and alcohol on the body. And it would require the teaching of "an awareness of the benefits of sexual abstinence as the expected standard" as well.
Sen. Wise did not return a request for comment today by AOL News.