Defenders of evolution are hailing recent pro-evolution revisions in the Florida State Science standards. Even though the revisions include compromises that undercut the victory, the changes are a definite step forward—the previous standards did not even use the word “evolution”.

The discouraging aspect of the Florida Board of Education’s decision is the extent to which it consulted public opinion. From organizing open hearings to inviting blog comments, the Board went out of its way to avail itself of popular sentiment in deciding what ideas would be taught.

Defenders of evolution are already weakened by their insistence on tiptoeing around the underlying conflict between science and religion, which is at the root of the opposition to evolution. (Most actively argue that evolution is consistent with religion.)

Those same defenders will similarly be weakened by their tacit endorsement of “democracy” as a substitute for the scientific method. How, for instance, will public education campaigns (such as the Berkeley Project on Evolution) effectively make the case for evolution without addressing the fact that almost half of America’s population doesn’t endorse a naturalistic account of the origin of species? In a culture where democracy is the watchword, how can evolution be defended without challenging the deeper conception that the majority determines truth and value?

The debate about evolution is invariably a debate about deeper philosophic conflicts. Whether the issue is science vs. religion, or truth vs. democratic will, championing evolution requires investigating, understanding, and expounding the underlying ideas that makes it possible. If that is one’s goal, there’s no better place to start than here.

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