Salvage Florida thread

It bodes ill for a certain southern state that my mailbox overfloweth with tales of idiocy from Florida … it’s gotten to the point where I cringe a little bit when I see “Florida” in the subject line, because I know it’s going to be another delusional school board, another wacky letter to the editor, another Floridian complaining that his state isn’t as stupid as it sounds from all the news. Even the Florida Citizens for Science blog is a reservoir of terrible stories right now.

So I’m going to abstain for a little while from the Florida bashing and give the good guys a chance to catch up. How about telling us some good news? I’m sure there are intelligent, progressive people down there gearing up to fight for science and reason, so let’s hear the positive news from the Florida creation wars. If you want anonymity or don’t like commenting, go ahead and email Florida stories with a hopeful bent to me and we’ll try to present the other side of the state.


  1. says

    Remember, if you can’t say something nice about Florida, stop typing.

    (I’m going to feel awful if this turns into the shortest comment thread in Pharyngula history.)

  2. says

    State board of education member Robert Martinez has spoken out in favor of evolution.

    Eleven newspaper editorials have very clearly and correctly supported evolution in the science standards. Not a single one has taken the opposite stance.

    Unfortunately, that’s about all I have for you, PZ. One thing that has truly shocked me is that no university, business, or influential organization has gone on record for evolution. Not one. Florida Citizens for Science has been busy contacting these folks with absolutely no luck. There is an ugly apathy (or maybe fear) in the air. A steadly increasing number of local school boards are going on record against evolution, but absolutely no group/organization will take sound science’s side.

    Oops … I went negative. Sorry. The frustration here in Florida is overwhelming to me. Sigh.

  3. Adam says

    That’s right, Schmeer — oranges are great. You can make a little hole in the rind, put your lips on it, and suck and suck and suck. The more you suck, the more you like it. Suck and suck and keep on sucking. That always reminds me of Florida.

  4. negentropyeater says

    The Everglades, Key West, Miami Beach…
    CSI Miami
    Sea, Sex and Sun
    Cuban sandwiches

  5. Christianjb says

    Oh- of course, isn’t James Randi and the JREF based in Florida? Only the most important skeptic on the face of the planet.

  6. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Florida has Carl Hiassen! Isn’t that a plus?

    Well, okay, he uses the kookyness for humor, and Florida provides him with a rich vein of kookyness to mine, still it’s good for the rest of the US, isn’t it?

  7. MartinM says

    No; posting positive comments about Texas would be the shortest comment thread ever.

    Good point.

    Florida is not Texas. That’s a pretty positive statement, I’d say.

  8. Carlie says

    But Texas has Austin and the Permian Basin. That makes up for a lot.

    Florida has the Palm and Cycad Arboretum, and a world-class paleobotany collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

  9. Don Smith, FCD says

    Oops, gotta think positive. Um…

    Well, the JW’s have stopped coming by knocking on the door early on weekends. Maybe they figured out that annoying people does not lead to conversions.

  10. Christianjb says

    OK, given the comments in this thread I’m demanding a separate page for discussing good things about TX.

  11. says

    I can honestly say Florida is the nicest part of America I have ever visited. (It happens to also be the only part I have visited)
    I do vaguely remember having a good time there, but I can’t really remember much as I was 5 the first time and 7 the second.

  12. K says

    I’m homeschooling in Florida BECAUSE it’s Florida. When I moved down here in they bumped me up 2 grades because I was soooo smart (I wasn’t, I was pretty average in St. Louis). I took a vow right then that no child of mine will attend a Florida public school. We don’t have to deal with the mandatory pledge or prayer, the latest evolution controversy, the FCAT, or the failing schools.
    For your amusement:

  13. says

    I spent five years there; lemme think…

    I found the wildlife to be amazing. The raccoons are very friendly. Mycological diversity is off the charts. Ummmm…

    The good news is that there’s a Florida Citizens for Science. There’s also a few good people at Florida State like Bruce Thayer, Kenneth Roux, Harold Kroto. In fact, FSU is having an official Darwin Day celebration this year for the first time.

    The fundamentalist church around the corner from my house in Tallahassee used to play the Star Spangled Banana on recorded church bells at noon every day. That was unique.

    Also, evolution does seem to be continuing in Florida as evidenced by the many endemic species found in the ravine ecosystem of Leon County and surrounding areas. Of course, they’re going to be building a new Wal-Mart on North Monroe in Tallahassee and its parking lot will back right up to that ecosystem, which is always a good idea.

    Lake Jackson still reappears for a couple of weeks out of every year.

    That’s about all I’ve got…

  14. says

    You people are depressing me.

    OK, I do have a happy story about Florida. I was there for a conference, and I also had a stack of papers I had to get graded before I got back. After spending the whole weekend in hotel rooms and conference rooms, the morning that my flight was going to leave I decided to do two things at once: sit on a beach in sunny Florida, and get my papers graded.

    So I go to the nearest beach, sit down, and get to work. Only it turns out this is a beach that allows nudity. This lovely young woman spreads her towel on the sand right in front of me, stands up, takes off her bikini, and starts carefully oiling every inch of her body.

    I know I got the grading done sometime, but I don’t remember it. I’m pretty sure everyone in the class got an “A”.

    That’s my best memory of Florida. I should have asked her her position on evolution.

  15. Diego says

    You know, it’s not like we’re hurting for people who could defend evolution here. We have several big research universities and my alma mater, FSU, has some top people in evolutionary biology (especially in phylogenetics and genotype-phenotype evolution). There are also several important field stations across the state; Archbold Research Station, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Tall Timbers, Mote Marine Laboratory. The Natural History museum in Gainesville has good collections and solid research. Scripps is putting in a new laboratory in south Florida. So in theory FCSE should have plenty of heavy weights to lend a hand. I just don’t see why this hasn’t happened.

    Also, Florida is a beautiful and ecologically and culturally diverse state. And most of the state is built on millions of years worth of ancient marine organisms. The facts of deep time and evolution are literally beneath our feet as well as all around us on the surface.

  16. Rob says

    I’m a Brit working as a postdoc in Florida, and I have to say Florida is an excellent place to both live and research, and the people are very friendly.

    However, it is baffling that people in the 21st century, despite the evidence they see all around them on a daily basis of the benefits they receive from science, still think a chapter of mythology involving talking snakes, sin transfer by apple eating and a smallish wooden boat that enclosed every species of animal in the world (not to mention that the stories are essentially identical to numerous other myths that predate Christianity) is a valid basis for explaining the natural world.

  17. Barklikeadog says

    I like Florida. It enticed my ex-wife to move there. Where I live is now a thousand times brighter.

  18. T. Bruce McNeely says

    I second Carl Hiassen and James Randi.
    Also David Barry, Jimmy Buffett and Roger McGuinn.

    …and Florida is the only state to be honored with its own category on!

  19. ben says

    The best thing about Florida is what the inevitable rise of the sea level will do to it.

    Er, nevermind, that will mean Floridians will need to find new places to live, and they won’t be contained to Florida anymore.

  20. Pierce R. Butler says

    Don Smith, FCD @ #18: Actually North Florida *is* Georgia.

    We call it Florgia.

    And the abundance of raw material puts the Gunshine State’s wacky-crime literature far ahead of the rest, even New York’s. In fact, Carl Hiaasen’s crown has been purloined by Tim Dorsey.

  21. T. Bruce McNeely says

    Forgot Tom Petty!
    (I don’t know if he lives there, but he grew up in Gainesville).

  22. Michael Suttkus, II says


    The Mote Marine Laboratory has a giant squid on display. A real giant squid! YES!

    We have more reptile species than any other state except Texas, which cheats for being so big. We have the highest species density of reptiles! Ditto amphibians.

    We’re the only place in the US to see the white peacock butterfly.

    Our worst natural disaster gives us a week or more of warning. TAKE THAT CALIFORNIA!

    Let’s face it, Florida Rocks.

    Now, if only I could do something about all the people.

  23. Louise Van Court says

    The Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples “Protecting our unique natural environment and quality of life… now and forever.”

  24. Heather says

    Florida DOES have Disneyworld, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Maybe for the 5 year olds.

    And as for Texas, well, I’ve lived here my whole life, and… um… we have… lots of oil wells? Oh wait, I’m supposed to be thinking of good things, right… We DON’T have the creationist museum, at least not yet. That’s a good thing, right?

  25. says

    1. The University of South Florida took over the Ringling Estate (yes, that Ringling), and turned 3 of the Spanish-style mansions on the property into classrooms and a 4th into an art museum. (Ringling loved Rubens – lots of naked fat women.) What a great place to take classes.

    2. Sparky has been retired.

    3. The oldest living manatee known (Snooty, who’ll be 60 this year), lives at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.

    4. You can swim with wild manatees in the winter in Crystal River.

    5. Sun-dazed days watching sharks, barracuda, snook, sheepshead, triggerfish, mackerel, dolphin, and pompano, while sitting on a warm, worn wooden city pier sticking far out into the gulf, fishing for hours with nothing biting.

  26. Darrell E says

    Well, even the little Indian River County Press Journal paper ran a positive article about evolution the other day. Basically stated that ID had no place in science classrooms.

  27. Diego says

    “Well, even the little Indian River County Press Journal paper ran a positive article about evolution the other day.”

    Oh yeah? That’s good news. I was born and raised in Indian River County and had noticed on the times that I would come back for a visit that there was a steady decline in the quality of the Press Journal. It’s good to see the paper performing a good service!

  28. Randall says

    > Our worst natural disaster gives us a week or more of warning. TAKE THAT CALIFORNIA!

    As a native Floridian who went to college in California, I second this.

    As for other things…we have a pretty big science museum in Fort Lauderdale, and I hear that we’re a top destination for oceanography research. Also, the weather’s nice when it’s not raining.

  29. True Bob says

    I am surprised nobody mentioned Kennedy Space Center, so I will. FL has Kennedy Space Center. And manatees. And huge ugly spiders (Nephila clavipes). And Spanish Moss. Palm Trees. Saint Augustine. And of course, the Florida Skunk Ape.

    Q. Why doesn’t Florida sink into the ocean?
    A. Because Georgia sucks.

  30. Kim van der Linde says

    As I am living in Tallahassee, I was thinking about organizing a public lecture for the BOE and interested public on evolution and teaching the controversy, that is, biologists way. The aim would be to first give a brief introduction in scientific method, scientific theory, fact etc. Then explain briefly evolution, and then go on to what are the real controversies related to evolution currently going on. When I floated that idea with a faculty member, he did not like it, and basically discouraged me. I am going to float this idea again with some other members, maybe this will go…..

  31. dwarf zebu says

    And as for Texas, well, I’ve lived here my whole life, and… um… we have… lots of oil wells? Oh wait, I’m supposed to be thinking of good things, right… We DON’T have the creationist museum, at least not yet. That’s a good thing, right?

    Um, sorry to burst your bubble, but you do:

  32. bill r says

    Fishing & Scuba & Beaches for the adults and Disney World/Universal Studio/Bush Gardens for the kids. A great place to visit when its below zero in Wisconsin, hey.

    Texas has the gulf coast and Six Flags Over Texas.

  33. Greg Peterson says

    I can trace much of my love for biology directly to Pennekamp Coral Reef in the Florida Keys. My parents took me there a few times when I was a kid, and I learned to dive there. Saw sharks and rays, got stung by a jellyfish, got messed up by fire coral. Got a stingray barb speared through my riving glove without knowing it, and when my mom was wringing the glove out, it went right into her hand. Went down to Key West, which has (or had) an amazingly good little municipal aquarium, which I thought was way cooler than SeaWorld or the Miami Seaquarium. The Glades aren’t too far from the Keys, and we made some trips over there and gators up close–way closer than common sense dictates. Snakes, lizards. The wildlife in Minnesota had grown a little invisible to me. You see squirrels and deer and foxes and stuff all the time, and it’s just screensaver. But Florida was a freakshow, in the good sense. That’s not the people I’m saying anything good about, I know. And really, I can’t. Never actually knew any, and what I hear now is pretty bad. But I have to give Florida’s wildlife credit for awakening–or reawakening–in me a much stronger appreciation for the natural world. For me, the path to Pharyngula definitely goes through the reefs and glades of Florida.

  34. BobC says

    The good news from Florida is our new science standards will probably get an “A” from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute instead of the “F” they gave to our old standards. All the complaining coming from our ignorant creationist school boards is strong evidence the scientists and science teachers who wrote our new science standards did an excellent job. The other good news is I can swim outside in January.

  35. Vera says

    this is a repeat, but Florida is the home of JREF, and The Amazing Meeting 5.5 (forgive me if I got the words for TAM wrong) is going on now.

    Also very pretty water. And fancy dressed people in Miami.

  36. says

    Y’know what else Florida has going for it?

    It’s got Diego, a very knowledgeable and well-spoken individual in person, and who REALLY ought to consider attending some of these school board meetings and helping to make the case for the new standards if he isn’t doing it already. FCFS ought to get him to help out with their efforts; I know he’d be good at it, and he’s had some personal experience bumping heads with North Florida’s Creationists in the past in an educational context.

    Waddya say, Diego? You know the people and culture in that part of the world better than almost anyone else I can think of who frequents science blogs and the like. I bet you could have an impact on things in at least one or two counties if you wanted to.

  37. Don Smith, FCD says

    Maybe, I shouldn’t have focused so much on my present situation in Central FL and thought about my university time. IMHO, University of Miami has a world class Arts & Sciences school. Other high-lights: The Everglades, John Pennekamp, prohibition of oil drilling off the coast, Kennedy Space Center, lots of sunshine, summer thunderstorms, ready access to cephalopods and other mollusks, and crustaceans, and echinoderms, and porifera, and cnidaria. Oh and worms. Also wouldn’t want to slight the vertebrates. The we can start talking about the other kingdoms well represented here too.

  38. says

    Florida has cute panthers (though not many of them, and the ones remaining are frighteningly low in genetic diversity). Florida is also where Susan Orlean did her research for The Orchid Thief, one of the most entertaining pieces of sorta-science writing I’ve ever read.

  39. says

    #46: And huge ugly spiders.

    One summer I was house-sitting for my folks during a 10 day series of non-stop storms that drove all the spiders inside. I woke up with a palm-sized spider on my chest (above the bedcovers, thankfully), one on the ceiling directly over the bed, and another giant on the back of the Prell bottle in the shower when I finally managed to overcome my paralysis and knock spider #1 off the bed.

    I spent the night with a friend, came back and found that our boat had broken off the davits and was sitting, outboard-first, in the river. (Dad forgot to take the plug out, and with all that rain…)

  40. Diego says

    Thanks for the praise, Mike. I’ve started some letter writing but haven’t done very much myself– mea culpa. But I’ll get off my arse and start contributing more to the good fight.

    That’s right, Bob. Simberloff was faculty at Florida State for a while too.

  41. Nemo says

    They say that if the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melts, Florida will be almost completely submerged. So, there’s that.

  42. ben says

    As I write, it is January 25th and the temperature here in South Florida is 72 degrees. There is a huge orange sun setting to the west over the Everglades and a gentle breze is blowing through the palms. I am wearing shorts and a light t-shirt. I can’t even remember where my heavy coat was hung.
    There are flowers blooming in the back yard.
    The windows are open and the heat hasn’t even been turned on in over a year.
    Yes we get rain – but then the sun re-appears and it’s back to the beach to watch the human form of evolution, wearing very little, cavort about.
    And – OH YES – least I forget – Florida is NOT the State that sent Jesse Helms to the Senate every 6 years since 1972 until his retirement last election.
    Florida may not be perfect – nor have the brightest individuals – but it sure beats NC, Ct, Il, Id & Ca – the other places I have lived.
    As for Florida pointing at Cuba – well when you’re that big you don’t need to point ! !
    Our taxes may be high but we have no state income tax – and it is the Snowbirds that pay a large portion of those taxes as well.
    So, come on down, stay a while, enjoy yourself. Lave your heavy coat at home, bring your Speedo and pay your share of our taxes while you’re here!!

  43. mothra says

    Sorry, but the White Peacock butterfly, Anartia jastrophae, is also found in Texas. Florida does have a great many arthropods which are endemic to the state or are unique for the United States. A few butterfly examples are: Schaus’s swallowtail, Bahama swallowtail, Bartham’s scrub hairstreak, Atala butterfly, Mangrove buckeye, Florida leafwing and Mangrove skipper. On a larger scale, nobody has mentioned Manatees. I added all those names just to make the post longer- Florida needs all the help it can get.

  44. Bee says

    You can grow gardenias outdoors in Florida, and their scent is awesome. Citrus groves are pretty nice. They have some of the most spectacularly coloured grasshoppers I have ever seen. And some really pretty snakes.

  45. Joseph says

    Good fruit, never far from a beach (if you like that kind of thing), the Orlando Science Center, Kennedy Space Center, nice variety of flora and fauna, hurricanes can be nifty… that’s about all I have right now.

  46. Mark says

    I’d like to add “most of Gainesville” to the list. Good local music (sometimes great music – Tom Petty, Less Than Jake, The Mercury Program), cool cafes, excellent roads and trails for cycling… and of course the University of Florida, along with the thriving cultural and entrepreneurial environment that the school fosters.

    (And Satchel’s: the best freaking deep dish pizza ever, if you don’t mind the wait.)

    Oh, and the natural springs, which can be found throughout much of North Florida. Hop in Ginnie Springs with a tube, let the current take you down the river, and have a barbecue with your friends while you dry off; that experience rewrote my definition of the idyllic summer day.

  47. True Bob says

    On a larger scale, nobody has mentioned Manatees.

    Mothra, please see post #48.

    And let me add pelicans

    an amazing bird is the pelican
    his beak can hold more than his belly can
    and no one knows how the hell he can

    and nature’s other lepers, armadillos!

  48. albinosquid says

    Here’s some good news for everyone: I am a recently-graduated product of the Pinellas County public education system.

    I went to a fundamental elementary school(small class sizes, high academic standards and mandatory parent/family participation) and attended a gifted program once a week at another school. I went to a math/science magnet program in middle school, and the International Baccalaureate program in high school…which got me a 100% Bright Futures scholarship for college. After my tuition was paid each semester, I’d get a check in the mail for the remainder of the money (usually about a thousand dollars).

    So basically Florida’s taxpayers paid for my entire education and then some, from beginning until now. My family would not have been able to pay for any of it.

    I graduated with my BA in fine art last spring and have been working full-time as a digital artist since. I’m seriously considering going back to school to study biology now.

    When I ‘grow up’, I want to produce creative media for science publications, documentaries, and museums. Illustration, installation, graphics/animation…something along those lines.

    My life and my very personality were shaped in huge part by the caring and dedicated teachers and staff at all of the schools I attended. This is my heartfelt thanks to all of you.

  49. AlanWCan says

    Can’t you just send Martin Sheen down there to knock some sense into them?
    This clip is from westwing, a fantasy reality where chimpy didn’t get to steal the election and squat in the whitehouse for 8 fucking years, and is based on this letter to Dr. Laura. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had politicos with the ability and inclination to do this?
    I saw Harvey Fierstein on HBO years ago do one of his brilliant fierce out monologues and he ran through a lot of the same points. Can’t find a clip though…

  50. says

    Well, finally, a post I can link my URL to without seeming egotistically off-topic ;-)

    Florida is distinctly sub-tropic, almost surreal to anyone used to the northern states: palms, ferns, swamps, lizards everywhere, tropical birds (none of them native), unbelievable sea life… I could go on for a while. Incredibly easy access to wildlife in uncountable forms, loads of unspoiled areas (just avoid the cities), Ding Darling refuge, Merritt Island refuge, the Keys, the ‘Glades, Corkscrew Swamp, Venice Rookery, and on and on.

    Warm water, clear skies, low allergens, the Gulf Coast. Fierce storms that (usually) blow through in 20 minutes and turn perfectly clear again. The best place to photograph lightning. Seafood you can catch yourself. Manatees that visit the local docks, rays and sea turtles.

    Biologically, it’s fascinating. Ecologically and meteorologically too. And the people are remarkably friendly, at least compared to North Carolina (southern hospitality my ass – you soon realize Carolinians can’t spell “hostility” correctly).

    Ignore the politics, pay attention to your kids (seriously, an “alternate theory” isn’t that hard to clear their heads of), and never go to Miami. No sweat.

    People can be stupid, but we don’t have to focus our lives on them ;-)

  51. mothra says

    Thanks True Bob! I overlooked the manatee post.

    I have always liked the pelican poem:

    A wonderful bird is the pelican,
    his beak can hold more than his belly can.
    He can hold in his beak,
    enough fish for a week.
    And I don’t see how the hell he can.

    Way back, in herpetology, I compiled a complete bibliography of the Pterosauria -1985. I ended it with this:

    A magnificent herp was Pteranodon.
    With pinionless wings, not to flap upon.
    Warm blooded, with fur,
    a reptile, sure.
    Now I wonder where the halcyon.

  52. mothra says

    Too much time, I forgot a line:

    A magnificent herp was Pteranodon.
    With pinionless wings, not to flap upon.
    Over Cretaceous seas, a glider gone.
    Warm blooded, with fur,
    a reptile, sure.
    Now I wonder where the halcyon.