Ah, Louisiana … home of the taxpayer-funded Accelerated Christian “Education” program, which tells children that the Loch Ness Monster exists, dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons, and that there is “serious debate” among scientists as to whether evolution is real. I weep for your children.
As if publicly funded creationist propaganda isn’t enough, it also passed a law a few years back – the “Louisiana Science Education Act“:
“… to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
Why in the world would a Bible Belt state legislature want to put into law something schools do anyway, but only point out specific “controversial” topics in the bill? Let’s read on:
C. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board unless otherwise prohibited by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“But wait,” I hear you cry. “This isn’t all that bad. It’s just a law to allow teachers to bring in outside material to help with their coursework.” Well, if it were that simple, there would be no need for a law to protect their activity; they would just do it with the blessing of the school.
The entire reason for the legislation, is because of one specific source of teaching material mentioned therein: the parish. By enshrining this seemingly innocuous activity into law, they are legally protecting teachers who wish to teach pseudoscience like creationism or climate change denial by allowing them to get their “science” coursework straight from places like the church … or worse.
[EDIT: hey, did you know that Louisiana doesn't have counties, but administrative divisions they call "parishes" that are throwbacks from French colonial days? You probably did; I sure as hell didn't. So while the wording of the bill sounds a bit less overtly dangerous, its interpretation on the part of some lawmakers and the governor himself still make it so.]
If you think I’m going too far out on a limb on this one, let me give you testimony from both sides of the aisle. First, we have Democratic Senator Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas) endorsing faith healers based on his individual personal experience …
[Guillory] said he had reservations with repealing the act after a spiritual healer correctly diagnosed a specific medical ailment he had. He said he thought repealing the act could “lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures.”
“Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man — in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed — if I had closed him off and just said, ‘That’s not science. I’m not going to see this doctor,’ I would have shut off a very good experience for myself,” Guillory said.
In the dust, throwing bones on the ground, semi-clothed. YOU’RE RIGHT. THAT IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT SCIENCE. Well okay, look … if this guy is actually doing something useful and it works, then have him draft a paper for peer review in the New England Journal of Medicine. Don’t politically bypass the best method we have for scrutinizing this stuff because he happened to be right this time around. How many times has he been wrong? Do you even know? Do you care?
I bet he didn’t even activate your DNA.
Not only do we have Elbert and Dr. Loincloth, but Governor Bobby Jindal himself concurs with the creationist interpretation of the law that its opponents are so afraid of:
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently expressed his support of the Act, essentially admitting that it’s a way to get creationism into science class. In response to a question by NBC’s Hoda Qutb, Jindal had this to say:
“We have what’s called the Science Education Act that says that if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board is okay with that, if the state school board is okay with that, they can supplement those materials… Let’s teach them — I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let’s teach them about ‘intelligent design’…What are we scared of?”
It all depends on where you want to do it. Given the name of the law – the “Science Education Act”, you’re not talking about a philosophy or comparative religion class. You’re talking about shoving Young Earth Creationism into the science classroom and claiming it has just as much validity as scientific theory. If you want to bring it into the science classroom to show everyone how such things don’t even qualify as testable hypotheses much less theories in anything but the colloquial sense, then that’s OK, I guess. Anything that grants it legitimacy, though, is out of the question … and any politician with a basic education should know that.
Any rational minded person – religious or not – should be scared of this prospect. Legislation like this undermines the role and significance of science when discussing issues that – while not controversial – are politically inconvenient for the Republican Party and conservative Christians.
Bill 26, which was sponsored by Senator Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), was defeated by a narrow vote of 2-3 in the Louisiana Senate Education Committee. The vote came after hours of testimony, including a formal statement made by Kopplin. Peterson sponsored the identical SB 70 in 2011 and SB 374 in 2012, which were defeated 1-5 and 1-2 respectively.
The repeal effort was supported by numerous high profile scientists including 78 Nobel Laureates, as well as science education groups who see this as yet another effort by Christian politicians to undermine the scientific community in the classroom. They remained unsuccessful, but optimistic that they will succeed within the next couple of years. Here’s hoping.