News Reports, Editorials, and Analyses of the
Discovery Institute-Written and -Misnamed "Academic Freedom" Bills
and the New Science Education Act Passed in Louisiana
Texas Citizens for Science
Panel OKs bill on science texts
by Bill Barrow
The New Orleans Times-Picayune
Friday April 18, 2008
BATON ROUGE -- Louisiana public school science teachers could use certain supplemental materials under a bill that supporters cast as a measure to encourage robust debate on issues such as evolution, global warming and human cloning.
Detractors on Thursday blasted the proposed Louisiana Science Education Act as a back-door attempt to inject the biblical story of creation into the classroom.
Despite the nearly two-hour debate, Senate Bill 561 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, passed the Senate Education Committee without opposition.
The bill would allow the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon a local school board's request, to give teachers "support and guidance . . . regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories." Further, a teacher could use state-approved "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials."
Dominique Magee, a native of St. Tammany Parish who said she was educated in public schools and colleges in Louisiana, told senators the bill was needed because science teachers and professors often dismiss students who question the subject matter as presented. "Students want to be challenged," she said.
Nevers said, "This bill has nothing to do with creationism. This is about letting teachers teach good science." Nevers accepted an amendment that eliminated specific references to "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning."
A bank of witnesses argued against the revised bill anyway.
Patsye Peebles, a 23-year veteran of East Baton Rouge public schools and Louisiana State University classrooms, said good science teachers already reach beyond the textbook and are willing to engage students' questions.
Fred Enright, an LSU professor and head of the school's veterinary science division, said that "evolution has been tested and decided over the last 100 years." What is up for continued scientific debate, he said, is the causation of a specific evolutionary path.
Peebles echoed that argument, dismissing Magee's plea to bring in outside materials that challenge the accepted theory of evolution. "She was not a scientist. She did not know how to interpret these materials."
William Hansel, a researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, said, "All scientists are against this bill," adding that the bill is "an invasion of state by religion."
Two senators with science backgrounds defended Nevers' idea.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge and a physician, said, "I like the fact that we have these young folks saying, 'Let's look under the hood.' . . . This is not a debate about evolution. This is a debate about debate."
Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Covington, said his academic training -- engineering -- is built on "making determination based on facts." He said, "I want my children to be exposed to all the arguments."
'Teachers are scared'
One supporter, meanwhile, disputed Nevers' characterization that the bill is not about creationism.
David Tate, a Livingston Parish School Board member, said after the meeting, "I believe that both sides -- the creationism side and the evolution side -- should be presented and let students decide what they believe." Tate said the bill is needed because "teachers are scared to talk about" creation, even when students bring it up.
Tate asked Nevers in the hallway about offering a class built around a debate between the two views of biological development. Nevers deferred to lawyers but said a science curriculum that includes the biblical account of creation would "violate the U.S. Constitution."
In a campaign debate last fall, Jindal, a biology and public policy double major at Brown University, said the state "should not be afraid" of public school discussions venturing beyond established theories about the origins of life.
Bill Barrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (225) 342-5590.
Evolution's Critics Shift Tactics With Schools
Pressure Hits States For Education Bills; A National Push
by Stephanie Simon
The Wall Street Journal
May 2, 2008
They have spent years working school boards, with only minimal success. Now critics of evolution are turning to a higher authority: state legislators.
In a bid to shape biology lessons, they are promoting what they call "academic freedom" bills that would encourage or require public-school teachers to cast doubt on a cornerstone of modern science.
A handful of states have considered such bills in recent years, but backers are now organizing a national movement, with high-profile help from actor Ben Stein. His new documentary, "Expelled," argues that educators suffer reprisals if they dare question evolution; in an attempt to spur action, he has held private screenings for legislators, including a recent showing in the Missouri statehouse.
The academic-freedom bills now in circulation vary in detail. Some require teachers to critique evolution. Others let educators choose their approach -- but guarantee they won't be disciplined should they decide to build a case against Darwin.
The common goal: To expose more students to articles and videos that undercut evolution. Most of this material is produced by advocates of intelligent design or Biblical creationism, the belief that God created man in his present form.
"The creationist legal strategy has gotten more and more sophisticated," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit that promotes the teaching of evolution.
Both houses of the Florida legislature passed academic freedom bills this month, but it is unclear whether backers can reconcile the two versions before the spring session closes Friday. If not, they will have to try again next year. Prospects may be better in Louisiana, where the state Senate this week unanimously approved a bill ensuring that teachers can go beyond the biology textbook to raise criticisms of evolution. Similar bills have just been introduced in Alabama and Michigan and this week passed through a house committee in Missouri.
"It shouldn't be a crime for teachers to give the best evidence for evolutionary theory and then, if they want, spend a day saying, 'Some people are raising questions,'" said John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.
The nonprofit institute, based in Seattle, promotes the theory that life was created by an unknown designer, possibly divine. It recently launched a petition drive to spur more states to take up such bills.
The legislative push builds on an emerging strategy developed by conservative Christians who consider evolution ungodly and a small group of scientists who find it implausible.
Over the last decade, these skeptics tried repeatedly to push Darwin out of -- or wedge alternatives to evolution into -- public-school science curricula. Those efforts largely failed, rebuffed by the courts or rejected by voters.
So activists regrouped. Their new tactic: Embrace lessons on evolution. In fact, insist students deserve to learn more -- including classes that probe the theory for weakness. They believe -- and their opponents agree -- that this approach will prove more acceptable to the public and harder to challenge in court.
Those promoting the new bills emphasize that academic freedom doesn't mean biology teachers can read aloud from the Book of Genesis. "This doesn't bring religion into the classroom," said Florida state Rep. D. Alan Hays, a Republican.
The bills typically restrict lessons to "scientific" criticism of evolution, or require that critiques be presented "in an objective manner," or approved by a local school board.
Evolution's defenders respond that there are no credible scientific critiques of evolution, any more than there are credible alternatives to the theory of gravity. The fossil record, DNA analysis and observations of natural selection confirm Darwin's hypothesis that all life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor over four billion years.
In the scientific community, while there may be debate about the details, the grand sweep of evolution is unassailable. "There's no controversy," said Jay Labov, a senior adviser for education and communication with the National Academy of Sciences.
But Gallup polls consistently show that nearly half of American adults reject evolution. A third are upset that schools teach it, according to Gallup.
Several states, including South Carolina and Pennsylvania, have passed science standards requiring students to think critically about evolution.
Ms. Scott, of the science-education group, regards the academic-freedom bills as a more serious threat to evolution education because they give teachers so much latitude. "This is basically a get-out-of-jail-free card for creationist teachers," she said.
So far, few teachers have come forward in favor of these bills. The Florida Education Association, which represents 140,000 teachers, opposes the concept.
Doug Cowan, a public-school biology teacher, said his colleagues are often afraid to speak out.
Mr. Cowan said he tells students: "I'm going to give you the evidence for evolution and the evidence against, and let you decide." For instance, he'll mention Darwin's observation that finches evolve different-shaped beaks to suit different ecosystems. Then he'll add that you don't see a finch changing into another species.
Asked what evidence he presents to bolster evolution, Mr. Cowan paused. "I don't have any," he said.
Mr. Cowan's principal said that teachers are not supposed to veer from the approved textbooks. That's why Mr. Cowan would like a legal guarantee he can teach as he sees fit.
"This is America," Mr. Cowan said. "My gosh. Why walk on eggshells?"
Write to Stephanie Simon at email@example.com
Anti-science law threatens tech jobs of future
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Re: "Religious instruction doesn't fit in science class," Your Opinions, April 30.
The 21st-century economy will require a new generation of scientists and engineers, and signs point to trouble ahead for New Orleans and Louisiana. Employers already are struggling to fill science and tech jobs, and recent test scores show that 53 percent of the state's eighth-graders -- the workforce of tomorrow -- lack basic competence in science.
It is therefore alarming that the Louisiana Senate has passed a bill that directly threatens science education.
Proponents offer deceptive arguments about encouraging students to think critically. But Louisiana's education standards already do that.
The real intent is to introduce classroom materials that raise misleading objections to the well-documented science of evolution and offer a religious idea called intelligent design as a supposed alternative. That would unleash an assault against scientific integrity, leaving students confused about science and unprepared to excel in a modern workforce.
The intelligent design campaign has spent millions to invent a so-called scientific debate about evolution that does not exist in the scientific community. In fact, every major science and medical society in the world embraces evolution as the explanation for how life has developed on Earth.
Of course we all have a right to interpret the origins of life based on our faith. But there's no need to pit religion against science. The Catholic Church and thousands of U.S. religious leaders from many denominations say evolution and faith are compatible.
Can intelligent design be discussed in schools? Perhaps in humanities class. But courts repeatedly have ruled that creationism and intelligent design are religious arguments that can't be taught in science class.
Rather than provoke an expensive, divisive legal fight, we'd be better off doing everything we can to ensure the best possible science education for the next generation of problem-solvers.
Alan I. Leshner
Chief Executive Officer
American Association for the Advancement of Science
EVOLUTION IN THE SCHOOLS:
States Push Academic Freedom Bills
Science 9 May 2008:
Vol. 320. no. 5877, p. 731
If creationism is a mutating virus, as many educators believe, then its latest guise is legislation to protect "academic freedom."
Politicians in five U.S. states are pushing bills to enable educators to teach alternatives to evolution by protecting their "right" to discuss with students the idea of intelligent design (ID). Last week, scientists in Florida heaved a sigh of relief when the state legislature adjourned without reconciling differing versions of a bill seen as promoting ID. Similar legislation appears to have a good chance of passing in Louisiana, however, and is gathering steam in Missouri. Bills have also been introduced in Alabama and Michigan.
The language in the bills is modeled on a statute drafted by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington, a prominent ID think tank. "They provide a permission slip for teachers to teach creationism--as long as it's called 'science,' " says Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California. "If any one of them passes, it is going to be very encouraging to creationists in other states." Backers are hoping for a lift from a current movie with actor Ben Stein, called Expelled, that accuses scientists of silencing those who question evolutionary theory.
In Florida, ID supporters lobbied for a bill that would protect teachers from being "disciplined, denied tenure, terminated, or otherwise discriminated against for objectively presenting scientific views regarding biological or chemical evolution." On 23 April, the state Senate passed it by a vote of 21 to 17. But the House sponsor, D. Alan Hays, replaced the Senate language with a single line that instead would require public schools to provide "a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." Hays's legislative assistant, Tiffany Rousseau, told Science that the change was made due to fears that conferring protection upon teachers "might be unconstitutional."
On 28 April, the House voted 71-43 in favor of Hays's legislation. But attempts at reconciliation failed. Senator Ronda Storms, who sponsored the bill, told the Florida Baptist Witness that "the House vehicle [had] veered off of the sure path to our destination."
In Louisiana, state senators voted unanimously that the state school board should promote "open and objective discussion of scientific theories … including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." A House committee was expected to take up the measure this week.
"It has been difficult to rally opposition," says Barbara Forrest, a philosopher at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. Forrest and other educators have formed the Louisiana Coalition for Science in a bid to block the legislation. Backers of the bill include the conservative Louisiana Family Forum.
Groups opposed to teaching creationism are likely to challenge any proposal that becomes law. But they would prefer to defeat the movement earlier. "One can reasonably conclude that the freedom [these bills] are trying to empower teachers with is to present the same material that was found unconstitutional in the Dover case, namely intelligent design," says Eric Rothschild, who represented the plaintiffs in their suit against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board (Science, 6 January 2006, p. 34). But mounting a judicial challenge could be a costly and time-consuming process, Rothschild warns: "It's always better for bad laws to be avoided by legislators themselves."
'Academic Freedom' Used as Basis Of Bills to Question Evolution
By Sean Cavanagh
Vol. 27, Issue 37, Pages 1,15v
Published Online: May 12, 2008
Published in Print: May 14, 2008
In another twist in the decades-long battle over evolution's status in public school science classrooms, state legislators are arguing that teachers have a right to raise doubts about that essential scientific theory as a matter of free speech.
Similarly worded bills that attempt to protect the right of educators and students to present critiques of evolution on the basis of "academic freedom" have emerged in at least five states.
Those measures do not call for teaching "intelligent design" or biblically based creationism. Instead, they generally describe evolution as controversial and seek to bar school administrators from interfering with teachers who describe what they see as flaws in the theory.
"Science moves forward when students and researchers are allowed to critically examine theories and the evidence that supports or does not support them," said state Rep. John Moolenaar, a Michigan Republican and the sponsor of one such bill. His proposal, he said, "will encourage educators to promote a healthy scientific debate."
The overwhelming scientific consensus, however, is that there is no debate about the core principles of evolution, which scientists regard as the only credible, and thoroughly tested, scientific explanation for the development of human and other life on Earth, and for its diversity of species.
Opponents of the bills see them as repackaged attempts to introduce religious concepts into science lessons by falsely implying evolutionary theory is riddled with doubt.
"Teachers don't need this kind of protection—unless it's about teaching creationism," said Josh Rosenau, a spokesman for the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif., organization that supports the teaching of evolution. "If teachers are teaching legitimate science, they're not going to get in trouble."
The recent legislation has emerged after years of court decisions rejecting state and local attempts to promote, in public school science, what judges have deemed religiously based views of life's development.
The most recent came in late 2005, when a federal judge in Pennsylvania issued a landmark opinion declaring that intelligent design—the belief that humans and other living things show signs of having been created by an unnamed architect—is not science, but rather a descendant of biblically based creationism. ("Possible Road Map Seen in Dover Case," Jan. 4, 2006.)
In that case, the judge ruled that a policy adopted by the rural Dover, Pa., district mandating that students be exposed to the design concept violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against government establishment of religion.
Recent state legislative proposals, introduced not just in Michigan, but also in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Missouri, make no mention of creationism or intelligent design. In fact, each of them specifies that they are not promoting religious doctrine.
Instead, they describe evolution as controversial or subject to doubt. A number of them, including Rep. Moolenaar's bill, advocate allowing teachers to discuss "scientific strengths" and "scientific weaknesses" of scientific theories, though they do not define what constitutes a legitimate scientific analysis. The Michigan lawmaker's proposal also identifies humans' role in climate change and human cloning as science topics that "can cause controversy."
The theory of evolution, as put forth by the British naturalist Charles Darwin in the mid-19th century, holds that humans and other living things have evolved over time through natural selection and mutation.
Sen. Ronda Storms, right, talks with Rep. Alan Hays during Senate debate on the evolution bill on April 23, in Tallahassee, Fla. The bill, which Storms sponsored in the Senate and Hays sponsored in the House died. Mr. Hays said he plans to introduce similar legislation next year.
Evolution is one of the most widely accepted theories in science, supported by evidence from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, geology, chemistry, and physics. While scientists acknowledge that questions remain about certain mechanisms of evolution, as they do in every area of science, they say there is no doubt about the core tenets of the theory.
Scientific inquiry today focuses on "how, not whether, evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur," says a report issued earlier this year by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, congressionally chartered research organizations.
State and local officials skeptical of evolution have previously maintained that they only seek to subject the theory to the same critical review that should be directed at any area of science. But many scientists have noted that such arguments, which also emerged during the Dover legal battle, mislead students by attempting to isolate evolution as worthy of skepticism and scrutiny.
In his ruling in the Pennsylvania case, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III indicated that he also found that the Dover school board, which had described evolution as "a theory" and "not a fact," seemed to be holding Darwin's theory to a different standard. That policy "single[d] out evolution from the rest of the science curriculum and informs students that evolution, unlike anything else they are learning, is 'just a theory,' " wrote the judge.
Tom Hutton, a senior staff lawyer for the National School Boards Association, in Alexandria, Va., said that as a general rule, state legislators have a legal right to craft laws that affect districts' policies; he believes some decisions are better left to local officials.
But he also suggested that the recent academic-freedom proposals, if enacted, could face difficult legal tests in the courts. Despite language in the measures stating that they are not promoting religious views, and wording that promotes "scientific" rather than religious critiques, a judge is likely to question the motives behind the proposals, and the special scrutiny they seem to apply to evolution, he added.
"A court might say, 'Look, we know what's going on here,' " Mr. Hutton said.
The courts have generally not afforded significant free-speech protections to teachers for remarks made in classroom settings, said Michael Simpson, a lawyer for the National Education Association.
The legality of academic-freedom measures would depend on several unknowns, he added, such as how individual teachers presented their critical views of evolution in their classes, and possibly whether the legislation is in accordance with other state policies, such as state science curriculum.
Lobbying Via the Big Screen
The state proposals include language similar or virtually identical to model academic-freedom legislation supported by the Discovery Institute, a pro-intelligent-design organization based in Seattle. A Web site, www.academicfreedompetition.com, presents the legislation and an online petition in support of those efforts.
That site also promotes a pro-intelligent-design film now playing in theaters, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," narrated by the actor Ben Stein. ("Coming Soon: Movie Backs 'Intelligent Design'," Feb. 27, 2008.)
Casey Luskin, a spokesman for the Discovery Institute, said the academic-freedom model legislation served as a blueprint for several state proposals over the past few years. He dismissed the idea that the bills would allow the insertion of religious doctrine. Such criticism "is refuted by the clear language of the bills," he wrote in an e-mail.
"College is usually the place [where you hear discussions of] academic freedom," Mr. Rosenau said. "In high school, what you want taught is good science."
Rep. Alan D. Hays, a Florida Republican who introduced one of the two "academic freedom" bills debated in that state this year, said he introduced the bill partly because he had heard from science teachers who were afraid to raise questions about evolution because they might draw the scorn of school administrators and others.
"I want our teachers teaching students how to think," Mr. Hays said, "not what to think."
Reaction to the bill was mixed, and strong, he added. "I've had some people who think I'm a hero and others who think I'm a bloomin' idiot," the lawmaker said.
Both Mr. Hays' bill and a separate measure, sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storms, also a Republican, died at the end of the Florida legislative session early this month, when House and Senate lawmakers could not resolve differences between them. Mr. Hays said he plans to introduce similar legislation next year.
Florida was among the stops made by Mr. Stein in a tour promoting his film. The actor staged a private showing of the documentary in Tallahassee, which was attended by several state lawmakers, including Rep. Hays.
In the film, Mr. Stein says that scholars who have questioned various aspects of evolution or supported intelligent design have seen their opinions stifled by the academic community. The movie earned $6.6 million in box-office receipts through mid-April, according to boxofficemojo.com, a Web site on the movie industry. The film's site, www.expelledthemovie.com, touts several promotions and resources for students.
Mr. Rosenau, of the National Center for Science Education, said the filmmakers and lawmakers were attempting to draw a link between the academic-freedom arguments common to higher education, and K-12, with regard to criticism of evolution. He hoped the public would not buy into that connection. His organization has set up a Web site disputing the film's claims, www.expelledexposed.com.
Coverage of mathematics, science, and technology education is supported by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, at www.kauffman.org.
Creationism's Latest Mutation
Red-herring arguments about 'academic freedom' can't be allowed to undermine the teaching of evolution.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; Page A12
No one would think it acceptable for a teacher to question the existence of gravity or to suggest that two plus two equals anything but four. It's mystifying, then, that a movement to undermine the teaching of evolutionary biology is attracting some support. Equally perverse is that this misguided effort is being advanced under the false guise of academic freedom.
Bills that would protect teachers critical of the findings of Charles Darwin appeared in five states this year, and legislators in others are said to be considering similar moves. Florida came perilously close to inviting creationism back into the classroom, but its legislative session ended before different versions of its bill could be reconciled. Supporters say they will be back. It's all part of a national movement emboldened by a new film from writer and actor Ben Stein that purports to speak out for free expression by educators.
What's insidious about these measures is that at first blush they appear so harmless. Isn't everyone in favor of academic freedom? What's so wrong about allowing all sides of an issue to be heard? Why should teachers be punished for speaking their minds? Those arguments might have standing if there were any doubt about the reality of evolution, but, as an official with the National Academy of Sciences told the Wall Street Journal, "There's no controversy." Consider, also, that there really is no such thing as academic freedom in elementary and secondary education. A teacher can't deviate from the accepted curriculum to present alternative lesson plans or to offer his or her own notions. The Florida teachers association opposed the bills, though ostensibly they are meant to benefit educators. Clearly, the strategy is to devise an end run around legal decisions -- going all the way to the Supreme Court -- that restrict the teaching of creationism in public classrooms.
Louisiana advances bills on evolution
Senator abandons attempt to outlaw 'therapeutic cloning'
The Associated Press
May 21, 2008
BATON ROUGE -- Legislation proponents say will promote "critical analysis" of scientific issues, including evolution, in public schools today won easy passage in a state House of Representatives committee.
Science teachers called Senate Bill 733 a veiled attempt to add religion to science classes.
Sen. Ben Nevers' proposal would require the state education board to, upon request from any local school board in the state, "allow and assist" schools to promote "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories" including, but not limited to, evolution, global warming, and human cloning.
It also would allow teachers to present science classes with materials in addition to state-approved textbooks -- a provision opponents said would allow teachers with religious agendas to slip religion into science classes.
An amendment added by Rep. Don Trahan, R-Lafayette and the committee's chairman, would give the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education the ability to prohibit introduction of materials. But that didn't mollify the bill's opponents.
"Anything could get into the classroom," said Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of the Louisiana Coalition for Science.
Forrest, author of the book "Creationism's Trojan Horse," said BESE would not have the ability to review and block all nonscientific materials. She joined other opponents of Nevers' bill in labeling it as an attempt to introduce religion into science classes following earlier setbacks.
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law promoting "scientific creationism." In 2005, a federal court ruled the Dover, Pa., public school district could not teach the concept of "intelligent design" as part of its science class.
Nevers, D-Bogalusa, denied any ulterior motive and noted language in the bill stating it "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine."
"I plainly state in this bill that no religion will be taught," Nevers said.
Today's committee hearing on the bill lasted close to three hours.
Caroline Crocker, a biologist and backer of the "intelligent design" concept -- the universe's order and complexity are so great evolution cannot explain it -- said Darwinian evolution is outdated and doesn't explain new findings in science. She also said she had been persecuted in the academic world because of her views.
But Frederick Enright, a professor in LSU AgCenter's veterinary science department, said while evolution may be controversial in some circles, "biological evolution really is not scientifically controversial."
Nevers' bill, already approved by the Senate, goes next to the House of Representatives. If approved there, the issue could wind up before BESE. That board is charged in the bill with developing rules and regulations on the issue and, which, because of Trahan's amendment, could prohibit teachers from introducing certain materials into science classes.
Nevers' bill is one of two before lawmakers that deal with controversies involving science and religion. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee today advanced a House-passed bill outlawing government funding for what is sometimes called "therapeutic cloning."
The process, called somatic cell nuclear transfer, involves removing the 23 chromosomes from an egg cell and replacing them with a full set of 46 chromosomes from a skin or some other nonreproductive cell. Theoretically, the newly created cell could be stimulated so that it begins dividing, developing to the stage where it would produce human embryonic stem cells. Those cells could be induced to grow into a variety of tissues that might yield treatments and cures for diabetes and other ailments.
But withdrawing stem cells kills the original mass of cells, which opponents of the process say is a human life due full protection of the law. Those who want to keep the process legal say the embryo created could not become a true human being and should not be treated as a human life.
Sen. Dan Morrish, R-Jennings, today abandoned an attempt to outlaw the practice altogether. Putting aside his House Bill 370 that would have included a 10-year prison sentence for anyone found guilty of human cloning, he instead supported a bill by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans, that would ban government funding for the practice.
Louisiana House Education Committee Unanimously Passes Academic Freedom Bill
Posted by Casey Luskin
Discovery Institute, Evolution News and Views
May 22, 2008
Baton Rouge, LA – Yesterday the Louisiana House Education Committee unanimously passed SB 733, an academic freedom bill. The bill requires that Louisiana schools shall "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." The passage followed testimony from four Ph.D. scientists, including three biologists, who testified in favor of the bill.
One biology professor from Louisiana College, Dr. Wade Warren, testified about how during his graduate studies at Texas A & M, the dean ordered him cease discussing scientific problems with students. Another biochemist, Dr. Brenda Peirson, testified about how random mutation and natural selection cannot produce many of the complex biological systems we see in the cell.
One of those scientists, Dr. Caroline Crocker, testified about her experience losing her job at George Mason University after she taught students about scientific arguments against neo-Darwinism. Southern University law professor and constitutional law expert Michelle Ghetti also testified that the bill was "perfectly constitutional." After the scientists and other educators testified about the scientific problems with neo-Darwinism and the need to protect academic freedom, one LSU Darwinist biologist, Dr. Bryan Carstens, who opposed the bill had the temerity to claim: "let us be clear that there is no controversy among professional biologists about fact of evolution." The glaring weakness in his false argument was not lost upon members of the legislature: he was immediately pressed by one legislator on the committee who asked the following:
In the document you just read and gave to us, in bold print it says, 'let us be clear there is no controversy among biologists about the fact of evolution.' Did you hear the testimony of the other professors we had here that were speaking before this committee?
Dr. Carstens then showed his intolerance towards professional biologists who were Darwin-skeptics. Carstens refused to admit their existence and in fact only admitted that faculty who testified against evolution had Ph.D.'s in "chemistry." Of course only one of the Ph.D.'s was a chemist, and three of them were professional biologists. The truth of the matter is that Dr. Carstens' entire statement shows the intolerance towards Darwin-skeptics in the scientific community: Not only was he unable and unwilling to admit, under oath, the existence of the three professional biologists who had just testified against evolution before the committee, but his statement asserted the blatantly false claim that "there is no controversy among professional biologists about fact of evolution." It's tough to convince people of that claim when three professional biologists testified otherwise.
Of course Dr. Carstens has every right to testify in favor of evolution. But to testify that there is "no controversy" among "professional biologists" implies that scientists who doubt Darwinism do not exist. Imagine you are an LSU biologist with fundamental doubts about Darwinism and you see your colleagues signing a statement asserting that your views don't exist. Would the declaration of the LSU biologists that there is "no controversy" over evolution make you confident that you have the academic freedom to express such dissenting views in the laboratory or the classroom? Of course not. In fact, Dr. Carstens' testimony, and his intolerant behavior, validate the need for this academic freedom bill.
It was clear from the hearing that Louisiana Darwinists are growing more and more desperate. Like their dogmatic compatriots in Florida who still proudly proclaim that academic freedom is "smelly crap" Darwinists are making absurd claims in their desperation to keep anyone from questioning Darwinian evolution as taught in public schools. American's United for Separation of Church & State is now attacking home-schoolers:
Yesterday's hearing was packed with home-schoolers wearing stickers in support of the bill. Home schoolers won't be affected by the measure, of course, so it doesn't take much analysis to see what's going on here. (Kids, you may have learned something about politics, but you flunked science. Be sure to tell your momma when you get home so she can change your report cards.)
AUSCS then concludes:
SB 733 is a step backward, dragging science education in Louisiana toward the medieval swamp of theocracy.
Theocracy? We shouldn't be too surprised, by their own admission their testimony to the Louisiana State House Committee on Education was "frantic." Yet ironically, Barbara Forrest's testimony was especially conspiratorial when she warned legislators that "Discovery Institute is watching your every move"! What Darwinists always fail to point out is that the testimony legislators heard supporting the evolution academic freedom view was from scientists, including professional biologists, not-home schoolers.
Louisiana 'Academic Freedom' Bill Advances to House Floor
Christian Post Reporter
Friday, May 23, 2008
The Louisiana House Education Committee unanimously agreed on Wednesday to submit a bill for review in the legislature that would grant teachers and students the freedom to challenge and examine critically the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom.
The "Science Education Act" is the latest measure in a series of "Academic Freedom" bills that have swept across Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, and Michigan. A similar measure was also under review in Florida before stalling in the state's legislature.
Lawmakers say that the efforts to pass the bills are a response to allegations that teachers and students who share views contradicting or challenging the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom are marginalized, discriminated, or ostracized.
Although legislators emphasize that the bill would "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," detractors claim the bill is part of an agenda to install religion in schools.
"This bill isn't about improving education in Louisiana; it's about sneaking religion into the science classroom," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United (AU) in a statement.
"If this passes, Louisiana legislators will be harming children's education, undercutting the Constitution and holding the state up to national ridicule. People will be asking whether Flintstones cartoons are going to be introduced as documentaries in Louisiana science classes," he added.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nevers, a sponsor of the bill, however, denied the allegation.
"There is no language in here submitted by some secret agent trying to teach religion in public schools," he said according to The Times Picayune.
The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based pro-intelligent design think-tank which has monitored the bill's progress, said that the bill's opponents were wrongly trying to silence discussion on the merits of the bill's protection of freedoms.
The group pointed out that numerous chemists and biologists had testified at the bill's hearing that they were denied tenure, fired, or subject to "academic bullying" because they had submitted evidence that contradicted aspects of Darwinism.
"It was clear from the hearing that Louisiana Darwinists are growing more and more desperate," the group said in statement. "Like their dogmatic compatriots in Florida who still proudly proclaim that academic freedom is 'smelly cr**' Darwinists are making absurd claims in their desperation to keep anyone from questioning Darwinian evolution as taught in public schools."
In order for the bill to become law, the bill will have to be voted on by the Louisiana House before being confirmed by the Senate.
'Academic freedom' bill dangerous distraction
May 28, 2008
Louisiana, like many states, is looking to information-based industries as engines of 21st century economic growth, but signs point to trouble ahead: statewide, employment in the information sector is at its lowest level since 1998.
Employers are having trouble finding top-flight computer programming staff. And recent national test scores show more than half of the state's eighth-graders -- 53 percent -- lack basic competence in science.
Given such serious challenges, it is alarming that the Louisiana Senate and a key House committee have passed a bill that would undermine science instruction in public schools, despite strong opposition from scientists, teachers and others. Sponsored by Sen. Ben Nevers, the "academic freedom" bill would give educators license to question, on nonscientific grounds, core scientific facts like evolution.
But the bill isn't truly about academic freedom. It is designed to introduce a religious idea called intelligent design into science classrooms. If it becomes law, the bill would unleash an assault against scientific integrity, leaving students confused about the fundamental nature of science and unprepared to excel in a work force that increasingly requires science-related skills.
That creates risk for all of Louisiana -- not just educational risk, but economic and legal risk, too. And the bills pit religion against science when, as many religious and scientific leaders agree, they can comfortably co-exist.
Louisiana has been here before. In the 1980s, lawmakers required equal time for creationism in science classes where evolution was taught. That was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, after considerable legal costs and damage to Louisiana's global reputation.
More recently, creationists and the intelligent design campaign have invested heavily in manufacturing a scientific debate over evolution, but there really is no controversy. Every major science and medical society in the world embraces evolution as a powerful explanation for how life has developed on Earth. It is supported by extensive evidence, ranging from dinosaur fossils to the coding of human genes.
Those who back the Louisiana bill insist their motives are not religious, but the evidence suggests otherwise. The measures have been promoted by intelligent design leaders, and support comes almost exclusively from one segment of the religious community. Their aim is clear: Erode students' understanding and trust of science by sowing confusion and doubt, and count on religious ideas to fill the void.
The Louisiana Science Teachers Association has reinforced that concern, saying critical-thinking objectives already are built into state educational standards.
We all, of course, have a right to interpret the origins of life based on Christian faith or other beliefs. But it is counterproductive to create a religion-vs.-science conflict where none exists.
Among millions of scientific researchers in the United States, many are religious. And more than 11,000 religious leaders from a range of denominations have joined the Clergy Letter Project, which shares that belief.
Intelligent design may be appropriate for humanities or philosophy classes, but it does not belong in science class. U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III made that point forcefully in 2005. At the end of an exhaustive trial that rejected school board policy in Dover, Penn., he cited "overwhelming evidence" that intelligent design "is a religious view"--not a scientific theory."
If the Louisiana bill becomes law, we are confident it would be overturned in court. But the fight would be an expensive, divisive distraction.
While national test scores show the state's students are making progress in science and math, there's a long way to go. In just a few years, today's eighth-graders will need to have been educated well enough to improve agricultural practices, conduct medical research and develop powerful new computer technology. They'll be needed to protect their state's environment and rebuild its infrastructure.
At a time when Louisiana and the United States face serious economic challenges -- and incredible opportunities -- we must ensure the best possible science education for the next generation of problem-solvers.
Alan I. Leshner is executive publisher of the journal Science and chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005
Louisiana House Adopts Academic Freedom Bill on Evolution and Other Science Issues
Posted by John West
June 11, 2008
The Louisiana House of Representatives just approved the Louisiana Science Education Act by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 94-3. The bill previously passed the Louisiana Senate by a vote of 35-0. Because there was a minor amendment to the bill in the House, the bill now goes back to the Senate for its concurrence, but the original author of the bill (Senator Nevers) has indicated his support for the slightly amended version, and so Senate concurrence is likely.
The Louisiana Science Education Act is designed to safeguard the right of Louisiana teachers "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." The bill emphatically states that it "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion." Thus, any claims that this bill is about "creationism" are completely bogus.
Prior to the House vote, Rep. Frank Hoffmann gave an excellent statement of the reasons for the bill, emphasizing that its focus is on science and that it cannot be used to promote religion. I'm sure the other side will now go into overdrive trying to misrepresent the bill. Let's hope people actually read the legislation for themselves so they will see that the hysterical rhetoric of the other side is just that--rhetoric.
Academic Freedom Bill Sweeps through La. House
Alexander J. Sheffrin
Christian Post Reporter
Thu, Jun. 12 2008
The Louisiana House of Representatives voted 94-3 Wednesday to pass a bill that would grant teachers and students the freedom to challenge and examine critically the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom.
The measure, which is expected to cruise easily through the upper house, is the latest measure in a series of "Academic Freedom" bills that have swept across several states, including Missouri, Alabama, and Michigan. A similar measure was also under review in Florida earlier this year before stalling in the state's legislature.
Lawmakers say that the efforts to pass the bills are a response to allegations that teachers and students who share views contradicting or challenging the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom are marginalized, discriminated, or ostracized.
Louisiana's version of the bill, the "Science Education Act," will help to supply teachers with supplementary textbooks that will give greater freedom in the classroom to analyze and critique existing scientific theories concerning evolution.
Supporters of the bill said that the measure would be an important step in securing safe academic environments where "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories" would be welcome.
"This bill promotes good science education by protecting the academic freedom of science teachers," said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute, in a statement.
Detractors of the bill, however, claim that the recent measure is nothing more than a masked agenda to install religion in schools.
In a statement, Americans United said that it would not rule out legal action against the bill on the grounds of violating the separation of church and state.
"Americans United and other groups contend that [the] 'supplemental materials' (textbooks) are likely to be anti-evolution books, DVDs and other items produced by fundamentalist Christian ministries," the group said.
"The measure is being pushed by the Louisiana Family Forum, the Discovery Institute and other Religious Right forces," the group added.
West, however, denies this assertion, noting that the language of the bill is clear, objective, and fair.
"Critics who claim the bill promotes religion instead of science either haven't read the bill or are putting up a smokescreen to divert attention from the censorship that has been going on," he said.
"The proposed Louisiana law expressly states in Section 1C that it 'shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion,'" he continued.
"Americans United conveniently neglects to mention that section of the bill," he said.
In total, at least six states have considered passing "Academic Freedom" legislation this year, according to the Discovery Institute.
June 12, 2008
Citizens for Science Friends,
Please post a link to the website of Louisiana Coalition for Science, where we have issued a press release calling for the LA Senate to reject SB 733, the LA Science Education Act. We would like to draw attention to what is happening here.
Evolution bill close to approval; lawsuits expected
By WILL SENTELL
Baton Rouge Advocate Capitol News Bureau
June 12, 2008 - Page: 1A
Ignoring threats of a lawsuit, the Louisiana House voted for legislation Wednesday that could change the way evolution is taught in public schools.
The measure, Senate Bill 733, failed to generate a single question, passed 94-3 and appears poised for final approval.
It now returns to the Senate for consideration of one amendment that was added in a House committee.
The Senate earlier passed a nearly identical version of the bill 35-0.
Backers contend that the proposal would give science teachers more freedom to hold freewheeling classroom discussions, including arguments that challenge Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
But officials of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C., issued a statement Wednesday that said the bill "opens the door to teaching creationism in public schools."
Christian creationists believe that life began about 6,000 years ago in a process described in the Bible's Book of Genesis.
"If this new law is used to promote religion in Louisiana public schools, I can guarantee there will be legal action," said Barry Lynn, executive director of the group.
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that required equal time on creationism when evolution is taught in public schools.
The bill is called the Louisiana Science Education Act.
One of the key points of controversy is what materials teachers could use aside from state-approved science textbooks.
The legislation would allow teachers to use supplemental material "that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussions of scientific theories being studied but not limited to evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning."
State Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe and House sponsor of the bill, said the amendment added in the House committee would prevent "any kind of crazy materials from being thrown in there" to supplement textbooks.
The amendment would allow the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to nullify science supplements that it considers inappropriate.
The statement by Lynn's group said those materials "are likely to be anti-evolution books, DVDs and other items produced by fundamentalist Christian ministries."
Americans United calls itself a national watchdog group to prevent government-backed religious teaching.
SB733 is backed by the Louisiana Family Forum, which calls itself an advocate for traditional family values.
Darwin's theory of evolution says that life forms have changed over time by mutations, with the pressure of natural selection determining which species survive.
The only "no" votes on the bill were cast by state Reps. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge; Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans; and J. P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.
Seven House members did not vote. They are Reps. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, Gordon Dove, R-Houma, Rosalind Jones, D-Monroe, Fred Mills, D-St. Martinville, James Morris, R-Oil City, Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans and Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chasse.
David DeWolf on the Louisiana Academic Freedom Bill
Posted by CSC
June 13, 2008
Click here to listen.
On this episode of ID the Future, Robert Crowther interviews Discovery Institute senior fellow David DeWolf, a leading expert on the legalities of teaching evolution who helped shape the sample academic freedom legislation available at www.AcademicFreedomPetition.com.
Dr. DeWolf explains the idea behind the academic freedom bill currently moving forward in Louisiana and what it means to teach the controversy over evolution. Should teachers have the freedom to treat Darwinism as an open and interesting question? Listen in and decide for yourself.
Scientific Societies Ask Louisiana Governor to Oppose Bad Science Bill
June 13, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC -- On Friday, June 13, 2008, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and seven other scientific societies and organizations sent a letter to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) urging him to oppose SB 733, the "Louisiana Science Education Act," introduced by Louisiana State Senator Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa). The legislation, if signed into law, would pose a real threat to science education in Louisiana's public schools.
Following is the text of the AIBS letter:
June 13, 2008
The Honorable Bobby Jindal
PO Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
Dear Governor Jindal:
The undersigned scientific societies urge you to oppose SB 733, the so-called "Louisiana Science Education Act." This legislation should be vetoed if it reaches your desk.
As a Brown University biology graduate and past president of the University of Louisiana System, we sincerely hope that you recognize the folly of permitting SB 733 to become law. As the former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, you know first hand the importance of science to a healthy population. It is difficult to understand how Louisiana or the nation can recruit and educate the quality healthcare providers our citizens deserve if we are willing to sacrifice science education in our K-12 classrooms. If SB 733 is signed into law, Louisiana will undoubtedly be thrust into the national spotlight as a state that pursues politics over science and education.
SB 733 is the latest attempt by a small group of individuals with a specific political agenda to insert non-scientific concepts into the classroom by seeking to skirt the United States Constitution and the nature of scientific investigation. Advocates for SB 733 seek to manufacture questions that do not exist around issues such as evolution and climate change. SB 733 would require that teachers consider and accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena, including evolution, the origins of life, and global warming. Supernatural explanations for these phenomena are not scientifically testable and are not science. Further, scientific concepts and theories are not decided by public opinion polls or by petitions, but through the rigorous method by which scientists conduct and evaluate research. By promoting the discussion of patently non-scientific ideas in the science classroom, SB 733 threatens the quality of science education and risks setting the students of Louisiana well behind their national and international counterparts.
The future educational, employment, and economic growth of Louisiana and the United States depends upon a scientifically literate workforce and a population capable of making informed decisions. A strong foundation in science that includes an understanding of evolution is required to fuel the advances in research, development, and innovation that will help Louisiana increase economic growth from new jobs and opportunities arising from science and technology.
In closing, please oppose passage of SB 733.
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Ornithologists Union
American Society of Mammalogists
Botanical Society of America
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Society of Systematic Biologists
Society for the Study of Evolution
Open Letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal: Veto SB 733
Press Release (pdf)
LA Coalition for Science
June 16, 2008
The LA Coalition for Science invites all concerned citizens to join us in asking Gov. Jindal to veto SB 733.
Phone: 225-342-7015 or 866-366-1121 (Toll Free)
LA Coalition for Science
June 16, 2008
Honorable Bobby Jindal
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Re: Veto of SB 733
Dear Governor Jindal:
SB 733, recently passed by both houses of the legislature, purports to enable teachers to help students "develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues." This is a seemingly noble-sounding but deceptive goal.
SB 733 is a thinly disguised attempt to advance the "Wedge Strategy" of the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank that is collaborating with the LA Family Forum to get intelligent design (ID) creationism into LA public school science classes. John West, associate director of DI's Center for Science and Culture, has even presumed to interpret SB 733 on DI's website so as to favor his group's agenda. (See West's "Questions and Answers About the Proposed Louisiana Science Education Act.") Within minutes of the Senate's passage of the bill on June 16, West posted the news of Louisiana's passage of the "landmark" LA Science Education Act on DI's website. According to one Louisiana news account, West indicated that DI hopes to see its own creationist textbook, the deceptively titled Explore Evolution, used in our science classes as one of the supplements that SB 733 will permit teachers to use (Opelousas Daily World, 6/16/08). DI apparently has a financial as well as a religious and political interest in this legislation.
Creationism, which includes both young-earth creationism and ID, is not science but a sectarian view based on the Bible. Young-earth creationism is based on Genesis, and ID is based on the Gospel of John, as was established in federal court in the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005). The Bible was never intended to be a science textbook. Evolution has long been accepted by the Catholic Church and most other mainstream churches. The late Pope John Paul II said in 1996 that "new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis." (Truth Cannot Contradict Truth, October 22, 1996) As the pope recognized and other mainstream religions also recognize, there is no conflict between teaching children the scientific fact of evolution in school and providing religious instruction at home and in church. Millions of Americans lead committed religious lives while fully accepting modern science.
Since you hold a biology degree from Brown University, one of the nation's most prestigious schools, you certainly appreciate Theodosius Dobzhansky's famous insight, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." You also surely understand that there is no scientific controversy over the fact of evolution. The current controversy is a political one, manufactured nationally by the Discovery Institute and here in Louisiana by the LA Family Forum, which does not represent the majority of Louisiana's citizens but would impose its agenda on our entire state, even our children.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is violated when the government endorses a sectarian doctrine, as SB 733 would do, despite denials by the bill's supporters. The section of SB 733 stipulating that the bill "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion" actually comes from the DI's own model academic freedom act. If SB 733 were truly about teaching science, no such disclaimer would be needed.
If SB 733 becomes law, we can anticipate the embarrassment it will bring to the state, not to mention the prospect of spending millions of taxpayer dollars defending the inevitable federal court challenge. Consider also that federal courts have uniformly invalidated every effort to attack the teaching of evolution in public schools, including, among others, (1) Edwards v. Aguillard, a 1987 case that Louisiana lost in the U.S. Supreme Court; and (2) Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (pdf), a 2005 Pennsylvania federal court case in which a conservative Republican judge appointed by Pres. George W. Bush thoroughly examined and rejected a school board policy that presented ID to students as an alternative to evolution.
With our state still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, does Louisiana need the expense and embarrassment of defending – and losing – another lawsuit in federal court? What image will this legislation convey to high-tech companies and skilled individuals who might consider locating here? On your "Workforce Development" website, where you tell readers that "I am asking you to once again believe in Louisiana," you acknowledge that because of a "skills gap," the "training and education of our citizens does not meet the requirements of available jobs." You state that "the lack of economic mobility discourages many Louisianans, including thousands of young people who have left our state in search of greater opportunities." You also highlight Louisiana's low educational ranking as one cause of the "workforce crisis in LA": "In a 2007 national Chance-for-Success Index, Louisiana ranks #49 in the nation based on 13 indicators that highlight whether young children get off to a good start, succeed in elementary and secondary school, and hit crucial educational and economic benchmarks as adults." SB 733 will degrade the quality of science education just when the state is so working hard to improve public schools.
Surely you agree that SB 733 sends the wrong message to the nation if we want to develop additional high tech companies such as the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LIGO, and other research universities and centers across the state. SB 733 will sacrifice the education of our children to further the political and religious aims of the LA Family Forum and the Discovery Institute, an out-of-state creationist think tank whose only interest in Louisiana is promoting their agenda at the expense of our children.
You have repeatedly stressed your commitment to making Louisiana a place where our young people can build families and careers. You can help to make Louisiana that place by proving that you support the hundreds of science teachers and thousands of students in the public schools and universities across the state. You can demonstrate your commitment to improving both Louisiana's image and our educational system by vetoing SB 733. The state and the nation are watching.
We call upon you to veto SB 733 in the best interests of our children and to protect the reputation of our state.
LA Coalition for Science
Senate sends Jindal bill on evolution
By WILL SENTELL
Baton Rouge Advocate Capitol News Bureau
June 17, 2008 - Page: 1A
A bill to overhaul the way evolution is taught in Louisiana public schools easily cleared its final legislative hurdle Monday despite threats of a lawsuit.
Opponents, mostly outside the State Capitol, contend the legislation would inject creationism and other religious themes into public schools.
However, the Senate voted 36-0 without debate to go along with the same version of the proposal that the House passed last week 94-3.
The measure, Senate Bill 733, now goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to sign it.
Backers said the bill is needed to give science teachers more freedom to hold discussions that challenge traditional theories, including Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
"It provides assurances to both teachers and students that academic inquiries are welcome and appropriate in the science classroom," said Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum.
Mills' group touts itself as one that promotes traditional family values. It was called an influential mover behind the bill.
However, officials of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C., said the bill represents an intrusion of religion into public schools that may warrant a lawsuit.
"It is the ACLU's position that we intend to do whatever is necessary to keep religion out of our science classrooms." said Marjorie R. Esman, executive director of the group in New Orleans.
The legislation is called the Louisiana Science Education Act.
It would allow science teachers to use supplemental materials, in addition to state-issued textbooks, on issues like evolution, global warming and human cloning.
The aim of such materials, the bill says, is to promote "critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied," including evolution.
"I just believe that it is important that supplemental scientific information be able to be brought into the school system," state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and sponsor of the bill, said after the vote.
Nevers said that, despite the rapid pace of changes in science, textbooks are only updated every seven years.
Critics said DVDs and other supplemental materials with religious themes will be added to classrooms to try to undercut widely accepted scientific views.
The bill cleared its final legislative hurdle in less than five minutes.
Nevers noted that the key change made in the House would allow the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to toss out science supplemental materials that it considers inappropriate.
Opponents contend the bill is a bid to allow the teaching of creationism and intelligent design. Christian creationism is the view that life began 6,000 years ago in a process described in the Bible's Book of Genesis.
Intelligent design advocates believe that the universe stems from an intelligent designer rather than chance.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a prepared statement that the bill "is clearly designed to smuggle religion into the science classroom, and that's unwise and unconstitutional." Joe Conn, a spokesman for the group, said attorneys will review the bill.
Lynn's group calls itself a national watchdog organization to prevent government-backed religious teaching.
Barbara Forrest, of Holden, a member of the group's board of trustees and a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, also criticized passage of the measure.
"I think what the Legislature has done is an embarrassment to the state in the eyes of the entire country," Forrest said.
Nevers downplayed talk of legal action against his bill.
"I don't think any lawsuits will be brought because of this act," he said.
Mills predicted that the bill will survive any legal challenge.
In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1981 state law that required equal time on creationism when evolution was taught in public schools.
20 June 2008
Vol. 320. no. 5883, p. 1572
Louisiana Opens School Door for Opponents of Evolution
Louisiana school teachers have been given license to supplement the existing science curricula with material that they feel "promotes critical thinking skills." The seemingly innocuous language, in a bill passed overwhelmingly by the state legislature and expected to become law as early as next week, marks the latest attack in the United States on the teaching of evolution and mainstream scientific thought on global warming and other topics.
"The only thing this bill does is give a green light for the school board to protect teachers who want to use creationist supplementary materials," says Barbara Forrest, a philosopher at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond who has been fighting the legislation.
Under the banner of "academic freedom," opponents of evolution have made some headway in Florida and have attracted support in Michigan and South Carolina (Science, 9 May, p. 731). But their greatest success has come in Louisiana, where state legislators have invited educators to hold "an open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied, including but not limited to evolut ion, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
The approach appeals to Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who is expected to sign the bill. "Some want only to teach intelligent design. Some only want to teach evolution. I think both views are wrong," he told a television interviewer last weekend. "As a parent, I want [children] to be presented with the best thinking. I don't want any facts or theories or explanations to be withheld from them because of political correctness. The way we are going to have smart and intelligent kids is exposing them to the very best science."
Science educators say the new wording is intended simply to circumvent rulings by U.S. courts that creationism and intelligent design are unconstitutional religious intrusions into a public school science curriculum. It's also unnecessary, adds Brenda Nixon of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, who codirects a statewide effort to improve science and math education and also works with the Louisiana Science Teachers Association, because teachers already explore these topics in class. Teachers are required to follow the Louisiana Comprehensive Curriculum, which encourages teachers to keep up to date and allows them to incorporate outside materials as long as the content is consistent with the state framework. "We have had overwhelming support from our science teacher members, who don't want to see this approved," Nixon says about the association's 1600 members.
The bill requires the Louisiana board of education to implement the language in time for the 2008-09 academic year. But Forrest and others worry that it will be very difficult for any government body to make sure that the supplementary materials meet agreed-upon standards.
Governor Jindal, Veto This Bill!
by John Derbyshire
National Review Blog
Friday, June 20, 2008
Louisiana's misleadingly-named "Science Education Act" has now been passed by both houses of the state legislature and awaits Governor Bobby Jindal's signature. The act opens the door to the teaching of creationism in Louisiana public schools.
The Louisiana Coalition for Science has published an open letter to Gov. Jindal, laying out the facts, and urging him not to sign the bill. The letter is here. Some extracts:
SB 733 is a thinly disguised attempt to advance the "Wedge Strategy" of the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank … John West, associate director of DI’s Center for Science and Culture … indicated that DI hopes to see its own creationist textbook … used in our science classes as one of the supplements that SB 733 will permit teachers to use (Opelousas Daily World, 6/16/08). DI apparently has a financial as well as a religious and political interest in this legislation …
Since you hold a biology degree from Brown University, one of the nation’s most prestigious schools, you certainly appreciate Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous insight, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." You also surely understand that there is no scientific controversy over the fact of evolution …
If SB 733 becomes law, we can anticipate the embarrassment it will bring to the state, not to mention the prospect of spending millions of taxpayer dollars defending the inevitable federal court challenge. Consider also that federal courts have uniformly invalidated every effort to attack the teaching of evolution in public schools …
The Coalition website also links to a press release (in PDF format, at the top there) well worth reading. The press release includes a plea from the guy who taught genetics to Gov. Jindal at Brown:
Arthur Landy, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry in the Division of Biology and Medicine at Brown University, taught Jindal genetics in college. "Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn't make sense," says Professor Landy. "In order for today's students in Louisiana to succeed in college and beyond, in order for them to take the fullest advantages of all that the 21st century will offer, they need a solid grounding in genetics and evolution. Governor Jindal was a good student in my class when he was thinking about becoming a doctor, and I hope he doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors." Landy is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology.
The entire effect of this law, if Gov. Jindal signs it, will be that one cartload of Louisiana taxpayers' money will go to the Discovery Institute for their mendacious "textbooks," then another cartload will go into the pockets of lawyers to defend the inevitable challenge to the law in federal courts, which will inevitably be successful, as they always are, and should be.
Any Louisianian who wants his kids to have a religious education can send them to parochial schools; although if the parochial school is Roman Catholic, the kids will learn standard biology ("Darwinism") in science classes, since the RC Church — Gov. Jindal's church — approves it. Or they can home school them. Everybody's fine with this. I'm fine with it. Louisiana Coalition for Science is fine with it. Raise you kids the way you want to. You may not, though — you constitutionally may not — oblige taxpayers to fund your religious beliefs.
Veto this bill, Gov. Jindal, or explain to Louisiana taxpayers the pointless waste of public money that will inevitably ensue from your signing it.
Louisiana's Latest Assault on Darwin
The New York Times
Published: June 21, 2008
It comes as no surprise that the Louisiana State Legislature has overwhelmingly approved a bill that seeks to undercut the teaching of evolution in the public schools. The state, after all, has a sorry history as a hotbed of creationists' efforts to inject religious views into science courses. All that stands in the way of this retrograde step is Gov. Bobby Jindal.
In the 1980s, Louisiana passed an infamous "Creationism Act" that prohibited the teaching of evolution unless it was accompanied by instruction in "creation science." That effort to gain essentially equal time for creationism was slapped down by the United States Supreme Court as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. State legislators, mimicking scattered efforts elsewhere, responded with a cagier, indirect approach.
The new bill doesn't mention either creationism or its close cousin, intelligent design. It explicitly disavows any intent to promote a religious doctrine. It doesn't try to ban Darwin from the classroom or order schools to do anything. It simply requires the state board of education, if asked by local school districts, to help create an environment that promotes "critical thinking" and "objective discussion" about not only evolution and the origins of life but also about global warming and human cloning, two other bêtes noires of the right. Teachers would be required to teach the standard textbook but could use supplementary materials to critique it.
That may seem harmless. But it would have the pernicious effect of implying that evolution is only weakly supported and that there are valid competing scientific theories when there are not. In school districts foolish enough to head down this path, the students will likely emerge with a shakier understanding of science.
As a biology major at Brown University, Mr. Jindal must know that evolution is the unchallenged central organizing principle for modern biology. As a rising star on the conservative right, mentioned as a possible running mate for John McCain, Mr. Jindal may have more than science on his mind. In a television interview, he seemed to say that local school boards should decide what is taught and that it would be wrong to teach only evolution or only intelligent design.
If Mr. Jindal has the interests of students at heart, the sensible thing is to veto this Trojan horse legislation.
The Discovery Institute, the LA Family Forum, and the "LA Science Education Act" UPDATED
By Barbara Forrest
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Louisiana has become the latest target of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank whose "Wedge Strategy" for getting intelligent design (ID) creationism into public school science classes was thoroughly discredited in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005). The Discovery Institute has teamed up with the LA Family Forum, the Louisiana affiliate of Focus on the Family, to promote a stealth creationism bill in the guise of "academic freedom" legislation. The bill sailed through the Louisiana legislature and now awaits action by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The stealth-creationist SB 733, the "Louisiana Science Education Act," which in its pre-amended version as SB 561 was entitled the "LA Academic Freedom Act," received final passage in the Louisiana legislature on June 16, 2008, and is now (June 26) on Gov. Bobby Jindal's desk. The governor can either sign it, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it. Gov. Jindal, who in his June 15 appearance on Face the Nation reiterated his previously voiced support for teaching intelligent design (ID) creationism, is expected to sign the bill. At the behest of the LA Coalition for Science, e-mail petitioners from across the country and national scientific organizations have urged him to veto it. Both the New York Times and National Review columnist John Derbyshire have also publicly called for Jindal to veto the bill. Since Louisiana's passage of SB 733 could be a bellwether for such "academic freedom" legislation, advocates for science education and church-and-state separation in other states had better start preparing now.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ben Nevers (Bogalusa, LA), who has a history of promoting creationist legislation. In 2003, he introduced his unsuccessful HCR 50 (pdf), which encouraged school systems to "refrain from purchasing textbooks that do not present a balanced view of the various theories relative to the origin of life but rather refer to one theory as proven fact." Like SB 733, this measure was also a stealth creationist bill that would ostensibly promote "critical thinking."
Nevers introduced SB 733 on behalf of the LA Family Forum (LFF), the Louisiana affiliate of Focus on the Family. However, the fact that this bill is the fruit of the collaboration between the LFF and the Discovery Institute (DI), a Seattle think tank that serves as command center of the ID creationist movement, gives this bill national implications. Virtually every significant creationism outbreak in the United States for almost the last decade has been the product of DI's aggressive execution of its "Wedge Strategy" for getting ID into public school science classes. (See Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, 2007.) Typically, as in previous ID flare-ups in Kansas and Ohio, DI operatives arrive on the scene once pro-ID efforts are well under way, assuming a high public profile after the initial spadework has been done by state or local Religious Right groups. DI has run true to form in Louisiana, where its proxy, the LFF, has promoted creationism -- both young-earth and ID (pdf) -- for years in preparation for this year's targeting of Louisiana.
The LFF was founded in 1999 by former Louisiana legislator Tony Perkins, who now heads the Family Research Council (FRC); Rev. Gene Mills, the current LFF executive director; and a retired Baton Rouge City Court judge, Darrell White, who is currently an LFF "consultant." The organization lobbies the Louisiana legislature virtually incessantly. The FRC website includes a page about the LFF that describes both its public policy aims and its use of religious operatives to advance them. The LFF seeks to "present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through communication, research and networking," with the aim of getting "the conservative voting community more actively involved in the political process." According to the FRC, "Louisiana Family Forum's staff, resource council members, and a multitude of pastors have steadily altered a volatile political landscape," and clergy who comprise the LFF's Pastors Resource Council "have taken a key role as 'goodwill' ambassadors during Louisiana's legislative sessions." The FRC description also accurately reflects the LFF's current influence: "Ten years on, Louisiana legislators . . . have come to rely on the Louisiana Family Forum." The fact that the LFF's "Legislative Scorecard reports annually on how each Louisiana legislator votes on key family issues" -- along with the fact that the scorecards are prominently featured on the LFF's main web page -- may help explain that influence.
It is probably not an exaggeration to say that the majority of Louisiana legislators support the LFF's agenda, and that those who do not support it have had the "fear of the Lord" put into them, knowing what they will face politically in the next election if they cross the LFF. One very telling piece of evidence for this is the fact that not a single Louisiana public official anywhere in the state, either elected or appointed, has so far been willing to speak out against SB 733 and in favor of good science education. When Louisiana scientists and educators from public schools and universities testified against SB 733 before both the House and Senate Education Committees, they had no vocal defenders on either committee and were virtually ignored during the periods in which legislators were allowed to question the witnesses. (Three House members, one of whom was on the House Education Committee, later voted against the bill on the House floor but offered no statements or questions during the vote.)
With respect to socially conservative issues, the LFF, in a de facto sense, practically runs the Louisiana legislature, wielding influence that is disproportionate to its small staff. Legislative demographics have converged with the election of Bobby Jindal to put considerable wind in the LFF's sails. As the April 20, 2008, Monroe, LA, News Star noted, "the new Legislature is probably the most conservative Louisiana has had since Reconstruction, observers say, and it's possibly the most religious." Mills observed that "he has found the new Legislature 'very family and faith friendly' with 'an acute sense of the need to protect basic values.'" The LFF has also maintains a close alliance with Gov. Jindal, as Adam Nossiter noted in the June 2, 2008, New York Times: "At the group's modest offices here [in Baton Rouge], Mr. Jindal is seen as practically one of the family."
The LFF has worked hard at cultivating this relationship with the governor. The organization threw a December 12, 2007, Christmas gala at Louisiana's Old Capitol ostensibly to honor outgoing Gov. Kathleen Blanco and several former governors, along with the incoming Jindal. Jindal, however, was the star of the evening, as the LFF's YouTube video of the event makes clear. On inauguration day, Jindal, who has made his conservative religious views an integral part of his public persona, was also feted at an early-morning prayer breakfast hosted by the Louisiana Renewal Project (LRP), with the participation of the LFF. Although, according to the Baptist Message, which reported on the event (January 10 and January 14, 2008), the LRP is not formally associated with the LFF, Mills publicized the event through his contacts. He describes the LRP as "a reform effort whereby a number of pastors across the state have lent their influence to assist policy makers in honoring faith and family traditions." One pastor who attended described what it felt like to be at this event in honor of Jindal: "The pastors prayer breakfast felt similar in spirit to the coronation of David as the Old Testament King of Israel, said Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Covington."
The LFF had good reason to cultivate Jindal as an ally in light of their plan to advance creationist legislation. Jindal had publicly voiced his support for teaching creationism on at least two occasions prior to his election as governor. Moreover, given the roster of his prayer breakfast companions, the governor's movement in this circle of influential Religious Right operatives could be interpreted as a signal of his receptiveness to the creationist legislation that the LFF asked Nevers to introduce less than three months after his inauguration. The LFF's January 8, 2008, weekly Family Facts newsletter announced that Jindal "will be accompanied [at the prayer breakfast] by Historian David Barton, Texas' Governor Rick Perry and Dr. Laurence White."
Perry has helped to advance creationism in Texas by appointing dentist Don McLeroy, an avowed creationist and DI ally, as chair of the Texas Board of Education, where McLeroy and his like-minded fellows on the board are attempting to wreak havoc on state education standards in both reading and science. (See the Texas Freedom Network's 2008 report, The State Board of Education: Dragging Texas Schools into the Culture Wars. [pdf]) White is on the board of the Niemoller Foundation, a Texas 501(c)3 non-profit that is currently the object of a request by the Texas Freedom Network that the IRS investigate its expenditure of funds for political campaign activities by the Texas Restoration Project, which uses ministers as political partisans. (Perry's and White's attendance at Jindal's prayer breakfast suggests that the LRP may be functioning in a similar way.)
Barton founded Wallbuilders, an organization whose "goal is to exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family by (1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; (2) providing information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies which reflect Biblical values; and (3) encouraging Christians to be involved in the civic arena." He is a Texas Republican Party operative posing as a historian whose promotion of "Christian nation" pseudo-history is well documented. (He also promotes creationism on the Wallbuilders website.) Although Barton has no credentials as a historian and his claims have been repeatedly debunked, he conducts private "Spiritual Heritage Tour[s] of the United States Capitol . . . hosted by a Member of Congress" in which he "brings new life and perspective to the rich, spiritual history represented throughout this great building, covering artifacts and rooms usually not seen on public tours of the Capitol." The tours are open only to "pastors and ministry leaders." He also has ties to far-right religious extremists.
Nonetheless, in October 2006, during his term as a U.S. congressman, Jindal, a Roman Catholic, brought Barton with him as he stumped in Protestant churches in north Louisiana. He was a guest on Barton's Wallbuilders Live! radio program the same month (October 18 & 19), praising Barton's historical knowledge: "Dave did a fantastic job, went through three churches with us, just reminding us of our nation's history, our nation's heritage. You know, I listen to him. I learn something new on every Capitol tour, at every presentation. The response was tremendous, people just telling me that [at] every single stop, every single church, they said they learned so much." Jindal's statements here suggest that he also hosted Barton's private Capitol tours.
Given these aspects of Jindal's political history and alliances, which have received virtually no mainstream press coverage either nationally (except for Nossiter's recent article) or in Louisiana, it is understandable that with his election, the Discovery Institute and the LFF might judge that their stars were now aligned. It was time to make their move. The LFF approached Sen. Nevers, while DI waited in the wings to try out their "new" academic freedom strategy.
Creationists, however, have used "academic freedom" as a façade for decades. (See Jerry Bergman, "Does Academic Freedom Apply to Both Secular Humanist [sic] and Christians?" Impact, Institute for Creation Research, January 1, 1980.) Such stealth tactics have always been creationists' last resort after federal courts declare their agendas constitutionally impermissible. This fate befell the Discovery Institute when Judge John E. Jones III did exactly that in the first legal case involving ID, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005) (pdf), aka the "Dover trial," in which DI's already fragile credibility was shredded. Immediately after the trial, DI began crafting an alternative route into the nation's public schools, using "academic freedom" and other traditional creationist code terms (virtually all of which can be found on the websites of organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research). Having suffered the legal fate of all earlier creationists, DI announced its "new" initiative early in 2006: "We have entered a new front in the debate over intelligent design--the need to protect academic freedom. . . ." They also posted their Orwellian-titled "Model Academic Statute on Evolution" on their "Support Academic Freedom" website. (See my discussion (pdf) of DI's use of code language.)
Creationists are always forced to morph into something less recognizable -- and, they hope, less legally vulnerable -- after losses in federal court. "Creation science" had morphed into "intelligent design" after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling barred public schools from teaching it. However, after Kitzmiller, that term, too, is legally dangerous, so DI had to disguise its efforts yet again. Consequently, "intelligent design" creationists now shroud ID in multiple alternative identities: "critical analysis of evolution," "teaching the controversy," teaching the "strengths and weaknesses of evolution," "evidence for and against evolution," and, in the form of legislation in Louisiana and five other states this year, "academic freedom." These code terms are instantly recognized by DI's supporters as announcements of creationist initiatives. However, the local foot soldiers cannot be relied on to stick to the DI terminological playbook. Early in the effort, Sen. Nevers candidly told a reporter that he introduced the legislation on behalf of the LFF because "they believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory." (emphasis added) After some quick spinning for the media (and probably some additional coaching), Nevers got back on message.
The match between DI and the LFF was most likely made by LFF consultant Darrell White. In the Discovery Institute, the LFF knew they had an ally; in Louisiana, DI recognized an opportunity. This partnership is perversely appropriate in the state whose 1987 loss in the Edwards case was the very thing that had forced the ID movement's terminology shift from "creation science" to "intelligent design" in the first place. White has promoted creationism in Louisiana for years. He partners with Baton Rouge creationist Charles H. Voss, Jr., to promote creationist textbook addenda that Voss has written for use with state-approved biology textbooks. The addenda are posted on Voss's website, TextAddons.com, and White promotes them on his own creationist web page. White is an equal opportunity creationist: on his "Origins Science" web page, he posts links to both the young-earth Answers in Genesis and to materials by ID proponents (old-earth creationists) Jonathan Wells and William Dembski. He also wrote an article for American Vision, a Christian Reconstructionist website, in which he contends that the "uncritical teaching of Darwinian evolutionism" caused the 1999 Columbine shootings. As a show of support for DI's much-publicized effort to influence the Texas Board of Education's selection of Texas biology textbooks in 2003, White attended the board's hearings and entered a letter of support for DI's effort into the public record (pdf, see p. 382). After DI announced their "academic freedom" strategy, the LFF's targeting of Louisiana public school science classes began, and at some point, DI joined the scheme.
The LFF's first formal step was the Ouachita Parish, LA, School Board's adoption of an "academic freedom" policy (pdf) on November 29, 2006. The template for the policy is White's "Proposed Science Policy Resolution," which has been posted on his website for years. Using DI's current code phrases, the Ouachita policy purports to protect the academic freedom of Ouachita Parish science teachers by permitting them "to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught." The policy specifies its targeted "controversial" subjects: "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." It also includes the bogus but politically useful "Santorum amendment," an informal title for stealth creationist language in the legislative history of the No Child Left Behind Act that ID supporter Sen. Rick Santorum engineered on DI's behalf in 2001.
Moreover, the LFF was apparently not averse to having the taxpayers fund this initiative. In 2007, Sen. David Vitter, another LFF supporter, had earmarked $100,000 in a federal spending bill to finance a plan "to promote better science-based education in Ouachita Parish by the Louisiana Family Forum." When the New Orleans Times-Picayune blew the lid off the scheme, Vitter was forced to redirect $30,000 of the earmark directly to the Ouachita Parish School Board for "science and technology." (Barbara Leader, "$30K redirected to technology in parish schools," News Star, Monroe, LA, October 23, 2008) Where the remaining $70,000 went is unknown.
With or without public money, the Ouachita policy is being implemented by at least one public school science teacher. A West Monroe High School biology teacher, Danny Pennington, along with White and then-Asst. Supt. Frank Hoffman (who now serves in the LA legislature and helped shepherd SB 733 through the House Education Committee), helped persuade the school board to adopt the policy in 2006. Two years later, Pennington has revealed that, under its protection, "when he teaches evolution he also presents evidence that he says pokes holes in the science" (Barbara Leader, "Legislature debates science's say in the classroom," News Star, Monroe, LA, April 14, 2008). This is tantamount to an admission that he is teaching creationism, which is precisely what SB 733 is designed to permit statewide.
Most of the language of Sen. Nevers's original bill, SB 561, the "LA Academic Freedom Act," was taken directly from the Ouachita policy. However, one prominent part, a disclaimer stating that the bill "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion," was taken directly from DI's model bill. It remains in the current version, SB 733, which specifically targets the teaching of evolution, the "origins of life," global warming, and human cloning. DI has praised the Ouachita policy as a "model policy supporting teacher academic freedom to question Darwin" in The Theory of Intelligent Design: A Briefing Packet for Educators (pdf).
The evidence of DI's integral involvement not only in promoting but also in crafting SB 733 is steadily accumulating. DI senior fellow and legal advisor, Gonzaga University law professor David K. DeWolf (torts and consumer law, not constitutional law), has revealed that he helped craft SB 733 in accordance with DI's model academic freedom act. DI coordinated the introduction of such legislation in six states this year, including Louisiana. DI staffer Rob Crowther interviewed DeWolf about the bill in a Discovery Institute podcast. Crowther affirmed that SB 733 "is modeled after the evolution academic freedom bills, after the ones that we put online and recommended." "And now," he added, "here's a bill [SB 733] that we've [DI] been recommending, and which I believe that you had a hand in developing, coming to fruition." DeWolf confirmed this: "Yes, certainly some of the early drafting. And the idea was kicking around in a lot of different places. Certainly, the idea wasn't original to us, but in terms of shaping the bill and making it fit more of the educational context, we certainly wanted to do that."
On May 21, 2008, Casey Luskin, former student ID follower and now DI employee, accompanied Virginia creationist and ID supporter, Dr. Caroline Crocker, to Baton Rouge, where Crocker testified in favor of SB 733 before the House Education Committee. The LFF-DI partnership was now out in the open. (See the LA Coalition for Science's June 22, 2008, press release [pdf] or more such evidence of DI's involvement in the Louisiana legislation.)
This cozy relationship uniting the Discovery Institute, the LA Family Forum, and the self-servingly obeisant LA legislature threatens to drag Louisiana back to 1981, when earlier legislators pushed the state into the annals of creationist history by passing the "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act," which the Supreme Court struck down in 1987. Louisiana has come a long way since then. Despite the state's image as a political and educational backwater, there are good, decent, intelligent people here who contribute each day to improving the quality of life and who deserve -- and should command -- the legislature's and the governor's respect. But they are out-numbered and certainly out-organized. They are busy working while the LFF is politicking at the Capitol and the Discovery Institute is scheming from Seattle.
The legislature's passage of SB 733 threatens to undercut decades of educational progress for which these good people have worked and continue to work so hard. A recent editorial in the New York Times had it right: "All that stands in the way of this retrograde step is Gov. Bobby Jindal."
Update [2008-6-27 10:39:19 by Frederick Clarkson]: Gov. Jindal signed the bill.
Science law could set tone for Jindal
by Bill Barrow
The New Orleans Times-Picayune
Thursday June 26, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Gov. Bobby Jindal attracted national attention and strongly worded advice about how he should deal with the Louisiana Science Education Act.
Jindal ignored those calling for a veto and this week signed the law that will allow local school boards to approve supplemental materials for public school science classes as they discuss evolution, cloning and global warming.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have the power to prohibit materials, though the bill does not spell out how state officials should go about policing local instructional practices.
A subject of considerable debate, but receiving few "nay" votes, in the legislative session that ended Monday, the bill is lauded by its supporters as a great step forward for academic freedom.
Critics call it a back-door attempt to replay old battles about including biblical creationism or "intelligent design" in science curricula, a point defenders reject based on a clause that the law "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine . . . or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."
In signing the bill, Jindal issued a brief statement that read in part: "I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and BESE to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children."
'Can't become isolated'
Political observers said Jindal's signature will please one of his key local constituencies: conservative Protestants in north Louisiana. Jindal's long-term political challenge, they said, particularly if the Brown University biology graduate ever seeks national office, is not allowing his political image to be defined by such moves.
"It's good politics if you are a conservative Republican politician," said Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. "That being said, not every place is Louisiana. .Â¤.Â¤. Certainly this is not going to do anything to endear Bobby Jindal to a majority of voters in places like California and Massachusetts and New York."
Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat said: "The ideal candidate is one who has broad appeal. .Â¤.Â¤. To become president today, you can't become isolated as the candidate of the religious right."
Yet a cadre of scientists, national groups with a secular agenda, editorial writers and even Jindal's college genetics professors suggested the bill could push Jindal toward that kind of identity.
The New York Times, which previously has praised Jindal's push for ethics law changes, published an editorial titled "Louisiana's Latest Assault on Darwin," recalling a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Louisiana law requiring that biblical creationism and Darwinian theory be given equal time in the classroom. "If Mr. Jindal has the interests of students at heart, the sensible thing is to veto this Trojan horse legislation," the Times editorial board wrote.
A leading secular group, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has suggested that the bill will spawn litigation, and Marjorie Esman, state director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "To the extent that this might invite religion in the public school classroom, we will do everything we can do to keep religion out."
Arthur Landy, who taught Jindal when the future governor was studying a pre-med curriculum at Brown, released a statement through the Louisiana Coalition for Science, itself a group that wanted a veto. "Gov. Jindal was a good student in my class when he was thinking about becoming a doctor, and I hope he doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors," Landy said.
And John Derbyshire, a conservative columnist for the National Review Web site, wrote as he lobbied for a veto, "Any Louisianian who wants his kids to have a religious education can send them to parochial schools."
At the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that promotes intelligent design and backed the new education act, senior fellow John West said he and his colleagues did not directly lobby Jindal. The group did notify its supporters that groups such as the ACLU and the science organizations were pushing for a veto.
West said critics misunderstand the bill, which he said is not about creationism or intelligent design. Rather, he said, it's about clarifying that teachers are free to expose their students to the debates that Darwinian scientists have among themselves.
Instead, too many public school students get a "watered-down" discussion of evolutionary theory or nothing at all from teachers, and administrators are too concerned with not angering parents.
"This bill is not a license to propagandize against something they don't like in science," West said. "Someone who uses materials to inject religion into the classroom is not only violating the Constitution, they are violating the bill."
The bill enjoyed support from the Louisiana Family Forum, a group that is upfront in its push for more religious expressions in the public sphere.
Bill Barrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225.342.5590.
Americans United Will Monitor Implementation Of New Louisiana Anti-Evolution Law
National Watchdog Group Says Litigation Will Follow If Measure Is Used To Promote Religion In Public Schools
Friday, June 27, 2008
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today warned Louisiana officials that lawsuits will result if the state’s new anti-evolution law is used to introduce religion into public school classrooms.
Gov. Bobby Jindal this week signed the legislation (SB 733), which allows teachers to use "supplemental materials" when discussing evolution. The measure was pushed by the Louisiana Family Forum and the Discovery Institute, two Religious Right groups that advocate creationist concepts, and is widely seen as an effort to water down instruction about evolution.
"I am very disappointed that Gov. Jindal signed this unwise and unnecessary measure," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Louisiana has a long and unfortunate history of trying to substitute dogma for science in public school classrooms. Let me state clearly and upfront that any attempts to use this law to sneak religion into public schools through the back door will not be tolerated."
Lynn urged Louisiana residents to monitor the situation in their local communities and report any potential violations to Americans United. He noted that the organization has a new chapter in Louisiana and that activists on the ground will be watching developments in the state very closely.
Supporters of the bill, including the Discovery Institute and Sen. Ben Nevers, its primary sponsor, have insisted that the measure is not intended to promote religion. Americans United says it will hold them to that.
"I’ve heard from plenty of people in Louisiana who are embarrassed by this law and are concerned that it’s just another attempt to bring religion into the public schools," said Lynn. "I call on all concerned residents of Louisiana to help us make sure that public schools educate, not indoctrinate."
Louisiana gov. signs controversial education bill
Reporting by Kathy Finn, Writing by Ed Stoddard, Editing by Peter Cooney
Fri Jun 27, 2008
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law a bill that critics say could allow for the teaching of "creationism" alongside evolution in public schools.
Jindal, a conservative Christian who has been touted by pundits as a potential vice presidential running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, signed the legislation earlier this week.
The law will allow schools if they choose to use "supplemental materials" when discussing evolution but does not specify what the materials would be.
It states that authorities "shall allow ... open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning."
It also says that it "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."
Jindal's office declined on Friday to comment. The bill was backed by the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative Christian group, and the Discovery Institute, which promotes the theory of "intelligent design" -- a theory that maintains that the complexity of life points to a grand designer.
"Intelligent design is currently not in the Louisiana state science standards and so could not be taught. But this allows scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory to be taught," said John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.
Critics say intelligent design is biblical creation theory by another name and that the new legislation is an attempt to water down instruction about evolution.
"Louisiana has a long and unfortunate history of trying to substitute dogma for science in ... classrooms," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, an executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog.
The group says similar legislation has been attempted previously in other states such South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri and Florida. Similar battles have also taken places at the school board level in Kansas.
The teaching of evolution -- the basis of modern biology rooted in 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection -- has become one of the leading battlefields in the America's "culture wars."
Many U.S. conservative Christians reject evolution and believe in the biblical story of creation. A nationwide survey conducted last year by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 45 percent of U.S. adults did not think evolution was the best explanation for the origins of human life.
Bobby Jindal Signs Law Allowing Intelligent Design in Louisiana Schools
Teachers can be permitted to supplement textbook discussion on evolution, global warming, human cloning
By Peter J. Smith
Friday June 27, 2008
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, June 27, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Louisiana public school teachers can now educate their students about the theory of intelligent design and scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolutionary theory thanks to a new law signed this week by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Louisiana Science Education Act now allows teachers to supplement the state's curricula with additional scientific materials, but groups opposed to any debate over the "origin of the species" have warned that the new law will become the origin of the lawsuits if they believe it facilitates religion.
Lawmakers, however, were enthusiastically in favor of the Act signed by Jindal. The state Senate had passed the bill (SB733) with a unanimous vote, and the state House had approved it by a vote of 93-4.
The new law requires teachers to follow the standard curriculum, but allows a school district to permit a teacher to supplement his course with additional scientific evidence, analysis, and critiques regarding the scientific topics taught to his students.
One major goal of the law is to support an "open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" in public elementary and secondary schools.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will be required, at the request of local school boards, to "include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied."
Supporters of the law have hailed it as a great step forward for academic freedom in the face of dogmatic proponents of evolution and man-made global warming, who have mischaracterized scientific/philosophical alternatives as "religion."
Jindal, a Catholic with a biology degree, indicated his own affirmation of the bill in a statement saying: "I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and BESE to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children."
Critics of the law have countered it opens a backdoor for putting religious views that they claim would sacrifice science into the classroom.
The Louisiana Coalition for Science called SB 733 "a thinly disguised attempt to advance the 'Wedge Strategy' of the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank that is collaborating with the LA Family Forum to get intelligent design (ID) creationism into LA public school science classes."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State warned that a lawsuit would come if they believed the bill was introducing religion into the schoolroom. Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman, on the other hand, admitted that as long as teachers follow the law as written, and did not introduce religion, it should be fine.
Section 1D clearly states that the law "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."
Intelligent Design advocates say ID has no direct bearing on religion and is neither a religious proposition nor "creationist," because it is in fact a rational philosophic position older than Christianity. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle taught from observation that matter - which tends toward chaos - was ordered into distinguishable forms, and that everything in a chain of causes must have a first cause, or "prime mover."
Only later did Christianity introduce Western science to the doctrine of "creationism" or "creation ex-nihilo" - the idea that the universe was created out of nothing and is constantly kept in existence by God's power. Before this contribution, many philosophers and scientists did not consider the universe had a beginning in time.
Louisiana passes first antievolution "academic freedom" law
By John Timmer
Published: June 27, 2008
As we noted last month, a number of states have been considering laws that, under the guise of "academic freedom," single out evolution for special criticism. Most of them haven't made it out of the state legislatures, and one that did was promptly vetoed. But the last of these bills under consideration, the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), was enacted by the signature of Governor Bobby Jindal yesterday. The bill would allow local school boards to approve supplemental classroom materials specifically for the critique of scientific theories, allowing poorly-informed board members to stick their communities with Dover-sized legal fees.
The text of the LSEA suggests that it's intended to foster critical thinking, calling on the state Board of Education to "assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators 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." Unfortunately, it's remarkably selective in its suggestion of topics that need critical thinking, as it cites scientific subjects "including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
Oddly, the last item on the list is not the subject of any scientific theory; the remainder are notable for being topics that are the focus of frequent political controversies rather than scientific ones.
The bill has been opposed by every scientific society that has voiced a position on it, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS CEO Alan Leshner warned that the bill would "unleash an assault against scientific integrity, leaving students confused about science and unprepared to excel in a modern workforce."
Jindal, who was a biology major during his time at Brown University, even received a veto plea from his former genetics professor. "Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn't make sense," Professor Arthur Landy wrote. "I hope he [Jindal] doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors."
Lining up to promote the bill were a coalition of religious organizations and Seattle's pro-Intelligent Design think tank, the Discovery Institute. According to the Louisiana Science Coalition, Discovery fellows helped write the bill and arranged for testimony in its favor in the legislature. The bill itself plays directly into Discovery's strategy, freeing local schools to "use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."
Discovery, conveniently, has made just such a supplemental text available. As we noted in our earlier analysis, Discovery hopes to use these bills as a way to push its own textbook into the classroom. Having now read the text of the book, it is clear that our earlier analysis was correct; the book badly misrepresents the scientific community's understanding of evolution in order to suggest that the basics of the theory are questioned by biologists. In doing so, it ignores many of the specific questions about evolution that are actively debated by scientists.
Courts in Pennsylvania and Georgia have both ruled that laws which single out evolution serve no secular purpose and are evidence of unconstitutional religious motivations. Those precedents, however, do not apply to Louisiana, and it's possible that the LSEA will either be ruled constitutional or remain in force for years before a court rejects it. That will leave the use of supplemental scientific material to be determined by local school boards in the intervening years and, if boards in Florida are viewed as evidence, they are likely to be spectacularly incapable of judging scientific issues.
As such, most observers are expecting the passage of the LSEA by the state to unleash a series of Dover-style cases, as various local boards attempt to discover the edges of what's constitutionally allowable. The AAAS' Leshner suggested that the bill's passage would "provoke an expensive, divisive legal fight." In vetoing similar legislation in Oklahoma, Governor Brad Henry suggested it would end up "subjecting them [school officials] to an explosion of costly and protracted litigation that would have to be defended at taxpayers' expense." In essence, Jindal is inviting local school boards to partake in that explosion without committing the state to paying the inevitable costs.
In the meantime, the students of the state will be subjected to an "anything goes" approach to science—if it looks scientific to a school board, it can appear in the classroom.
Louisiana Governor Signs Evolution Bill
Posted by Sean Cavanagh
July 2, 2008
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has quietly signed into law Senate Bill 733, which allows local education agencies to use supplemental classroom materials that will help students "analyze, critique, and review" scientific theories, including evolution.
The governor's action was described in a list of 75 bills that he announced he had approved on June 26, with a one-sentence statement that makes no mention of evolution.
The measure, which was sponsored by state Sen. Ben Nevers, a Democrat, and drew overwhelming support from Louisiana's legislature, specifically states that it is not meant to promote any religious doctrine or belief.
But several scientific organizations believe the law will do just that. One of the leading
scientific societies in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, had urged Jindal to veto the bill, citing the vast amount of scientific evidence backing up evolution and its centrality to students' understanding of science.
"There is virtually no controversy about evolution among researchers, many of whom like you, are deeply religious," AAAS President Alan I. Leshner wrote in a letter to the governor. "Rather than step backward," he added, Louisiana should "look to the future by seeking to provide Louisiana students with a firm understanding of evolution and other essential concepts so they can compete for high-skill jobs in an increasingly high-tech world economy."
Jindal, a first-term Republican, has seen his national profile rise in recent months, having been mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick of presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain.
The new law, titled the Louisiana Science Education Act, says that the state board of education shall "allow and assist" teachers and administrators who want to promote critical thinking of scientific theories "including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The legislation goes on to state that while teachers are expected to teach the material presented in standard textbooks supplied by their school systems, they can supplement those materials with resources that help students "understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" unless otherwise prohibited by the state.
As I've written, global warming has gradually received more attention in science standards and classroom materials as teachers have sought more resources to talk about the subject. See my previous post on Florida's inclusion of the topic in its standards.
The impact of the Louisiana law would seem to depend on the actions taken by school districts and individual teachers. Opponents of the law have predicted that it could prompt a wave of lawsuits, if schools or educators seek to denigrate evolution in favor of religious-based views of life's development, such as creationism, or if they attempt to promote "intelligent design."
A federal judge in Pennsylvania, in a landmark decision, ruled in 2005 that intelligent design was a religious concept, not a scientific one, and that the Dover, Pa., school district's attempt to require that students be introduced to it was unconstitutional. One of the judge's conclusions was that the Dover policy was singling out evolution for special scrutiny or criticism, when the theory is, in fact, one of the foundational principles in all of science.
Louisiana was the setting for a major battle over evolution more than two decades ago. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 struck down a state law that required public schools to balance the teaching of evolution with creationism. The court found that the law violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion.
In the time since the more recent Dover court fight, bills have emerged in several states that have sought to present critiques of evolution as a matter of "academic freedom." So far those bills have not gathered the support necessary to make it into law, and they have drawn opposition from scientists, who see them as a backdoor way of promoting attacks on evolution in public school science classes.
Louisiana Confounds the Science Thought Police
Neo-Darwinism is no longer a protected orthodoxy in the Bayou State's pedagogy.
By John G. West
National Review Online
July 08, 2008
To the chagrin of the science thought police, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has signed into law an act to protect teachers who want to encourage critical thinking about hot-button science issues such as global warming, human cloning, and yes, evolution and the origin of life.
Opponents allege that the Louisiana Science Education Act is "anti-science." In reality, the opposition's efforts to silence anyone who disagrees with them is the true affront to scientific inquiry.
Students need to know about the current scientific consensus on a given issue, but they also need to be able to evaluate critically the evidence on which that consensus rests. They need to learn about competing interpretations of the evidence offered by scientists, as well as anomalies that aren't well explained by existing theories.
Yet in many schools today, instruction about controversial scientific issues is closer to propaganda than education. Teaching about global warming is about as nuanced as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Discussions about human sexuality recycle the junk science of biologist Alfred Kinsey and other ideologically driven researchers. And lessons about evolution present a caricature of modern evolutionary theory that papers over problems and fails to distinguish between fact and speculation. In these areas, the "scientific" view is increasingly offered to students as a neat package of dogmatic assertions that just happens to parallel the political and cultural agenda of the Left.
Real science, however, is a lot more messy -- and interesting -- than a set of ideological talking points. Most conservatives recognize this truth already when it comes to global warming. They know that whatever consensus exists among scientists about global warming, legitimate questions remain about its future impact on the environment, its various causes, and the best policies to combat it. They realize that efforts to suppress conflicting evidence and dissenting interpretations related to global warming actually compromise the cause of good science education rather than promote it.
The effort to suppress dissenting views on global warming is a part of a broader campaign to demonize any questioning of the "consensus" view on a whole range of controversial scientific issues -- from embryonic stem-cell research to Darwinian evolution -- and to brand such interest in healthy debate as a "war on science."
In this environment of politically correct science, thoughtful teachers who want to acquaint their students with dissenting views and conflicting evidence can expect to run afoul of the science thought police.
The Louisiana Science Education Act offers such teachers a modest measure of protection. Under the law, school districts may permit teachers to "use supplementary textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner." The act is not a license for teachers to do anything they want. Instruction must be "objective," inappropriate materials may be vetoed by the state board of education, and the law explicitly prohibits teaching religion in the name of science, stating that its provisions "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine."
The law was so carefully framed that even the head of the Louisiana ACLU has had to concede that it is constitutional as written.
Of course, that hasn't stopped the usual suspects from denouncing the bill as a nefarious plot to sneak religion into the classroom. The good news is that the disinformation campaign proved a massive failure in Louisiana. Only three members of the state legislature voted against the measure, which attracted nearly universal support from both political parties. Efforts to prevent local scientists from supporting the bill also failed. At a legislative hearing in May, three college professors (two biologists and one chemist) testified in favor of the bill, specifically challenging the claim that there are no legitimate scientific criticisms of Neo-Darwinism, the modern theory of evolution that accounts for biological complexity through an undirected process of natural selection acting on random mutations.
Fearful of being branded "anti-science," some conservatives are skittish about such efforts to allow challenges to the consensus view of science. They insist that conservatives should not question currently accepted "facts" of science, only the supposedly misguided application of those facts by scientists to politics, morality, and religion. Such conservatives assume that we can safely cede to scientists the authority to determine the "facts," so long as we retain the right to challenge their application of the facts to the rest of culture.
But there are significant problems with this view.
First, the idea that a firewall exists between scientific "facts" and their implications for society is not sustainable. Facts have implications. If it really is a "fact" that the evolution of life was an unplanned process of chance and necessity (as Neo-Darwinism asserts), then that fact has consequences for how we view life. It does not lead necessarily to Richard Dawkins's militant atheism, but it certainly makes less plausible the idea of a God who intentionally directs the development of life toward a specific end. In a Darwinian worldview, even God himself cannot know how evolution will turn out -- which is why theistic evolutionist Kenneth Miller argues that human beings are a mere "happenstance" of evolutionary history, and that if evolution played over again it might produce thinking mollusks rather than us.
Second, the idea that the current scientific consensus on any topic deserves slavish deference betrays stunning ignorance of the history of science. Time and again, scientists have shown themselves just as capable of being blinded by fanaticism, prejudice, and error as anyone else. Perhaps the most egregious example in American history was the eugenics movement, the ill-considered crusade to breed better human beings.
During the first decades of the 20th century, the nation's leading biologists at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Stanford, as well by members of America's leading scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science were all devoted eugenicists. By the time the crusade had run its course, some 60,000 Americans had been sterilized against their will in an effort to keep us from sinning against Darwin's law of natural selection, which Princeton biologist Edwin Conklin dubbed "the great law of evolution and progress."
Today, science is typically portrayed as self-correcting, but it took decades for most evolutionary biologists to disassociate themselves from the junk science of eugenics. For years, the most consistent critics of eugenics were traditionalist Roman Catholics, who were denounced by scientists for letting their religion stand in the way of scientific progress. The implication was that religious people had no right to speak out on public issues involving science.
The same argument can be heard today, not only in Louisiana, but around the country. Whether the issue is sex education, embryonic stem-cell research, or evolution, groups claiming to speak for "science" assert that it violates the Constitution for religious citizens to speak out on science-related issues. Really?
America is a deeply religious country, and no doubt many citizens interested in certain hot-button science issues are motivated in part by their religious beliefs. So what? Many opponents of slavery were motivated by their religious beliefs, and many leaders of the civil-rights movement were members of the clergy. Regardless of their motivations, religious citizens have just as much a right to raise their voices in public debates as their secular compatriots, including in debates about science. To suggest otherwise plainly offends the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
It is also short-sighted. The history of the eugenics crusade shows that religiously motivated citizens can play a useful role in evaluating the public claims of the scientific community. It is worth pointing out that unlike such "progressive" states as California, Louisiana was spared a eugenics-inspired forced-sterilization statute largely because of the implacable opposition of its Roman Catholic clergy.
So long as religious citizens offer arguments in the public square based on evidence, logic, and appeals to the moral common ground, they have every right to demand that their ideas be judged on the merits, regardless of their religious views.
This is especially true when the concern over religious motives is so obviously hypocritical. In Louisiana, for example, the person leading the charge against the Science Education Act was Barbara Forrest, herself a militant atheist and a long-time board member of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association. At the same time she was denouncing the supposed religious motivations of supporters of the bill, Forrest was seeking grassroots support to lobby against the bill on the official website of Oxford atheist Richard Dawkins.
Conservatives should not support such anti-religious bigotry. Neither should they lend credence to the idea that it is anti-science to encourage critical thinking. In truth, the effort to promote thoughtful discussion of competing scientific views is pro-science. As Charles Darwin himself acknowledged, "a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."
-- John G. West is the author of Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.
New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US
09 July 2008
BARBARA FORREST knew the odds were stacked against her. "They had 50 or 60 people in the room," she says. Her opponents included lobbyists, church leaders and a crowd of home-schooled children. "They were wearing stickers, clapping, cheering and standing in the aisles." Those on Forrest's side numbered less than a dozen, including two professors from Louisiana State University, representatives from the Louisiana Association of Educators and campaigners for the continued separation of church and state.
That was on 21 May, when Forrest testified in the Louisiana state legislature on the dangers hidden in the state's proposed Science Education Act. She had spent weeks trying to muster opposition to the bill on the grounds that it would allow teachers and school boards across the state to present non-scientific alternatives to evolution, including ideas related to intelligent design (ID) - the proposition that life is too complicated to have arisen without the help of a supernatural agent.
The act is designed to slip ID in "through the back door", says Forrest, who is a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and an expert in the history of creationism. She adds that the bill's language, which names evolution along with global warming, the origins of life and human cloning as worthy of "open and objective discussion", is an attempt to misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial.
Forrest's testimony notwithstanding, the bill was passed by the state's legislature - by a majority of 94 to 3 in the House and by unanimous vote in the Senate. On 28 June, Louisiana's Republican governor, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, signed the bill into law. The development has national implications, not least because Jindal is rumoured to be on Senator John McCain's shortlist as a potential running mate in his bid for the presidency.
Born in 1971 to parents recently arrived from India, Jindal is a convert to Roman Catholicism and a Rhodes scholar - hardly the profile of a typical Bible-belt politician. Yet in a recent national television appearance he voiced approval for the teaching of ID alongside evolution. He also enjoys a close relationship with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a lobbying group for the religious right whose mission statement includes "presenting biblical principles" in "centers of influence". It was the LFF which set the bill in motion earlier this year.
"We believe that to teach young people critical thinking skills you have to give them both sides of an issue," says Gene Mills, executive director of the LFF. When asked whether the new law fits with the organisation's religious agenda, Mills told New Scientist: "Certainly it's an extension of it."
The new legislation is the latest manoeuvre in a long-running war to challenge the validity of Darwinian evolution as an accepted scientific fact in American classrooms. Forrest played a pivotal role in the previous battle. It came to a head at a trial in 2005 when US district judge John E. Jones ruled against the Dover area school board in Pennsylvania, whose members had voted that students in high-school biology classes should be encouraged to explore alternatives to evolution and directed to textbooks on ID.
The Dover trial, during which Forrest presented evidence that ID was old-fashioned creationism by another name (New Scientist, 29 October 2005, p 6), revolved around the question of whether ID was science or religion. Jones determined it was the latter, and ruled in favour of the parents who challenged the Dover board on the basis of the provision for separation of church and state in the US constitution.
The strategy being employed in Louisiana by proponents of ID - including the Seattle-based Discovery Institute - is more subtle and potentially more difficult to challenge. Instead of trying to prove that ID is science, they have sought to bestow on teachers the right to introduce non-scientific alternatives to evolution under the banner of "academic freedom".
"Academic freedom is a great thing," says Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California. "But if you look at the American Association of University Professors' definition of academic freedom, it refers to the ability to do research and publish." This, he points out, is different to the job high-school teachers are supposed to do. "In high school, you're teaching mainstream science so students can go on to college or medical school, where you need that freedom to explore cutting-edge ideas. To apply 'academic freedom' to high school is a misuse of the term."
"It's very slick," says Forrest. "The religious right has co-opted the terminology of the progressive left... They know that phrase appeals to people."
The new usage began to permeate public consciousness earlier this year with the release of the documentary film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. Starring actor, game-show host and former Nixon speech-writer Ben Stein, the film argues that academic freedom is under attack in the US from atheist "Darwinists". The film's promoters teamed up with the Discovery Institute to set up the Academic Freedom Petition. Their website provides a "model academic freedom statute on evolution" to serve as a template for sympathetic legislators.
So far, representatives from six states have taken up the idea. In Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and Alabama, bills were introduced but failed. An academic freedom bill now in committee in Michigan is expected to stall there.
Louisiana is another story. A hub of creationist activism since the early 1980s, it was Louisiana that enacted the Balanced Treatment Act, which required that creationism be taught alongside evolution in schools. In a landmark 1987 case known as Edwards vs Aguillard, the US Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, effectively closing the door on teaching "creation science" in public schools. ID was invented soon afterwards as a way of proffering creationist concepts without specific reference to God.
In 2006, the year following the Dover ruling, the Ouachita parish school board in northern Louisiana quietly initiated a new tactic, unanimously approving a science curriculum policy that stated: "Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught." The idea that evolution has weaknesses, and is therefore not a solid scientific theory, is a recurring theme in ID-related literature. Not long afterwards, the assistant superintendent of the Ouachita parish school system, Frank Hoffman, was elected to the state House of Representatives and joined the House education committee. "I knew then that something was going to happen," says Forrest.
When Jindal was elected governor last year, the stage was set. The LFF approached Ben Nevers, a state senator, who agreed to introduce the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act on their behalf. "They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory," Nevers told the Hammond Daily Star in April. The bill was later amended and renamed the Louisiana Science Education Act. Its final version includes a statement that the law should not be taken as promoting religion.
That way, those who wish to challenge Darwinian evolution have "plausible deniability" that this is intended to teach something unconstitutional, says Eric Rothschild of the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton, which represented the parents at the Dover trial. "They are better camouflaged now."
Supporters of the new law clearly hope that teachers and administrators who wish to raise alternatives to evolution in science classes will feel protected if they do so. The law expressly permits the use of "supplemental" classroom materials in addition to state-approved textbooks. The LFF is now promoting the use of online "add-ons" that put a creationist spin on the contents of various science texts in use across the state, and the Discovery Institute has recently produced Explore Evolution, a glossy text that offers the standard ID critiques of evolution (see "The evolution of creationist literature"). Unlike its predecessor Of Pandas and People, which fared badly during the Dover trial, it does not use the term "intelligent design".
Because the law allows individual boards and teachers to make additions to the science curriculum without clearance from a state authority, the responsibility will lie with parents to mount a legal challenge to anything that appears to be an infringement of the separation of church and state. "In Dover, there were parents and teachers willing to step forward and say, this is not OK," says Rosenau. "But here we're seeing that people are either fine with it or they don't want to say anything because they don't want to be ostracised in their community."
Even if a trial ensues, a victory by the plaintiffs will only mean that some specific supplementary material is ruled unconstitutional - not the law itself. Separate lawsuits will be needed to address each piece of suspicious supplementary material. "This encourages a lot of local brush fires that you have to deal with individually and that makes it very difficult," says Forrest. "This is done intentionally, to get this down to the local level. It's going to be very difficult to even know what's going on."
Ultimately, if a number of suits are successfully tried, a group like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) could take the law itself to court, citing various cases in which it was used to bring religious material into the classroom. Representatives from the ACLU and from Americans United for Separation of Church and State have already told Louisiana state officials that lawsuits will follow if the law is used for religious ends.
In the meantime, Forrest is working to inform teachers about the supplementary materials being made available. "The pressing need for the coming school year is to get the word out for what teachers need to be on alert for," she says.
As to a future Dover-style trial, this time on Forrest's home turf, "I'll be right there," she says, though it's not a prospect she relishes. "I'd like to think I won't have to do this for the rest of my life. Because believe me, I don't do it for fun. It's a duty."
The Louisiana Science Education Act
WHAT THE LAW SAYS:
The state... shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment... 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. (Section 1B)
WHAT OPPONENTS FEAR:
Any Louisiana school official is now free to present evolution and other targeted topics as matters of debate rather than broadly accepted science. Books and other materials that support this view can be used in class alongside standard science texts. The onus will be on parents to spot violations of the rules on separation of church and state.
The evolution of creationist literature
One potential consequence of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act could be the appearance - possibly later this year - of anti-evolution textbooks such as "Explore Evolution: The arguments for and against Neo-Darwinism" in schools around the state.
Textbooks lie at the centre of efforts by some religiously motivated groups to discredit evolution in US classrooms. Because of the constitutional principle providing for separation of church and state, evolution cannot be banned from state-funded schools on religious grounds. So the anti-evolution movement has sought to have its favoured alternative, "creation science", taught alongside evolution.
Over the years this approach has given rise to books that superficially resemble standard biology texts but with a creationist message. At first, they freely included the terms "creator" and "creationist" but after the US Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's Balanced Treatment Act in 1987 this was no longer legally acceptable. The result was a new terminology and a new book, Of Pandas and People, first published in 1989, which avoided all mention of creationism in favour of the newly coined "intelligent design". Some officials in the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania (see main story) tried unsuccessfully to make a later edition of the book available to high-school biology students.
Explore Evolution, published last year, represents the latest chapter in the story. It makes no mention of intelligent design but presents the same general argument - namely, that some features of life are too complex and too tailored to their environment to have arisen by natural selection - and presents evolution as an unresolved debate with credible alternatives.
One excerpt from the book's introductory chapter reads: "Looking at the evidence and comparing the competing explanations will provide the most reliable path to discovering which theory, if any, gives the best account of the evidence at hand. Making the comparison is your job. We're asking you to be part scientist, part detective, and part juror."
New Scientist Needs a Reality Check
Posted by Anika Smith on July 11, 2008
Evolution News & Views of the Discovery Institute
New Scientist is up in arms over the successful passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act ("New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US"). NS Reporter Amanda Gefter devotes the article to the narrative of Barbara Forrest, portrayed as a weary warrior against the powers of darkness (that would be us, in case you're wondering). While this makes for an interesting, Alice-through-the-Looking-Glass foray into utter nonsense, the falsehoods and misinformation presented as historical fact need correcting.
The most obvious untruth is Gefter's regurgitation of the old myth that intelligent design came after Edwards v. Aguillard, the 1987 case where the Supreme Court ruled creation science unconstitutional. As a matter of historical record, intelligent design can be traced back to ancient Greece, and the modern theory of ID was born by the early 1980s, as Jonathan Witt recounts in "The Origin of Intelligent Design."
Of course, there are more subtle and pernicious problems with this article. Two scientists are included in the description of Barbara Forrest's league of LSEA opponents, but the four who testified in favor of academic freedom are never mentioned, because for Darwinists and the MSM reporters who "frame the issue," they must not exist.
Explore Evolution is portrayed as an intelligent design book which those clever little Discovery Institute minions designed to present ID arguments, hiding their intent by omitting any mention of intelligent design itself. In reality, Explore Evolution is a textbook devoted to the arguments for and against Darwin’s theory – nothing more and nothing less. The book doesn’t mention intelligent design because the arguments it presents aren’t about ID. (Check out the link and see for yourself.)
Criticisms of Darwin's theory do not equal intelligent design.
While she doesn’t interview many supporters of the bill, Gefter does manage to bring in some voices from the fringes, like Pepper Hamilton's ACLU lawyer Eric Rothschild, who paints the bill as a disingenuous religious bid which is "better camouflaged now," with "the final version" of the bill including "a statement that the law should not be taken as promoting religion."
Actually, the bill contained that language from its inception. The sample legislation available at AcademicFreedomPetition.com and mentioned in the article includes that language. It was never "added in" by anyone, but was always the stated purpose and intent of the bill:
Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.
Gefter would better serve New Scientist's readers by researching the true history of both intelligent design and the LSEA for a dose of reality.
LOUISIANA'S ANTIEVOLUTION BILL DRAWS SCRUTINY
by Glenn Branch
July 11, 2008
Senate Bill 733, signed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on June 25, continues to draw criticism from scientists and political observers across the political spectrum.
In the New Scientist, Amanda Gefter reports (July 9, 2008), "The new legislation is the latest manoeuvre in a long-running war to challenge the validity of Darwinian evolution as an accepted scientific fact in American classrooms." Since the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, where intelligent design creationism was found to be nonscience and unconstitutional to present in science classes, Gefter explains that "The strategy being employed in Louisiana by proponents of ID -- including the Seattle-based Discovery Institute -- is more subtle and potentially more difficult to challenge. Instead of trying to prove that ID is science, they have sought to bestow on teachers the right to introduce non-scientific alternatives to evolution under the banner of 'academic freedom.'"
NCSE's Josh Rosenau explained to Gefter why that is a misuse of the term: "Academic freedom is a great thing," he explained. "But if you look at the American Association of University Professors' definition of academic freedom, it refers to the ability to do research and publish." Gefter continues: "Rosenau distinguished this from the situation the bill addresses by pointing out that 'In high school, you're teaching mainstream science so students can go on to college or medical school, where you need that freedom to explore cutting-edge ideas. To apply 'academic freedom' to high school is a misuse of the term.'"
"It's very slick," NCSE board member Barbara Forrest told Gefter. "The religious right has co-opted the terminology of the progressive left... They know that phrase appeals to people."
Gefter explains that "Supporters of the new law clearly hope that teachers and administrators who wish to raise alternatives to evolution in science classes will feel protected if they do so. The law expressly permits the use of 'supplemental' classroom materials in addition to state-approved textbooks. The L[ouisiana] F[amily] F[orum] is now promoting the use of online 'add-ons' that put a creationist spin on the contents of various science texts in use across the state, and the Discovery Institute has recently produced Explore Evolution, a glossy text that offers the standard ID critiques of evolution. ... Unlike its predecessor Of Pandas and People, which fared badly during the Dover trial, it does not use the term 'intelligent design'."
The Louisiana Family Forum's mission statement includes "presenting biblical principles" in "centers of influence," and the bill's sponsor credits LFF with drafting the bill. (The "add-ons" they promote include references to young earth creationist Jonathan Woodmorappe's flood geology, as well as attacks on the hominid fossil record by geocentrist Malcolm Bowden.) Gefter asked Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum "whether the new law fits with the organisation's religious agenda." Mills answered: "Certainly it's an extension of it."
The Discovery Institute's John West, in an opinion piece at the National Review (July 8, 2008), insisted that there's nothing to fear from such religious agendas. "Whether the issue is sex education, embryonic stem-cell research, or evolution, groups claiming to speak for 'science' assert that it violates the Constitution for religious citizens to speak out on science-related issues. ... America is a deeply religious country, and no doubt many citizens interested in certain hot-button science issues are motivated in part by their religious beliefs. So what? Many opponents of slavery were motivated by their religious beliefs, and many leaders of the civil-rights movement were members of the clergy. Regardless of their motivations, religious citizens have just as much a right to raise their voices in public debates as their secular compatriots, including in debates about science. To suggest otherwise plainly offends the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion."
West adds "Fearful of being branded 'anti-science,' some conservatives are skittish about such efforts to allow challenges to the consensus view of science."
Conservative columnist John Derbyshire, a staff writer at the National Review, replied the next day (July 9, 2008) at The Corner, the National Review's blog. Derbyshire explains his objections to the bill by pointing out that "Whether or not the law as signed is unconstitutional per se, I do not know. I do know, though -- as the creationist Discovery Institute that helped promote the Act also surely knows -- that the Act will encourage Louisiana local school boards to unconstitutional behavior. That's what it's meant to do. Some local school board will take the Act as a permit to bring religious instruction into their science classes. That will irk some parents. Those parents will sue. There will be a noisy and expensive federal lawsuit, possibly followed by further noisy and expensive appeals. The school board will inevitably lose. The property owners of that school district will take the financial hit. Where will the Discovery Institute be when these legal expenses come due? Just where they were in the Dover case -- nowhere!"
For the text of the legislation, visit:
For the New Scientist article, visit:
For John West's article in the National Review, visit:
For John Derbyshire's column at National Review Online, visit:
And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:
Intelligent Design May be Taught Alongside Evolution in Louisiana Schools
Shane McGlaun (Blog)
July 12, 2008
Opponents to the legislation say this puts church back into schools
On May 21, 2008, Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southern Louisiana University, testified in the Louisiana state legislature on the dangers hidden in the State’s Science Education Act.
According to Forrest, the Act allows teachers and school boards across the state to teach non-scientific alternatives to evolution including ideas related to Intelligent Design (ID). Forrest says the bill is a backhanded way to get creationism back into schools.
She states the wording of the Act names evolution along with global warming, the origins of human life and human cloning as worthy of “open and objective discussion” -- suggesting that evolution is scientifically controversial topic.
A U.S. Supreme Court case in 1987 barred creationism from being taught in U.S. public schools. The justices ruled state aid to religious teachings violated the Establishment Clause of First Amendment. Since then, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute has successfully lobbied that intelligent design is not only scientifically sound, but also that it differs from creationism barred from schools.
Despite Forrest’s testimony, the bill passed easily in Louisiana with a majority House vote of 94 to 3, followed unanimously in the State Senate. Louisiana's conservative Christian governor Piyush Jindal signed the bill, making it law on June 28.
Supporters of evolution say that the new legislation is nothing more than a new maneuver in the war to challenge the validity of Darwinian evolution. Forrest was also a figure in a 2005 trial in Dover, where she presented leaked Discovery Institute documents that demonstrated intelligent design school books were in fact creationist schoolbooks with the names replaced.
Immediately following Forrest's comments to New Scientist, the Discovery Institute wrote a blog on its Evolution News website, claiming Forrest and the publication needed "a reality check."
"Intelligent design is currently not in the Louisiana state science standards and so could not be taught. But this allows scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory to be taught," said Discovery Institute fellow John West in a recent Reuters interview.
Questions and Answers about the Proposed Louisiana Science Education Act
Posted by John West on June 12, 2008
Evolution News & Views of the Discovery Institute
On Wednesday, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which now goes to the state Senate for final approval. Critics are already in overdrive trying to misrepresent the proposed law. Here is a quick guide to the facts.
What would the Louisiana Science Education Act actually do?
Two main things:
1. Upon the request of a local school board, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would be required to "allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators 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." Assistance from the State Board in this area would "include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied."
2. School districts could permit teachers to "use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner." But teachers using supplemental resources must first "teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system," and the State Board of Education would reserve the right to veto any inappropriate supplemental materials.
Why is the law needed?
For two reasons. First, around the country, science teachers are being harassed, intimidated, and sometimes fired for trying to present scientific evidence critical of Darwinian theory along with the evidence that supports it. Second, many school administrators and teachers are fearful or confused about what is legally allowed when teaching about controversial scientific issues like evolution. The Louisiana Science Education Act clarifies what teachers may be allowed to do.
Would the law allow the teaching of creationism or other religious beliefs?
Absolutely not. Section 1D of the law clearly states that the law "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."
Would the law allow teachers to teach whatever they want in the classroom?
No. Teachers would still be required to teach according to state and local science standards. But under the law, a school district could permit a teacher to present additional scientific evidence, analysis, and critiques regarding topics already in the approved curriculum.
But wouldn't the law allow teachers to present wacky non-scientific evidence or religious arguments?
No. Teachers are still required to follow the standard curriculum, and school districts would still need to authorize what teachers are doing in order for the law to come into operation. Moreover, any teaching or supplemental instructional materials would have to be consistent with the prohibition of the promotion of religion in Section 1D of the bill. Finally, any inappropriate instructional materials could be disallowed under the bill by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Would this law be unconstitutional?
No. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that it is permissible for schools to teach "scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" (Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578), and even groups like the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have conceded that "any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught." In addition, it should be noted that at least nine states currently have state or local policies that protect, encourage, and sometimes even require teachers to discuss the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian evolution. None have been challenged in court as unconstitutional.
Americans United Misrepresents the Facts about Louisiana Science Education Bill
Posted by John West on June 12, 2008
Evolution News & Views of the Discovery Institute
The Chicken Littles at Americans United for Separation of Church and State are now running around warning that
The Louisiana House of Representatives [has]... approved a measure that opens the door to teaching creationism in public schools...
Well, no, it didn't. The proposed Louisiana law expressly states in Section 1C that it "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion." Americans United conveniently neglects to mention that section of the bill. If any school districts or teachers try to use the bill to promote creationism or other religious views, they will be violating the law itself. Any supplemental textbooks adopted under the law would have to abide by this prohibition in Section 1C. In addition, any inappropriate supplemental textbooks or instructional materials could be vetoed under the law by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
What would be permitted under the bill is the presentation of scientific analysis and critiques of existing scientific theories. Thus, school districts could allow teachers to cover debates among scientists about whether random mutations are actually a major engine for evolutionary change as modern Darwinism claims. They could also allow discussions of experimental evidence showing the limits of natural selection. And they certainly could allow the presentation of more information and analysis about theories of the chemical origins of life from non-life.
Texas Citizens for Science Last updated: 2008 July 13