Science Under Siege — Louisiana Edition

The religious right’s war to undermine teaching about evolutionary science has spilled over the state line from Texas into Louisiana. Today a Louisiana panel is considering proposed biology textbooks that religious-right groups criticize as pro-evolution. Barbara Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a co-founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, is very concerned:

“We now have a Texas-style attack on the selection of biology textbooks, courtesy of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), which brought us the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) of 2008. (See the LFF’s “Action Item” in its August 10, 2010, Family Facts newsletter.)”

The Baton Rouge Advocate sees trouble:

“When the state boards of education in Texas and Kansas bent to political pressure and began to censor or amend textbooks through distortions of science and history, those states were embarrassed in the nation. We hope that experience is much on the minds of the committee that today will hear complaints about textbooks for high school biology in Louisiana.”

The religious right’s attacks on the proposed textbooks follow the typical anti-science script. Winston White of Baton Rouge told the Advocate:

“It is like Charles Darwin and his theory is a saint. You can’t touch it.”

Of course, no scientist argues that Darwin’s work — or the other research of any other scientist — should be accepted uncritically. But they do insist that 21st-century science be taught in science classrooms. That means there is no place in science classrooms for junk science trotted out by creationists who arrogantly demand that public schools teach a narrow religious point of view that has no foundation in real research and that other people of faith simply don’t share.

The right’s war on science education is marching steadily across the country. It will return to Texas in 2011, when the State Board of Education considers proposed instructional materials published to cover new science curriculum standards the board adopted for high school courses in 2009. Those standards include a variety of requirements designed to challenge key concepts in evolutionary science.

For more on the Louisiana situation, check out reports from the National Center for Science Education and Education Week.

6 thoughts on “Science Under Siege — Louisiana Edition

  1. Where’s “Swamp Thing” when you need him. I figure with the oil spill, the state of LA will ultimately be so overrun with wildlife biologists, etc., that the “science” thing will become moot. However, in the short term, these idiots can cause a lot of trouble.
    The one thing science and history teachers and advocates should remember, we have the truth on our side. We can make an atomic bomb go off, and we can cure disease. All these other folks can do is shudder in the darkness and watch wheel of fortune.

  2. I’m almost amazed, but the Louisiana textbook committee voted 8-4 to approve the biology books. This still requires final approval by the BESE Board which oversees the public schools. This is a defeat for the Louisiana Family Forum that has been pushing creationism and intelligent design in Louisiana schools. Of course the battle is not over. We still have a stupid law that allows school systems to supplement approved texts with outside material i.e. supplements critical of evolution. How much of this will actually occur is yet to be seen.

  3. “How much of this will actually occur is yet to be seen.”

    No. Not really. I am sure my friend Babs Forrest and her supporters at the NCSE have plans to haul this law before a Federal District Court Judge the split second someone introduces these so-called supplements into a public school classroom. This state law is dead on arrival. No one can make a believable argument that these supplements are anything other than religious propoganda that violates the First Amendment. For all the Christian fundamentalists and the Louisiana Family Forum, I would like to point out several important facts on why such a case will not be upheld by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court:

    1) Most of the judges on the high court are Roman Catholics. The right wing extremists were asleep at the wheel while Presidents of both parties were stacking the high court with the ever-hated Roman Catholics.

    2) The Roman Catholic Church made official peace with Charles Darwin a long time ago and officially supports evolution. The faithful, including the judges on the high court, are spiritually obligated to go along (You know how Catholics are) and are unlikely to be in sympathy with creationism or intelligent design.

    3) American Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have spent a couple of centuries demonizing the Roman Catholic Church and its faithful members. Once upon a time, I sat in the pews of a large, wealthy, and well-educated Southern Baptist Convention church where my pastor said words against the Catholics that were worthy of the Nuremberg party rally in 1932. The Catholics know how much these conservative churches hate them and work against them in as many venues of American life and culture as possible. The judges on the high court grew up experiencing this well-orchestrated prejudice. They are not about to yield to these fruitcakes in a court decision that would put their Catholic faith and the faiths of other Americans in legal danger. Not a chance. With regard to creationism and intelligent design, the Louisiana Family Forum and other such organizations have made the same mistake that Hitler did with the Jews. They ran the Jewish scientists out of Germany, Hungary, and Italy on a rail with their hatred—and straight into the arms of the Manhattan Project. Hitler could have had the atomic bomb—but oh no—he was too busy hating, killing, and deporting the enemies of God to notice that he was actually cutting the throat of his axis alliance. The Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelical creationists have made exactly the same mistake with the Roman Catholics, and they are going to pay dearly for it with this issue on the high court. Mark my word.

    4) Finally, conservative or not and Catholic or not, the judges on the high court are well-educated men and women who can spot a rotten legal fish inside 5 seconds. Creationism and intelligent design are about the worst-smelling legal fish that ever existed.

  4. It’s not so much “marching steadily across the country” as it is sticking to regions with higher concentrations of Biblical Inerrancy.

    Which is to say, the problem is mostly (but not entirely) in old Dixie territory.

  5. I agree with you, Charles. Even the Roberts’ court will protect the 1st amendment, I think. I’m waiting for the big smackdown when one of these creationism cases make it to the SC. In the meantime, we can use the controversy to teach science and history to our children.
    At least those of us who love our children and don’t want to handicap them and make them second class citizens can.