Louisiana lashes out at science


“Stop the World! I Want to Get Off!” won a Tony Award on Broadway in 1963. It was a musical play about a fellow who overreached. With book and lyrics by Leslie Bricuse and Anthony Newly, it spawned a string of hit popular songs: “What Kind of Fool Am I?” “Gonna Climb a Mountain,” “Once in a Lifetime,” and “Mumbo Jumbo” among them.

Oh, why not: Update, here’s Sammy Davis, Jr., singing “What Kind of Fool Am I?”:

How can one know that history and not think of it, when looking at the current Louisiana legislature? What kind of fools are they, indeed? Louisiana would like the world to stop, so they can get off.

Progress and science so much offend the Louisiana legislature that they have carved out what they hope is an exception so teachers can avoid hard science on issues like reproduction (cloning), evolution, and that pesky weather stuff that ransacked New Orleans, global warming. Sitting on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk right now is the enrolled version of S. B. 733, the misnamed “Science Education Act,” which gives teachers and local school districts the right to deviate from state curriculum and science texts in those three areas.

Why not the Big Bang and other cosmology? Why not gravity? Why not algebra? It may be that Louisiana’s preachers don’t know about those areas of science. Shhhhh! Don’t tell them!

A few observations.

First, having been slapped down by federal courts repeatedly when they’ve tried to introduce religion into science classes before, the legislature seems to have learned not to say much, in hopes that federal courts will have difficulty determining the religious intentions behind the bill. In 1987, in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard, federal courts didn’t even get to trial. They simply took the statements of the legislators as to their religious intentions.

This time around, the bill is being passed without debate at all. Legislators obviously hope that if they say nothing, they can’t be held responsible for anything. Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubts — and obviously, there is hope among Louisiana creationists that federal courts won’t be able to use their closed-mouthedness as to evidence their foolishness. Well, they may want to consider that intelligent design has been ruled religious dogma by a federal court, already.

Second, the legislature’s learnings seem limited to bellicose speeches. The courts have repeatedly struck down Louisiana’s yearnings to teach creationism, both statewide, and repeatedly in the Tangipahoa Parish schools, which tried warning labels on textbooks and a variety of other methods, losing in court each time. It’s not just the ravings of the legislators that get up the dander of the courts. When the laws that come out of the ravings offend the Constitution, especially the First Amendment, the courts have struck them down. It’s not enough to just play at being non-offensive: The actions of the legislature must also not violate the Constitution. They appear not to have figured that one out. (More remedial con law courses coming up? Perhaps.)

The state should just let science be taught. Sneaking religion in does no good for the students, and it’s no secret that’s what they’re doing.

Third, the bill wasn’t drafted by people with much experience drafting legislation, running schools, or defending the Constitution. The bill could be used in some districts to teach nothing but evolution. It opens the door for anything a local school board decides might be science in three specific areas, cloning, evolution and global warming. Fruitcake groups like Ken Ham’s “Answers in Genesis” will rush to produce materials noting the accuracy of Hanna-Barbera’s “Flintstones.” Kids could be allowed to watch cartoons and call it science. In contrast, teachers who don’t understand the science in the first place will probably have few sources to turn to for good science information. Maybe one way to kill the law would be to point out that this thing opens the door wide for the theology of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may his noodly appendage . . . well, you know).

What you should do: The Louisiana Coalition for Science urges Gov. Jindal to veto the bill; you should call Jindal’s office and urge a veto, too.

You can send e-mail here.

You can mail, or telephone, here:

Mailing Address:

Governor Bobby Jindal
PO Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004

Phone: 225-342-7015 or 866-366-1121 (Toll Free)
Fax: 225-342-7099

Other sources:

Text of the bill below the fold.

Regular Session, 2008 – ENROLLED


SENATE BILL NO. 733 (Substitute of Senate Bill No. 561 by Senator Nevers)

BY SENATORS NEVERS, ADLEY, AMEDEE, BROOME, CASSIDY, CHEEK, CRAVINS, CROWE,
DONAHUE, DORSEY, DUPLESSIS, ERDEY, B. GAUTREAUX, N. GAUTREAUX, GRAY, HEBERT, KOSTELKA, LONG, MARTINY, MOUNT, MURRAY, RISER, SHAW, SHEPHERD, THOMPSON AND WALSWORTH AND REPRESENTATIVES ANDERS, ARMES, ARNOLD, AUBERT, AUSTIN BADON, BARROW, BURFORD, HENRY BURNS, TIM BURNS, BURRELL, CARMODY, CARTER, CHANDLER, CHANEY, CORTEZ, DANAHAY, DIXON, DOERGE, DOWNS, EDWARDS, ELLINGTON, FANNIN, FRANKLIN, GEYMANN, GISCLAIR, GREENE, ELBERT GUILLORY, MICKEY GUILLORY, GUINN, HARDY, HARRISON, HAZEL, HENDERSON, HENRY, HILL, HINES, HOFFMANN, HOWARD, HUTTER, KATZ, KLECKLEY, LABRUZZO, LAMBERT, LIGI, LITTLE, LOPINTO, MCVEA, MILLS, MONICA, NORTON, PEARSON, PERRY, PUGH, RICHARD, RICHARDSON, RITCHIE, SCHRODER, SIMON, SMILEY, GARY SMITH, JANE SMITH, TUCKER, WHITE AND WILLIAMS

AN ACT

To enact R.S. 17:285.1, relative to curriculum and instruction; to provide relative to the teaching of scientific subjects in public elementary and secondary schools; to promote students’ critical thinking skills and open discussion of scientific theories; to provide relative to support and guidance for teachers; to provide relative to textbooks and instructional materials; to provide for rules and regulations; to provide for effectiveness; and to provide for related matters.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana:

Section 1. R.S. 17:285.1 is hereby enacted to read as follows:

§285.1. Science education; development of critical thinking skills

A. This Section shall be known and may be cited as the “Louisiana Science Education Act.”

B.(1) The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board, shall 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.

(2) Such assistance shall include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied, including those enumerated in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection.

C. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board unless otherwise prohibited by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

D. This Section 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.

E. The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and each city, parish, or other local public school board shall adopt and promulgate the rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this Section prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

Section 2. This Act shall become effective upon signature by the governor or, if not signed by the governor, upon expiration of the time for bills to become law without signature by the governor, as provided by Article III, Section 18 of the Constitution of Louisiana. If vetoed by the governor and subsequently approved by the legislature, this Act shall become effective on the day following such approval.

19 Responses to Louisiana lashes out at science

  1. […] religion into science classes in Edwards v. Aguillard — rushed through a bill drafted by the deaf-to-the-law Discovery Institute which purports on its face to make it legal for Louisiana science teachers to teach creationism, intelligent design, tarot […]

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  2. […] Previous Bathtub comments, and text of the law, here, “Louisiana lashes out at science.” […]

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  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Hmmm. Penzias and Wilson are on that list, too — two guys creationists have recently tried to coopt into their schemes. Good catch, Bret!

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  4. Ediacaran says:

    Speaking of Nobel Prizewinning Scientist Barbara McClintock, she’s one of the Nobel Scientists who signed the Amicus Curiae Brief supporting evolution and rejecting creationism in the case Edwards v. Aguillard:

    Luis W. Alvarez, Carl D. Anderson, Christian B. Anfinsen, Julius Axelrod, David Baltimore, John Bardeen, Paul Berg, Hans A. Bethe, Konrad Bloch, Nicolaas Bloembergen, Michael S. Brown, Herbert C. Brown, Melvin Calvin, S. Chandrasekhar, Leon N. Cooper, Allan Cormack, Andre Cournand, Francis Crick, Renato Dulbecco, Leo Esaki, Val L. Fitch, William A. Fowler, Murray Gell-Mann, Ivar Giaever, Walter Gilbert, Donald A. Glaser, Sheldon Lee Glashow, Joseph L. Goldstein, Roger Guillemin, Roald Hoffmann, Robert Hofstadter, Robert W. Holley, David H. Hubel, Charles B. Huggins, H. Gobind Khorana, Arthur Kornberg, Polykarp Kusch, Willis E. Lamb, Jr., William Lipscomb, Salvador E. Luria, Barbara McClintock, Bruce Merrifield, Robert S. Mulliken, Daniel Nathans, Marshall Nirenberg, John H. Northrop, Severo Ochoa, George E. Palade, Linus Pauling, Arno A. Penzias, Edward M. Purcell, Isidor I. Rabi, Burton Richter, Frederick Robbins, J. Robert Schrieffer, Glenn T. Seaborg, Emilio Segre, Hamilton O. Smith, George D. Snell, Roger Sperry, Henry Taube, Howard M. Temin, Samuel C. C. Ting, Charles H. Townes, James D. Watson, Steven Weinberg, Thomas H. Weller, Eugene P. Wigner, Kenneth G. Wilson, Robert W. Wilson, Rosalyn Yalow, Chen Ning Yang.

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  5. Ed Darrell says:

    I looked at the first sailing of the Carnival of Elitist Bastards. Here’s my dilemma: This blog is used by teachers and students — a lot. I don’t want words to pop up here that will raise the hackles of the filtermeisters.

    Nor am I fond of the euphemism, “Carnival of Illegitimate Children.”

    Of course, I don’t object to posts from here being included there . . . thanks for thinking about us.

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  6. […] it legal for public school teachers to ‘teach the controversy’. Read more about it here. Hilariously, it’s being defended as a way of encouraging children’s ‘critical […]

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  7. Ed you should join the Carnival of Elitist Bastards, the second sailing is June 28th. This blog address here has all the contact information and plenty of nifty badges.

    http://elitistbastardscarnival.blogspot.com/

    We, that is the Bitter Hinterlands, post mainly about politics and business with a smattering of science for those too lazy to check the facts for themselves.

    http://goesdownbitter.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/drill-drill-drill/

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  8. Ed Darrell says:

    Wayne, you can’t identify anything “wrong” in biology. If we put in one of those ten-minute segments, we would be multiplying errors in biology.

    You’re advocating teaching garbage to children. That stuff is just falsehood, start to finish. It’s academically flaccid and impotent — except for the poisonous parts.

    If you cannot list a dozen fossils of “failed species” and “branches that lead to nowhere,” you’re not familiar with the science or the fossils. If you think such a tiny misunderstanding of evolution damages the science, you’re not paying attention to what the science really is.

    Scientists criticize Darwin all the time, but with these key differences: First, they understand what the theory says, and they present it accurately. Second, they find data to support their criticisms, or they look at parts of the theory where data are not clear, and they work on making those areas more clear. And third, they act ethically, making their criticisms based on the data actually known, after they’ve done surveys of the data to make sure they have found all of the research, and they don’t prevaricate about what is known in science.

    Barbara McClintock’s work was all criticism of science, which you’d probably have known had not Mr. Marshall so bolluxed up her story and her research. The accepted theory was that genes didn’t jump. McClintock won the Nobel for proving the contrary. In doing her research, in making her case, in winning her Nobel, Dr. McClintock did not misrepresent evolution theory. She did years of experiments to produce data to support, or to disprove, her hypotheses. She did not lie about her findings, she did not lie about other scientists did, especially those who opposed her position. Marshall would do well to study what she actually did, and how. Science thrives on ethical behaviors. Science can’t tolerate prevarications of the scope or depth of Marshall’s.

    From the corruption viewpoint alone, from the ethical lapses Marshall makes, I’d have to say that creationism as presented by Marshall is the very picture of sin. It would be better that we let Darwinian theory go uncriticized than we unethically tell falsehoods about science, the data, the theories, and the scientists.

    What possible excuse can there be for such an enormous amount of falsehood? How can anyone justify lying to anybody about this, especially to children?

    Your claim that there is fear of challenge is hooey, too. There is fear that people will lie, as Marshall does, and mislead innocents. That’s a valid fear from what we’ve seen here.

    I elevated your comment and my response to a new post, “Louisiana creationists gear up campaign to deceive students.”

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  9. […] creationists gear up campaign to deceive students My earlier post urging readers to contact Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to urge him to veto the latest creationist […]

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  10. There is far more than just the piece that I posted … which is more of an introductory type of video it spends half the time explaining what Darwinist believe.

    If we take all the wrong stuff out of Darwinism it becomes hard to even understand the theory. If you use it as a starting point, add information theory in, then it makes sense why scientists are looking for DNA from space, because there has not been enough time to go through the numbers of generations required on earth. and there are no missing links – given a legalist acceptance of Darwinism there should be more fossils of failed species and branches that lead to nowhere.

    Darwinism is 150 years old, if people don’t look at it critically it will not evolve. Maybe some of the people who understand Darwinism enough to see what it fails to explain are correct. Maybe DNA has the ability to change rapidly, like the somebody who has gotten the HIV virus. If that is how it happened than that is how it happened, but fear of having a challenge introduced is not going to bring us closer to the truth.

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  11. Ed Darrell says:

    Why would anyone waste the time of a kid in class to show that dreck? Why not spend the time in instruction in what we know to be true? Are you arguing that kids should be shown that film? Seriously?

    Why not make films saying the Moon is made of green cheese? Why not make films saying the Earth rotates to the west? Why not make films saying angels push the planets around, and the Earth orbits the Moon?

    Teaching kids the wrong stuff is pedagogically bankrupt. I regard it as generally immoral. Education is about showing the facts, seeking the truth, getting good information to kids. Those films do none of that.

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  12. Ed Darrell,

    Do you wish that they see the information in an environment that it can be challenged then or on cable where it won’t be?

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  13. Ed Darrell says:

    Wayne,

    The only stuff obscene about that film is the gross distortion of science and the celebration of ignorance.

    1. There is absolutely no indication that DNA was designed. Why does Marshall assume that? Gross, incorrect assumptions completely unsupported by evidence isn’t a good way to make a case for rationality.

    2. Why does he start with American pronghorn antelopes, and suggest they go to giraffes? While I think anyone familiar with mammalian physiology would see the links — but why didn’t he start with a relative of the giraffe, the okapi? Wouldn’t it make more sense to line up cousins we know to be related and ask whether they look like relatives?

    Giraffes are walking advertisements for natural selection, especially with their bad designs — the neckbones, for example. To get a long neck on a giraffe, because they are mammals, evolution has seven bones to work with. You have seven bones in your neck, so does the giraffe. To make the neck long, the bones must get massive — that’s probably the easiest mutation to make a long neck in an okapi-like animal, the ancestors to modern giraffes. The massive bones mean that giraffes are not balanced well — they put their lives at risk to simply bend down to get a drink of water (many giraffes die getting a drink; when they’re old, they simply can’t get back up).

    So, if giraffes are made by designers, the designers are sadistic, cruel things that play jokes on the gentle giraffe.

    Why not give a giraffe a bird’s neck? Birds have about 14 bones in their neck — take the hummingbird, for example. 14 bones, and the bones are made lighter and structurally stronger by “pneumatizing” — they are matrices of bones that air can flow through, reducing mass dramatically. Bird necks would work much better for a giraffe.

    Wouldn’t an intelligent designer figure that out?

    Giraffe evolution is pretty well known, from fossils, corroborated by DNA. There’s one quirk in giraffe anatomy that points back to mammalian piscine origins, too — the vagus nerve, which loops through one of the brachial arches, same as it did in fish. In fish, it’s a straight line from the brain to the throat where the nerve terminates. In mammals, the nerve must go from the brain, down the neck, through the aorta, and back up the neck. In giraffes, then, that connection from brain to neck covers a distance of about 7 inches as a tiny crow would fly; however, because the nerve has to go down the neck, through the aorta, and back up the neck, typically it’s about 15 feet long.

    How stupid does the designer have to be before you guys fire him?

    3. The Google ad example isn’t analogous to evolution in living things — and probably more to the point, the guy didn’t bother to test the mutations to see which would survive or survive better. Clearly he doesn’t have a much of an understanding of evolution. He doesn’t subject the ads to natural selection. What are his criteria for a “more effective ad?” He doesn’t say, but it’s clear that he thinks proper spelling is the key. Were he familiar with advertising, he’d know that’s unproven. In any case, he appears frightened of trying the ads himself to see what happens — that would be natural selection.

    4. The guy presents false conclusions from Dobzhansky’s and Goldschmidt’s work, especially lying about the creation of new species. New species are rather common in fruit fly work. If this is a damaging presentation to evolution, why doesn’t he present the real results of the research, the real conclusions of Dobzhansky — who was a devout Christian, by the way? Why does he lie about the work of good Christian men?

    5. The presentation on Barbara McClintock’s work is truncated — but the guy’s up in the night. Genes were not known about? Genes were known about broadly after about 1900. McClintock was born two years later. Don’t take my word for it — but back to Dobzhansky for a moment. This LSOS Marshall talks about fruit fly research without mentioning Thomas Hunt Morgan, under whom Dobzhansky worked when Dobzhansky first got to America — when he ignores the major theorist in the field for the early work, we can simply conclude that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But Dobzhansky, who is quite famous among biologists, published one of his great lifetime works in 1937 — catch the year — and it was titled, Genetics and the Origin of Species. So, Marshall argues that we didn’t know about genes, when there were major works on genes published in English in 1937? He’s obviously wholly unfamiliar with the great Russian geneticists of the 1920s. Does this gross and grotesque ignorance start to bother you yet? (You may read whole chapters of Dobzhansky’s book here: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/dobzhansky_genetics.html )

    Why does Marshall think he can misrepresent the Nobel Prize winning work of a woman and get away with it? It’s well known that her major work was done in the 1950s — not only were genes well known then, but DNA’s structure was figured out in 1953. Marshall appears completely unencumbered by any knowledge of the history of biological research. Are creationists generally so out of it that they don’t bother to Google her up? McClintock’s work, on transposons, “jumping genes,” directly refutes many of the claims Marshall makes in his Google ad comedy routine. One has to wonder if he bothered to look at McClintock’s real work at all, or if he just imagined what he thought a “very old lady” (Marshall’s characterization) ought to be doing in science.

    The gall of Marshall is appalling, isn’t it? We should keep children from seeing it just to let them avoid seeing such an obnoxious man.

    6. Marshall’s claim that DNA is exactly like computer code is a fatuous error of monumental proportions. Do you really think he does not understand that there is a difference between chemistry and electronics. Is he such a monumental fool that he doesn’t understand the error of his claim?

    7. Having gotten away with so much wool-pulling, I suppose Marshall thinks he can fabricate whole-cloth stories about anything and not get caught. He writes on another page of that site:

    When Darwin created his theory he stated his assumptions clearly in a true scientific method. He believed that cells were simple and if they were complex then his theory would be invalidated. To put it in other terms if the cell were as complex as an engine and a gun was fired through the engine which resulted in no immediate harm to the engine but instead improving the engine. If the cells were as complex as an engine than the theory would have problems.

    That’s absolutely false. Darwin didn’t believe cells were simple. Darwin didn’t believe complexity of a cell would affect the validity of evolution in any way — Darwin’s evidence was almost all above the cellular level, so the complexity or simplicity of a cell was completely irrelevant to the function of evolution theory as Darwin discovered it.

    It’s as if, having told a few fibs to get into this topic, Marshall and his accomplices must invent bigger and bigger fabrications as they go. There is a scientific term for this in psychology: Pathological lying.

    So, why in the world would any Christian offer that presentation to kids trying to learn evolution? It offers no salient information for or against evolution, and nothing for design. It botches up what little evolution it has. It suffers from a completely lack of critical thinking, instead relying on a false analogy to make its point. Why would any noble person offer to confuse and confound students so?

    It was good of you to call those films to my attention, Wayne. You’re right, they shouldn’t be shown to children. They are garbage. I cannot imagine anyone hating children so much that they’d want to fill them up with boring, inaccurate, silly presentations like those. Marhsall’s science wouldn’t get him past the 9th grade biology test on evolution here in Texas, and it’s well below high school understanding for any other biology classes. As for Marshall himself, I gather he’s no Christian. Any Christian would be familiar with Jesus’s teachings about those who would lead innocent children astray, repeated in three of the four gospels: “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:2; also see Mark 9:42 and Matthew 18:46). You can see why the Louisiana Coalition for Science is trying to keep Marshall from condemning himself.

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  14. […] great blog post Please read this excellent blog post on the Louisiana academic freedom fiasco. I think it sums up all the issues […]

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  15. soulbiscuit says:

    Great post! The only hopeful fact in this whole fiasco is that the courts will swat this bill like a fly on a pancake as soon as any teacher tries to teach ID in the schools.

    By the way, Wayne, that’s exactly what would happen if some hapless teacher showed your video to his class.

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  16. I’ve linked your post from blogscan of the article The Video – Louisiana Coalition for Science – is afraid of!

    This video is part of a series that discusses Intelligent Design … please view it and decide if it is OK for your children to watch!

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  17. The Louisianna educational system has been a joke for years anyway. Let them pass this bill, and then start making their kids really stupid. Sure, a whole generation of Louisianna kids not educated in Catholic schools will suffer. But maybe it’ll serve as a tipping point for the whole country, and we can then finally wake up. Think of them as cannon fodder in the war against science. Afterwards, we can build them a nice statue.

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  18. […] Creationism has support in Louisiana. Isn’t that a […]

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