John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
huerta at aas.org
The Louisiana Senate has approved a bill that would allow teachers to teach unscientific views on evolution, global warming, and other scientific subjects. The Senate bill has to be reconciled with a similar but slightly more scientifically acceptable bill in Louisiana's House.
From the National Center for Science Education:
Louisiana antievolution bill passes Senate
Senate Bill 733, the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, was unanimously passed by the Louisiana Senate on April 28, 2008. If enacted, the bill would call upon the state board of elementary and secondary education to "allow and assist" teachers and 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."
Included would be "support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review [the] scientific theories being studied"; teachers would be permitted to 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."
Previously, in the Senate's Education Committee, the bill was renumbered (from SB 561), renamed, and revised, with the removal of "strengths and weaknesses" language and a list of specific scientific topics, "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum, the religious right group that convinced state senator Ben Nevers (D-District 12) to introduce the bill in the first place, expressed disappointment at the revisions, telling the Baton RougeAdvocate (April 20, 2008) that his support of it was now only lukewarm, even though Nevers told the newspaper, "It didn't change the intent of the bill." But the Associated Press (April 29, 2008) reported that Nevers restored the list, saying that without it the bill was too vague.
Speaking earlier to the Hammond Daily Star (April 6, 2008), Nevers was anything but vague about the bill, in effect acknowledging that its purpose is to ensure that "scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory."
Concerns by Louisiana scientists, religious leaders and parents should be directed to members of the legislature: http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Reps/H_Reps_ByAddress.asp particularly the House Education Committee (information below). The committee will meet May 7 and 8, so comments should be received by then.
House Education Committee Info:
Name (District) E-mail Phone #
Rep. James Armes (Leesville)
armesj at legis.state.la.us
Rep. Elton Aubert (Vacherie)
auberte at legis.state.la.us
Rep. Austin Badon (New Orleans)
larep100 at legis.state.la.us
Rep. Stephen Carter (Baton Rouge)
carters at legis.state.la.us
Rep. Charles Chaney (Rayville)
chaneyb at legis.state.la.us
Rep. Herbert Dixon (Alexandria)
dixonh at legis.state.la.us
Rep. John Bel Edwards (Amite)
edwardsj at legis.state.la.us
(985) 748- 2245
Rep. Walt Leger (New Orleans)
legerw at legis.state.la.us
Rep. Harold L. Ritchie (Bogalusa)
larep075 at legis.state.la.us
Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith (Baton Rouge)
smithp at legis.state.la.us
An example letter is included below:
As a citizen of Louisiana, I believe that effective science and engineering education is essential to training a competitive workforce and creating an educated populace. The overwhelming scientific consensus favors evolutionary science, and it is the most appropriate information to teach in Louisiana public schools.
Therefore, I am greatly concerned about Senate Bill 733 that recently passed the state senate, which seek to undermine the teaching of science. This bill is designed to encourage and promote the teaching of non-scientific ideas in science classrooms, and undermine the teaching of science. Legitimate scientific information does not require any new law to be taught in the classroom.
Evolutionary, geological and cosmological sciences are acknowledged throughout the scientific community as the best explanations for the variety of biological life, and the history of the planet. The core elements of evolution as presented in textbooks today have been repeatedly tested and verified.
Students should be tested on their knowledge of these well-understood concepts, and legislators should insist that students should spend their valuable classroom time the concepts and ideas that centuries of scientific investigation have yielded. There is no need for new legislation to allow non-scientific ideas to be introduced into science classrooms in Louisiana. Please oppose any effort to tamper with science education in Louisiana