Archive for June, 2008

Published by admin on 30 Jun 2008

The bloggers are watching Louisiana . . .

Gov. Jindal’s signing of SB 733 has attracted quite a bit of attention in the blogosphere. Here are excerpts from several nationally known blogs.

  • Daily Kos, June 29, 2008: “They Can Never Take Away Our FREEDOM!!!”

The Louisiana legislature should be more wary than most of the Dover trap: It was there, way back in 1987, that the Supreme Court decided an earlier version of creationism was indeed a sham. But that didn’t keep Governor Bobby Jindal from signing SB 733, the mis-named Louisiana Science Education Act, last week. While the bill purports to encourage critical thinking and open discussion of various scientific topics, it perpetuates the same sham by singling out evolution (along with global warming and cloning) as topics deserving special criticism.This, in and of itself, undermines the claim to secular purpose. Evolution is no more scientifically controversial than gravity, and Governor Jindal surely knows that — he graduated from Brown University with honors in biology. . . . [Read more.]

  • Bad Astronomy, June 27, 2008, “Louisiana, Well that’s it then.”

. . . many other states are at risk (Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, and on and on). Never flag, never tire, and never assume you’re safe. Keep fighting, people. Because I guarantee this victory for the bad guys in Louisiana will embolden them. Keep fighting. [Read more.]

  • Pharyngula, June 27, 2008, “The Bill from Bogalusa”

One bizarre item in that story is that the reporter contacted the Discovery Institute, who quickly disavowed any association with the bill, saying that they did not “directly” support it and that they certainly wouldn’t support any attempt to insert religion into the schools. Like everything that comes out of the DI, they are lying reflexively. Barbara Forrest has an excellent overview of the context and history of the bill — the bill has the DI’s frantic, fervid paws all over it. [Read more.]

  • Huffington Post, June 27, 2008, “Joining GOP’s Bold March Backwards, Bobby Jindal and Louisiana Democrats Pass ‘Stealth Creationism’ Education Bill”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has just given a green light for a new, national “Stealth Creationism” initiative by signing into Louisiana state law a “stealth” Creationism bill, SB 733. [Read more.]

Published by admin on 27 Jun 2008

Thank you to our friends across the country who tried to help us.

By Barbara Forrest

To all of our friends across the country who answered our call to write to the Louisiana legislature and to Gov. Jindal in opposition to SB 733, the “LA Science Education Act”:

In keeping with our southern tradition of good manners, we would like to thank all of the organizations and individuals who helped the LA Coalition for Science in its effort to protect the teaching of science in Louisiana public schools. We appreciate the time you all took to write e-mails, send faxes, and make phone calls. We wish that the Louisiana legislature and the governor had appreciated the sincere concern you showed for Louisiana children. In fact, we wish that the legislature and the governor shared your concern. Continue Reading »

Published by admin on 23 Jun 2008

For Immediate Release: (1) New York Times calls for Gov Jindal to veto SB 733 & (2) Escalating Discovery Institute involvement in promoting SB 733

Press Release: LA Coalition for Science, June 22, 2008

(1) New York Times editorial and major scientific societies call for Jindal’s veto of SB 733

(2) Escalating Discovery Institute involvement in promoting SB 733

Baton Rouge, LA, June 22, 2008 — The New York Times has noticed the Louisiana legislature’s passage of SB 733, the “LA Science Education Act.” In its Saturday, June 21, 2008, editorial, “Louisiana’s Latest Assault on Darwin,” the Times urges Gov. Jindal to veto the bill: “The state . . . 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.” With one of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers highlighting the legislature’s support for this misguided legislation, the eyes of the nation will now be turned toward our state even more attentively.

Louisiana’s passage of SB 733 has also come to the attention of well-known National Review columnist John Derbyshire, who calls upon Gov. Jindal to either veto the bill or “explain to Louisiana taxpayers the pointless waste of public money that will inevitably ensue from your signing it.”

Continue Reading »

Published by admin on 22 Jun 2008

Scientific Societies Call for Gov. Jindal to Veto SB 733

Nine of the nation’s premier scientific societies have called upon Gov. Jindal to veto SB 733.

American Institute of Biological Sciences (pdf), co-signed by seven major scientific societies, June 13, 2008:

  1. American Ornithologists Union
  2. American Society of Mammalogists
  3. Botanical Society of America
  4. Natural Science Collections Alliance
  5. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
  6. Society of Systematic Biologists
  7. Society for the Study of Evolution

American Association for the Advancement of Science (pdf), “the world’s largest general scientific society,” June 20, 2008

Published by admin on 17 Jun 2008

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.

E-mail: http://www.gov.la.gov/index.cfm?md=form&tmp=email_governor

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

Fax: 225-342-7099

=====================================================================

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.

Sincerely,

LA Coalition for Science

Published by admin on 15 Jun 2008

The Truth About SB 733: WWL TV Interviews with Barbara Forrest

The Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank in Seattle, and the LA Family Forum (LFF — the LA affiliate of Focus on the Family) are collaborating to sneak intelligent design creationism into Louisiana’s public schools under the false banner of “academic freedom.” In order to provide the truth about their jointly engineered legislation, which is written in creationist code language [1] and is advancing through the Louisiana legislature, links are posted below to two recent interviews by WWL TV with LCFS member Barbara Forrest. These are followed by links to articles Forrest has written about the ID movement.

Background: Sen. Ben Nevers (Bogalusa, LA) filed his original bill, SB 561, the “LA Academic Freedom Act,” in March 2008 at the beginning of the regular legislative session. On April 17, without dissent, ignoring teachers and distinguished scientists who opposed the bill, the Senate Education Committee passed an amended bill that was renumbered as SB 733 and renamed the “LA Science Education Act.” The full Senate subsequently passed the bill by a vote of 35-0. On May 21, the House Education Committee, disregarding opposition to the bill by scientists and educators from Louisiana public schools and universities, unanimously approved it after adding an amendment. The full House passed the bill with a vote of 94-3 on June 11. Because of the amendment, the bill must now return to the Senate, after which it goes to Gov. Jindal. The governor can either sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature, or he can — and should— veto it, thereby putting an end to the attempt by the Discovery Institute and the LFF to use Louisiana school children as pawns in the advancement of their Religious Right agenda.

  • May 25, 2008: WWL Sunday Morning Show interview with Barbara Forrest, Dominique Ditoro Magee (SB 733 supporter), and Sen. Nevers (by phone). Forrest spoke against the bill before the House Education Committee on May 21. Magee spoke in favor of it before both the Senate and House Education Committees. She testified that, as a high school student, when she objected to material about evolution in her biology textbook, her teacher had allowed her to bring “addendums” to class and discuss them with her classmates. (See backgrounder [pdf] on earlier version of the legislation for more detail on her comments.) The addendums she brought to class were creationist materials. Forrest refers in the May 25 video to a 2001 interview with Magee in Family Voice, the magazine of Concerned Women for America, which revealed this. Magee, who was about fifteen at the time, stated in the interview that her interest in the subject had begun during her freshman year of high school, when she “decided to disprove the theory of evolution” in a ten-minute presentation to her speech class. She stated that she felt that “they [textbooks] either need to put creation in the textbooks, too, or take evolution out.” The addendums to which Magee referred are most likely the creationist addendums written by long-time Baton Rouge creationist Charles Voss. She testified that her mother, Lennie Ditoro, had told her about the addendums that she took to class. Mrs. Ditoro is the former chair of the LA Family Forum’s Education Resource Council and former state director of Concerned Women for America. Voss has written such addendums for state-approved biology textbooks in Louisiana and has posted them at his website, TextAddons.com. LFF operative Darrell White, who partners with Voss to promote creationism in Louisiana, has also posted these addendums on his own website. The LA Family Forum also promotes them on its website (pdf).
  • June 11, 2008: WWL Morning Show interview with Barbara Forrest and Rev. Gene Mills, executive director of the LA Family Forum (by phone). The LFF is the organization on whose behalf Sen. David Vitter had earmarked $100,000 of taxpayer funds to finance its implementation a creationist “academic freedom” policy (pdf) in the Ouachita Parish, LA, school district until his scheme was discovered by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
  1. * For background on the Discovery Institute’s strategic shift to creationist code language, see Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross, “Intelligent Design Has Distinctly Evolutionary Nature,” Science & Theology News, December 2004. For a more recent discussion, see Barbara Forrest, Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals (pdf), Center for Inquiry Position Paper, July 2007, pp. 19-22.

Published by admin on 12 Jun 2008

Press Release: Reject SB 733

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New group stands up for sound science education in Louisiana

LA Coalition for Science decries House support for SB 733, calls for Senate to reject bill

Baton Rouge, LA, June 11, 2008 — In response to numerous attacks on science education in the Bayou State, concerned parents, teachers and scientists are getting organized. The new group — Louisiana Coalition for Science — calls upon the Senate to oppose SB 733, a bill which will open the door to creationism in public schools.

Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a founding member of the Louisiana Coalition for Science (LCFS), says, “The legislature shouldn’t be allowing creationists to undermine Louisiana public schools. The House of Representatives just gave the Religious Right a green light to use other people’s children for their own agenda.” Forrest is the co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design and has served as an expert witness on the issue of intelligent design creationism. “The Louisiana legislature tried to force creationism into public schools in 1981, and they lost in the U. S. Supreme Court. The Discovery Institute, a national creationist organization, and the Louisiana Family Forum are using the same old tricks, but with new labels. In Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District in 2005, I showed that intelligent design was cooked up as a new name for the same old creationist arguments, and the strategy behind this bill is no different. Despite their denials, even the bill’s backers know that SB 733 is a creationist bill written in creationist code language.” The 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard overturned a Louisiana law requiring teachers to “balance” the teaching of evolution with creationism. In the Kitzmiller case, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that intelligent design is a form of creationism and that teaching it is an unconstitutional entanglement of religion with the state.

Patsye Peebles, a veteran biology teacher from Baton Rouge and a founding member of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, agrees that the bill should be rejected. “I was a biology teacher for 22 years, and I never needed the legislature to tell me how to present anything. This bill doesn’t solve any of the problems classroom teachers face, and it will make it harder for us to keep the focus on accurate science in science classrooms. Evolution isn’t scientifically controversial, and we don’t need the legislature substituting its judgment for the scientists and science teachers who actually know the subject.”

SB 733 lists evolution as an issue deserving of special scrutiny. Scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the National Association of Biology Teachers have spoken out against this tactic of singling evolution out for criticism.

Betsy Irvine, a Presbyterian minister in Baton Rouge, explains, “Evolution is very strong science, and its place in science class should be uncontroversial. Many Christian traditions, including Catholicism, acknowledge the compatibility of evolution and Christian faith. It is shameful to see people sowing division on this subject. The spirit behind these attacks isn’t just bad science, it’s bad theology. This bill is an attack on the millions of faithful Christians who accept evolution. The best way both to protect the teaching of science in our public schools and to show respect for the religious freedom of all Louisiana residents is to unequivocally reject SB 733.”

Forrest, who testified against the bill before the House Education Committee, calls upon the Senate to reject the bill. “Now that the House has passed the bill, the Senate has one more chance to do the right thing. The entire country is watching. They should reject this bill and let teachers do their jobs. This bill is being pushed by creationist groups and does nothing to help Louisiana, our teachers, or our children. It’s heartbreaking to see so few people willing to stand up for Louisiana.”

Forrest also commends the three legislators — Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, Rep. Jean-Paul Morrell, and Rep. Karen Carter Peterson — who had the courage and integrity to speak out for the children of Louisiana by voting against the bill. “These three legislators put principle over politics. What a shame that 94 others could not do the same thing.”

Louisiana Coalition for Science is a grassroots group working to protect the teaching of science in Louisiana. See http://lasciencecoalition.org.

Contacts:

Barbara Forrest — barbara.forrest@gmail.com / 985-974-4244

Patsye Peebles — patsye.peebles@gmail.com / 225-936-6074

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