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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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