Kudos to Zack Kopplin, the Baton Rouge Magnet High School student (and publisher of the website http://www.repealcreationism.com) who has made statewide news during the last few weeks for his outspoken advocacy for the repeal of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA).
Oyster at The Lens wrote a must-read on the young Mr. Kopplin’s efforts back on February 8th. A few days ago, Kopplin was also featured in a column on The Huffington Post, which called him a “profile in (evolutionary) courage.”
In 2008, Governor Bobby Jindal, the proud owner of a Biology degree from Brown University, signed into law a piece of legislation aimed at undermining science education in Louisiana, the ironically-named Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill enables Louisiana educators to introduce religiously-based creation stories as a supplement to actual science, with the pretense that it’s somehow encouraging a more rigorous discussion.
Jindal’s decision was roundly criticized by “every scientific organization that has voiced a position on it, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science,” and Governor Jindal’s own college genetics professor, who urged his former student to reject the legislation. From John Timmer of Ars Technica:
Jindal, who was a biology major during his time at Brown University, even received a veto plea from his former genetics professor. “Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn’t make sense,” Professor Arthur Landy wrote. “I hope he [Jindal] doesn’t do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana’s doctors.”
Mr. Timmer and the Louisiana Coalition for Science also allege that Jindal’s bill was actually crafted, in large part, by a Seattle-based religious think-tank that focuses on promoting intelligent design. Dr. Barbara Forrest elaborates:
Louisiana has become the latest target of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank whose “Wedge Strategy” for getting intelligent design (ID) creationism into public school science classes was thoroughly discredited in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005). The Discovery Institute has teamed up with the LA Family Forum, the Louisiana affiliate of Focus on the Family, to promote a stealth creationism bill in the guise of “academic freedom” legislation. The bill sailed through the Louisiana legislature and now awaits action by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ben Nevers (Bogalusa, LA), who has a history of promoting creationist legislation. In 2003, he introduced his unsuccessful HCR 50(pdf), which encouraged school systems to “refrain from purchasing textbooks that do not present a balanced view of the various theories relative to the origin of life but rather refer to one theory as proven fact.” Like SB 733, this measure was also a stealth creationist bill that would ostensibly promote “critical thinking.”
Nevers introduced SB 733 on behalf of the LA Family Forum (LFF), the Louisiana affiliate of Focus on the Family. However, the fact that this bill is the fruit of the collaboration between the LFF and the Discovery Institute (DI), a Seattle think tank that serves as command center of the ID creationist movement, gives this bill national implications. Virtually every significant creationism outbreak in the United States for almost the last decade has been the product of DI’s aggressive execution of its “Wedge Strategy” for getting ID into public school science classes.
Dr. Forrest believes the Louisiana Family Forum is the most powerful political organization in the entire state. I strongly believe something shady is going on with the Louisiana Family Forum, and I still wonder why Roger Villere, the Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, doled out over $20,000 to an unregistered consultation company headquartered at the home of LFF leader Dan Richey, during Villere’s race for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Richey’s endorsement of Roger Villere was reported as legitimate news by New Orleans City Business.
The Chairman of the Discovery Institute is Bruce Chapman, and last August, he published an endorsement of Jindal’s anti-science “science education” act in The American Spectator. Chapman’s slick. Instead of focusing on those who oppose the legislation for the way in which it undermines scientific education, Chapman attempts to convince readers that “intelligent design” is somehow a scientific theory (it is not) by chastising a Livingston Parish official who suggested a full replacement of evolution education with creationism stories; Mr. Chapman and the Discovery Institute, despite their clever framing, are, in fact, promoting and advancing a conservative Christian agenda. It actually has almost nothing to do with science.
Yet the Discovery Institute as an organization didn’t get involved in the issue in order to solve the mysteries of the universe. Chapman is up front about having a social and political agenda. He sees design intelligence as a way to combat the growing reliance on genetic explanations for human behavior and what he sees as an undermining of personal responsibility. As an example of this phenomenon, Chapman cites the infamous ‘Twinkie defense’ used by a murder defendant claiming his sugar high made him do it. Others associated with the institute take a bigger leap of logic to argue that welfare, as currently dispensed, is a misguided consequence of the Darwinian outlook. ‘If you see human beings as nothing but matter and motion, than [sic] all you do is treat them like mouths to feed,’ says Jay Richards, program director for the institutes Center for Science and Culture. ‘If they’re more than that, you treat the whole person,’ he argues, which would mean looking at such things as family structure and the role of moral and religious values in their lives. Do you really have to attack a whole branch of science in order to counter liberal views on welfare? The Discovery Institute folk think they do. ‘Unless you get the science right,’ Chapman says, ‘it’s very hard to contend with the other arguments.
And you can’t forget this:
In 2005, a federal court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursues “demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions”, and the institute’s manifesto, the Wedge strategy, describes a religious goal: to “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”.
Chapman may feign indignation against someone who explicitly said what he and his organization have been implicitly attempting to enforce, but when one considers the overwhelming evidence, he’s hardly convincing.
The Discovery Institute, along with the Louisiana Family Forum, wrote, advanced, promoted, and pushed through this anti-science education bill. Make no mistake: This has nothing to do with promoting the free and open exchange of ideas; it’s about injecting a specific, religiously-based agenda in Louisiana’s science classrooms.
Unlike Governor Jindal, I don’t have a degree in Biology; I have a degree in Religious Studies. There’s a big difference, to be sure. In Louisiana, it’s incredibly easy to learn about religion. We shouldn’t make it difficult to learn about real science, and we shouldn’t confuse or conflate science with religion.
I earnestly hope Governor Jindal will assert his intellectual honesty and integrity, his appreciation of science, his own, personal experience, and his dedication to the future of our State.
So, I join young Mr. Kopplin: Repeal this wrong-headed and anti-science act that was bought and brought to Louisiana by a very small group of radical religious conservatives.