-- Opinion --
Zack Kopplin / Contributing opinion writer
Our state is addicted to creationism. We have a creationism law, the misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). This law allows creationism to be snuck into public school science classes using unreviewed “supplemental textbooks” that are meant to “critique” science that is widely accepted by scientists, but is politically controversial, like evolution and climate change.
The backers of the Louisiana Science Education Act are creationists.
According to Senator Ben Nevers, who sponsored the Louisiana Science Education Act, the creationist lobbying group, the Louisiana Family Forum, suggested this bill to him. He also said, “[The Family Forum] believe that the scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory.” Nevers also explained that he felt “the students should know there are weaknesses and strengths in both scientific arguments.”
Nevers wasn’t the only one who viewed the LSEA as a vehicle for creationism. The Advocate reported that in 2010, in Livingston Parish, the School Board’s Director of Curriculum said, the LSEA “deals with creationism and the teaching of it in the schools” and was for “critical thinking and creationism.” The president of the board at the time said, “Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.” In Tangipahoa Parish, the school board had a discussion about the LSEA concerning “evolutionism verse [sic] creationism within the science department.”
Aligned against the Louisiana Science Education Act is the science community. Seventy-eight Nobel laureate scientists, and other major scientists, have endorsed its repeal. So have the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Biologists, the American Society of Naturalists, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Louisiana Science Teachers Association, and the Louisiana Association of Biology Teachers. The Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology launched a boycott of Louisiana, and cancelled a scheduled convention in New Orleans in reaction to the LSEA.
The opposition to the LSEA represents tens of millions of scientists, and some of the most renowned scientists in the world, but it is being ignored by our state legislature.
Creationism in Louisiana hasn’t stopped at the Louisiana Science Education Act. We also have a creationist school voucher program. I exposed schools in this program that teach that scientists are “sinful men” and that “the age of the Earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God’s Word is in error.” I discovered a school that mandated in its handbook for students to “defend creationism” against “traditional scientific theory.”
These schools have received millions in public money, and despite these vouchers being ruled unconstitutional, these vouchers still continue and may be fully reinstated after a hearing at the State Supreme Court.
In this creationism-riddled state, New Orleans is a bright spot. We’ve been fighting back. Senator Karen Carter Peterson has been leading a repeal of the LSEA with me for the past few years. The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to support the repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act, noting, “the study of evolution will prepare Louisiana children to take cutting edge jobs in the science and biotech industry.” Most recently, the Orleans Parish School Board voted unanimously in support of banning creationism and intelligent design creationism from their public schools.
These public servants deserve our thanks for standing up for science. New Orleanians deserve thanks from scientists and citizens around Louisiana, and across the country. And, the science community is about to say thank you.
I’m proud to announce that in response to these fearless people fighting against the Louisiana Science Education Act the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology has lifted its boycott of New Orleans (and only New Orleans).
Teaching creationism is wrong, and we must keep up fighting it in Louisiana, but thanks to y’all our state’s policy appears to be evolving to a more scientific place.
Zack Kopplin is a sophomore at Rice University. He graduated from Baton Rouge Magnet High and since he was in high school he has been leading a repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act. You can follow him on Facebook or @repealthelsea or see his work on vouchers at creationistvouchers.com.
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