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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/05/27

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The effort to repeal Louisiana's antievolution law was stymied in
committee. Creationism is officially unwelcome in Britain's new free
schools. Previously in Louisiana, the Baton Rouge Advocate endorsed
the effort to repeat the state's antievolution law, while Barbara
Forrest explained in detail why the effort is necessary.


Despite the overwhelming support for SB 70 from scientific and
educational organizations around the state and across the country, the
Louisiana Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 to shelve the bill on
May 26, 2011, according to a blogger for the Baton Rouge Advocate (May
26, 2011). If enacted, SB 70 would have repealed Louisiana Revised
Statutes 17:285.1, which implemented the so-called Louisiana Science
Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008. As Barbara Forrest recently
explained in a column for Louisiana Progress (May 18, 2011), the LSEA
"was promoted only by creationists. Neither parents, nor science
teachers, nor scientists requested it. No one wanted it except the
Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a religious organization that lobbies
aggressively for its regressive agenda, and the Discovery Institute
(DI), a creationist think tank in Seattle, Washington, that couldn't
care less about Louisiana children."

Among those testifying for SB 70 were Zack Kopplin, the Baton Rouge
high school student who spearheaded the repeal effort; Ian Binns, a
professor of science education at Louisiana State University; the
Reverend C. Welton Gaddy (by proxy), the president of The Interfaith
Alliance; and Patsye Peebles, a veteran science teacher, recipient of
the Louisiana Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and cofounder of the
Louisiana Coalition for Science. Among those testifying against the
bill were representatives of the Louisiana Family Forum, the radical
religious right group that orchestrated the passage of the LSEA, and a
representative of Governor Bobby Jindal, who signed the LSEA into law
in 2008 despite the exhortation of educators and scientists, including
Brown University's Arthur Landy, who expressed his hope that his
former student "doesn't do anything that would hold back the next
generation of Louisiana's doctors."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, who watched the webcast of
the hearings, commented, "Listening to the opponents of the repeal
bill during this hearing was like listening to old tapes of Henry
Morris [of the Institute for Creation Research]. There was even the
claim that evolution is dubious because it is 'origin science' -- a
notion to be found only in creationist literature." Reflecting on the
result of the committee's vote, she expressed disappointment, but
emphasized her admiration for Kopplin, the Louisiana Coalition for
Science, SB 70's sponsor Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5), and the
host of Louisianans who worked to rally support for the bill. "This is
more than anyone ever expected when Zack launched his campaign last
fall," she added, "and with such a strong response in favor of
repealing the antievolution bill, I feel confident that we haven't
heard the last of the attempt to restore the integrity of science
education in Louisiana."

For the blog post at the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: 

For Forrest's "Respect Requires Repeal," visit: 

For Landy's advice to Jindal (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: 


"Free school bids from groups advocating creationism and intelligent
design as scientific theories will not be approved, according to the
first government guidance on the issue," reports the Times Education
Supplement (May 20, 2011). The guidelines by which applications to
establish free schools are assessed provide, "Creationism, intelligent
design and similar ideas must not be taught as valid scientific
theories," and a spokesperson for the Department for Children,
Education, and Schools told The Telegraph (May 20, 2011) that the
Secretary of Education, Michael Gove, "will not accept any academy or
free school proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science
curriculum or as an alternative to accepted scientific theories."

Like charter schools in the United States, "free schools" are
established by local groups of parents, teachers, businesses, colleges
and universities, and/or non-profit organizations, but funded directly
by the government. Allowing free schools was a key point of the
Conservative Party's education platform in the 2010 British election.
After the present coalition government took office, free schools "were
given approval in the Academies Act 2010, which paved the way for
existing state primary and secondary schools to become academies,"
according to the BBC (May 23, 2011). As of May 2011, the Department
for Children, Education, and Schools had received 323 proposals from
groups wanting to establish a free school; between ten and twenty are
expected to open by September 2011.

The guidelines were issued just a week after a new campaign --
Creationism In Schools Isn't Science, or CrISIS -- petitioned the
government to enforce its stated position on the teaching of
creationism. "Creationism is known, and officially acknowledged, to be
contrary to scientific fact," the petition argued. "We therefore
demand that creationism should not be presented as a valid scientific
position, nor creationist websites and resources be promoted, in
publicly funded schools or in any youth activities run on publicly
funded school premises." Endorsed by the National Secular Society, the
religious thinktank Ekklesia, and the British Centre for Science
Education, CrISIS was started by a concerned parent, Laura Horner,
after a young-earth creationist was invited to speak at her son's
school in Exeter.

"The guidance is wonderful news and shows the Government taking a step
in the right direction," Horner told the Times Education Supplement.
"We now expect the ban to be extended to apply to any activity taking
place in school." (The new guidelines concern only free schools; in
the Exeter case, the creationist speaker was allowed to present his
views as scientifically credible in a religious education class in a
state school. Since creationism is often discussed in religious
education, such classes offer a possible venue for creationism to be
improperly presented as scientifically credible.) Roger Stanyard of
the British Centre for Science Education told The Telegraph (May 20,
2011) that his organization was "largely happy" with the guidelines,
but warned, "It depends how it is implemented. People will always find
ways around the rules."

For the articles in the Times Education Supplement and The Telegraph, visit: 

For the BBC's article on free schools, visit: 

For the CrISIS petition, visit: 


The Baton Rouge Advocate endorsed the repeal of Louisiana's
antievolution law, editorially writing (May 23, 2011), "We hope the
Louisiana Legislature takes the opportunity it has this year to repeal
entirely the misnamed 'Louisiana Science Education Act.'" The Advocate
thus joins the New Orleans City Council, the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, the Louisiana Science Teachers
Association, and forty-three Nobel laureates in calling for a repeal
of what the newspaper termed "an embarrassment for our state."

Interestingly, the Advocate focused on "a facet of the 'Louisiana
Science Education Act' that goes beyond the crackpot notion that the
theory of evolution is somehow flawed": its reference to global
warming and human cloning. "What this country's students do not need
is to transplant the mythology of creationism as a persecuted science
into other fields, such as climatology or genetics," the editorial
observed, worrying that "inaccuracy based on political pressure could
be replicated as it has in the evolution debate. ... It could harm
education more than just in biology classrooms."

For the Baton Rouge Advocate's editorial, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: 


Barbara Forrest explains the murky origins and adverse effects of the
so-called Louisiana Science Education Act -- and argues that respect
for the integrity of science education requires a repeal of the
antievolution law -- in a long essay posted at the Louisiana Progress
website on May 18, 2011.

"This law was promoted only by creationists," Forrest recounts.
"Neither parents, nor science teachers, nor scientists requested it.
No one wanted it except the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a religious
organization that lobbies aggressively for its regressive agenda, and
the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank in Seattle,
Washington, that couldn't care less about Louisiana children."

"Besides damaging Louisiana's already tattered reputation concerning
public education," Forrest continues, "the LSEA has done tangible
harm, the most compelling example being the SICB boycott" -- where the
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology boycotted New Orleans
in favor of Salt Lake City for its 2011 meeting, with the cost to the
city estimated at 2.7 million dollars.

Perhaps worse, antievolutionists have not only sought to undermine the
law's provision allowing challenges to unsuitable supplementary
materials but also invoked the law to support proposals to teach
creationism in the public schools of at least two parishes (Livingston
and Tangipahoa) and to attack the treatment of evolution in biology
textbooks proposed for adoption by the state.

Forrest concludes, "If the legislature and Gov. Jindal truly want to
make Louisiana a great place to live and raise a family rather than
merely a colorful tourist attraction and the object of
catastrophe-induced pity, the legislature must repeal this law."
Senate Bill 70, which would do so, is currently scheduled for a
hearing in the Senate Education Committee on May 26, 2011, according
to Zack Kopplin of Repeal Creationism.

A member of NCSE's board of directors, Forrest is Professor of
Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a founder of the
Louisiana Coalition for Science. Louisiana Progress informs, engages,
and mobilizes community leaders, activists, advocates, and
policymakers to lead Louisiana into the 21st century.

For Forrest's "Respect Requires Repeal," visit: 

For the Repeal Creationism and Louisiana Coalition for Science websites, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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