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AAAS Writes Louisiana's Speaker of the House, Reiterating Opposition to Anti-Science Education Efforts
[Editor's Note: This story was updated on Friday 20 June 2008]
As Louisiana policy-makers prepared to debate Senate Bill 733, the so-called "Louisiana Science Education Act," AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of the journal Science, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Jim Tucker (R-Algiers) and other state representatives decrying this latest effort to insert religious, unscientific views into science classrooms.
When policy-makers passed the proposal, Leshner then wrote to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, urging him to veto the bill.
"Backers of the bill, including the Louisiana Family Forum and the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, are longtime supporters of attempts to teach creationism or intelligent design as science," Leshner noted in his initial letter to legislators.
The proposal, sponsored by Louisiana Senator Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), passed by the Louisiana Senate on 29 April; it was unanimously passed by the House Education Committee on 21 May and was slated for discussion in the House on 11 June. The bill implies that the scientific theory of evolution is controversial among scientists—a false impression since "the science of evolution underpins all of modern biology and is supported by tens of thousands of scientific studies in fields that include cosmology, geology, paleontology, genetics and other biological specialties," Leshner wrote. Introducing religious viewpoints into science classrooms is likely to confuse Louisiana's students, he added.
In a 6 May letter to the editor published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Leshner wrote that arguments in favor of having students "think critically" are misleading: "Louisiana's education standards already do that," he pointed out. "The real intent is to introduce classroom materials that raise misleading objections to the well-documented science of evolution and offer a religious idea called intelligent design as a supposed alternative. That would unleash an assault against scientific integrity, leaving students confused about science and unprepared to excel in a modern workforce."
Leshner's 28 May op-ed in the Shreveport Times said that the real purpose of the proposed legislation is to "erode students' understanding and trust of science by sowing confusion and doubt, and count on religious ideas to fill the void." The proposal needlessly pits science against religion, Leshner added, noting that the scientific acceptance of evolution poses no inherent conflicts for the vast majority of religious believers. Discussion of religious viewpoints may be appropriate for humanities or philosophy courses, he added, but not in science classes.
With Albert Teich, director of Science and Policy Programs at AAAS, Leshner handled a series of radio media interviews in recent weeks, too, in an effort to raise awareness of a series of state-level proposals to wedge religious viewpoints into science classrooms. A similar bill in Florida, Senate Bill 2692, recently died in that state's House of Representatives. In fact, efforts to insert creationism and intelligent design into science classrooms have repeatedly been defeated by lawmakers and struck down by courts, Leshner noted.
In other evolution-related news, AAAS also wrote to Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, thanking him for refusing to approve an effort to insert religion into science classrooms in that state.
11 June 2008