Creationism in Louisiana

One of the exciting things about American politics, it seems to me, is the grass-roots politics.  When visiting Detroit shortly before last year’s Presidential election, it was striking how many public offices are filled by election.  There is a down-side of this, as evidenced by repeated attempts of school boards to enforce teaching of creationism within the science curriculum – it is presumably relatively easy to “pack” school boards with politically and/or religiously motivated individuals.

In January, the State of Louisiana passed a bill to permit teachers to have freedom to teach non-scientific material in school science classes.  This was reported in the Science website on 15th January (Louisiana Creates: New Pro-Intelligent Design Rules for Teachers).  from that article:

Last year, Louisiana passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, a law that many scientists and educators said was a thinly veiled attempt to allow creationism and its variants into the science classroom. On Tuesday, the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted a policy that sharpens those fears, giving teachers license to use materials outside of the regular curriculum to teach “controversial” scientific theories including evolution, origins of life, and global warming. Backers of the law, including the Louisiana Family Forum, say it is intended to foster critical thinking in students. Opponents insist its only purpose is to provide a loophole for creationists to attack the teaching of evolution.

In response to this insidious law, The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology has reversed plans to hold its 2011 annual meeting in New Orleans, and will now hold it in Salt Lake City, Utah (Chronicle of Higher Education blog: Biologists Won’t Meet in Louisiana Because of State Law on Teaching Evolution).  Here is a direct response to laws permitting the teaching of religion (in the shape of creationism and “Intelligent Design”) in science classes.  This seems inappropriate, no matter what one’s religious beliefs may or may not be, and presumably violates the consitutional separation of religion and state (though as a non-American, don’t quote me on that).

With that in mind, it is interesting to read the comments for young earth creationists following that article.  Spectacularly ignorant as these people always are, they focus exclusively on the evolution/atheism vs creationism/religious divide and not on the pedagogical issues, endlessly rehashing the tired old lies and misrepresentations.

So, business as usual in the good old God-fearing USA.  For my part, I’m not convinced that boycotts have much political effect, but it’s good that this action has raised the profile of this appalling law.

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