Louisiana Creationism Update (14 Jan ‘09)

BACKGROUND: Louisiana is the only state, so far, that has enacted an anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism “Academic Freedom” bill modeled after the Academic Freedom Act promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). The Louisiana statute permits unspecified “supplemental materials” to be used in science classes. The future of creationism in Louisiana’s public schools has been placed into the hands of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

Today we have another news item from the Daily Advertiser, published in Lafayette, Louisiana: State decision rekindles creationism vs. evolution debate, subtitled: “Some say board’s ruling has religious overtones.” Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

After failing on a 5-5 vote to delay adoption of the rules, BESE members unanimously approved them, minus a section that specifically excludes materials promoting “creationism or intelligent design or that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.” Such language in the rules was determined to be outside the realm of the legislation and could evoke a lawsuit.

As we read it, that means half the votes were holding out until the language banning creationism, ID, and supernaturalism was deleted. Let’s read on:

The board was most swayed, however, by Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek’s argument that the language was unnecessary. “I’m satisfied that you cannot teach creationism or intelligent design” with other language in the rules, Pastorek said.

Maybe Pastorek is satisfied, but we think he’s being naive — especially considering his full awareness of the issues, as indicated by this post at Barbara Forrest’s website: Message to Louisiana School Districts: The LA Science Education Act’s Religion Disclaimer Won’t Protect You.

We continue:

A provision stating, “The materials shall not promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion” is directly from the law and covers the issue, he said.

Either Pastorek has caved in to the Noah’s Ark crowd, or he’s far too unsuspecting. Does he really imagine that the creationists won’t dress up their creation “science” in multi-syllabic terms like “irreducible complexity” and try — yet again — to bamboozle the courts? That’s been their whole game in recent years. Pastorek needs to wake up. Here’s more:

Barbara Forrest, co-founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, was among those who objected to the board’s removal of the clause. “Essentially, what we’ve got is a policy that’s going to be very difficult to ensure that creationist materials do not get into the classroom,” said Forrest, who wrote a letter to the board Monday asking them to restore the original language.

“Difficult to ensure”? Barbara is being polite. Your Curmudgeon will wager that creationist materials are certain to be used in the classroom. And when the school board that permits this is sued, their pathetic defense will be: “But it was science! We got the material from the Discovery Institute.”

Moving along:

Local BESE representative Dale Bayard, chairman of the committee that approved the rules, said the decision should assure teachers that they can teach new scientific discovery related to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

We have no idea what that guy’s talking about. When the issue is creationism, our invariable presumption is that when someone is being obscure or incoherent, it’s due to either stupidity or dishonesty. Hey — if there were an interesting new discovery, does anyone think the teachers in Louisiana needed a new law to allow mentioning it in class?

Let’s hear more from this Bayard fellow:

“Everyone wants to construe this as a religious vote, but it wasn’t,” Bayard said. “The whole purpose is to allow teachers to teach more science.”

That clinches it. Now we know where Bayard stands on all of this. On with the article:

The legislation, authored by state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, with the support of the Louisiana Family Forum, began as a way to teach scientific design. But it was amended during the 2008 legislative process to encourage “critical thinking” in science classes and although teaching the textbook, allow supplemental materials that discuss alternatives.

Yeah. “Critical thinking,” That’s what creationists do when they reject reason. Your Curmudgeon has a friendly suggestion for Ben Nevers and his crowd: While they’re using Newspeak, why doesn’t the Louisiana legislature just change the name of their state to Oceania, and re-name BESE as the Ministry of Truth?

As we look for other stories, we read at the site of WAFB: Committee adopts new administrative handbook.

“It’s up to BESE to implement this in our policy,” said Dale Bayard who is chairman of the state education board. Senator Ben Nevers of Bogalusa passed a law last session called the “Louisiana science education act.” It gives state education committees the authority to decide what can be taught in state schools. But the committee was a little vague about what’s allowed. “It’s up to us to provide students with every possible element of new discovery and that’s the intent of the act,” said Bayard.

Yes, we know that. Let’s read on:

Gene Mills with Louisiana Family Forum asked Senator Nevers to sponsor the original legislation. He says the intent is to promote “critical thinking” in classrooms, especially science classes.

We know that too. Scientific thinkers, all of them. Ah, here it comes:

Even the committee chair Dale Bayard who is in favor of the legislation agreed.

Got it! Once more, our Curmudgeonly instincts have proven reliable.

There will be a vote on this mess by all of BESE tomorrow. Stay tuned to this blog.

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9 responses to “Louisiana Creationism Update (14 Jan ‘09)

  1. The report posted at BESE before yesterday’s meeting for this agenda item can be downloaded from
    http://curricublog.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/implementing-la-la/

  2. Thanks, Tony. Good work. I don’t see how any variant of creationism can slip by the Establishment Clause, but in the case of some other kind of junk science, like UFO abductions (and probes, of course), then there’s nothing to litigate. It’s up to the school system to weed out the trash.

  3. mightyfrijoles

    Sooner or later some idiot teacher will slip up and use some Discovery Institute “supplementary information”. Then that teacher and the school will get their ass sued and the DI will say, “But that’s not what we wanted”.

    What legitimate institution operates this way?

  4. MF says: “Sooner or later some idiot teacher will slip up and use some Discovery Institute “supplementary information”. Then that teacher and the school will get their ass sued …”

    I have no inside information, but I strongly suspect that the lawyers are even now getting ready for the big show. Those opposing creationism have their experts lined up, they have their deposition questions ready to go (taken from the Dover case), and they have transcripts of the public statements about religious motivation uttered by all the creationist players in this shabby drama. It’s going to be fun.

  5. Of course, it’s the bill that’s unnecessary, not the language. Now all they need to do is wrap it in a flag and place a cross on it.

  6. James says: “Now all they need to do is wrap it in a flag and place a cross on it.”

    It would be better if they also drove a wooden stake through its heart.

  7. ” It would be better if they also drove a wooden stake through its heart. “

    We could shoot it with a silver bullet!

  8. Colloquy says: “We could shoot it with a silver bullet!”

    Maybe better, we could contact the top ID scientists — all 3 or 4 of them — and offer them a well-equipped lab with whatever funding they needed. The condition is that they couldn’t say or write anything about ID until they come up with some evidence for their “theory.” That would put an end to it.

  9. mightyfrijoles

    No more bailouts.