Louisiana Creationism Update (14 Apr ‘09)

louisiana

LAST year, Louisiana enacted the nation’s only currently-extant anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism education law. That state had previously distinguished itself by going through an earlier episode of legislative ignorance, which resulted in a landmark case from the US Supreme Court (see: Edwards v. Aguillard). Whatever else one may say, it must be acknowledged that the people of Louisiana are fiercely proud of their creationist beliefs, and quite persistent in making them mandatory.

An editorial on this subject appears in the Advocate from Baton Rouge: La. snubs Darwin. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Just in time for the bicentennial observance of Charles Darwin’s birth, a new survey of Louisiana residents shows 40 percent of the respondents believe evolution is not well-supported by evidence or generally accepted within the scientific community. Only 39 percent of the respondents said they believed evolution is well-supported by evidence. Twenty-one percent said they did not know.

What survey are they talking about? Patience, dear reader, we’ll get to that. Here’s a bit more from the editorial:

The level of belief that evolution is not supported by scientific evidence is startling. Equally amazing is the percentage who believe evolution is not generally accepted within the scientific community.

[…]

This is a free country, and people can choose to believe or not believe in evolution. But the assumption that evolution is widely controversial within the scientific community is simply not true.

That false assumption is part of the propaganda often advanced by creationists who favor teaching the biblical story of the Earth’s creation in public schools under a new name, intelligent design.

It’s interesting to us that the editors clearly understand the issue, yet their paper publishes many letters-to-the-editor by people who suffer from full-blown creationism. We used to wonder why they printed such letters; but now we know it’s not due to ignorance at the newspaper. Presumably they do it for the sport.

Here’s another excerpt:

With supreme understatement, a news release from LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab, which conducted the survey, noted that generally, “there is a lack of understanding of the scientific support for evolution.”

Ah, the survey comes from LSU (Louisiana State University). That sent us searching. We had a surprisingly difficult time locating the original information, but here are links that you may find useful:

This is LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab. This seems to be the survey’s home page: 2009 Louisiana Survey. This is a four-page press release (pdf file). The subject of teaching evolution and creationism is briefly mentioned on the 4th page.

Here’s what LSU calls a newsletter summary. It’s only two pages, but it has slightly more information on creationism than the press release. This is what you’re likely to see in the few media stories about this survey:

A majority of Louisianans – 57.5 percent – support teaching creationism in the public schools while 31 percent oppose teaching creationism and 11 percent say they are unsure or do not know. Part of the issue resides in an understanding of scientific support for evolution. Forty-percent of respondents said that evolution is not well supported by evidence and accepted in the scientific community and 21 percent said they did not know or were unsure. Thirty-nine percent said correctly that evolution is well supported by evidence.

The entire 68-page survey report (pdf file) is here. The questions used and the results obtained — in tabular form — are on pages 54 and 55. You can analyze the results all you like. Our subject is discussed at page 10, and then again at page 33, where it notes:

Support for creationism in Louisiana is similar to findings reported from national surveys using similar question wording. A 2006 Pew Center Survey, for example, found 58 percent of respondents favored teaching creationism, 35 percent were opposed and 7 percent were unsure.

It may be comforting to the people of Louisiana to think that they’re typical of an entire nation of dolts, but we find it rather distressing.

Now let’s go back to the editorial in the Advocate and read its conclusion:

Among those who have expressed support for teaching intelligent design in public schools is Gov. Bobby Jindal. How ironic that Jindal’s wife, Supriya, has launched a private foundation to promote math and science education in Louisiana’s classrooms.

We encourage the governor to promote science education by working to keep religion out of science classes in public schools — something he’s been unwilling to do so far.

Good luck with that!

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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