Louisiana Creationism, Gene Mills, & Barbara Forrest

IN the Shreveport Times, the major daily newspaper of Shreveport, Louisiana, there’s a guest column by Dr. Barbara Forrest, a star witness for the winning side in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. It’s titled You can’t cloak La. Science Education Act’s religious intent.

Barbara’s letter is the latest in a series appearing in the Shreveport Times, so before we discuss what she’s written we need some background to put her letter in context. On 19 June the Shreveport Times carried an opinion letter from Charles Kincade: Jindal’s and Vitter’s anti-science policies. One excerpt will set the tone — but remember, this was written at the height of the oil spill off the Louisiana coast:

It is indeed ironic that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, of Louisiana, are seeking the brightest minds in science and engineering to help extricate our state from the impending environmental disaster that has resulted from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

The irony is because Jindal and Vitter have built their careers by pandering to large anti-science constituencies in our state. And while this pandering has brought political and electoral success to both Jindal and Vitter, it will condemn our students to instruction in junk science and dumb down public school curricula.

[…]

In 2008, Jindal supported and signed an anti-science bill that many believed to be a stealth creationism bill. That bill, which became the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), was a thinly veiled effort to permit the teaching of religious creationism in the science classroom alongside evolution.

The creationists were embarrassed, so they fought back. In the 26 June issue of the Shreveport Times, Gene Mills wrote Law provides framework to handle controversial scientific issues. One excerpt should be sufficient:

In 2008, Louisiana took a bold step by passing the landmark Louisiana State Education Act (LSEA), which encourages schools to “promote critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussion of scientific theories.” A testimony to the courage of our policy writers, the LSEA passed the Louisiana House of Representatives and Senate with near unanimous bipartisan support.

What an Ark-load! Who is Gene Mills? Barbara Forrest’s blog has this informative article about him and the key role he played in the passage of Louisiana’s infamous Science Education Act.

The same day that Mills’ article ran in the Shreveport Times, a copy of the article appeared at an unusual blog operated by the Discovery Institute. We say it’s unusual because it seems to exist solely for that one article; if it has any other content we can’t find it. The Discovery Institute is so proud of that article it makes us wonder if Mills wrote it or if someone in Seattle drafted it for him.

Two days later, the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) posted again about Mills’ article, this time at their creationism blog: Op-Ed Defends Louisiana Academic Freedom Law.

It doesn’t surprise us that the Discoveroids are so devoted to Mills. The Louisiana creationism law that he helped get through that state’s legislature is based on the Discoveroids’ Academic Freedom Act. We’ve always regarded the Discoveroids as Mills’ puppet-masters, and Mills as the Discoveroids’ state-level cell leader — and a valuable one. Were it not for his influence over Louisiana’s mindless legislature, the Discoveroids’ legislative initiative would have been a catastrophic nationwide failure. Instead, thanks to Mills, they can brag to their financial backers that their program is a success — they’ve got one state strangling in stupidity. See: Discovery Institute — Ecstasy Over Louisiana.

Okay, that’s Gene Mills, and now you know about his recent article. The stage is set. Here are some excerpts from Barbara Forrest’s response in the Shreveport Times, with bold font added by us:

In his June 26 response to Charles Kincade, the Rev. Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), portrayed the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) as “landmark” legislation — a “bold step” to “promote critical thinking skills” in public school science classes.

[…]

The LFF announced on their website that they wrote the bill. They were assisted by the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank in Seattle that has hawked “intelligent design” for almost two decades. The LSEA is a variant of DI’s creationist “Model Academic Freedom Statute,” variants of which the Discovery Institute was peddling in six state legislatures in 2008, as it did again in 2009. Only Louisiana has enacted this piece of rubbish into law.

“This piece of rubbish”? [Limp-wristed voice mode:] Oh dear, how insensitive![Resume normal mode.] Insensitive? Yes, but it’s entirely true, so let’s not worry about hurting the creationists’ feelings. On with Barbara’s letter:

Denying that the Science Education Act permits teaching creationism, Rev. Mills asserted that the bill’s prohibition of “discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion” was included at “LFF’s insistence.” However, religion disclaimers are an old creationist tactic.

The Science Education Act’s disclaimer is part of DI’s model bill and was included in all of the various state versions in 2008-2009. Such disclaimers were used in “creation science” legislation in the early 1980s. The act’s disclaimer is merely a transparent, pre-emptive attempt at legal self-defense against the accusation that the LSEA promotes religion.

If we quote too much from Barbara’s letter you won’t click over to the Shreveport Times to read the whole thing, so we’ll give you only one more excerpt:

Rev. Mills’ denial that the LSEA is a creationist bill is also belied by the fact that the only people that the Louisiana Family Forum brought forward to testify for it were creationists, including a Discovery Institute operative. … Public school science teachers did not request this law. On the contrary, they opposed it.

Okay, dear reader, that was just a warm-up. Here is your weekend reading assignment: Start with one of our earlier posts: Barbara Forrest on the Lunacy in Louisiana. Then see As the Gulf Gushes, Jindal & Creationists Pray. After that you’ll be ready to appreciate the Kincade letter described above. Then just work your way forward until you find yourself here.

What then? Hey, then you’re on your own.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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9 responses to “Louisiana Creationism, Gene Mills, & Barbara Forrest

  1. Do you think “Gene Mills” is a pseudonym? It sounds like one of the mechanical processes Discoveroids insist go on inside cells, rather than the organic chemistry actually present.

    It’s also an answer to the question that Discoveroids get embarrassed by at public appearances: “In the intelligent design hypothesis, where do genes come from?”

    “Gene mills.”

  2. Barbara Forrest is … awesome, for lack of a better word. Her ability to tireless research these concerns, then weave such convincing, succinct analyses, is unmatched by anyone else running on the anti-creationist treadmill. Time and again, I read a claim from Forrest’s Shreveport Times article, and thought to myself, “that claim’s supported by the documentation, brought to light in more cases than not by Forrest herself.”

    We are fortunate that she’s on OUR side, and not theirs!

  3. Barbara Forrest is more than Awesome, she’s an inspiring role model of scholarship and smartableness. Dembski witnessed (for the defense) her deposition prior to the Kitzmiller trial and withdrew shortly thereafter. He knew he’d be cut to ribbons by her facts, figures and ability to draw upon them.

    By all means read “Intelligent Design: Creationism’s Trojan Horse” by Forrest and Gross. It chronicles the intelligent design creationism movement in the words of the founders and key proponents such as our favorite Stephen “the Designer ™ is God of the Bible” Meyer.

    Second, I don’t know what the school districts are waiting for! A perfect Dover trap has been laid just ready for some district to step into. Come on, Louisiana school districts, teach that old time creationism and see how well the “academic freedom” act protects you in court. Don’t worry about the outcome, Gene Mills will be a-prayin’ for you.

  4. rubble says:

    Barbara Forrest is … awesome, for lack of a better word.

    Yup. I’m just a dilettante. She’s the real deal.

  5. I thought you were a debutante, SC.

    Are you telling me that picture on the Internet is Photoshopped?

  6. Doc Bill says:

    Are you telling me that picture on the Internet is Photoshopped?

    I think you’ve confused me with Lindsay Lohan.

  7. … I don’t know what the school districts are waiting for! A perfect Dover trap has been laid just ready for some district to step into. Come on, Louisiana school districts, teach that old time creationism and see how well the “academic freedom” act protects you in court.

    I suspect that Creationism has been taught in many Louisiana public schools for decades. When most of the rural community supports it, such teaching’s illegality is beside the point, unless you’re quite brave.

    Even a successful lawsuit against such teaching may not be sufficient to challenge the LSEA itself. After all, the LSEA need not inevitably lead to such teaching in a single case. But should multiple cases arise, then the law’s effect is clear and can be successfully challenged.

    I suspect that colleges and universities will eventually choose to deny credit for biology courses taught in Louisiana public schools. ACSI v. Stearns provides precedent, albeit in connection with a private school and not a public school. Should a Louisiana student challenge such denial, I suspect that the LSEA would fall immediately under the microscope.

    Either of these paths to overturn the LSEA will take time. Unless the Louisiana legislature acts to overturn itself, I suspect that this law will remain on the books for decades.

  8. Rubble: I suspect that colleges and universities will eventually choose to deny credit for biology courses taught in Louisiana public schools. ACSI v. Stearns provides precedent…

    Probably not a good precedent. CA only denied credit for the purposes of the A-G guidelines – a special form of automatic admission – not general admission. In fact one of CA’s arguments against ACSI was that because ACSI students could still apply the normal way, CA was not in fact penalizing students for taking such courses. The State would still count the credits in English, History, etc… towards graduation, it was just that for the special A-G guidelines they would count as electives.

  9. P.S. Its also worth noting that CA is the only state with this system, and they only look at CA H.S. courses. You’d never see any interstate cross-checking arising out of this system, that’s not what its designed for.