Barbara Forrest & the BESE Biology Book Brawl

Once again we alert you to the tireless efforts of philosophy professor Barbara Forrest, a star witness for the winning side in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. She is a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science.

You probably don’t need any background information on the creationism struggle in Louisiana, which is now focused on a textbook decision to be made by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), but if you do you can find it here in one of our earlier posts.

Barbara’s latest is here: Of Autism and Creationism — A Strange Louisiana Connection. It’s a long and fact-rich article about an issue we haven’t been following: the recently-exposed science scandal involving British physician Andrew Wakefield. He started the pseudo-scientific notion that there’s some kind of causal connection between certain vaccines and autism.

The reputable journal which had originally published Wakefield’s “research” has taken the extra-ordinary step of publicly retracting it. Barbara says this is because “major scientific studies have shown that there is no causal connection between vaccines and autism.” She provides a great deal of fascinating detail about the entire affair, but this seems rather removed from The Controversy between evolution and creationism. Stay with us, dear reader, because Barbara then tells us:

John W. Oller, Jr., a professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, is a creationist who is integrally involved in the LFF’s [Louisiana Family Forum] attack on the textbook selection process in Louisiana.

Okay, so Oller is yet another creationist activist in Louisiana. What does that have to do with the Wakefield scandal? Barbara says, with bold added by us and links omitted:

[T]he main point of this post is to reveal Oller’s connection to Andrew Wakefield, an association that no respectable scholar should cultivate.

Wowie! Barbara has done it again. Let’s read on:

Given Wakefield’s ethical violations, which began coming to light in 2004, it is a no-brainer that responsible professionals should neither associate with him nor cite him as an authority in their scholarly publications. Yet John Oller has done both.

Barbara backs that up with solid facts. It’s devastating stuff. You’ll have to click over to Barbara’s website to get the details. We’ll skip that so we can get to the creationism connection:

Oller is a young-earth creationist who, in September 2009, helped persuade BESE to give the LFF control over the procedure governing complaints about creationist supplementary materials in public schools.

Again, Barbara provides facts to support what she says. We’ll skip that and continue

Now, in 2010, Oller is at it again. The public record [pdf; see p. 4] indicates that he made an oral presentation against the proposed biology textbooks at a September 30 meeting of the Life and Environmental Science Committee, which was convened as part of the 2010 textbook adoption process.


Oller, who has absolutely no credentials in any of the natural sciences (his degrees are in French, Spanish, and linguistics), claims that “The authors of the books . . . seemed not to have access to modern databases of the journal literature of the most recent decades of biological research.” (That would be news to my friend Kenneth Miller, who uses the most current biological research available both in his work as a cell biologist at Brown University and as co-author with Joe Levine of one of the currently proposed textbooks that Oller is attacking.)

We have to skip a lot of supporting detail, but we’re confident that you’ll be reading Barbara’s post for that, so we can jump right to her conclusion:

Such is the evidence for the quality of the scientific judgment of Prof. Oller … . He hangs out with not only the the disgraced (and disgraceful) Andrew Wakefield but also with young-earth creationists who have misinformed an untold number of innocent children. His association with ICR indicates that he believes that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Yet, according to Oller, the scientists with hard-earned, professional expertise in biology who wrote the proposed textbooks don’t know what they’re doing. Oh, and — lest we forget — evolution is causing the downfall of society.

One has to wonder whether BESE would have given the LFF control over science education policy if they had known who the LFF’s “experts” really are. Ladies and gentlemen of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, wouldn’t you like to rethink — and rescind — your decisions of the past two years?

Barbara is a national treasure!

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

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4 responses to “Barbara Forrest & the BESE Biology Book Brawl

  1. The US is indeed very fortunate to have Barbara Forrest batting on the side of reason and integrity. If we in the UK could swap all the ‘Lords Spiritual’ in our House of Lords for just one like her, the mental capacity of the place would be increased substantially.

  2. Barbara Forest does travel alot and give talks about the battle against creationsim. The UK would do well to invite her to come and talk about the problem and what can be done to combat the foes of reason and science.

  3. Barbara is indeed a treasure. Her detailed article is more evidence of her energy, detailed research and commitment. I have known her for some years and value her friendship. Hopefully, more good folks in LA will join her efforts there to combat the current foolishness.

  4. vhutchison says:

    Hopefully, more good folks in LA will join her efforts there to combat the current foolishness.

    I’d like some indication that it’s happening. Let’s see how BESE behaves next week.