Letter from Barbara Forrest

We recently wrote Louisiana Creationism: A Professor’s Opinion, about a letter by Jeff Sadow, described as: “an associate professor of political science at LSU in Shreveport, where he teaches Louisiana government.” Regarding the coming effort to revise Louisiana’s science education standards, Sadow said:

In choosing standards, these panels would do well to emulate the spirit of free inquiry encapsulated in the Louisiana Science Education Act, as scientific inquiry as a whole increasingly becomes threatened by politics.

You know about the infamous Louisiana Science Education Act (the LSEA). In 2008, Louisiana was the first state to enact — almost unanimously — a version of the Discovery Institute’s anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act (about which see the Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws). Since then, only Tennessee has adopted a similar law.

Now we have a response to Sadow’s letter from Barbara Forrest, philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, and a star witness for the winning side in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Barbara is a big favorite of ours, so we’re delighted to see that she has responded to the social scientist. Her letter appears in the New Orleans edition of the Advocate — where Sadow’s letter was published. Barbara’s letter has this headline: Here are the facts on La.’s Science Education Act. The newspaper has a comments section, but there aren’t any yet. Here are some excerpts from Barbara’s letter, with bold font added by us:

Jeff Sadow’s column, headlined “Science law prompts liberal hysteria,” proves that columns needn’t be constrained by facts. Referring to “the fantasy that the (Louisiana Science Education Act) encourages teaching creationism in public schools,” Sadow calls the law “a bulwark” against “politically motivated orthodoxy masquerading as science.” He anticipates (probably correctly) that how science is taught may become an issue in the Department of Education’s upcoming review of Louisiana’s science standards. However, Sadow’s column displays only his knowledge of creationist talking points rather than of how science should be taught. The reviewers should know the following facts.

Indeed, Sadow’s letter (or maybe it was a column) was full of of creationist talking points. Let’s read on:

First, the deceptively titled “Louisiana Science Education Act” was promoted exclusively by the Louisiana Family Forum, a right-wing religious lobbying group that has promoted creationism since its founding, and the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design creationist think tank in Seattle. The law is an attempt to evade the Supreme Court’s 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, which nullified a 1981 Louisiana law that required teaching creationism in public schools. I helped lead the opposition to the LSEA in 2008.

She did a fine job too, but the forces of creationism were overwhelming. Her letter continues:

The LFF [Louisiana Family Forum] wants to give sympathetic teachers cover to undermine evolution and climate science by using code language such as “critical thinking” and “logical analysis” when teaching these subjects. Moreover, the section of the law Sadow quoted, which stipulates that such teaching “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion,” comes straight from DI’s [Discovery Institute’s] “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution,” the template for the LSEA. This disclaimer, a pre-emptive attempt to disavow religious intent, would be unnecessary if the LSEA were actually about science education.

We’ve often described that “shall not be construed” provision of the LSEA as comparable to a suicide-bomber’s explosive-laden vest being sewn with a tag saying: “Attention Bomb Squad Coroner: The deceased wearer of this garment should not be construed to be a suicide bomber.”

Here’s more of Barbara’s letter:

Second, Sadow’s advice to the standards review panels to emulate the LSEA’s “spirit of free inquiry,” citing “the ‘Climategate’ scandal” as an example of the politicization of scientific inquiry, is based on misinformation. He accuses climate scientists whose emails were illegally hacked in 2009 of “an organized and deceitful effort to validate their assumptions about global warming and discredit fellow scientists who were skeptics.” The truth is that thousands of stolen emails were posted on the internet and subsequently used by climate science deniers to undermine legitimate scientific research. Nine separate investigations revealed no wrongdoing by the scientists (skepticalscience.com/Climategate-CRU-emails-hacked-intermediate.htm). Moreover, the Department of Defense takes climate science seriously enough to require “combatant commands (to integrate) climate-related impacts into their planning cycles” (defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/612710).

And now we come to the end of her letter:

The reviewers should know these facts as they begin their work.

Indeed they should. But even if they do know the facts, we’re talking about Louisiana, so we’re not optimistic about what they’re going to do. Anyway, great letter, Barbara!

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15 responses to “Letter from Barbara Forrest

  1. Is there an award which is the complete antithesis of the Curmudgeon’s celebrated Buffoon Award?

    Dr. Forrest would be a worthy recipient, if such a thing existed.

  2. I propose that the new Curmudgeon’s award be called the “Sword Award”, for the best evisceration of creationist arguments and propaganda. I nominate Dr. Forrest for the first award because she can really stick it to the other side and has numerous times.

  3. My proposal is the Rainbow Award, because of this song:

  4. For neither the first nor the last time, I have failed to properly express my meaning, so I’ll try again:

    There are plenty of serious awards, administered by qualified professional bodies, which are routinely bestowed on distinguished scientists and educators. But what I am proposing here is a light-hearted award, in the gift of our Curmudgeon, to recognise meritorious service in the eternal battle of Whack-a-Mole against the Creationists.

    And the award needs to recognise the nature of that conflict, which is basically Gulliver against the Lilliputians. One-on-one, it’s no contest: one barely needs competence in High School-level biology to demolish the ‘arguments’ of Creationists, just as one needs no extraordinary strength to crush a mosquito which alights on one’s arm. But there are so very, very many mosquitos, and some of them carry malaria, so the eternal battle goes on.

    And, just as particularly egregious Creationists are periodically recognised by SC’s coveted ‘Buffoon Award’, I think there should be an award for prolonged and valorous Mole-Whacking above and beyond the call of duty.
    And perhaps such an award could look something like the logo of an LA-based pest-control company (Western Exterminators): Western Extermiators’ logo

  5. When I logged off last night, there were three comments at the newspaper’s website, all favorable to Barbara. This morning there are no comments. All is not well at that newspaper.

  6. Our Curmudgeon reports

    All is not well at that newspaper.

    …But…but…the DI assure us that Creationists such as themselves are the true champions of Freedom of Thought, and that only evil materialistic Darwinists ever expel dissenting views!…

    I’m so confused!

  7. michaelfugate

    There is one again – which is positive.

  8. Another award winning LIAR4jesus!

  9. Barbara Forrest

    Relax, Curmie. I am up to nine comments. 🙂

  10. Barbara Forrest says: “Relax, Curmie. I am up to nine comments.”

    I see only one. But it’s positive.

  11. Eric Lipps

    Let me propose a more specific award: The Shipwreck Award, for the dumbest defense of the reality of the Great Flood and the Ark.

    And on the subject of Noah’s floating fertilizer factory, The Huffington Post has some scathing stuff on everybody’s favorite Arkepreneur Ken Ham.

  12. Is it just me and/or my browser (Firefox)? I don’t see any comments at all for the article at that newspaper’s website.

  13. Megalonyx says: “Is it just me and/or my browser (Firefox)? I don’t see any comments at all for the article at that newspaper’s website.”

    I see two. One that showed up yesterday, and now a new one. None of those I saw the first day are still there.

  14. SC: This morning there are no comments. All is not well at that newspaper.

    The incredible irony is that, when the anti-science activists accuse mainstream science and its supporters of “censorship” the usual reply is to mererly show that it’s not so. Rarely is it emphasized, as that example clearly shows, which side really is hell-bent on censoring to mislead.

    Letters and articles that are loaded with “creationist talking points” are invariably written by people who are aware of the many devastating refutations, but choose to pretend they don’t exist.

  15. July 9 1:15 PM EDT
    I see no comments (ads are blocked) using Firefox. I see 6 comments and 3 replies (ads are unblocked) using Internet Explorer. Only 3 are pro-creationism and they’re all by the same guy.