Members of the Committee,
My name is Zachary Kopplin, and I am a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. I am testifying today to urge the State of Louisiana to retain textbooks that teach sound science, and also to urge you to reject any and all efforts that might undermine the teaching of proper science in Louisiana’s public school science classes.
You will likely hear arguments today in support of placing disclaimers in science textbooks that are intended to raise doubts about the scientific validity of the theory of evolution. Creationists will also try and convince you to require science textbooks be revised, or to request the inclusion of supplementary materials promoting concepts like “intelligent design,” which was proven to be an offshoot of creationism and was declared unconstitutional by the federal courts in Dover vs. Kitzmiller et al.
Louisiana students deserve to be taught proper science that will prepare us for success in the global economy.
I will lay out why none of the creationist’s suggestions should be taken.
First, no disclaimer for evolution is necessary. According to Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
“The science of evolution underpins all of modern biology and is supported by tens of thousands of scientific studies in fields that include cosmology, geology, paleontology, genetics, and other biological specialties. It informs scientific research in a broad range of fields such as agriculture and medicine.”
No apology or disclaimer for evolution is needed nor advised.
A disclaimer would likely imitate the one the Dover School District implemented which was struck down by the federal courts. It warned that evolution was “only” a theory while promoting an intelligent design/creationism textbook, “Of Panda’s and People,” which was thoroughly discredited as lacking scientific merit.
In everyday use, the word theory is sometimes used to describe an unproven conjecture–like the “theory that Carl Weiss wasn’t Huey Long’s murderer.” That is open to debate.
But in science, a theory is very different. Major theories like the theory of gravity or the theory of evolution undergird entire branches of science and have been thoroughly tested and retested and shown to have predictive ability to explain natural phenomena. They are hardly unproven conjectures–they are the basic building blocks of modern physics and biology respectively–and they helped send men to the moon and develop medicines to effectively fight thousands of diseases.
Second, revising the textbook or adding supplementary materials undermines proper science. According to the National Association of Biology Teachers,
“Scientists have firmly established evolution as an important natural process. The nature of science, experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision based on detectable and measurable data are procedures that clearly differentiate and separate science from other ways of knowing. Explanations or ways of knowing that invoke metaphysical, non-naturalistic or supernatural mechanisms, whether called “creation science,” “scientific creationism,” “intelligent design theory,” “young earth theory,” or similar designations, are outside the scope of science and therefore are not part of a valid science curriculum.”
Finally, I have heard that the Louisiana Science Education Act requires this committee to endorse changes in science textbooks to discredit evolution. It does not mandate this committee or the BESE board do anything to change textbooks.
Quite frankly, all the Louisiana Science Education Act does is create an unconstitutional loophole to sneak the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public school science classes. When a school district does try to use this law for its intended purpose, it will quickly be shot down by the courts.
So there is no need for this committee to try to jump ahead with such a costly and unproductive effort, one that will only embarrass our state and harm our students who need to be properly educated and well prepared for success in the global economy.
Please stand tall and endorse life science textbooks that teach real science rather than undermine it.
Thank you very much for considering my comments. I’ve also included a number of supplementary materials in support of my position.