Activists Re-Launch Campaign to Repeal Louisiana’s Creationism Law

Since 2008, the Louisiana Science Education Act Has Been the Subject of National and International Criticism and Ridicule

For Immediate Release

Baton Rouge, LA — (March, 18, 2013) — Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) recently filed SB 26 to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, Louisiana’s misnamed and misguided creationism law.

Since its passage in 2008, the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) has been the subject of national and international criticism and ridicule, and its repeal has been endorsed an overwhelming consensus of scientists and educators and a broad coalition of religious leaders and clergy. This is Senator Peterson’s third attempt at repealing the act.

Previous hearings about the Louisiana Science Education Act were the focus of intense national interest.  Videos of the meetings have collectively received more than 680,000 views on YouTube and were covered by national publications including io9 and Slate.  The campaign has been covered both nationally and internationally, including in The Guardian, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Italian Vogue, MSNBC, and Bill Moyers’s “Moyers and Company.”

Originally conceived as the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, the LSEA is based on a model statute developed by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that lobbies for legislation promoting creationism in the classroom.

State Senator Ben Nevers, the bill’s original sponsor, explained that he filed the bill at the behest of the Louisiana Family Forum. “They (the Louisiana Family Forum) believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory,” Senator Nevers said.

Nobel laureate chemist Sir Harry Kroto said, “The present situation (the LSEA) should be likened to requiring Louisiana school texts to include the claim that the sun goes round the Earth.”

Three years ago, Sir Harry Kroto was the first Nobel laureate to publicly endorse the act’s repeal. Today, the repeal campaign is endorsed by 78 Nobel laureate scientists, nearly 40% of living Nobel laureate scientists, and numerous other prominent scientists.  It has also been endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other major science and educator organizations in Louisiana and the United States.

In addition, thousands of clergy members, who are part of the Clergy Letter Project, have joined the repeal campaign. Reverend Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, said, “(The repeal effort) represents the best thinking in American science, the best thinking in American religion, and it also reflects the United States Constitution.”

Over 70,000 people from Louisiana and around the country have signed a Change.org petition and other petitions in support of this repeal.

The conservative Thomas Fordham Institute stated the Louisiana Science Education Act creates “anti-evolution pressures (that) continue to threaten state science standards.” In its evaluation of Louisiana’s education system, the Thomas Fordham Institute called the LSEA a “devastating flaw.”

Zack Kopplin, the student who began the campaign against the law said:

“America needs a scientific revolution; a Second Giant Leap for Humankind.  Fighting for a repeal of Louisiana’s creationism law is ground zero of this revolution.

“We need a grassroots movement of students who stand up and demand their public officials to support evidence-based science.”

Supporters of the repeal believe they will see a breakthrough this year because Louisiana’s public officials are becoming increasingly pro-science.  This spring, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology lifted a boycott of New Orleans (a boycott still remains on the rest of Louisiana), which had begun after the passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act.  The boycott was lifted after the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to support the repeal of Louisiana’s creationism law, and the Orleans Parish School Board banned creationism from their classrooms in reaction to the passage of this law.

The bill to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act in 2012 was defeated in committee, by a vote of 2-1.

“We believe that this spring we can muster the votes we need to pass,” Kopplin said.

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Stop Governor Jindal’s Creationist Voucher Program

Stop Governor Jindal’s Creationist Voucher Program Before Governor Romney Takes it Nationwide

Update: Superintendent White removed Eternity Christian Academy from this list, but the other 20 remain.  Eternity was not removed for curriculum issues, so it may be returned to the program while keeping a creationist curriculum.  Holy Savior Menard Central High School in Alexandria has joined the list.

According to the Associated Press, there are 750 creationist voucher slots which are worth more than 4 million dollars approved for this year.

These numbers will grow as the voucher program continues, and will easily be able to reach the numbers I’ve posted below.  The numbers below represent the number of voucher slots originally requested by the creationist schools, and the maximum amount of voucher money that the state allows. 

Also note, the numbers below would be the final numbers if not for the public outcry over how backwards this voucher program is.  We need to keep pushing on the Governor and the Superintendent to remove the remainder of the creationist schools.

Louisiana is preparing to spend over $11 million to send 1,365 students to 20 private schools that teach creationism instead of science as part of Governor Bobby Jindal’s new voucher program.  It is time to halt the implementation of this creationist voucher program.

It is increasingly clear that one of Governor Jindal’s primary education goals is the teaching of creationism.  He supported, signed, and defended the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), Louisiana’s 2008 stealth creationism law, which allows teachers to sneak creationism into public school science classrooms by using creationist supplemental materials.  Despite hearing from 78 Nobel laureate scientists who urged him to repeal the law because teaching creationism is both bad science and unconstitutional, Jindal instead defended the law.

Now Governor Jindal has passed a voucher plan which provides millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools that teach creationism and whose curriculum doesn’t meet the state’s approved science standards.

My review of the Governor’s voucher program identifies at least 20 schools who use a creationist curriculum or blatantly promote creationism on their websites.  These 20 schools have been awarded 1,365 voucher slots and can receive as much as $11,602,500 in taxpayer money annually.

  • The handbook of the Claiborne Christian School, in West Monroe, LA, says that students are taught to “discern and refute lies commonly found in [secular] textbooks, college classrooms, and in the media.” In the January 2010 school newsletter, the principal promotes young-earth creationist talking points from Answers in Genesis, saying, “Our position at CCS on the age of the Earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God’s Word is in error.” She also claims that scientists are “sinful men” trying to explain the world “without God” so they don’t have to be “morally accountable to Him.” CCS has 28 voucher slots and can receive up to $238,000 in public money.
  • The student handbook of Faith Academy, in Gonzalez, LA, says that as a Household of Faith school, students must “defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible verses [sic] traditional scientific theory.” FA has 38 voucher slots and can receive up to $323,000 in public money.
  • Ascension Christian High School, in Gonzales, also a Household of Faith school is Faith Academy’s high school campus. It has 80 voucher slots and can receive up to $680,000 in public money.
  • Northeast Baptist School, in West Monroe, uses ABeka and Bob Jones University science textbooks.  Researcher and writer Rachel Tabachnick, who examined these textbooks, reports that it is “clear that no instruction is included in the text that would conflict with young earth creationism.”  Using such books endangers the educational prospects of students in Christian schools. In 2010, the University of California won a federal lawsuit, ASCI [Association of Christian Schools International] v. Stearns, in which the judge ruled in favor of UC’s right to refuse to recognize high school credits for science classes taken in Christian schools that used such books. UC contended that such instruction is “inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community.” NBS has 40 voucher slots and can receive up to $340,000 in public money.
  • Northlake Christian Elementary School, in Covington, LA, teaches science using both ASCI’s “Purposeful Design Series” and ABeka materials.  One Purposeful Design science notebook requires students to “discuss your thoughts about how the complexity of a cell shows that it must be purposefully designed.” NCES, which specifies that “all curricular content is filtered through and presented within a Christian worldview,” has 20 voucher slots and can receive up to $170,000 in public money.
  • Northlake Christian High School in Covington uses a secular science textbook but also “integrate[s]” material from “biblical-young-earth, Christian/Creationists,” according to Northlake’s high school biology teacher. He uses sources from Creation Ministries International, Answers in Genesis, and the Institute for Creation Research. This teacher also quotes a creationist book that says, “No coherent, cohesive theology has yet been offered that would allow Christians to embrace evolution with integrity.”  Disturbingly, NCHS’s student handbook includes a discrimination policy against prospective students and staff who do not meet “Biblical standards.” NCHS has 30 voucher slots and can receive up to $255,000 in public money.
  • New Orleans Adventist Academy teaches a creationist curriculum, according to the New Orleans newspaper, Gambit. A science curriculum guide from the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, to which NOAA belongs, shows that Adventist schools teach children that “God, in six literal days, made the heavens and the earth.” The guide contains references both to young-earth and intelligent design creationist sources. NOAA has 100 voucher slots and can receive up to $850,000 in public money.
  • Greater Mt. Olive Christian Academy, in Baton Rouge, uses the ABeka curriculum.  GMOCA has 50 voucher slots and can receive up to $425,000 in public money.
  • Faith Christian Academy, in Marrero, LA, uses the ABeka textbooks. FCA has 38 voucher slots and can receive up to $323,000 in public money.
  • Victory Christian Academy, in Metairie, LA, uses ABeka and Bob Jones curricula. Its philosophy of science education is “to develop students in principles of science. . . teaching them to observe relationships and laws as established by God’s creative hand” and that “any teaching of man that is contrary to the clear understanding of scripture is in error.”  VCA has 8 voucher slots and can receive up to $68,000 in public money.
  • Lafayette Christian Academy, in Lafayette, LA, uses Bob Jones and ABeka.  Its “primary objective” is to educate students “without compromising the Word of God.” LCA has 4 voucher slots and can receive up to $34,000 in public money.
  • Cenla Christian Academy, in Pineville, LA, uses the ABeka and Bob Jones curricula. CCA has 72 voucher slots and can receive up to $612,000 in public money.
  • Family Worship Christian Academy, in Opelousas, LA, offers “a stimulating learning environment for our students utilizing A Beka curriculum.” FWCA has 66 voucher slots and can receive up to $561,000 in public money.
  • Trinity Christian Academy, in Zachary, LA, explained via e-mail that it uses ABeka to teach high school science.  TCA has been given 35 voucher slots and can receive up to $297,500 in public money.
  • Old Bethel Christian Academy, in Clarks, uses ABeka they explained in an email.  They have been given 59 voucher slots and can receive up to $501,500 in public money.

The schools listed here may be just the tip of the iceberg.  The true number of creationist voucher schools approved to receive unconstitutionally misappropriated taxpayer dollars under Governor Jindal’s voucher program could be significantly higher.  My analysis above lists only those schools that explicitly acknowledge teaching creationism or creationist curriculum.  Many more schools listed as approved by Governor’s voucher program are probably also planning to use creationist textbooks, since many of these are self-identified Christian academies that appear very similar in philosophy to the ones I’ve listed above.

The fact that these schools are teaching creationism isn’t the only problem. BeauVer Christian School in DeRidder can’t even meet the fire code and has been accused of financial improprieties, lawsuits have been filed to stop the implementation of the program, and the creators of the state program have already displayed major ethical lapses in trying to cover up their failure to adequately review schools applying for vouchers.

Governor Jindal claims that he created the voucher program because private schools would offer a better education for Louisiana students.  The truth is that schools that teach creationism will give our students a worse education.  Schools that teach creationism and do not meet Louisiana’s state science standards will not give our students a better education and have no business receiving public funds.

Since the justification for this program has fallen flat, Governor Jindal and the Department of Education should not implement it.

Every voucher school that taxpayers support with public dollars should be required to release its teaching materials for inspection by the public, just as all public schools are required to do.

Governor Jindal must do the right thing for Louisiana students and halt his voucher program’s implementation before any funds are allocated to schools that teach creationism instead of evidence based science.

Governor Jindal has been named Governor Romney’s education surrogate.  That Governor Jindal could be nominated for Vice President by Governor Romney or be his Secretary of Education means that signing this Change.Org petition to halt the unconstitutional and creationist Louisiana voucher program is even more urgent.

 

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Republican Presidential Primary frontrunner Rick Santorum comments on creationism laws

Republican Presidential Primary frontrunner Rick Santorum comments on creationism laws

Baton Rouge, LA — (March 27, 2012) – At Senator Santorum’s March 23rd rally in Pineville Louisiana, student activist, Zack Kopplin, had the chance to question the Senator about creationism laws.  Kopplin, who has led the effort to repeal Louisiana’s creationism law, the misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act, asked Santorum about the Louisiana Science Education Act and Santorum’s proposed amendment to the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which served as a model for Louisiana’s law.

The video can be viewed here.

Kopplin asked, “In Louisiana we have a creationism law that’s based off a 2002 creationism amendment you proposed to the No Child Left Behind Act… Can you spend about two seconds explaining why you think this is a good idea?”

Stantorum responded, “states have a right to do what they want with education curriculum.”

First, Santorum didn’t take issue with the nature of Louisiana’s law or his amendment as being “creationist” laws.

Second, Santorum’s attempt to justify teaching creationism as a state’s right is wrong.  There is no justification for teaching unconstitutional non-science in public school science classes.  Students will not get the education they need to succeed and get the science and technology jobs of the 21st century.  Ironically, Santorum’s own legislation would have been a federal mandate.  So while it’s clearly convenient for him to cite state’s rights in favor of Louisiana’s creationism law, the fact that his own amendment would have been a federal mandate undercuts that argument and shows his real priority is the teaching of creationism.

When interviewed about the rally, Kopplin said,

“This defense of teaching creationism seems to be the Republican base’s party line.  When Michele Bachmann was asked about the Louisiana Science Education Act last spring, and her own 2006 effort to pass a creationism law in Minnesota, she gave an equally ill-informed answer about state’s rights.  Governor Perry, last fall, said that creationism was taught in Texas schools.

Governor Romney appears likely to win the Republican Primary and it is important to know what his views on creationism are.  Will he stick to what he said in 2008 and defend the teaching of evolution, or will he shake up the etch-a-sketch and toe the line to the Republican base?”

Thank you to Jason Berry and NOSHA for their help making this video possible.

 

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75 Nobel laureate scientists call for repeal of Louisiana Science Education Act

75 Nobel laureate scientists call for repeal of Louisiana Science Education Act

For Immediate Release

Baton Rouge, LA — (March, 6, 2012) – Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) has filed Senate Bill 374 to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, Louisiana’s misnamed and misguided creationism law.

The repeal effort now has the unprecedented support of 75 Nobel laureate scientists–nearly 40% of all living Nobel laureate scientists in physics, chemistry, or physiology or medicine.  This incredible number surpasses the historic 72 Nobel laureate scientists who filed an amicus brief in opposition to Louisiana’s first creationism law during the Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court case.  A complete list of Nobel laureates supporting the repeal effort can be found here.

Nobel laureate chemist and supporter of the repeal effort Sir Harry Kroto says,

“One can only be amazed that [the repeal] has managed to assemble such massive support (75 Nobel laureates) for the effort to ensure that only educational material which is supported by reliable evidence is presented in the science lessons of Louisiana’s schools.”

Earlier this year the conservative Thomas Fordham Institute released a report that said Louisiana’s science standards suffer from a “devastating flaw” because of the Louisiana Science Education Act.

The report said:

“The Louisiana science standards are reasonably challenging and comprehensive, but they suffer from a devastating flaw: Thanks to the state’s 2008 Science Education Act, which promotes creationism instead of science, the standards (especially for biology and life science) are haunted by anti-science influences that threaten biology education in the state.”

“This year the Governor has asked the Louisiana legislature to focus on education,” said Senator Peterson.  “If this Legislative session is truly about improving Louisiana’s education system, then the first place to start is to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act.“

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No Sanity in Nevada

Jon Huntsman has said, “I’m not going to pander.”  When it comes to evolution and science, the Republican Presidential candidate from Utah has been straight-up and on the mark.  In August, he said, “To be clear. I believe in evolution… Call me crazy.”  Crazy would be the wrong call.  Call him courageous instead for serving as the lone voice in the Republican Primary wilderness supporting evidence-based science. 

Outside the evolution debate, Huntsman’s courage is in question with his latest move to  boycotting the Nevada debate.  By not showing in Nevada, Hunstman is completely pandering to New Hampshire voters who feel slighted by Nebraska pushing their primary date up and leap-frogging ahead of them in the schedule.  After all, Hunstman is relying on New Hampshire to deliver a win in the Republican Primary.

Without Hunstman at the debate in Nevada on Tuesday, there will be no voice of reason  on teaching evolution in our public schools.  Instead, we’re going to have a group of candidates who will throw science under the bus as they pander to far right extremists or simply mistake fantasy for science.

Tongue tied Mitt Romney supported teaching evolution before the 2008 election, but has been noticeably silent in this campaign.  Instead he’s been flip-flopping on social issues to curry favor with those in the Republican Party that also support teaching creationism.  Don’t look for Romney to be a vocal defender of science on Tuesday.

Confused Congresswoman Bachmann has claimed, “there is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact… hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes, believe in intelligent design.”  When asked, she could not produce any Nobel Laureate Scientists to back up her claims.  She will be the leading voice of insanity at the debate.

Confused Texas Governor Rick Perry believes creationism “should be presented in schools alongside the theories of evolution.”  He doesn’t stop there though; he actually proudly asserts  that inTexas public school science class, students are taught creationism—despite that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled such teachings unconstitutional.

Rick Santorum doesn’t just have a Google problem, he also has a creationism problem.  He attempted to pass an amendment to No Child Left Behind which would have singled out evolution as a controversial theory.  This tactic served as an early model for Louisiana’s creationism law.

Panderer Gingrich has slithered away from his former “passion” for evolution like a Newt, adopting pandering positions that are as insane the ones Michele Bachmann has had.

Ron Paul may deviate from the standard Republican position when it comes to isolationism, but on evolution, he is in the middle of the pack of panderers.  He claims “[evolution is] a theory… and I don’t accept it.”  What Dr. Paul doesn’t understand is that a scientific theory is a strongly backed up explanation of natural phenomena, not just an untested hunch, as in the everyday use of the word.

As the last man standing for science among the entire field of Republican Presidential candidates, Huntsman could do wonders for students and the science community looking for a leader who understands that the principles of evolution undergird the science of the future.  Perhaps New Hampshire voters will hear this message Tuesday, but the rest of the country certainly will not.  Scientists, strap in; it will be a bumpy ride on a train of thought still stuck in the era of the square wheel.

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The Republican Primary Panderer’s Parade

Since when did Newt Gingrich become Michele Bachmann?  Last I noticed, Gingrich was shorter, heavier, and aspiring to be  the  “intellectual” of the Republican party.  And yet, his latest comments mauling evolution sound eerily Bachmann-esque.

On September 29th, Gingrich mocked anyone who accepts evolution by asking, “do you think… we’re randomly gathered protoplasm? We could have been rhinoceroses, but we got lucky this week?”  These anti-science remarks belong in Bachman’s Land of Babble, where she makes claims about evolution like, “a grain of wheat plus a starfish does not equal a dog, and that this was what evolutionists were teaching in our schools.”

Ask any biologist, and she will tell you that’s not how evolution works.  Gingrich knows this.  Or at least he used to, before he decided to go as Bachmann this Halloween.  Who remembers 2006, when Gingrich asserted he had a “passion” for “how life evolved?”  When he declared that if he had chosen a career in science, he “would have been a naturalist” and followed E.O. Wilson’s example?  When Gingrich professed to understand that “evolution should be taught as science, and intelligent design should be taught as philosophy.”

Will the real Newt Gingrich please stand up?  The Gingrich that does not march in the Republican Primary Panderer’s Parade?

The only candidate with real courage to take a sane position on evolution is Jon Huntsman.  In response to Governor Rick Perry’s claims that Texas unconstitutionally teaches creationism, he said, “I believe in evolution… Call me crazy.”  He is the only Republican presidential candidate to openly defend evolution.

And guess what? It’s not working for him.  Jon Huntsman isn’t gaining ground on the front-runners by maintaining his integrity and defending the evidence-based science that earlier incarnations of Gingrich had the courage to promote.

The important question is if primary front runner Mitt Romney is in lock-step. Back in 2007, Romney took a position strongly in support of evolution, saying, “They teach evolution at B.Y.U.”  He was completely right when he said, “science class is where to teach evolution” and “if we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters… that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”

And now, will Romney switch his colors like a Newt-or rather, a chameleon?

As these primary candidates spoon-feed voters what they want to hear, not what is accurate, honest, or real, the costs to this country mount. Costs to science education, science jobs, new scientific innovation.  Costs to democracy and the honest exchange of ideas.  Costs to the moral core of our country that Republicans profess to know so much about.

These candidates need to be challenged on their dramatic shifts in position. After all, anyone who knows anything about evolution knows it takes ages for a species to lose its spine.  These candidates must still have a backbone somewhere. It’s  high-time they found it and defended sound science once again.

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The Texas Miracle

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been busy on the Presidential campaign trail touting his so-called “Texas Miracle,” claiming credit for job-growth in Texas that many believe is the direct result of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (see the Talking Points Memo article). But wait: there may be a Texas Miracle after all—though not the one Governor Perry had in mind.

Despite fervent efforts by the Governor and many in the Texas State Legislature to force creationism and intelligent design creationism into public school science classes, evidence and evolution-based science has prevailed.  That is a real miracle.  While Obama carved out a stimulus package to spur job growth, Perry launched a full-scale attack against teaching the theory of evolution in public school science class. Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is vital across the US and in countries like China and India that are competing for the world’s top-science and technology jobs.

Governor Perry prematurely announced that “in Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”  Creationist Barbara Cargill, the Governor’s appointed Chair of the State Board of Education, bragged that the Texas School Board has “six true conservative Christians,” out of 15 members. She means there are six creationists on the board. And yet, when the school board had to vote on July 22nd on whether to adopt new evolution-based biology texts or creationist ones, the Board chose science over politics and approved new biology books.  They voted down the on-line creationist textbook.  This is especially important because given its size, Texas sets the standards for textbook adoption around the country.

Governor Perry didn’t just stop with the school board. The Texas Legislature tried to pass an unconstitutional intelligent design creationism law.

Miraculously, the bill wasn’t even heard in committee.  Even if the bill had passed, it would have been challenged immediately for blatantly ignoring the 2005 court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, which established that teaching public school science classes intelligent design creationism (which is creationism dressed up to look like science) violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutional.

When Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier defended the Governor’s statements about teaching creationism in Texas public schools, she noted that Texas education standards call for “all sides” of the theory of evolution to be discussed.  According to Frazier, this requires students “to evaluate and analyze the theory of evolution, and creationism very likely comes up and is discussed in that process. Teachers are also permitted to discuss it with students in that context.”  Unfortunately, Frazier is correct.  These “code words” within the standards allow a loophole for creationists to sneak the unconstitutional teaching of creationism in public school science class

This is a gaping hole in science standards that must be corrected.  Not only that, Texas science standards should be rewritten to emphasize the importance of evolution to all of biology. According to the American Association of the Advancement of Science, the largest science organization in the world with over ten million members, “the science of evolution underpins all of modern biology and is supported by tens of thousands of studies… It informs scientific research in a broad range of fields such as agriculture and medicine, work that has an important impact on our everyday lives.” We need to emphasize evolution in our public school science class and prepare Texas students to take cutting edge science jobs once they graduate. If that happened, that would be a real Texas Miracle.

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Creationist Rick Perry wins endorsement from fellow creationist Governor

Bobby Jindal, creationist Governor of Louisiana, has endorsed Rick Perry, creationist Governor of Texas, for President of the United States. It’s not surprising. They are two of the most prominent creationist Governors in the country, and Louisiana and Texas are creationist hotbeds. They have a lot in common, and so do their states.

Both the Louisiana and Texas State Boards of Education were recently embroiled in fights over creationism and biology textbooks. Both Governors can empathize with each other that their state’s biology textbooks were not replaced with creationist materials.

Governor Jindal can also give Governor Perry lessons on how to sneak creationism into public school science classes. Back in 2008, Governor Jindal signed the misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act. The Louisiana Science Education Act allows creationism to be brought into public school science classrooms.

Despite that the Texas legislature didn’t manage to pass its own unconstitutional creationism bill, Governor Perry is trigger happy when it comes to creationism. He recently claimed, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”

Neither Perry nor Jindal seem to realize how vital teaching evolution is. Biotech is going to be one of major technologies of the future. In New Orleans, they are working hard to grow their biodistrict. If Louisiana wants it’s science and technology industries to grow and its kids to work in them, we need to teach our students evolution.

At Rice University, I live directly across the street from the largest medical complex in the world. If Rick Perry wants Texas kids to get good jobs Houston’s hospitals, he is going to have to allow them to be taught evolution. Otherwise they won’t get those jobs.  And the dynamism of Houston’s medical center could be threatened.

Also, both Governors come from oil rich states with energy sector jobs.  But kids from Louisiana and Texas will not get jobs as petroleum geologists if we don’t understand evolution.

I can understand Governor Perry’s bad attitude towards science. He made a C in his genetics class. Given his organic chemistry scores, I’m sometimes afraid he’s going to start insisting there is also a controversy over chemistry and that we should teach alchemy in public schools. It looks like Governor Perry might have struggled with the “controversial” portions of his chemistry education.

Governor Jindal, on the other hand, is a Brown University educated biology major. His old genetics professor, Arthur Landy, implored him to veto the Louisiana Science Education Act saying, “without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn’t make sense… I hope [Jindal] doesn’t do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana’s doctors.” I don’t know what Governor Jindal made in Professor Landy’s class, but as a Rhodes Scholar he probably made A’s, proving that at least at one point he learned how vital the theory of evolution is to modern biology.

While it is not surprising that Governor Perry was endorsed by Governor Jindal, Governor Perry will not get the endorsement of the science community. The largest general science organization in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, with over 10 million members, is supporting the effort to repeal Jindal’s Louisiana Science Education Act. He is also not going to get the endorsement of any of the forty-four Nobel Laureates who’ve endorsed the effort to repeal Louisiana’s job killing creationism law. Particularly those like Sir Harry Kroto who described Louisiana as a “laughingstock” or Roger Kornberg who said, “Shame on the legislature that enacted [the Louisiana Science Education Act], and especially on the governor who signed it into law”

Teaching our students evolution is vital to supporting our biotechnology industries and our hospitals. Teaching evolution is vital to creating cutting edge science based jobs for Louisiana and Texas kids. Our Governors have a choice. They can pander. They can sign creationism laws like Governor Jindal. They can appoint creationists like Barbara Cargill to Chairmanship of the State Board of Education like Governor Perry did.  Or they can do what’s right.  They can support a comprehensive state curriculum that not only teaches evolution, but recognizes, like the American Association for the Advancement of Science says, that, “the science of evolution underpins all of modern biology” and makes it the centerpiece of any biology course.

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Which Republican Presidential Candidates have a Titanium Spine?

Republican presidential candidates at tonights night’s debate in Ames, Iowa should be asked whether they agree with Newt Gingrich’s 2006 statement, “I believe evolution should be taught as science, and intelligent design should be taught as philosophy.” Most would much rather spend their evening calling President Obama a socialist or demanding Tim Geithner’s resignation rather than being forced to choose sides in a debate which scientists resolved long ago. But answering this question will go a long way in telling us about their backbone, their sanity and their vision for creating jobs in the 21st century.

It would also make interesting theater.

Will Newt Gingrich crawfish away from his earlier statement as he did when he renounced his prior concerns about climate change?

Will Jon Huntsman stand by what he said in 2005, that “intelligent design should not be taught in science classes and that the time to talk about [intelligent design] comes largely at home or in religious settings,” or will he back off to pander to the religious right?

Mitt Romney has been running away from a lot of the best things he’s ever said and done, including providing a blueprint for health care reform with “Obamneycare.” Does Romney still think evolution should be taught in science class like he did in 2007 when he asserted, “science class is where to teach evolution” and “if we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters… that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies?”

Let’s not forget Tim Pawlenty, because he’s easily forgettable. Will he finally realize that pandering to the creationists won’t help him outflank Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin? They’ve already cornered the market on crazy. In 2008 Pawlenty explained that “Governor Palin has said intelligent design is something that she thinks should be taught along with evolution in the schools, and I think that’s appropriate.” He also said, “Intelligent design is something that, in my view, is plausible and credible… from an educational and scientific standpoint, it should be decided by local school boards at the local school district level.” By the way, Governor, no gold star for you with that answer. It’s not a local issue; it’s a constitutional one. Teaching creationism in public schools was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Edwards vs. Aguillard back in 1987. And intelligent design, which is essentially creationism dressed up in a lab coat to make it appear scientific, was also found unconstitutional in Dover vs. Kitzmiller in 2005 (P. 43, 137).

The ultimate panderer is physician turned congressman Ron Paul. Paul’s libertarian cult followers are largely in support of evolution, but he knows they alone can’t win him the election. That’s why when he’s talking about evolution, he panders by saying things like “it’s a theory… and I don’t accept it.”

If the Republican candidates aren’t pandering, they’re just plain nuts. Paging Michele Bachmann. Bachmann seriously believes that “there is a controversy… over evolution” and there is “reasonable doubt” about it’s validity. Why? Because she believes “there are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.” So far, these Nobel Prize winning scientists only exist in her head, because she hasn’t come up with a single name.

These men and women are in the running to be leader of the free world and to take on the responsibility to put America back on top. We’re ranked 23rd globally in science according to the Program for International Student Assessment. What’s their plan to close the science deficit? If we’re serious about creating jobs and winning the future, we need to be number one in science education. To get to the top spot, we don’t have time to waste pandering to the religious right and pretending that evolution is not science.

Coming from Louisiana, the one state in the country that actually has a creationism law, I can see its effects firsthand. Too often Louisiana students don’t have the science background they need to compete with kids from around the world for admission into college and to get cutting edge science jobs when they graduate. And this anti-science attitude is driving away scientists and science investment and even tourism revenue from our state. While the rest of the world is competing to see who can teach science best, we are wasting time, energy and resources re-debating settled science.

We should not be putting creationism into public school science classes. Instead we should be teaching science better than every other country.

That’s why this question should be asked at Ames. We need to know which of these candidates is going to pander to the creationists. Politicians used to be able to say one thing and do another once they were elected, but not anymore. With the debt limit brinkmanship, the Tea Party has proven they will hold the Republicans to their pandering promises. America deserves to know who has the “titanium spine” needed to lead our country and who wants us to stay 23rd in science education.

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