Breathtaking inanity in the Louisiana Legislature: May 26 Edition

The Senate Education Committee–or should I say “Education” Committee–strikes another blow for theocrats and Discovery Institute fellows everywhere with its “deferral” of Senate Bill 70 yesterday. A veritable host of speakers in favor of repealing the shameful Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 were given their say, apparently because Chairman Nevers recognized that the bill was dead in the water. Zack Kopplin and several of his fellow students, retired science teacher and Louisiana Association of Biology Teachers President Patsye Peebles, a representative of the Sierra Club, LSUnited member Steven Rushing, education professor Dr. Ian Binns and many others voiced their displeasure with the LSEA and explained how it undermined science education and specifically biology education in the state of Louisiana. Senator Julie Quinn of Metairie badgered the bill’s author and the proponents of SB 70, asking whether there was evidence that creationism had been taught in science classes and whether the SB 70’s proponents would be in favor of legislation banning any discussion of religion in public schools. Quinn flouted her credentials as an attorney and when several of the speakers stated that they would be opposed to banning the discussion of religion in classes such as history, English, and social studies courses, crowed as though she had achieved some grand rhetorical triumph–all the while she insisted that people were refusing to answer her questions and that she was losing her patience. It was quite the obscene spectacle.

After the advocates of SB 70 had spoken, the chairman turned the floor over to advocates of LSEA, mostly proxies for Gene Mills like Darrell White and Dr. Wade Warren, Baptist and biologist extraordinaire (whose previous testimony in favor of the LSEA is dicussed here). I take back the benefit of the doubt I gave these guys in a previous article: they’re liars, plain and simple. There is no other explanation for their consistent repetition of statements that have been demonstrated to be false. White talked about how the bill clearly hadn’t harmed anyone and that there was so much controversy over evolutionary theory as demonstrated by Behe’s irreducible complexity. Never mind that he didn’t mention Behe by name and couldn’t even explain the concept cogently (referring rather than to Behe’s favorite flagellar example instead to “cells” as being overly complex). The rest of White’s discussion revolved around the same legal arguments he is fond of using in his all-too-frequent letters to the editor, as though he is somehow unable to comprehend that standards of evidence in the legal profession are not at all equivalent to standards of evidence in science. Warren spouted some ridiculous “academic freedom” argument, which is spectacularly irrelevant to a discussion about teaching at the elementary and secondary levels. As a student, kids don’t decide what goes into a science curriculum any more than they would have input into a math curriculum. Frankly, neither do teachers–they teach what is listed in the K-12 standards set up by each state. Why is “academic freedom” needed in public schools? It’s probably the goofiest of DI’s long list of ridiculous non sequiturs. The Louisiana Family Forum (which should just go ahead and change its name to the Right-Wing Theocratic and Fundamentalist Christian Agenda Pushing At All Costs Forum) speakers kept insisting that it wasn’t possible for someone to teach religion in science classes because of the LSEA’s language ostensibly prohibiting this (conveniently ignoring the fact that their Discovery Institute puppetmasters are trying to dress up their Christianity as science by claiming that IDC is not, in fact, a religious belief system).

To close out the testimony, author Senator Karen Carter Peterson gave an impassioned plea for her fellow senators to vote for the bill and against the dilution of science education in the state. Senator Peterson pointed out that in all areas except the ones where it appears to be convenient, legislators consult and side with experts in their fields: engineers are consulted on matters relating to roads and bridges, economists on monetary policy, but not scientists on proper approaches to science instruction. Then the chair opened the floor for motions and Senator Long of Winnfield promptly moved to “defer” (kill) the bill. Senator Dorsey of Baton Rouge objected to Senator Long’s motion and proposed a substitute motion to report the bill favorably (meaning that it is passed to the full Senate for a vote with the comment that the committee endorses the bill). Chairman Nevers then called for a vote and in less time than it takes for me to type these words, SB 70 was dead. The vote was 5-1 with only Senator Dorsey voting in favor of SB 70.

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