Biological Warfare: Battles Under Way In Texas And Louisiana Over Science Education

The creationists’ goal is simple: instill doubts about evolution and pave the way for fundamentalist religious concepts in public schools.

It looks like Texas is due for another round of fussing and fighting over creationism in public schools.

The state Board of Education continues to be dominated by Religious Right zealots who refuse to accept modern science and seek to teach religiously based concepts in biology classes. (They also reject accepted history. Remember, these are the people who hired “Christian nation” propagandist David Barton to help rewrite their social studies standards.)

Our friends at the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) have just sounded the alarm. A New Mexico-based outfit called International Databases has submitted a proposal to supply Texas schools with materials during the 2011-12 year. The group, according to an analysis by TFN and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), promotes a litany of creationist canards.

“International Databases’ materials are not only laced with creationist arguments," said NCSE's Joshua Rosenau, “they are also remarkably shoddy, teeming with misspellings, typographical errors, and mistaken claims of fact.”

NCSE reports that International Databases’ materials treat “intelligent design” as legitimate science, misconstrue the views of Charles Darwin and assert that the theory of evolution is being undermined by new discoveries. (See more here.)

As TFN points out, the problems go back two years, when the State Board of Education approved new science curriculum standards that, while not calling for full-blown creationism, flung open a back door to it. At that time, groups like TFN, NCSE and Americans United warned that the weak standards would spur creationist groups to push to have their materials adopted for classroom use. We’re seeing that now.

Of course, this is just what many on the state board want. Several of them are young-Earth creationists. AU would like to remind them of the dangers of continuing down this path. Remember what happened in Dover, Pa., when the school board there decided to teach intelligent design?

If you live in Texas, get involved.

Also, if you are in the environs of San Antonio, you can hear Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn speak on this issue and others tomorrow. More information is here.

Meanwhile, things are also heating up in Louisiana. At a rally yesterday in Baton Rouge, students, scientists and teachers pressed the legislature to overturn a state law that opens the door to creationism in public schools.

The pro-science activists want to repeal the so-called “Louisiana Science Education Act,” which allows schools to use “supplemental materials” in the classroom. Naturally, this material promotes creationist ideas.

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, has introduced legislation (SB70) that would repeal the act.

Zach Kopplin, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, has been leading the effort for better science education in Louisiana. During the rally, he said Louisiana has “an anti-science reputation” and added, “Louisiana is addicted to creationism.”

Among the other speakers was Kevin Carman, dean of Louisiana State University’s College of Science. Carman told the crowd, “The controversy to which they refer is a fabrication of their own imagination. Evolution is as integral to understanding biology as atoms are to understanding chemistry.”

Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of Americans United’s Board of Trustees, has also been active in the struggle. Forrest is leader of the Louisiana Coalition for Science and the co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.

I’ve followed this issue for many years. In fact, I first began working at Americans United not long after the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law mandating “balanced treatment” between evolution and “creation science” way back in 1987.

One thing I’ve learned about creationists is that they’re tenacious. If you beat them in court, they don’t just go away. They come back with something new. Thus, “creation science” became other things – “the theory of abrupt appearance,” “the theory of intelligent design” and, most recently, claims that we need to “teach the controversy.”

The creationists’ goal is simple: instill doubts about evolution and pave the way for fundamentalist religious concepts in public schools.

Ironically, the creationists’ political and legal strategies keep evolving. Therefore, we defenders of church-state separation and good science education must remain on our (prehensile) toes as well.