Global warming, origins of life, cloning also may be scrutinized
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this week signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows school districts to permit teachers to present evidence, analysis and critique of evolution and other prevalent scientific theories in public school classrooms.
The law came to the governor’s desk after overwhelming support in the legislature, including a unanimous vote in the state’s Senate and a 93-4 vote in the House.
The act has been criticized by some as an attempt to insert religion into science education and hailed by others as a blow for academic freedom in the face of pressure to ignore flaws in politically correct scientific theories.
Robert Crowther, director of communications for The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank on science and culture, called the act necessary.
In an article posted on The Discovery Institute’s evolution news website, Crowther wrote, “The law is needed for two reasons. First, around the country, science teachers are being harassed, intimidated, and sometimes fired for trying to present scientific evidence critical of Darwinian theory along with the evidence that supports it. Second, many school administrators and teachers are fearful or confused about what is legally allowed when teaching about controversial scientific issues like evolution. The Louisiana Science Education Act clarifies what teachers may be allowed to do.”
Specifically, the act allows teachers in the state’s public schools to present evidence both for and against Darwinian theories of evolution and allows local school boards to approve supplemental materials that may open critical discussions of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, human cloning and other scientific theories.
Teachers are still required by the act to follow the standardized science curriculum, and school districts are required to authorize both the teachers’ classes and additional materials. The state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have the power to prohibit materials it deems inappropriate, and the act prohibits religious instruction.
Section 1D of the act states that the law “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.”
Despite section 1D, many national voices, including the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a New York Times editorial, and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the measure.
Marjorie Esman, state director of Lousiana’s ACLU told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “To the extent that this might invite religion in the public school classroom, we will do everything we can do to keep religion out.”
John West, a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, however, said opponents of the bill are misunderstanding it. Rather than being about infusing intelligent design or creationism into the classroom, he contends, the bill is about giving teachers the freedom to talk about the debates that already exist in science, even among evolutionists themselves.
“This bill is not a license to propagandize against something they don’t like in science,” West told the Times-Picayune. “Someone who uses materials to inject religion into the classroom is not only violating the Constitution, they are violating the bill.”
Gov. Jindal released a statement at the time of the signing that read, in part: “I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and (the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children.”