The Louisiana “Science Education Act”: letter to Governor Jindal and request for reader action

The Louisiana Science Education Act (download it here), passed and signed into law in 2008, is a thinly disguised attempt to foist creationism on the state’s public schools.  It is, as usual, couched as an attempt to promote “critical thinking” in the sciences.  The thing is, though, that the critical- thinking mandate concentrates on only a few areas—and you can guess which ones.  From the bill (my emphasis):

B.(1) The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board, shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

(2) Such assistance shall include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied, including those enumerated in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection.

C. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board.

D. This Section 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.

Yep, we don’t need more critical thinking in areas like physics, chemistry, or medicine—just human cloning, evolution, and global warming.  This agenda is so clearly religious that the “disclaimer” in section D is laughable.  Nevertheless, the Act passed both houses of the Louisiana legislature with near unanimous support, and has been used to support attempts to teach creationism in two of Louisiana’s parishes.

There is an effort underway to repeal this bill, in the form of Senate Bill 70 (pdf at the link).  The effort has been spearheaded by a high school student, Baton Rouge Magnet School senior Zachary Kopplin, an impressive and courageous young man.  There are already many statements supporting repeal of the LSEA on Zack’s site, including one signed by 42 Nobel Laureates.  With Kopplin’s help, and the support of many others (especially biologist Rick Miller of Southeastern Louisiana University), the heads of the major evolution societies in America have put together a letter.  Zachary will be conveying it to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Louisiana legislatures this morning.

2 May 2011

Dear Governor Jindal,

We urge you to support the effort to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act.  This act is one example of the so-called “Academic Freedom” bills, a misleading title for what are widely recognized as Intelligent Design (ID) creationist initiatives.  The bill has opened the door to teaching creationist arguments against evolution – arguments that are wholly unscientific – as part of the science curriculum.

There are no credible “arguments against evolution” that undermine the wealth of empirical evidence that supports evolutionary science.  It is telling that we do not see similar arguments for teaching “critical evidence” against chemistry or physics.  It is evolution that is the unique object of these bills, and that shows they are motivated not by a desire to teach good science but rather to further creationism in Louisiana schools.

The research that the members of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Biologists, and thousands of other biologists do broadens and deepens our understanding of the evolutionary forces that have shaped and continue to shape the biological world.  The practical benefits of evolutionary science are felt every day in agriculture, fisheries, industry and medicine.

Our country is a world leader in scientific achievement. The achievements of biology in particular rest on the unifying theory of biology – evolution. We must provide a rigorous science curriculum so our children will be well prepared for the future, achieving the scientific goals for their generation and providing a scientifically literate work force to sustain and attract leading businesses. The children and the future of Louisiana will be poorly served by the kind of a sub-standard education that is the inevitable consequence of these “academic freedom” bills.

Because the 2008 Science Education Act undermines the education of Louisiana’s children, it must be repealed.

Please support the repeal of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education and stand behind Zack Kopplin and the other children of Louisiana who deserve the best science education possible.

Sincerely,

Jerry Coyne, President, Society for the Study of Evolution

Scott V. Edwards, President Elect, Society for the Study of Evolution

Thomas Meagher, Chair, SSE Education Committee

David Mindell, President, Society of Systematic Biologists

Robert E. Ricklefs, President, American Society of Naturalists

I ask your support for repealing this nefarious and pro-creationist act.  There is a website where you can email your thoughts to the governor. Select “education” for the topic, and “out of state” for the parish unless you are from Louisiana—and if you are, it’s especially important to weigh in. If you wish, you can simply cut and paste the content of our letter above. 

Given Louisiana politics and Jindal’s signature on the earlier bill, I’m not optimistic that our actions, and those of all the other people who written letters and emails, will have any effect; but it’s worth a try.  I don’t often ask readers to do things (except submit pictures of their cats), but we need to support Zack’s effort to keep religiously-based views out of public school science classes in Louisiana. 

111 Comments

  1. Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I think this is an important effort, but speaking as a former resident of that state, I don’t think Governor Jindal is going to act against the creationism law unless we get Jesus’ name on the letter, and perhaps not even then. But at least we can make it clear the law is anti-science, and hope that its supporters fear to be labelled as such.

    In the US south, a politician simply can’t lose by siding with the religious folks, even at the expense of the Constitution, and they know it.

    Perhaps the courts would be another avenue to get this nonsense overturned?

    • Matt Bowman
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      I’m sure you’re right. He will stand by these fools because his political life depends on it. I don’t know if Jindal believes any of this creationist garbage or not. I know he’s a Catholic. But he might run for prez one day, so at least he knows we have our eyes on him.

      • julian
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        I remember hearing Bobby Jindal once participated in an excorcism. Not sure if it’s true but either way, the conservative catholic is enough to convince me the man should be kept away from any more power.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          Which is kind of funny, because the church’s official stance is that only trained priests should perform exorcisms. So Jindal’s a conservative Catholic, but not a very obedient one.

          • Posted May 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            Well, he might not have performed it, just stood by to catch the projectile vomit, etc.

        • tomh
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          It was a big story a couple of years ago, Bobby Jindal, the Exorcist
          . He “participated”, (whatever that means), in an exorcism while in college. By all accounts, he’s a True Believer, for sure.

          • Matt Bowman
            Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

            I recalled this after reading Julian’s post above. And tomh’s link says Jindal wrote a paper on the experience, “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare.” And he was preparing for medical school at the time. Yikes!

      • SLC
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        What’s even more annoying is that the governor was a biology major at Brown, Un. However, Ken Miller never had him in a course. Just another Rethuglican panderer.

        • Matt Bowman
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          And graduated with honors. What went wrong?

  2. Matt Bowman
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Done

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Me, too — and the governor promised me a prompt reply!

      • Raymond Freeman-Lynd
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        Done as well.

  3. Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing to be afraid of in free discourse. Even John Stuart Mill encouraged people to think up lies to challenge generally accepted truths. You’re complaining against free speech here.

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      So, Daniel, do you think it’s okay to teach creationism and intelligent design in public school science classes, as this bill allows?

      Sadly for you, the courts have not held creationism in the schools to be a version of guaranteed free speech. Instead, they consider it, correctly, to be an incursion of religious faith into the public sphere, and therefore disallowed by the Constitution.

      • Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        What are you afraid of? Do you think those things undermine the truth? In the schools, we are allowed to say one thing but not another. We are protecting a bias. That’s not freedom.

        • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          Personally, I’m afraid of creating a generation of brain-addled students indoctrinated in known falsehoods — which is exactly the outcome you desire most.

          I would be exactly as much afraid if meteorology classes were required to “teach the controversy” that Zeus tosses around lightning and thunder occurs when Thor throws Mjölnir, or if immunology classes were required to “teach the controversy” that evil spirits, not microbes, are the cause of most diseases.

          Trust me. You don’t want to live in a world where willful ignorance reigns. The Dark Ages were a really, really nasty time that nobody should want to see repeated.

          Cheers,

          b&

        • truthspeaker
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          “What are you afraid of? Do you think those things undermine the truth?”

          Yes, lying to students undermines the truth.

          History teachers are not allowed to teach that World War I didn’t happen. Is that bias?

        • Christopher Petroni
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

          Daniel, this notion that teaching falsehoods in classrooms is “free speech” is ludicrous garbage. Come now.

          When you post a comment in Jerry’s blog about nonexistent “problems” with the theory of evolution, that’s free speech.

          When the public schools teach kids about nonexistent problems with the theory of evolution, they are state actors giving government endorsement to known falsehoods. That is not free speech. That is willful indoctrination.

          • Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            Ya know, you may be right about evolution but we’ll never know if you silence opposing views. If you got it right, it was by chance.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

              Nobody is silencing opposing views. We’re just saying opposing views with no supporting evidence shouldn’t be given undue weight in science classes.

            • daveau
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

              No one is silencing opposing views, Daniel. It’s just that those views need to meet a minimum standard of legitimacy to be taught in a science classroom. Why don’t you get back to us when ID or creationism is based on something besides magic and wishful thinking?

              • daveau
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

                jinx!

            • Christopher Petroni
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

              “It’s just that those views need to meet a minimum standard of legitimacy to be taught in a science classroom.”

              This.

              “Opposing views” should not be taught in public high school classrooms until there’s some minimal scientific basis for thinking those views are at all legitimate. To do otherwise is to mislead students, not to awaken them to the breadth of possibilities.

            • Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

              As per daveau’s comment, a minimum standard of legitimacy is achieved by painstakingly observing actual phenomena, and drawing testable, replicable conclusions. When scientists get something right, it is not by chance.

              That little rhetorical flourish (meant to bring the scientific method into equivalency with armchair fantasizing) was really dumb.

        • SLC
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

          Hay Mr. Daniel, why not teach the geocentric theory of the solar system. Or the stork theory of reproduction. Or the flat earth theory. Or the theory that pi = 3. Why stop with evolution.

          • Aqua Buddha
            Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            Let’s not forget Intelligent Falling, as an alternative to the theory of gravity.

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      You’re wrong, Daniel. “Free speech” is not the issue — the issue is whether science teachers will teach science or else dilute and distort it with pseudoscience or religion, or both.

      • Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        You think that there are no other questions to be asked in science? There are no words that escape a man’s mouth without a bias attached to them. You just don’t want the bias challenged. That is anti-free speech.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

          Answer my question: do you favor teaching ID and creationism in the public schools, as this act allows? And what, exactly, is the “bias” that you’re talking about?

          • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

            What is this bias? Answer this question and you have your bias: Do you think that the only things that exist are the things we can observe?

            And no, I don’t “favor” teaching those things. I think we should allow these things to challenge the accepted truths.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

              “Do you think that the only things that exist are the things we can observe?”

              That has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

              • Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

                Yes it does because all you see are things that support your views. It takes someone else to jar you out of your own lies.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

                What lies?

              • whyevolutionistrue
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

                Yes, what lies, Daniel? If you don’t post five “lies” about evolution that are taught to schoolchildren, and do it here as your next post, you’re gone. Frankly, I’m tired of your trolling–you are engaged in pushing Jebus and not an intellectual discussion. You can make your points over at your own website, and see if anybody reads about them.

              • Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

                I doubt Daniel has a Web site. He may well have a bleargh, but I’m sure he doesn’t have a Web site.

                b&

        • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          Duh! No, it’s all about science. The introduction of religious doctrines and pseudoscience to the science classroom is the problem.

          And yes, I’m biased against pseudoscience, such as creationism and intelligent design.

          Free speech doesn’t enter in to it. It’s not “free speech” for a teacher to purposefully confuse students about well-established scientific theories.

          • Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

            Speculating about the existence of immaterial things or the cause of time and space is not religion. It’s speculation. Relaying that speculation to students is the honest thing to do since none of us know anything with 100% accuracy. Our views are not guaranteed.

            • ritebrother
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

              But that’s largely the point. Speculation is not science. Formulating testable hypotheses based on repeatable empirical observations is.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

              But in science class, you test your speculations to see how accurate they are. That’s how science works.

              • ritebrother
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

                Jinx!

            • Posted May 5, 2011 at 2:59 am | Permalink

              Must science teachers also teach the speculation that the universe was formed by a Noodly Appendage?

        • Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

          You can use “doed” instead of “did” as much as you want, that’s free speech; but you can’t teach it, that would be teaching garbage, whatever you think about the only things that exist.

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      This is not a question of free speech. The students and teachers are free to express their views outside of the classroom, whether it be in their churches, newspapers, on the Internet, or wherever.

      Teachers are not permitted, however, to preach the truth of a particular religious doctrine; doing so would constitute an establishment of religion, the very first action prohibited in the Bill of Rights.

      Religious indoctrination has no more place in the science classroom than it does in the music classroom. The school’s choir and orchestra are free to study and perform Handel’s Messiah oratorio, but the music director is forbidden from starting the rehearsal with a discourse on the spiritual significance of the heaviness of Jesus’s yoke and the ease with which he carries his burden.

      The only grounds for questioning biology as opposed to chemistry, physics, and astronomy are entirely religious and find their source in a long-since-discredited Bronze Age faery tale about talking animals in a magic garden tended by an angry giant. To suggest that one should seriously consider such objections is most insulting to the intelligence of our students.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        “free to express their views outside of the classroom”

        So… no free speech in the classroom. How convenient. Indoctrinate the younger minds to your views and you effectively cut of opposing views a generation later.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

          “no free speech in the classroom”

          Not for teachers, no. They’re on their employer’s time.

          I’m not a teacher, but my employer doesn’t allow me to spread lies about my industry on their time.

        • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

          Daniel: “Indoctrinate the younger minds to your views and you effectively cut of opposing views a generation later.”

          Isn’t that exactly what the creationists are trying to do? Only they pretend it is about “free speech”, “critical thought”, “academic freedom”, etc. instead of just the spreading of misinformation to promote religious beliefs.

        • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          Is it indoctrination for an English teacher to require that students use proper grammar on their assignments? If so, I insist on indoctrinating our students.

          Is it indoctrination for a music teacher to require that students play and sing in tune and in tempo? If so, I insist on indoctrinating our students.

          Is it indoctrination for a physics teacher to require that students use Newton’s laws when calculating the mechanics of classroom-scale experiments? If so, I insist on indoctrinating our students.

          Is it indoctrination for a biology teacher to require that students evaluate terrestrial life in light of the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection? If so, I insist on indoctrinating our students.

          And, in so doing, I will be glad to have cut the opposing views a generation later that poor grammar is an effective communication tool, that out-of-tune arhythmic cacophony is aesthetically acceptable, that hammers on the moon fall faster than feathers, or that the diversity of life on Earth can best be explained by ancient Mediterranean superstitions.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

            When scientists believe they know things absolutely and teach it to others while silencing opposing viewpoints then it is indoctrination. If you present the other side and argue against it, it is not indoctrination.

            Also, you are confusing the issue by bringing up other subjects. For instance, language is a man made construct. The letter k sounds the way it does because that’s what we choose it to sound like. This is not so with reality. Science observes material reality and reports on it. To hold one view of reality and silence others is dishonest.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

              Oh, dear Lord. NOBODY silences scientists when they do their work–there is a PREMIUM in biology in overturning established paradigms. The science that survives these tests is taught in the schools. The important thing is that science itself does not, as you claim, “silence opposing viewpoints” and if there were valid evidence for creationism or ID we’d have it.

              We don’t.

              Daniel, you have no idea what you’re talking about. You are simply a troll, incapable of grasping counterarguments, and you’d best infest other websites from now on.

          • Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

            Beautifully said, Ben.

            I do hope I can steal that.

            • Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

              Thanks — and please do, with reckless abandon!

              b&

          • Posted May 5, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            But, but, but, but, BUT!  Arrhythmic, out-of-tune cacophony is rather the point of much contemporary music.  Not that I endorse it.  I jokingly like to refer to such composers’ approach as “apophatic.”  As long as they avoid anything resembling meaningful harmony or rhythmic relationships, they’ve done a good job.  Their whole project seems to be the removal of meaning from music (they suppose they’re inventing brand-new meanings [but not all - I had more than a few comp lessons w profs and TAs who only had via negativa guidelines to offer], but I’d counter that something w semiotic value can’t be invented at one time by one person and imposed w the expectation that ALL people will perceive that meaning.  Meaning is emergent.  No one person invented tonality or fifth-dominated harmony.  These resulted from closer and closer listening over the centuries, and the effect of the overtone series on our perception of a pitch and its relationship to other pitches. Ethnomusicology bears this out.  Most non-western systems are dominated by the fifth, and can actually be thought of as abbreviations or variations of the traditional western system [or the other way 'round - so as not to appear "Westernist" ;) ]).

            Apologies for the long, OT rant.

      • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        I should add: the restrictions on proselytizing in the classroom only apply to public, state-funded schools. The teachers and students are free to go to privately-funded schools where they can teach any damned idiocy they like — but they can’t expect the public to pay for it. Nor should they expect the students to have an easy time being admitted to higher education, where knowledge of facts and critical thinking skills are required, not blind adherence to laughable superstition.

        Cheers,

        b&

    • Tim
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      What errant nonsense. Teaching creationism (i.e., intelligent design) is no more justified in when teaching science than is teaching homeopathy when doing health education or teaching astrology or Velikovsky are when teaching astronomy. The hypotheses (when there are any) of creationism have been tested and rejected. It isn’t “open-minded” to present ID as a viable alternative to evolution by natural selection, it is just stupid.

      If creationism got the treatment it deserves as a biological hypothesis, I would be thrilled to have presented. It would get exactly the respect we now give to flat-earth cranks: ‘Children, this week we’re going to talk about how we know the earth is round and not flat. Next week, we’ll talk about how we know living things evolved through a process called natural selection, and why silly Bible styories are wrong.’

    • steve oberski
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of lies Daniel, here is what JSM actually said about lies in his book Utilitarianism:

      Thus, it would often be expedient, for the purpose of getting over some momentary embarrassment, or attaining some object immediately useful to ourselves or others, to tell a lie. But inasmuch as the cultivation in ourselves of a sensitive feeling on the subject of veracity, is one of the most useful, and the enfeeblement of that feeling one of the most hurtful, things to which our conduct can be instrumental; and inasmuch as any, even unintentional, deviation from truth, does that much towards weakening the trustworthiness of human assertion, which is not only the principal support of all present social well-being, but the insufficiency of which does more than any one thing that can be named to keep back civilisation, virtue, everything on which human happiness on the largest scale depends; we feel that the violation, for a present advantage, of a rule of such transcendant expediency, is not expedient, and that he who, for the sake of a convenience to himself or to some other individual, does what depends on him to deprive mankind of the good, and inflict upon them the evil, involved in the greater or less reliance which they can place in each other’s word, acts the part of one of their worst enemies.

  4. Philip
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Done. As a resident of Louisiana, thank you for your efforts on our behalf. I have very little hope that Governor Jindal will respond positively.

  5. Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    [submitted through the provided form]

    Governor Jindal,

    Louisiana is a beautiful state with a vibrant culture driven by dedicated citizens who, unfortunately, have developed a knack for recovering from adversity.

    The thing is…y’all don’t need to go out of your way to make life harder for yourselves and your children.

    That’s why I’m writing to you to join my voice to those of the members of the Society for the Study of Evolution in urging you to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act. Learning how the world works is hard enough without having to struggle with the dead weight the bill hangs around the necks of students.

    A generation from now, I want to look to Louisiana with pride as a shining example of what Americans can do to build on the wreckage of natural disaster — not as a burden to begrudgingly support because of an ignorant and miseducated population resulting from bad policy decisions.

    Sincerely,

    b&

  6. Ray Thaw
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    A very sad state of affairs…how many states are in similar situations? It’s madness and maddening even way up here in the Great White North.

  7. Tim
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    It is telling that we do not see similar arguments for teaching “critical evidence” against chemistry or physics.

    Not true. Promoting creationism, in whatever form – ID included, is to set aside phusics and chemistry for mysticism and baloney. The intervention of a deity in biological evolution ultimately comes down to the suspension of physical/chemical laws.

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      I would be interested in seeing the “suspension”. Will we stop falling when we stumble?

  8. daveau
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Done, oh Fearless Leader.

  9. truthspeaker
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    The part about human cloning gets me. Human cloning hasn’t even been attempted. Exactly what scientific theory are students supposed to apply critical thinking to there?

    • PhiloKGB
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      The “we shouldn’t even think about it because playing God, etc etc” theory?

    • Chayanov
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Yeah, do they even teach human cloning in high school? Does it come with a lab component?

  10. Marc Carozza
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I dont understand what the problem is with teaching students to investigate for themselves any truth claims that are made in the classroom, unless you are scared of what they may find out. If you are so certain that all tenants of evolutionary theory are true, then you have nothing to fear. As skeptical as most of you seem to be about anything religious, I’m always surprised that none of you are the least bit skeptical of current evolutionary theory. It has some big holes with very little supporting evidence for some of its key arguments, yet you are willing to blindly accept its inadequacies just because it is anti-religious. None of the above mentioned legislation even suggests teaching creationism, it only mentions that alternative theories to evolution deserve a right to be discussed in the classroom. What we currently have now is censorship of some really good scientific evidence that exposes some of problems with current evolutionary theory.

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Marc:

      It has some big holes with very little supporting evidence for some of its key arguments

      Such as ….?

      yet you are willing to blindly accept its inadequacies just because it is anti-religious.

      Wrong

      • Marc Carozza
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        3 Big problems that I see with the current theory of evolution:

        1. It provides no explanation as to how life on earth could begin. The fossil record is very conclusive that many species just appear out of nowhere followed by long periods of stasis. There is a huge chicken and egg problem also with the first single cell organism. How did the first cell wall form. What guided the first proteins so that they know how to make a cell wall. Where did the first proteins come from that were required to form and transcribe the first DNA stand so that it could begin to make the necessary proteins.

        2. Why are we so complex? How do you get more DNA and more complexity from less complex organisms? Science shows that mutations are mostly responsible for cell death or making organisms infertile, not helping them adapt. The very definition of species means that organisms can interbreed so how can two organisms breed to create a different species?

        3. Why have no other organisms evolved to higher order species? Why only humans? Why are there some many other single celled organisms that have chosen not to evolve? Given enough time shouldn’t there be more higher order organisms yet all we find are humans.

        I believe Darwin’s version of evolutionary theory provides a very good explanation of how species are able to adapt and change to different environmental conditions but it does very little to explain how a singled celled organism could ever develop into a human being.

        • Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          You seriously need to read the book which lent its name to this Web site. Richard Dawkins’s latest bestseller, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, would be excellent for you, as well.

          No, really.

          Your questions represent some very fundamental and very basic misunderstandings as well as a lack of knowledge of facts. Though your questions deserve answers, it would require a book-length response to do them justice.

          Fortunately, Jerry and Richard have already written the books.

          Cheers,

          b&

        • truthspeaker
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          “1. It provides no explanation as to how life on earth could begin.”

          It’s not supposed to. There are various hypotheses on how life on earth could begin.

          “The fossil record is very conclusive that many species just appear out of nowhere followed by long periods of stasis.”

          This is not true.

          “2. Why are we so complex? How do you get more DNA and more complexity from less complex organisms? Science shows that mutations are mostly responsible for cell death or making organisms infertile, not helping them adapt.”

          This also isn’t true.

          “The very definition of species means that organisms can interbreed so how can two organisms breed to create a different species?”

          A new species isn’t created in one generation. Also, that’s not the definition of species, although it is a good rule of thumb for most animal species.

          “3. Why have no other organisms evolved to higher order species? Why only humans? Why are there some many other single celled organisms that have chosen not to evolve?”

          All of those questions are answerable, and none of them pose problems for the theory of evolution.

          So it seems the problems you see with evolution are the result of some misconceptions and false information you hold. This is precisely the problem in public education Dr. Coyne wants to prevent. I suggest educating yourself on the topic, and once you have, ask yourself why the teachers in your life did such a poor job of explaining it to you.

          • Marc Carozza
            Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

            So just because you said so, it’s true. I don’t your going to win over many skeptics with that answer.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

              Not because I said it, because thousands of biologists said it and provided evidence to back it up.

              Do you have any evidence to back up your claims?

              • Marc Carozza
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

                Sure. You want links or citations?

              • truthspeaker
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

                Citations, please.

              • Marc Carozza
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

                “A recent “big picture” analysis of life’s history forces evolutionary biologists to rethink the landscape of life’s history. Instead of life unfurling in a gradual, branching tree-like fashion, the data indicates that the major transitions in the history of life happened explosively. This latest analysis chops down the evolutionary tree of life, one of the most enduring metaphors for evolutionary biology.”

                http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/21

              • J.J.E.
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

                Koonin accepts all of the same basic tenets of evolution that form the non-controversial parts of evolutionary theory like descent with modification, natural selection, and genetic drift.

                So, do you have a specific claim that actually calls evolution into question, or do you simply want to cite differing perspectives among academics that disagree with your premise? No, evolution doesn’t have “big holes with very little supporting evidence for some of its key arguments”, and the paper you cite doesn’t claim that it does. The so-called “tree dogma” you seem to think infects evolution is a non-issue. Our understanding of recombination, horizontal transfer, etc. have long complicated the simple bifurcating tree view of life. And Koonin’s dissent is so radical that it rejects the “evolutionary tree” description in favor of <drum roll> the “evolutionary bush” model. <anti-climactic cymbal-crash>.

              • Marc Carozza
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

                “According to Eugene Koonin, the author of the article, phlyogenetic studies indicate that biological innovations happen abruptly in life’s history without any trace of intermediate forms. Examples include: 1) the origin of protein folds; 2) the origin of cells; 3) origin of bacteria and archaea and major divisions within these domains; 4) origin of eukaryotes and major eukaryotic divisions; and 5) the origin of animal phyla. These major transitions appear to occur rapidly. Once completed, diversification takes place in a slow tree-like manner.

                Koonin proposes a mechanism to account for this pattern of changes. He suggests that at certain periods in life’s history extensive genetic “scrambling” (horizontal gene transfer, recombination, fusion, fission, transposition) took place. Most of this genetic chaos proved nonproductive, but on rare occasions—by chance—a stable genetic combination emerged. These robust islands of genetic novelty represent a transition to a new regime of biological complexity.

                Koonin points out that his idea merely extends the speculations made by other biologists such as the late Stephen Jay Gould, Niles Eldredge, Lynn Margulis, Carl Woese, and Thomas Cavalier Smith, who have all suggested the identical pattern for aspects of the history of the biosphere.

                Koonin’s proposal is intriguing, and on the surface makes sense, but upon more careful reflection raises a number of questions. Why is this pattern of explosive innovation repeated throughout life’s history? What causes the genetic scrambling to take place? Why doesn’t this process happen continuously throughout the history of life? Why should the mechanism Koonin envisions ever result in coherent changes that lead to stable genetic islands that represent discontinuous increases in biological complexity?”

                http://www.reasons.org/evolution/cambrian-explosion/biology’s-big-bangs

              • PhiloKGB
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

                Dr. Rana can suck it. Gould & Eldredge supported their model with data; Margulis supported her model with data. Calling what they offered “speculation” is borderline libelous.

              • Marc Carozza
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

                All that I am offering is that there are observations of the fossil record and patterns in the biological realm that are contrary to predictions that logically flow from the evolutionary framework. In my opinion, discrepancies like these are serious enough to warrant skepticism about biological evolution.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

                You realize that paper does not in any way expose any “holes” in the theory of evolution? It just proposes a slightly different explanation for how some speciation happened?

                It also overstates how novel the author’s ideas are – something I expect in a mainstream news article about a scientific paper, but not in a paper itself. The idea of a “tree of life” was dropped a long time ago.

                “All that I am offering is that there are observations of the fossil record and patterns in the biological realm that are contrary to predictions that logically flow from the evolutionary framework. ”

                Which that paper doesn’t do. The theory of evolution does not predict steady, gradual transitions.

              • PhiloKGB
                Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

                What is “the evolutionary framework”? Is it the “constant speedism” that Dawkins mocked 25 years ago or so?

                It’s funny that you allude to a single evolutionary framework immediately after linking to a paper that proffers a competing framework and mentions the other major frameworks going back 30 years or more.

            • Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

              This is exactly why I suggest you read Jerry’s and Richard’s books.

              If you were to approach a physicist claiming that you’ve disproved Newton by tossing a feather and a hammer into the air, and the hammer landed first — and, therefore, your idea for a perpetual motion machine has simply got to work — you’d get a similarly over-simplified and unsatisfactory explanation. There’d be just so much remedial education you’d need just to get you to the level where you can deservedly have a seat a the table.

              Your questions about biology demonstrate a similar need for remedial education.

              Fortunately, our host and Richard are both superlative educators and authors and have written excellent crash courses that will get you up to speed in no time — and you’ll have fun reading what they’ve written, too.

              So, really. Please make a pilgrimage to your local library / bookstore / Internet retailer today and at least get a copy of Jerry’s book, if not Richard’s as well. You don’t even have to give either of them any of your money — that’s the glorious thing about libraries.

              But do have some fun learning about why evolution is true and the evidence supporting that conclusion. The world is so much more fascinating than the caricature model of it you have in your head right now, so won’t you take the time to open your eyes?

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:32 am | Permalink

                I’d also recommend Dawkins’ “The Ancestor’s Tale”. However, Dr. Coyne’s WEIT packs a huge amount of supporting evidence and explanations of it into a short, easy-to-read volume that should not be missed.

        • Christopher Petroni
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          “I believe Darwin’s version of evolutionary theory provides a very good explanation of how species are able to adapt and change to different environmental conditions but it does very little to explain how a singled celled organism could ever develop into a human being.”

          Of course. Single-celled organisms develop into human beings all the time. They’re called “zygotes,” and the science that explains the process is called “embryology” or “developmental biology.”

          As for the rest of your post, Marc, you demonstrate perfectly why the bill should be repealed. The reason so many people like you have no idea what evolution is really about is the concerted effort of so many lobbying organizations to spread the lie that there are critical weaknesses in modern evolutionary theory which the science establishment is hiding from the people. Read either Jerry’s or Prof. Dawkins’s book right now (preferably both), and then we can talk about weaknesses in the evidence for evolution.

          • Marc Carozza
            Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

            Maybe I should be more specific. Bacteria developing into Humans.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

              :-) !!!!!

            • PhiloKGB
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

              Oh, so you have a problem with multicellularity developing from a single cell? Better not tell the embryologists.

            • Marc Carozza
              Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

              I will be glad to read jerry’s book. thanks

              • Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

                That’s great news, because you won’t find a single biologist who thinks that bacteria evolved into humans.

                Just to give you a foretaste of what you’ll be learning: modern bacteria are themselves very advanced, highly evolved, specialized organisms. Indeed, they have undergone significantly more evolution since the last ancestor we share with them than we have.

                No, the ToE does not claim that we evolved from bacteria. Rather, it claims that your parents are slightly different from you, and your grandparents are slightly different from them, and so on back through the generations. You certainly have fairly close cousins who are so radically different that they would be classified as a different race from you (keeping in mind that “race” is much more of a social than a genetic distinction). If you trace your heritage back thousands of years, all your ancestors would be distinctly different, though still clearly human. But if you trace your heritage back millions of years, the distinction is fuzzier. Several million years, and your great-great…great grandmother had a daughter whose great-great-grandson, still your cousin, is actually a chimpanzee — and this millions-of-years-ago ancestor was neither human nor chimp. Keep going back, and you’ll find an ancestor that sorta-kinda vaguely resembles a modern shrew (but emphatically wasn’t a shrew) whose distant descendants include not just humans and other primates, but cats, horses, whales, giraffes, and all other mammals. And, when you go back a few billion years, you’d find a very simple, single-celled organism, totally unable to survive in the modern environment, some of whose descendants clumped together and developed photosynthesis and eventually trace their lineage to plants, others who clumped together and developed respiration and trace their lineage to animals, and others who never clumped together and became modern bacteria.

                You see how long it took me to tell that story, and how awkwardly I did it?

                Jerry and Richard do it properly, elegantly, and provide all the examples and citations and references you could ever want. It’s all in their books.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                I learnt a lot at: http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/faqs-evolution.html

        • Posted May 3, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          You are new here, aren’t you Marc?

          • daveau
            Posted May 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

            :-)

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted May 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

          “It provides no explanation as to how life on earth could begin.”

          No, it isn’t supposed to, it describes how existing populations evolves into existing populations. It would be like asking general relativity to explain the existence of mass. How a process initial and boundary conditions came to be is, by definition, not taken to be part of the process.

          [They can be caused by the process still, depending on your choice of conditions, but widening scope ultimately you push the boundaries outside.]

          One science that studies how life on planets arise is astrobiology. I study it, and it is great fun!

          “There is a huge chicken and egg problem also with the first single cell organism.”

          Chicken-and-egg problems is a prediction of evolution (interlocking complexity). Conversely when you solve them you have a nice bottleneck for finding the ancestral state, there can only be a few possibilities at most. So they are A Good Thing!

          Both your chicken-and-egg problems are solved already:

          1. “How did the first cell wall form. What guided the first proteins so that they know how to make a cell wall.”

          Shostak et al has shown that protocell membranes can form spontaneously out of lipids. No need for anything else, such as proteins.

          Hence we are pretty sure the ancestor of todays cells had simple lipids as membranes.

          2. “Where did the first proteins come from that were required to form and transcribe the first DNA stand so that it could begin to make the necessary proteins.”

          The preserved RNA core of ribosomes makes proteins out of mRNA and tRNA.

          Hence we are pretty sure that the ancestor to DNA cells were RNA cells.

          In astrobiology there are many known pathways from probiotic chemistry to protobiotic populations. A few months ago the missing piece in how chemical rates were feasibly fast was resolved; slowest reactions gets the most speedup in hot environments (early earth). So now any of the known pathways may be feasible.

          I’m just a student of this, but the area seems to move on from major stumble blocks to constrain which pathways may have been taken.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted May 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            I should add that the #2 chicken-and-egg problem resulted in a Nobel Prize 2009:

            Colophon. In the beginning it was generally believed that ribosomal protein carried out the ribosome’s catalytic actions. Then it was believed that ribosomal RNA was the catalyst. Now, we know that peptide bond formation on the bacterial ribosome and perhaps on the ribosomes from all organisms is catalyzed by ribosomal RNA as well as ribosomal protein and also by the 2’-OH group of the peptidyl-tRNA substrate in the P site (Figure 7). This catalytic triad of ribosomal RNA, ribosomal protein and tRNA substrate may reflect a more complex starting point for the route to the present protein dominated world than a pure RNA world.

            Conclusions
            Ramakrishnan, Steitz and Yonath have made ground breaking contributions to the crystallography of ribosomes and used high-resolution functional ribosome complexes to clarify long-standing and fundamental questions in protein synthesis. Their work has far-reaching implications for basic science and medicine.

            I think it is engaging to believe that the #1 c&e resolution could yield similar outcome, if it is a fruitful hypothesis. It looks to be: recently it was discovered that bacteria cells that have their cell walls removed behave exactly like Shostaks protocells! They grow and divide as cells in a similar manner as the protocells do, without being able to engage their modern cell division mechanisms. We can be mere years from having top-down resolved phylogenetic evolutionary pathways, as it were, meeting bottom-up resolved protobiotic pathways. (Not without having outstanding questions, natch. Say protometabolism.)

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted May 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            Here is research blogging on wall-less B. subtilis:

            “Recently though (very recently) the Center for Bacterial Cell Biology in Newcastle have found a way to grow bacteria (Bacillus subtilis to be exact) without a surrounding cell wall. The mutation is quite simple to make, and by adjusting the outside conditions to prevent the cells being damaged, they managed to grow colonies of cells with no cell wall at all, and keep them alive to study.

            One of the most interesting things about these cells was their division mechanism. In normal bacterial cells, division depends on the cell wall as an anchoring point to hold the chromosomal DNA while it divides, and then control the lengthening and splitting of the cell, as shown in the diagram below (from here):

            Instead of splitting into two in an organised manner, the cell blobs out to form a long strand, which then breaks up into many little pieces, each containing a copy of the cell DNA. The usual proteins needed for organised division (in particular FtsZ) are not required, the cell is using a totally different system.

            What is even more interesting, is that this looks very similar to a system proposed by Ting F. Zhu and Jack W. Szostak …”

    • truthspeaker
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      I don’t care who the theory of evolution rents property to.

    • Christopher Petroni
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      What alternative theories, Marc? Are there any credible alternative theories regarding the origins of biological diversity besides the modern theory of evolution? The only non-religious example I can think of is Lynn Margulis’s theory that all novel adaptation arises through symbiosis, and I don’t see high school teachers scrambling to add that to their curriculum. I guarantee that no high school science teacher will use these bill for anything other than introducing creationism in the classroom.

      “What we currently have now is censorship of some really good scientific evidence that exposes some of problems with current evolutionary theory.”

      If that’s so, then I’m sure you could grace us with a few examples of this “really good evidence.”

    • Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      [...]unless you are scared of what they may find out.

      The problem is that there aren’t enough classroom hours in a day to explore ever wackaloon nutjob idiocy out there.

      If students want to investigate for themselves the truth claims of astrologers, alchemists, or creationists, they’re more than welcome to do so. They’re just not allowed to waste the time of the other astronomy, chemistry, and biology students in the process.

      Creationism has no place in the biology classroom. It may have a place in the current affairs, sociology, world religions, history of science, and abnormal psychology classrooms. But, aside from a fleeting mention in the requisite introductory history / overview / origins first-day-of-class lecture of BIO101, it shouldn’t even be a blip on the radar.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • daveau
        Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        “The problem is that there aren’t enough classroom hours in a day to explore ever wackaloon nutjob idiocy out there.”

        That’s the idea behind having educational standards.

  11. MadScientist
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately Jindal is a large part of the problem; he probably sees the creationist bill’s passing as a great success and sees himself and other proponents of the bill as Friends of Jesus.

  12. Marc Carozza
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    3 Big problems that I see with the current theory of evolution:

    1. It provides no explanation as to how life on earth could begin. The fossil record is very conclusive that many species just appear out of nowhere followed by long periods of stasis. There is a huge chicken and egg problem also with the first single cell organism. How did the first cell wall form. What guided the first proteins so that they know how to make a cell wall. Where did the first proteins come from that were required to form and transcribe the first DNA stand so that it could begin to make the necessary proteins.

    2. Why are we so complex? How do you get more DNA and more complexity from less complex organisms? Science shows that mutations are mostly responsible for cell death or making organisms infertile, not helping them adapt. The very definition of species means that organisms can interbreed so how can two organisms breed to create a different species?

    3. Why have no other organisms evolved to higher order species? Why only humans? Why are there some many other single celled organisms that have chosen not to evolve? Given enough time shouldn’t there be more higher order organisms yet all we find are humans.

    I believe Darwin’s version of evolutionary theory provides a very good explanation of how species are able to adapt and change to different environmental conditions but it does very little to explain how a singled celled organism could ever develop into a human being.

    • Jeff Sherry
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Marc, who proposes a human developes from a single celled organism? (unless you’re talking about a sperm and egg uniting and nine months later a human developes.)

    • SLC
      Posted May 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Mr. Carozza apparently fails to realize the the origin of life, defined as the appearance of the first replicators, and the evolution of life after the appearance of the first replicators are two entirely separate and distinct theories. As a matter of fact, god could have poofed the first replicators into existence and it would not make the slightest difference to the theory of evolution.

  13. nichole
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    If anybody needs anymore “controversy” examples for Daniel, may I recommend this excellent t-shirt web store: http://controversy.wearscience.com/

    I’m having a hard time deciding which one to get.

  14. Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Let’s teach our children to critically think about certain sciences shall we? How about maths too? And chemistry?

    Or perhaps what we need to do is to teach them the way to analyse data and think objectively, and then they can think critically about accepted scientific theories when they are suitably qualified to understand what exactly it is they are doing.

    10 year old children trying to decide whether general relativity is true/false is illogical – or are we only suggesting they think critically about subjects which harm their delusion or their economy?

    Let’s have some critical thinking…in mandatory comparative religion!

  15. Greg Esres
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Jindal is a creationist, so I have a hard time believing he’s going to help repeal the law.

  16. Insightful Ape
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    So, Dan the troll, will you invite Dr Coyne to come to your church and lecture on why he thinks your god doesn’t exist? You have nothing to be afraid of, right?

  17. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Tried; but the site took “too long to respond.”

  18. Rajesh Kher
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    You missed “The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board” nad no Scientist. I rest my case

  19. Rajesh Kher
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    You missed “The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board” and no Scientist. I rest my case


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. [...] this link: The Louisiana “Science Education Act”: letter to Governor Jindal … Recommend on Facebook Buzz it up share via Reddit Tumblr it Tweet about it Subscribe to the [...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29,463 other followers

%d bloggers like this: