Louisiana Creationist Legislators Show a Profound Lack of Scientific Awareness. Shocker.

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Jan. 23 2013 8:00 AM

And These Are the People Making Laws in Louisiana

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Yesterday, I wrote about creationist legislation oozing its way into Colorado. Before that, I wrote about creationist legislators across the country, and specifically in Louisiana, breaking the law and violating the Constitution by using public funds to go towards religious indoctrination in the classroom. Educational vouchers are being used for schools that teach creationism and antievolution ideas in the science classroom.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

I mentioned Zack Kopplin, a young man (he’s 19!) who has gone toe-to-toe with creationists in the Louisiana government. He’s been tireless in pointing out their hypocrisy and illegal activities. After I posted that, Kopplin sent me an email where he included links to a couple of must-see videos.

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In 2012 Kopplin was fighting a terrible bill to allow supplemental materials to be used by teachers in the science room. The law was specifically targeting things the conservative Republicans in the State legislature didn’t like: evolution, global warming, the usual suspects. Given the Orwellian name the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), it was eventually signed into law by the creationist governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, despite being ruled illegal and unconstitutional.

During the hearings though, Kopplin was testifying to the Louisiana State Senate about a sneaky law that allows creationism to be taught in the classroom. Senator Mike Walsworth was asking about a specific example of evolution, and Darlene Reaves, a science teacher in Louisiana, responded about an experiment involving E. coli (different samples were separated, and after many generations evolution occurred—one of the strains mutated and gained the ability to metabolize citrate; a real and actual demonstration of evolution in the lab).

What happens next is a forehead-slapping moment that shows you just how far we have to go:

Yes, you heard that right: Senator Walsworth asks if the E. coli bacterium is going to evolve into a human! This shows such a basic lack of understanding of evolution that it’s difficult to know where to start. Just to cover two huge points: Evolution on a scale like that takes millions and billions of years, and evolution isn’t a blueprint such that one organism evolves toward some predestined other organism. Humans are not inevitable; we just happen to be one of many million of species along an evolutionary tree, and we’re not the endpoint.

As a reminder, Senator Walsworth wants to make laws about what teachers can and cannot teach in the science class.

But there’s a second video, and it’s even better. In this, Kopplin is testifying to (thankfully, now retired) Senator Julie Quinn, a creationist.

The contempt in Senator Quinn’s voice when she talked about scientists was palpable. “Little letters” indeed. But the moment is saved, and in fantastic style, by sitting Senator Karen Carter Peterson, a champion of science. Her speech there at the end made me smile so broadly I thought my head would split in half. Even Senator Quinn’s dismissive attitude during that speech couldn’t dampen it.

Senator Peterson: You are a true American hero. Thank you for what you did.

I’ll note Senator Peterson has been working with Kopplin to sponsor a bill to remove the ridiculous LSEA law. They have lost twice, but are still trying, and a third version is being prepared. I hope they can get it passed this time, so Louisiana’s educational system can join the 21st century. The children of that state deserve nothing less.

As for Senators Quinn and Walsworth, this is for you:

doublefacepalm

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