5.29.2008

Will The Louisiana Bill Allow Teaching Of Intelligent Design?

The "Louisiana Science Education Act" is currently up for final passage in the state legislature. Given the unanimous votes that have brought it this far, it's like the bill will be passed into law. This is one of those "Academic Freedom" bills that will create a back door for the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom.

Or will it? The text of the bill (pdf warn) says:
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.
Initially, I read this to mean that scientific theories should be analyzed in light of competing scientific theories. And, as we all know, intelligent design is not a scientific theory. However, on subsequent readings for this post, I realize that this is indeed a back door for intelligent design to be taught in the classroom. All it takes is a school board to "request assistance" in critically analyzing the theory of evolution. The Discovery Institute will be only to happy to set their claws onto every school board in Louisiana, bringing with them suggested reading materials...maybe the latest incarnation of Of Pandas and People propaganda.

Additionally, the best scientific theory on the Origin of Life says "We don't know". There is only one group that knows how life originated...and the Supreme Court says they aren't allowed to teach their story in school. So, I'm not sure why this would even be in the bill. Global Warming and Human Cloning are more issues than scientific theories. Since it sounds like Louisiana wants to turn science class into a one-sided debating session, why don't they also include the "scientific theories" of the Moon Landing Hoax, Peak Oil, and Iraqi WMDs?

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.
Notwithstanding this "cover your ass" section, once intelligent design is brought up in the classroom as an alternative to evolution, then religion is being taught in school. Intelligent design is, as has been noted before, nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo. In his conclusion of the Kitzmiller, et al. v Dover School Board trial, Judge Jones wrote
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
The Dover School board had to dish out over $1 Million in legal fees for the Kitzmiller defense team. The actual fee was over $2 Million but Pepper Hamilton* reduced the cost as it would have been a tremendous burden on the small school district. So, school districts throughout Louisiana should take care when the Discovery Institute comes-a-callin' with their Expelled DVDs and "irreducible complexity" nonsense because when push comes to shove, you'll find they've taken their checkbook back to Washington where they will only remember you in their weepy blog posts.

Oh, and in case there are any doubts that this is a bill to teach creationism, Bill Nevers, the bill's sponsor, said as much.
The Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill, Nevers said.

“They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory. This would allow the discussion of scientific facts,” Nevers said. “I feel the students should know there are weaknesses and strengths in both scientific arguments.”
*edited to replace "Potts" with "Hamilton". Damn you Tony Stark!

2 comments:

younglinguist said...

I thought that peak oil was a very real problem that was going to rear it's head in about 20~30 years.

If not, could you explain the woo there. I'm curious how I let one of those get in my head.

The skepTick said...

My point is that it is more of an issue than a scientific theory. Peak oil will come sometime if it already hasn't. Like cloning, there's science behind it, but that doesn't mean it's there's a theory that should be taught in class. Maybe a civics class, but not science.

But I see the problem with my post. I included Moon Hoax as an issue when actually it's not. Unlike cloning and peak oil, the moon hoax is woo.