Louisiana: Burning Science at the Stake

Contributed by
May 12, 2015
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Quick background: In 2008, creationist Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the Louisiana Science Education Act into law. If there is a more Orwellian-named law, I’m unaware of it: It’s a blatant attempt to allow educators to teach creationism in public school science classes.

Science advocate Zack Kopplin (who is now 21) has tried to get the law repealed every year, and every year the appeal is denied by the Legislature.

Watching footage of the hearings is, quite simply, brain-exploding. In 2013, one legislator asked if E. coli bacteria would evolve into a human and another talked with dripping contempt for scientists. A third actually advocated using the teachings of a witch doctor in the classroom.

That last one—Elbert Guillory, R–District 24—was at it again this year, saying profoundly ridiculous things at the hearing.* Seriously, watch:

I’ve tried really hard, and although people have used science for all sorts of bad things, I can’t remember scientists ever burning dissenters at the stake. And Guillory actually uses the word “heretic” unironically, apparently clueless as to the word’s origins.

Thank heavens for Sen. JP Morrell, D–District 3, who schools Guillory about who historically burned whom at the stake.

Incredibly, the very arguably unconstitutional “science education” law was upheld, according to Kopplin, due to one senator’s “lack of courage.” Mind you, this is despite Kopplin having actual evidence it’s being used to teach creationism in schools!

I’ll be blunt: If I were a university taking applications from students who graduated from Louisiana public schools, I’d cast a careful eye over their application, especially in the sciences. That might be difficult for Louisiana universities, since Jindal is planning on brutally cutting their budgets, but it’s a necessary consequence of this sort of legislative environment.

This is not the students’ fault, of course, but of the Louisiana citizens who vote—or, more likely, don’t vote—at election time.

Voting matters, people. Local elections are critical. Educate yourself on the issues and candidates, and when the time comes, vote for those who stick to evidence-based reasoning. It’s no exaggeration to say our future depends on it.

Correction, May 12, 2015, at 15:00 UTC: I originally misstated that Guillory was a Democrat; as he was the last time I wrote about him. He started out his career as a Republican, switched to being a Democrat in 2007, then changed parties again in 2013 back to Republican.