Louisiana passes first antievolution “academic freedom” law
As we noted last month, a number of states have been considering laws that, under the guise of “academic freedom,” single out evolution for special criticism. Most of themÂ haven’t made it out of the state legislatures, and one that did was promptly vetoed. But the last of these bills under consideration, the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), was enacted by the signature of Governor Bobby Jindal yesterday. The bill would allow local school boards to approve supplemental classroom materials specifically for the critique of scientific theories, allowing poorly-informed board members to stick their communities with Dover-sized legal fees.
The text of the LSEA suggests that it’s intended to foster critical thinking, calling on the state Board of Education to “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.” Unfortunately, it’s remarkably selective in its suggestion of topics that need critical thinking, as it cites scientific subjects “including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
Oddly, the last item on the list is not the subject of any scientific theory; the remainder are notable for being topics that are the focus of frequent political controversies rather than scientific ones.
The bill has been opposed by every scientific society that has voiced a position on it, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS CEO Alan Leshner warned that the bill would “unleash an assault against scientific integrity, leaving students confused about science and unprepared to excel in a modern workforce.”
Jindal, who was a biology major during his time at Brown University, even received a veto plea from his former genetics professor. “Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn’t make sense,” Professor Arthur Landy wrote. “I hope he [Jindal] doesn’t do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana’s doctors.”