A “ray of sunlight” for Louisiana science education

On the decision by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approving the purchase of Biology textbooks for the sate:

“The board’s decision is a ray of sunlight,” commented NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott, “especially because the creationist opponents of these textbooks were claiming — wrongly — that the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act requires that biology textbooks misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial. It’s refreshing to see that the board withstood the pressure to compromise the quality of biology textbooks in the state. But when will the state legislature revisit this confusing, unnecessary, and pernicious law, which is already opening the door to the teaching of creationism in the public school classroom?”

The NCSE story reports this response from Barbara Forrest to Board chairman who voted against the science textbooks:

Forrest responded, “[Evolution] has exactly the same status as electromagnetic theory, germ theory of disease, cell theory and gravitational theory, and it is about as strong an explanation as science can come up with.” And Joe Neigel, a professor of biology at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, whose teaching and research focuses on evolution, told the Independent Weekly, “To suggest we need to teach both sides is like saying we should be teaching the opinion that the earth is flat because there are some people who believe the earth is flat and they claim they have evidence the earth is flat, so we should give equal time to these people. Or we should give equal time to people who say there was no Holocaust. … It’s an attempt to make it seem like there are two sides that have similar weight when in fact that isn’t the case at all.”

Yet, dispite this “ray of sunlight,” Scott’s reflection on the statute in Louisiana reminds us that the conflict over classroom materials still continues, now more especially in terms of “supplementary materials” that still will be promoted by those who want alternatives to science to be given equal standing in the science classrooms.

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