Joined: Nov. 2005
Best of New Orleans.com has a great article on the history of the Louisiana Science Education Act and the involvement of the Louisiana Family Forum, the DI, etc.
|Barbara Forrest, a member of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, which opposes the science education law, says school boards aren't required to get the state's approval before implementing these curricula additions.|
"This law was passed for people who already want to do it," Forrest says. "If they already want to do it, they're not going to ask permission."
Forrest points to the Ouachita Parish School Board in Monroe. In November 2006, the school board passed an academic freedom resolution, which closely resembles a proposed school board policy on science education written by Darrell White, a former Baton Rouge judge who founded the LFF along with Tony Perkins, a former state representative and current head of the Family Research Council.
Danny Pennington, then a science instructor at West Monroe High School (now assistant principal at Good Hope Middle School in West Monroe), said the resolution was necessary because science teachers in the district feared talking about controversial subjects. Pennington prepared a 10-page outline of supplemental materials Forrest characterizes as "just a bunch of creationist stuff he pulled off the Internet."
In the beginning of the outline, Pennington instructs his fellow teachers: "The evolution controversy is not between science and religion. It is a controversy between two different interpretations of science." Pennington never elaborates what the interpretations are, and is quick to alert teachers that the policy doesn't authorize the teaching of creationism or intelligent design.
Pennington's outline might not openly endorse intelligent design — the idea that life is a result of purposeful design by an intelligent agent, rather than natural selection — but it does include the viewpoint of Jonathan Wells, one of its leading proponents. Wells, a scientist at the Discovery Institute (DI), a national conservative think tank that has attacked evolution as a controversial theory and promotes intelligent design, once wrote that he had devoted his life "to destroying Darwinism" and has been criticized by the scientific community for misquoting scientists, lying and misleading the public.
The outline doesn't mention Wells' background, but it does offer a blog entry by Wells as evidence against evolution as well as his two anti-evolution books. Pennington also cites examples of scientific hoaxes, such as Piltdown Man: "a great embarrassment to the scientific community!"
Spurred on by success in Ouachita, LFF took the legislation to the state level in 2008. Mills says his organization wrote the state bill, but says it did consult with the Discovery Institute. After the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in 2005, in which a federal judge determined intelligent design was not science and was linked to creationism, the institute also started promoting "academic freedom."
In early 2008, DI launched its academic freedom petition in order for teachers and students to have the freedom "to challenge Darwinism." On the petition's Web site is a model for a statute on evolution and academic freedom, which contains this section: "Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion."
That section, nearly word for word, is now part of Louisiana state law.