Jindal's creationist folly

Louisiana's governor - and potential VP candidate - signed a bill that opens the door to intelligent design creationism in its schools

Michael Stebbins
Jul 8, 2008
When the press refer to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, they inevitably mention that he is the youngest current governor (at 37), and the first Indian-American to serve the post. By all accounts the former Rhodes Scholar with a BS in biology from Brown University is an extraordinary individual. So, it was not surprising that his name appeared on John McCain's short list for potential Vice Presidential running mates. However, on June 27, he signed linkurl:a bill;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/54759/ that will turn Louisiana into an educational laughing stock for allowing the linkurl:intelligent design;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36664/ brand of linkurl:creationism;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15273/ to worm its way into science classes under the guise of academic freedom.The Louisiana Science Education Act is yet another attempt to place creationism into science classes, orchestrated by the marketing geniuses behind the intelligent design movement. The bill, which easily passed both the state House and Senate, at first glance seems benign or even progressive: It...
n-American to serve the post. By all accounts the former Rhodes Scholar with a BS in biology from Brown University is an extraordinary individual. So, it was not surprising that his name appeared on John McCain's short list for potential Vice Presidential running mates. However, on June 27, he signed linkurl:a bill;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/54759/ that will turn Louisiana into an educational laughing stock for allowing the linkurl:intelligent design;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36664/ brand of linkurl:creationism;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15273/ to worm its way into science classes under the guise of academic freedom.The Louisiana Science Education Act is yet another attempt to place creationism into science classes, orchestrated by the marketing geniuses behind the intelligent design movement. The bill, which easily passed both the state House and Senate, at first glance seems benign or even progressive: It allows teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials" to "create and foster an environment...that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied." Other than the false notion that the lack of supplemental materials in classrooms is hindering the state education system, what could be wrong with that? The bill is derived from a model bill put forward by the linkurl:Discovery Institute;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22385/ (yes, those guys again), and encourages examination of, you guessed it, "evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Louisiana is now the first state to pass the new generation creationist bill under the guise of academic freedom. Five other states have similar bills pending, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and South Carolina.Unfortunately, Louisiana is no stranger to urine in the education pool. The legal case that forced creationists to rethink their strategy of ramming religion into science classes, linkurl:Edwards v. Aguillard,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/7703/ started in the Bayou State. That case ended with the Supreme Court ruling in 1987 that Louisiana's Creationism Act was unconstitutional because it specifically forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools unless "creation science" was also taught. In other words, it openly pushed religion into science classrooms. As a direct result of that case, the intelligent design movement was born to manufacture support for the phony science of intelligent design creationism. Jindal's signing the bill will forever label him an extremist in the eyes of many liberal and moderate voters. But perhaps that label is deserved? As he has come under the microscope, there has been more talk of a paper he wrote in 1994 for the Catholic journal The New Oxford Review entitled Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare. In it, Jindal describes his participation in an exorcism and suggests that it cured a young woman named Susan of cancer. He makes it clear that this was more than a little hocus pocus amongst Catholic coeds. "Susan chose the perfect opportunity to attempt an escape. She suddenly leapt up and ran for the door, despite the many hands holding her down. This burst of action served to revive the tired group of students and they soon had her restrained once again, this time half kneeling and half standing." And then there is the kicker, "When the operation occurred, the surgeons found no traces of cancerous cells." It is hard to tell what is driving Jindal to folly now; playing to his base, true delusion, or blinding self-confidence that inhibits the self-doubt required of great leadership. In a linkurl:recent interview;http://youtube.com/watch?v=JqaIDmXzuaE on __Face the Nation__, he showed his science education cards, "I'd certainly want my kids to be exposed to the very best science. I don't want them to be--I don't want any facts or theories or explanations to be withheld from them because of political correctness." But with a degree in biology from an Ivy League University, Governor Jindal knows very well that the opposition to the Louisiana Science Education Act was not about political correctness or manufactured controversy around evolution. He is also smart enough to know that intelligent design creationism is not science, and not naive enough to believe that this bill is about academic freedom - or that it was even needed to repair Louisiana's school system. There's a twist: Few took notice of a provision in the bill that gives the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unprecedented power to prohibit materials approved by local school boards. This is a politically appointed board and the bill provides no guidelines for making such Draconian decisions. This runs completely counter to the conservative principles Jindal cited in supporting the bill. In the same __Face the Nation__ linkurl:interview,;http://youtube.com/watch?v=JqaIDmXzuaE he stated his philosophy, "I don't think that this [teaching evolution in schools] is something that federal or state governments should be imposing its views on local districts. You know, as a conservative, I think that government that is closest to the people governs best. I think local school boards should be in the position of deciding their curricula and also deciding what students should be learning." He has now signed a law that gives unprecedented powers to the state over local school boards - hypocritical on most days.There is little question that this law is going to be challenged in the courts and that the battle will cost Louisiana millions of dollars in legal fees. While the bill expressly forbids religious material from being used, intelligent design is being falsely pushed as a legitimate science and therefore the state is likely to lose the case. In the end, signing the bill was strategically senseless, an embarrassment to his state and financially irresponsible. It is also not entirely Jindal's doing. He had accomplices in both the state House and Senate, but their names aren't the ones being bandied about as potential Vice Presidential nominees, and it is unlikely that they will pay as big a price. In the end, it was Jindal's choice and chips will fall. __Michael Stebbins is a co-founder of linkurl:Scientists and Engineers for America,;http://sefora.org/ the Director of Biology Policy at the linkurl:Federation of American Scientists;http://www.fas.org/ and the author of linkurl:__Sex, Drugs and DNA: Science's Taboos Confronted.__;http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Drugs-DNA-Sciences-Confronted/dp/0230521126/ In April, he wrote an linkurl:opinion;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54458/ for __The Scientist__ encouraging interest in local elections.__

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