Jeff Sadow’s column, headlined “Science law prompts liberal hysteria,” proves that columns needn’t be constrained by facts. Referring to “the fantasy that the (Louisiana Science Education Act) encourages teaching creationism in public schools,” Sadow calls the law “a bulwark” against “politically motivated orthodoxy masquerading as science.” He anticipates (probably correctly) that how science is taught may become an issue in the Department of Education’s upcoming review of Louisiana’s science standards. However, Sadow’s column displays only his knowledge of creationist talking points rather than of how science should be taught. The reviewers should know the following facts.
First, the deceptively titled “Louisiana Science Education Act” (LSEA) was promoted exclusively by the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a right-wing religious lobbying group that has promoted creationism since its founding, and the Discovery Institute (DI), an intelligent design creationist think tank in Seattle. The law is an attempt to evade the Supreme Court’s 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, which nullified a 1981 Louisiana law that required teaching creationism in public schools. I helped lead the opposition to the LSEA in 2008. A Google search shows I have written extensively about the LFF. I also literally wrote the book about the Discovery Institute (“Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” Oxford University Press, 2007).
The LFF wants to give sympathetic teachers cover to undermine evolution and climate science by using code language such as “critical thinking” and “logical analysis” when teaching these subjects. Moreover, the section of the law Sadow quoted, which stipulates that such teaching “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion,” comes straight from DI’s “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution,” the template for the LSEA. This disclaimer, a pre-emptive attempt to disavow religious intent, would be unnecessary if the LSEA were actually about science education.
Second, Sadow’s advice to the standards review panels to emulate the LSEA’s “spirit of free inquiry,” citing “the ‘Climategate’ scandal” as an example of the politicization of scientific inquiry, is based on misinformation. He accuses climate scientists whose e-mails were illegally hacked in 2009 of “an organized and deceitful effort to validate their assumptions about global warming and discredit fellow scientists who were skeptics.” The truth is that thousands of stolen e-mails were posted on the internet and subsequently used by climate science deniers to undermine legitimate scientific research. Nine separate investigations revealed no wrongdoing by the scientists (https://www.skepticalscience.com/Climategate-CRU-emails-hacked-intermediate.htm). Moreover, the Department of Defense takes climate science seriously enough to require “combatant commands (to integrate) climate-related impacts into their planning cycles” (http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/612710).
The reviewers should know these facts as they begin their work.
professor of philosophy