In various opinions published in The Advocate, including columns by James Gill and a recent letter from Professor Barbara Forrest, the authors have quite wrongly interpreted the Louisiana Science Education Act. The act expressly excludes the use of religious views in the teaching of science. The wording is: “This (law) shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine , promote discrimination for or against any particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”
What could be more clear? Teachers in Louisiana public schools are simply not allowed to bring religious doctrines into courses in science. Any teacher who does so should be disciplined and required to abide by the law.
And yet opponents of the law keep trying to twist the meaning by claiming that it is a “Trojan horse” that opens the door to religious material. They are especially fearful, it seems, that the religious ideas of “creationists” could creep into science courses covering various theories of evolution. I agree that the concept of “young earth creationism” is based mainly on religious beliefs and not scientific evidence, and therefore should not be presented in science courses in public schools. But the law clearly closes the door on such religious materials and beliefs. (They remain legal in parochial schools.)
Forrest and other opponents of the law also confuse the concept of “intelligent design” with creationism. It is true that some proponents of creationism use the evidence of design in evolution to support their religious beliefs.
However, there are many highly qualified scientists who make a purely scientific case that Darwin’s theory of evolution cannot account for the complexity of biological organisms, and that there is strong scientific evidence that some kind of design mechanism is at work. A survey of the literature (the Amazon catalog is a good place to start) reveals dozens of books that present the evidence in great detail.
Still, no one yet knows the source of the design function, nor how it works. It stands as one of the great unsolved questions in science, along with the source of the Big Bang, Stephen Hawkings’ “theory of everything,” and others. I find the subject fascinating and one that should be included in advanced biology courses, not excluded.
Outside of science classes one may consider the existence of a supernatural source — a “Grand Designer.” Or one may believe, as I do, that a natural source and natural mechanisms must exist, and that future scientific research will eventually discover them. The Louisiana Science Education Act helps to keep the scientific doors open to such exciting research.
Cecil R. Phillips
retired management consultant