By Jameson Parker | 8 May 2015
Louisiana ranks close to dead last in education, but that isn’t stopping its lawmakers from striving to make it even worse.
Recently, Louisiana came under fire after whistleblowers found that public schools around the state were openly and flagrantly promoting creationism alongside evolution in science class. When called out on it, they doubled down by recommitting to the well-worn argument that says teachers should be allowed to “teach the debate.”
Despite having been repeatedly declared unconstitutional by courts across the country, Louisiana lawmakers are again insisting that there is nothing wrong with teaching creationism in science class as a legitimate counter theory to evolution. Ironically, their cringeworthy defense of creationism reveals exactly why teaching real science is so vital. Louisiana lawmakers, presumably having been taught in Louisiana schools, are functionally scientifically illiterate.
As Hemant Mehta over at Patheos notes, an April 22 hearing was held to discuss the bill that had encouraged teachers to discuss creationism in the classroom, titled – without irony – the Louisiana Science Education Act. What unfolded was a dizzying display of ignorance towards both history and science.
Republican State Senator Elbert Guillory was speaking to education activist Zack Kopplin about whether or not Louisiana should repeal the bill, when he laid out a baffling anecdote of revisionist history (emphasis Mehta’s).
There was a time, sir, when scientists thought that the world was flat. And if you get to the end of it, you’d fall off.
There was another time when scientists thought that the sun revolved around the world.
And they always thought to ensure that anyone who disagreed with their science was a heretic! People were burned for not believing that the world was flat. People were really badly treated.
My point, sir, is that not everyone knows everything.
Clearly not state politicians.
It shouldn’t need to be said but for Guillory’s sake we should note that it was not, in fact, scientists who were burning “heretics” at the stake. Just the opposite. Some of the world’s greatest scientists like Galileo Galilei were threatened with torture and execution for following the scientific method outside the realms of religious teachings. Others, like Giordano Bruno, were actually burned alive for it.
Thankfully, another Louisiana senator, Jean-Paul J. Morrell, gently corrected Guillory’s misconceptions, ending with an epic Neil deGrasse Tyson mic drop:
So, although I appreciate your comments about [how] there are alternative theories, when you look at history, oftentimes, when science pushes the envelope, the leading person to lock that person up, is oftentimes religious leaders. And, at the end of the day, I think when you talk about a fair exchange of ideas, as long as those ideas are based in fact, I think you really don’t have a problem. At the end of the day, we want to have a logical discourse about things that are provable.
I want to say a quick quote that I’ve been saving for this measure. It’s from Neil deGrasse Tyson, who I’m sure many of you are familiar with: The good thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.
This isn’t the first time a politician has incorrectly used Galileo to back up their baseless positions. Famously, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) compared his belief that climate change isn’t real to being persecuted like Galileo was.
“Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.”
What he, and others like him, miss is that Galileo wasn’t bucking the scientific consensus at the time, he was rejecting the Church’s narrative. Galileo’s fellow scientists had no trouble getting on board with his theories about heavenly bodies. (Note: Contrary to Cruz’s telling, no serious person in Galileo’s time believed the Earth was flat and he wasn’t the first to prove it was round. Not even close.) He was, you could say, the very opposite of Ted Cruz. By allowing his beliefs to change based on the observable information he gathered, Galileo and his peers, were at the very forefront of what would later be called the scientific revolution.
Louisiana lawmakers must have felt Guillory’s argument was much more compelling than Morrell’s, however. They voted to table the discussion of repealing the bill. Creationism gets to stay in schools. That burning smell? It’s not heretics, it’s brain cells.
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