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As creationism law comes up for repeal, an appeal to Bobby Jindal

UPDATE, May 2: For the third year in a row, the repeal was denied.
File Photo: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. (Photo by: Rogelio V. Solis/ AP Photo)
File Photo: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

UPDATE, May 2: For the third year in a row, the repeal was denied. Per The Advocate in Baton Rouge, a motion to shelve the measure passed 3-2, likely ending hopes for the bill for the 2013 regular legislative session.

Dear Governor Bobby Jindal,

Today, State Bill 26—designed to repeal Louisiana's creationism law—will be heard in the state Senate Education Committee. Considering you have called on the Republican Party to "stop being the stupid party," I encourage you to support it. By supporting the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), our state’s misnamed and misguided creationism law, you are causing this problem, not stopping it.

In an April 12 interview with NBC’s Education Nation, you reiterated your support for the LSEA and for teaching creationism in public schools by saying:

"We have what’s called the Science Education Act, that says if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board’s OK with that, if the State school board’s OK with that, they can supplement those materials."I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that some people have these beliefs as well. Let’s teach them about intelligent design. I think teach them the best science. Let them, give them the tools where they can make up their own mind, not only in science but as they learn and teach about other controversial issues, whether it’s global warming or whether it’s...climate change or these other issues. What are we scared of? Let’s teach our kids the best facts and information that’s out there. Let’s teach them what people believe and let them debate and learn that. We shouldn’t be afraid of exposing our kids to more information, more knowledge. Give them critical thinking skills, and as adults they’ll be able to make their own and best decisions."

Creationism is not science. It doesn’t meet the basic standards of science and therefore doesn’t belong in public school science classrooms. Science is the way we explain natural phenomena. Scientific explanations can be tested, and these tests can be repeated time and time again and will produce the same results. Creationism is an untestable metaphysical story. Evolution, on the other hand, is a valid scientific theory that meets all the requirements of science.

There is no debate about evolution’s validity among scientists. There is no controversy. There is no disagreement among scientists that students should be asked to evaluate.  On the other hand, teaching students that creationism is science wastes their time and undermines their understanding of the scientific method by suggesting that something lacking scientific validity somehow has it. Physicist Laurence Krauss compares teaching creationism to child abuse, and he’s right: education is about overcoming ignorance, not validating it. Teaching creationism will not help our students learn to think critically.  To think critically, we must start with a valid set of facts.

Governor Jindal, surely you know from your biology studies at Brown University that the theory of evolution is the “best science.”  It is supported by all of the evidence. Evolution is the foundation of all of modern biological science, and of fields like medicine and agriculture. Understanding evolution is what allows us to control pests and develop drugs to kill bacteria.

The only controversy over evolution is one constructed by Louisiana politicians. Louisiana students must be taught evolution so we can compete for cutting edge science and technology jobs in places like the New Orleans BioDistrict or Baton Rouge’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Teaching creationism is not only educational malpractice. It is also illegal. The Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public schools was unconstitutional. Their decision on the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard case threw out Louisiana’s first creationism law. Governor, we’ve been over this before.

The scientific community is asking you to stop promoting creationism. Nobel chemist Sir Harry Kroto is one of them, and he said in 2011: "The lawmakers of Louisiana are a laughingstock as far as the scientific community is concerned. The present situation should be likened to requiring Louisiana school texts to include the claim that the sun goes round the Earth."

Another Nobel chemist, Roger Kornberg, echoed those sentiments that year: "(The LSEA is) a tragedy for the young people of Louisiana and an embarrassment for the entire state and the nation. Shame on the legislature that enacted it, and especially on the governor who signed it into law.”

All told, 78 Nobel laureate scientists, major science organizations, the city council of New Orleans, and tens of thousands of others have called for a repeal of Louisiana’s creationism law.

Governor Jindal, it’s time to take your own advice and actually lead the Republican Party toward being a smarter party by endorsing evidence-based science, and the repeal of Louisiana’s creationism law.

Zack Kopplin is a 19-year-old student at Rice University, and one of the leading American voices against the teaching of creationism in schools. He was featured as an MHP Foot Soldier last year, and profiled at length in January by io9. He will be a guest on Saturday's edition of "Melissa Harris-Perry."