Louisiana’s doom, now with video!

By Phil Plait | June 13, 2008 8:07 am

A followup on the doomination of Louisiana:

Barbara Forrest, who is fighting antiscience nonsense in that fair state, appeared on local TV to discuss this bill. Also on it were State Senator Ben Nevers, the sponsor of the creationism bill. Sen. Nevers equivocated quite readily in the interview, saying that this bill is just about updating science books, when it’s clear that the bill isn’t needed to update science education. The bill is also based on previous creationist bills in other states, with which Sen. Nevers says he is unfamiliar. That may very well be true, but if so it indicates a profound lack of understanding of the issue on the part of Sen. Nevers. The Disco ‘tute is heavily promoting this bill, along with the far-right religious group LA Family Forum (whose mission is "[t]o persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking").

He also says this bill doesn’t mention creationism in its language. Well, duh, of course it doesn’t. After getting themselves thoroughly and humiliatingly trounced in Dover, creationists have learned to use Trojan horses. So they never specifically mention creationism, they just use buzzwords like "academic freedom" and "teaching the controversy".

There is also a heart-breaking testimony from a young woman named Dominique Magee who actually supports this bill (she’s from the LA Family Forum). She thinks she’s making a stand for education, but the irony is that she is helping destroy it. She even calls evolution "questionable" and a "controverisal topic" (along with human origins and global warming).

Let’s be clear: these are not controversial topics. Evolution is a fact. Scientists, real scientists, are not arguing over whether evolution is real or not.

Watch the whole clip, and see for yourself just how important this fight is. You can also watch Barbara eat these creationists alive on this TV clip as well, and you can hear the LA Family Forum rep desperately try to downplay the import of this bill.

Comments (46)

  1. PaulW

    I find it funny that Senator denies everything and the other woman states flatly what she would do when this bill is passed which contradicts the Senator.

    The woman was supporting Barbara Forrest by proving her point for her…

  2. Quiet Desperation

    fair state

    fair?

  3. Eric H.

    Well,l hopefully if the Trojan horse makes it through the gates in Louisiana it will not be opened.

    Not that you need any more evidence of this, but the tactics of sending in a Trojan horse utilized by the religious right is not limited to teaching creationism. In 2004 a constitutional amendment was passed in Michigan regarding same sex marriage. I remember when this was up for a vote and it was a pretty big deal in Michigan. there were even television commercials where the proponents of the amendment assured Michiganders that they only wanted to ban gay marriage, that the bill “Will not affect anyone’s benefits”. Surprise Surprise last month the Michigan Supreme court re-interpreted the amendment to the constitution to mean that State employers cannot extend health insurance to “domestic partners”. This means that all of Michigan’s public universities are no longer allowed to extend health insurance benefits to domestic partners of their gay employees. I have no idea how many such employees there are, but the last thing Michigan needs is further damage to our universities.

    Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry has a pretty decent write up of the event: http://jackshow.blogs.com/jack/2008/05/essay-repellent.html.

    Now, I know that the defense of Science is far more important than the example that I have brought up. However, I just wanted to share one more example of how the Religious right uses trickery and patience to get what they want in the end. They will say whatever they can to make any kind of legislation seem like it is no big deal so that they can attract moderates, however you simply cannot trust them.

  4. Celtic_Evolution

    Yikes… you could just see the look on Dr. Forrest’s face after Ms. Magee got done with her goofiness… “See??? THIS is the insanity we face if this bill gets passed… Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Ms. Magees”. Priceless!

    And poor Sen. Nevers couldn’t have been pleased at this person TOTALLY screwing him over by proving Dr. Forrest’s position. Again. Priceless.

  5. PaulW

    @Celtic_Evolution:

    He He, that look was priceless. My hat is off to Dr. Forrest for keeping cool during all of this…

  6. Celtic_Evolution

    I only wish that Dr. Forrest, when this loony Ms. Magee kept spouting the “evolution isn’t a fact, it’s a theory” crap, had pulled out the tried and true “well, so is gravity” retort. Would loved to have seen the look on Magee’s face.

    All I can say is that I wouldn’t be submitting that little gem of video as part of a resume for any job in science if I were Ms. Magee. She’d be laughed out of the building.

  7. Dan

    Truelly sad indeed.

  8. Eric H:

    “Now, I know that the defense of Science is far more important than the example that I have brought up.”

    Don’t even believe that. The defense of human rights is every bit as important as the fight against ignorance and anti-intellectualism. You are absolutely right in that, deep down, these issues are really two sides of the same coin. Namely: the far religious right attempting to force their personal belief system on everyone else.

  9. Jacob1207

    There’s gonna be a lawsuit over this, right? I’m not a lawyer, but this doesn’t seem to pass the Lemon Test, by which, for a government action involving religion to be permissible it must:

    (1) have a secular legislative purpose;
    (2) not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and
    (3) must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

    From what I know of it, this bill certainly seems to fail the 2nd prong of the test; it seems it’d be easy to show that the purpose is to permit the injection of creationism into the science classroom, which the Dover decision (which wouldn’t be legally controlling, but which the court in Louisiana would certainly look to) deemed unconstitutional.

    It may have problems with the other two prongs of the test as well, but it needs to fail only one to fall on the wrong side of constitutional.

  10. Sili

    Sooo close.

    But poor ms Magee completely dropped the ball at the end.

  11. AJ

    Dominique’s part is definitely tragic. It’s so sad to see a bright young person, intelligent and motivated, and so misguided.

    I dated a girl for almost 2 years who was the same way.

    I didn’t realize how bad it was at first, but over time I got to see just how broken her world view was. Literal creation. Flood geology, humans and dinosaurs living together.

    I have since started calling creationists Flintstonians, because they believe humans and dinosaurs coexisted (peacefully) before the flood back in Noah’s days.

  12. Jero

    Is the video on-line ? Here I get only a “Loading Video…” ad eternum…

  13. The video player on that site doesn’t work for me (in FireFox nor IE). Anyone have a link to the video on another site?

  14. updating science books, when it’s clear that the bill isn’t needed to update science education.

    Local school district had a display of proposed science books.. the reason they didn’t update (no Legislative action, BTW) wa$ money.
    The only way this bill could ‘help update’ would be to supply money, not select the books.

    from the video (#1)
    NEVERS:
    ‘supplemental information’
    ever hear of Encyclopedias? Libraries?
    ‘don’t know where some of these comments are coming from’
    clueless
    ‘and can comprehend the English Language’
    ad hominem straw man
    ‘I have not even read those bills’
    Then how can you know it’s ‘no model (I know of…)’ if you haven’t looked at other bills…
    ’7-10 year old science books’
    it’s for the children! when you’re losing, change the subject
    textaddons.com link
    MAGEE:
    ‘skipped over controversial topics’
    (below)
    ‘bias in all kinds of science classes’ !
    ’31,000 scientists’ I saw this online petition years ago
    FORREST:
    “Miss MaGee to identify the teacher….”
    oops!
    “wanted brought into her classes was Creation Science”
    MAGEE:
    ‘the magazine picked apart and chose’
    Rule 16
    dittobusters.com link – personal Rules of NeoCon Correctness

    NEVERS:
    ‘I’m some kind of special agent from outer space’
    ad hominem straw man (again)

    ….

    J/P=?

  15. #
    Jero
    Is the video on-line ? Here I get only a “Loading Video…” ad eternum…

    # Mike B.
    The video player on that site doesn’t work for me (in FireFox nor IE). Anyone have a link to the video on another site?

    I used FIREFOX with IE TAB extension….

    J/P=?

  16. John Powell

    ZOMG! Did “The Flintstones” turn us into a nation of Young Earth Creationists?! ;^)

    “Flintstonians” I love that!

  17. Jacob1207

    AJ and John Powell, not all creationists believe humans lived with dinosaurs.

    Well, the term “creationist” can be ambiguous: sometimes it means just young Earth creationists (YECs) and other times it refers to all people who believe in any form of creationism, including old Earth creationism’s various forms and, of course, Intelligent Design.

    Most Intelligent Design folks and old Earth creationists do accept the scientifically-determined age of the Earth and don’t think people and dinosaurs lived together. So, the term Flintstonians, which does posess humor, only applies to one subset of creationists.

    I would discourage applying the “creationist” label only to young Earthers to the exclusion of the others; that might be taken as implying that, for instance, Intelligent Design advocates are not creationists and, therefore, not wrong or something to be worried about.

  18. James Barsby

    I think mixing science and religion is a great idea.

    Maybe they can explain what Noah did with 20,000 fresh water fish :0)

    …oh yeah and the 200,000,000,000 others, not forgetting diseases of cause.

  19. Mus

    Ugh. I hate crappy sites. The videos won’t load with me either. I tried firefox and IE.

  20. To be perfectly clear, I believe that evolution is the theory that best fits the facts.

    But still, at what point did people drop “theory” from “the theory of evolution”? (One problem is that the word “theory” has different meanings in common parlance and in science. In common parlance, it means “a pretty good guess”, which is not what we mean by it.)

    Even relativity is still called “the theory of relativity”. Gravity, on the other hand, has been proven in the proverbial “6 ways from Sunday” – by physics and mathematics; it explains the way things work, and makes accurate predictions.

    Evolution explains a lot of things (not necessarily by physics or mathematics), and it may (or may not) make accurate predictions. The difficulty with that is that we don’t have millennia to observe (but we do have short-lived species to work with, like mayflies and bacteria; and we have a pretty good fossil record).

    And it’s certainly an improvement over the ID position, which simply transfers everything over to the realm of metaphysics, and therefore the unknowable.

    But let’s not take their approach by saying “it’s over, get over it”.

    Maybe they’d have better luck with public relations if they called their paradigm “the theory of intelligent design”.

  21. Doc

    What ever happended to that movement within the Christian Fundamentalists to move to South Carolina and susceed from the US? I was really looking forward to that.

    @Jacob1207
    The problem with being an “old-earth” creationist and accepting what is scientifically proven is that under that view, the domain of that which belongs to God (the unknown causes/processes) continues to shrink as science progresses – unless, of course, scientific research is blocked to protect dearly-held beliefs.

  22. IBY

    I hate the way the TV interview was carried out, and will always be carried out (sarcasm) what a surprise (/sarcasm). It seemed like they were giving more time to the proponents of the creation bill, while they didn’t give Ms. Forrest enough time to argue Magee. Actually, there wasn’t even enough time, which is a problem in TV news.

  23. James Barsby

    I am beginning to doubt evolutionary theory…

    I mean, going from apes to creationists… wouldn’t that be a backwards step in terms of intelligence.

  24. IBY

    @ Barsby

    Nah, creationists are just a branch that separated that never progressed :) In all seriousness, though, some of them are intelligent, its just that they are misguided and become cranks.

  25. PaulW

    I had no problems viewing this with IE6, strange.

  26. Dominique Magee may be sincere in the sense that she believes she is taking a stand for education, but I thought it was pretty clear that she’d been coached.

    For example, she made it sound as if teachers were not teaching anything at all about origins at first – it only came clear later that her beef is that they teach the wrong side, from her point of view.

    And she made heavy use of the transparent talking point that evolution is ‘outdated’, which Nevers had been doing first.

    It isn’t just her academic development that’s being ruined, it’s her honesty.

  27. Cory

    Funny stuff. The young lady came across as an silly, shrill shill and the Senator was wishing the phone and tv had never been invented. Classic.

  28. Am I wrong to think that the response to “It’s only a theory” should be pointing out that the “theory” is our understanding of something that does happen? Gravity is a fact, the theory of gravity is our understanding of how it works. Evolution is a fact, the “theory” is our understanding of it. In both cases even if our understanding, or “theory”, is wrong the effect is still real.

    I just don’t get why “It’s a theory” is still being used as an argument.

  29. Kevin

    Phil (et al)…

    It’s funny you post this, as in today’s paper (here in Michigan) the sponsors of the ID bill here are making the same exact talking points that Sen Nevers is making.

    This just proves this is an organized attack by the creationists to get their agenda passed by the states – especially if there is going to be a radical shift in government thinking after the November elections.

  30. Joe Meils

    I still think that the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” needs to be taught in LA too!

  31. SteveStar

    Uh, Oh. I got a sinking feeling watching those two videos. I think they might actually sneak this bill, and others like it, by. I also think this situation needs more national attention. I wouldn’t know anything about it were it not for BA.

  32. ccpetersen

    I’m working on exhibits for a science museum and one of the panels I just wrote begins with the sentence: “Long before humans existed, dinosaurs dominated life on Earth.”

    Fortunately, the client isn’t going to brook any Flintstonian nonsense…

    As for the unfortunate shill who got shoved in front of the cameras to defend Louisiana’s decision… I say, bring on more of ‘em! the more idiots.. er, I mean confused people they throw in front of the cameras, the more it shows us how silly these “teachin’ what Gawd means us ta lern” movements will look.

  33. slang

    But still, at what point did people drop “theory” from “the theory of evolution”?

    Since the “but you can’t prove me WRONG!!!!” squad keeps taking the word out of its scientific meaning, and lower it to their level, covering it with nonsensical drool.

    (One problem is that the word “theory” has different meanings in common parlance and in science. In common parlance, it means “a pretty good guess”, which is not what we mean by it.)

    Exactly. In science, there is no greater praise than to see your theory be supported by evidence and predictions and eventually be accepted by the scientific community.

  34. I remember getting printouts of recent science events in my Earth Science class, if they happened to relate to our topics. Things like recent earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, astronomy events, etc. Like Dr. Forrest said, there’s nothing stopping teachers from doing this already and this bill isn’t needed.

    …if he’s really so worried about using old textbooks in science classrooms, why not propose a bill to provide funds for new textbooks?

  35. Ian

    After watching the video and reading the bill, I don’t really understand what it is this bill would accomplish. The only real provision it has is to allow teachers to teach from approved supplemental materials in addition to the standard textbook. But in the interview, they seemed to be saying that teachers can already do that. So, regardless of what the motives for the bill might be, it doesn’t seem like it actually does anything at all. Can anyone explain this to me?

  36. Jacob1207

    Re: Doc’s post of 13 Jun 2008 at 11:28 am

    Yes, there are “God of the gaps” implications to old Earth creationism (itself an umbrella term covering gap creationism, day-age creationism, Intelligent Design, et cetera). I will leave it to the old Earth creationists to sort that out, while kindly inviting them to change their views.

    Many Christians (since they’re the dominant religious group that we’re dealing with) readily accepted Darwin’s theory in the decades after it was published and gained scientific acceptance. The prominent backlash against it didn’t really start until the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century with the rise of Christian Fundamentalism (which is a thoroughly modern movement).

    It seems to me that sometimes Christians who accept science are attacked for being bad Christians. This concerns me, since I think all of us who support science should promote it together and put our religious beliefs–or the lack thereof–aside to do so. I don’t think it’s helpful when people like PZ Myers accuse those like Ken Miller of being wishy-washy Catholics. How would PZ feel if Miller told him that he’s not a good atheist since PZ believes in morality and atheism necessarily implies, in his (Miller’s) view, hedonism? That’d be offensive, I think. And, in any event, there’s no shortage of good Catholic theologians (see John Haught, who testified for the plaintiffs in the Dover case) who don’t have the slightest problem incorporating science into their world view, which already didn’t take the Bible literally (Augustin rejected a literal reading of Genesis about 14 centuries before Darwin).

    Conservative Christians sometimes attack scientists because they change their views with new evidence. I find it unfortunately ironic that some people, while promoting science, attack Christians who change their beliefs with new evidence.

    We’re all in this together, right? Yay science. Down with the Louisiana creationism law.

  37. Mechanic

    When these “Flintstonians” want to “teach the controversy” in science classes humanists should respond by wanting to “teach the controversy” about Christianity in social science classes. Maybe the contrast would get through the studied, thick craniums of those such as Bush and McCain.

  38. HidariMak

    To follow up on the real scientists who “are not arguing over whether evolution is real or not”, the NCSE wasn’t the first group to question this. Somebody posted a rather good breakdown of the DI scam on to YouTube. And if this was brought up when the NCSE link was first posted, my apologies, but it bears repeating anyways.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty1Bo6GmPqM

  39. Jacob1207

    HidariMak, that’s a great vid. Thanks for the link.

  40. Thomas Booker

    If anyone has ever driven around in Northern Louisiana, they would comprehend the mentality that would support and advocate the “trojan horse” legislation that is being foisted upon the LA education system. Rural Louisiana ain’t exactly the most cosmopolitan part of the nation. I ain’t going to indulge in snide comments about arrested evolution in that region because that would belie a non-comprehension of the real science.

    Y’all need to understand (as Steven J. Gould took great pains to clarify), that evolution is not the inevitable progression and improvement of a species. Evolution at its base means only adaptation. Survival of the fittest only applies to an organism that is “fit” to function in a particular environmental niche. In no way does evolution science define one species, or ethnic group, as inherently superior to any other.

    With this understanding, one should properly wince when watching the play/movie “Inherit the Wind”. William Jennings Bryant was a very prominent fighter for social justice issues, and denounced the “theory of evolution” partly because of the mentality of “social darwinism” that justified the oppression and exploitation of people in the lesser social strati because of their alleged inferiority. It is a shame that history remembers him as a buffoon because of the Scopes trial, and his stand against “teaching evolution”.

    It is also a shame that the vestiges of the movement that opposed the imposition of the mis-interpretation of evolution theory, is now driven by the exploitation of people in the less advantaged social strata, such as rural Louisiana.

  41. @ZZMike:
    Allow me to clarify the analogy you started. Gravity pulls stuff down. This is a fact. But how does gravity work? Are there gravity force particles? Is gravity the result of space curvature? We don’t know for sure. These are theories of gravity – explanatory models that accurately describe the fact of falling objects (and orbiting galaxies). And surprisingly, there are significant connections between both models of gravity, which aditional models (such as loop quantum gravity) attempt to resolve.
    Evolution – change over time – is a fact that is recorded in the fossil record. The “theory of evolution”, or natural selection, is a model of the process by which evolution occured. There are additional “add on” models, such as punctuated equilibrium and earth impact models, that say there is more going on than just gradual change. Again, these models all tie together, rather than being competing “theories” as the ID proponents would have you believe.

  42. mike burkhart

    ther is a place to teach the Bible and the book of Genesis and to discus God creatation of man it is called SUNDAY SCHOOL ( in my church catacism class because it is usely taught on saturday ) not science class . In science class you are ther to learn science not theology

  43. mike burkhart

    In fact i suppose that the textbook for this class will be the Bible and some fundamentist interpatation of it . Of course no one elese interpation will be taught or allowed in this class . For example I wont be able to say in this class the the 7 days of creation was only put in the book of Genisis to show the importanice of the sabith rest and is not to be taken literaly or that cahpters 1 and 2 of Genisis are two diferend acounts of the creation or that God dose not have our human concept of time . If any one teach any other interpation thy will be thrown in jail and we will have anthor scopes monkey trail

  44. Ken

    Can somebody tell me just how Young Earth Creationism replaced Christ as the core of the Christian faith?

    Baptist preacher and blogger Internet Monk ranted about the same thing. In a later blog posting (which I can’t find now that I want to cite it), he described YEC attitudes as part of a more generic “Get on our bus or get run over.”

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