Kopplin to continue fight against teaching creationism in public school science classes

Zachary Kopplin, one of the most visible opponents of teaching creationism in public school science classes, will testify before the Louisiana Senate Education Committee on Thursday in a fourth attempt to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act.

Kopplin told LSU students he is not hopeful for a more favorable outcome this year and said he has his eyes set on the November 2015 elections when new committee members could swing support in his favor. “Whether we pass or fail tomorrow, it does not really matter because this is sort of ground zero for a much larger fight for science in this country.”

Kopplin was at LSU to receive the Manship School of Mass Communication’s Courage and Justice award, which carries a $1,000 prize underwritten by the Hans and Donna Sternberg Foundation.

Signed into law in 2008, the Science Education Act allows the use of supplemental education material that opposes evolution and other scientific subjects in order to “promote students’ critical thinking skills and open discussion of scientific theories.”

Some critics contend the bill opens the door to teaching creationism, the view that life began about 6,000 years ago as described in the Bible.

Kopplin, 20 and a junior at Rice University in Houston, has received national attention for his crusade to repeal the bill since his senior year at Baton Rouge Magnet High School when he collected signatures of support from 78 Nobel Laureate scientists and many national science organizations to oppose the bill. He has also appeared several times before the Texas Legislature opposing a similar law in that state.

The Courage & Justice award is given to an individual who pursues a “perceived just cause” while displaying courage and ethics in the face of opposition, lack of resources, and substantial time commitment.

“No matter where you stand on this issue, most would agree it takes an extraordinary amount of courage for someone of his age to mount a campaign that has such a sweeping consequence,” said Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School.

Kopplin testified before the Education Committee three other times, resulting in three unsuccessful attempts to pass a bill seeking repeal. Sponsored by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, the proposed repeal legislation failed in committee 5-1 in 2011, 2-1 in 2012 and 3-2 in 2013.