Senators reject repeal of Science Education Act

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RICHARD ALAN HANNON /
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Zack Kopplin, founder of Campaign to Repeal Louisiana's Creationism Law, left, and Joshua Youngkin, program officer with the Discovery Institute of Seattle, Wash., speak Wednesday night following the two testifying on Senate Bill 26.

For the third year in a row a bill that would repeal a 2008 law on how science is taught in public schools was rejected Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee.

A motion to shelve the measure passed 3-2, likely ending hopes for the bill for the 2013 regular legislative session.

The proposal, Senate Bill 26, is aimed at ending the Louisiana Science Education Act, which backers have touted as a way for freewheeling discussions in the classroom on evolution and other topics.

It allows the use of supplemental materials “that promote critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussions of scientific theories being studied,” including evolution.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution says that life forms have changed over time by mutations, with the pressure of natural selection determining what species survive.

Critics contend the five-year-old law can allow for the teaching of creationism, which is the view that life began about 6,000 years ago in a process described in the Bible’s book of Genesis.

Tammy Wood, a veteran of 31 years of teaching science, said the law leaves unanswered which are legitimate supplemental materials and which are “mere nonsense.”

Backers of the repeal push also said 78 Nobel laureate scientists support undoing the law.

However, several committee members challenged backers of the repeal to cite a single instance where a parent has complained to officials about science materials taught in public classrooms.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said despite claims that Louisiana is seen nationally as allowing the teaching of “pseudo science,” specific cases were never cited. “That is why you hear the frustration of senators,” Appel said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office also opposed the repeal.

Voting YES to shelving the repeal bill (3): state Sens. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas; Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe; and Bodi White, R-Central.

Voting NO on the motion (2): state Sens. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge; and Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.