Botanical Society Panel Derides Creationism, Louisiana Science Education Act

07/31/2013 01:21 pm ET
AP

Among the many topics covered at this week's Botanical Society of America Conference in New Orleans was the Louisiana Science Education Act, a law that critics say allows for the teaching of creationism in public schools.

Zack Kopplin, a rising junior at Rice University, led a session on the LSEA as part of a symposium titled "Yes, Bobby, evolution is real!" The 20-year-old political activist is a leader of the campaign to repeal LSEA.

During the symposium, Kopplin and speakers blasted the law, suggesting that it has made Louisiana an "international laughingstock," according to The Times-Picayune.

The LSEA went into effect in 2008. Under the law, public school teachers are allowed to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."

Critics take issue with the fact that the act does not contain a specific ban on teaching creationism, although it says teachers cannot "promote any religious doctrine."

"It's not about teaching science. It's about sneaking creationism into the classroom," said Kopplin at the symposium, according to the Times-Picayune. "You don't need a law to teach critical thinking in science."

In addition to the session about the LSEA, the conference offered presentations on the history of evolution education and on approaches to teaching the subject.

"[Schools that support creationism] are a problem with evolution education around the country, and coming down here [to New Orleans], that was an obvious touch point," Dr. Marsh Sundberg, a professor at Emporia State University and organizer of the symposium, told The Huffington Post.

Organizers, including Sundberg and Professor Joseph Armstrong, invited Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal last month to attend the conference. Jindal is a supporter of LSEA, and told NBC in April that he did not see a problem with schools teaching creationism.

Armstrong and Sundberg said they never heard from the governor. "We actually didn't expect to get a reply back," said Sundberg.

"It would be unusual for a politician to come to a scientific meeting," noted Armstrong.

Opponents of LSEA attempted to repeal the act in May, but their efforts ultimately failed. Kopplin was among those who testified in favor of the repeal.

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