Michele Bachmann, as virtually everyone knows, is currently deciding whether she's going to make a run for the Tea Party, oops, I meant to say, Republican, nomination for president. What most don't know, though, is that her educational policies are being challenged by an amazing high school student from Baton Rouge, La. You should get to know this student, Zack Kopplin, and his efforts because he's likely to make a difference.
I've written about Zack previously because both his story and his commitment are incredibly impressive. As I first noted, he recently began an effort to repeal an atrocious stealth-creationism law in Louisiana. The law, the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, encourages attacks on evolution to be taught in Louisiana's public schools under the banner of critical thinking. This is the only state law of its sort in the country and, as Zack so well points out, Louisiana students interested in science are being done a huge disservice by its very existence.
Zack hasn't been content to simply complain about an educationally irresponsible law, however. His organizational skills have been nothing short of phenomenal and he's gathered a collection of supporters second to none. His repeal effort has been endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest general science organization in the world with over 10 million members; the National Association of Biology Teachers, the country's main organization for biological educators; The Clergy Letter Project, an organization of more than 14,000 clergy and scientists recognizing that religion and science need not be in conflict; as well as a host of other scientific groups including the American Institute for Biological Sciences, The American Society for Cell Biology, the Society for the Study of Evolution, The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Additionally, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to support the repeal.
Zack's work didn't stop there. He wrote a petition that was adopted as Change.org's featured one of the week where it has amassed more than 65,000 supporters. And, as I reported in April, in his most extraordinary effort, he collected the endorsement of 43 individuals who won a Nobel Prize in science.
Which brings me back to Michele Bachmann. Not only is Bachmann a fan of creationism and its anti-intellectual offshoot, intelligent design, she's made some outlandish claims about the pseudoscientific subject. For example, she's asserted, "there is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact ... hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes, believe in intelligent design."
Zack has now challenged Bachmann on her claims. Using a poker analogy and the huge number of scientists who have endorsed evolution, in general, and his repeal effort, in particular, Zack has written, "Congresswoman Bachmann, I see your 'hundreds' of scientists, and raise you millions of scientists."
Given the strength of the hand he has, he doesn't stop there.
For the next hand, I raise you 43 Nobel Laureate scientists. That's right: 43 Nobel Laureate scientists have endorsed our effort to repeal Louisiana's creationism law. ... Congresswoman Bachmann, you claim that Nobel Laureates support creationism. Show me your hand. If you want to be taken seriously by voters while you run for President, back up your claims with facts. Can you match 43 Nobel Laureates, or do you fold?
It would be difficult for someone with a sincere interest in science education not to take Zack Kopplin's challenge seriously. Having said that, I fully expect that Michele Bachmann will completely ignore Zack, the voice of the scientific community, the combined pleas of 43 Nobel scientists and thousands of religious leaders.
All of this reminds me of a Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago when I was in Lambeau Field with my two sons watching the Packers play the Bears. After a controversial and costly penalty was called against the Packers, the referee began to give a convoluted explanation of his ruling. The entire crowd of 73,000 plus was completely silent while the odd explanation was being delivered over the PA system. Then, all of a sudden, one fan with a booming voice that could be heard throughout the entire stadium shouted, "Stop making shit up!"
Representative Bachmann, I urge you to pay attention to that fan.
Follow Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mzclergyletter