COLUMNS

It's time to evolve

Michael Tortorich
Michael Tortorich is a reporter for The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at reporter1 @ weeklycitizen.com.

The science community is up in arms, and rightfully so, over the abounding ignorance of many in Louisiana when it comes to evolution.

Just in time for the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin, a new survey of Louisiana residents shows 40.3 percent of respondents believe evolution is not well-supported by evidence or generally accepted within the scientific community.

As everyone should have learned in grade school, the theory of evolution is well-supported by evidence and well-supported by the scientific community. To deny evolution in the face of overwhelming evidence found in the fossil record as well as in life today is as absurd as denying that gravity holds us all to the face of the planet.

The survey, conducted by the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU (of which I am a graduate, in the interest of full disclosure), found that 38.8 percent of respondents said evolution is well supported, while 20.9 percent said they did not know or are unsure.

A majority of respondents, 57.5 percent, favor teaching creationism along with evolution in public schools in Louisiana. Exactly 31 percent oppose teaching creationism, and 11.4 percent said they did not know or were unsure.

These statistics show a clear difference from the rest of the nation. A 2007 national survey using the same question found that 48 percent of respondents said that evolution was well-supported by evidence, while 39 percent said evolution was not well supported.

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 733 last June, which drew worldwide attention.

Supporters say the bill opens up academic freedom, but critics call it a thinly-veiled attempt to dredge up old battles on  biblical creationism. The New York Times published an editorial calling it “Trojan horse legislation,” recalling a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Louisiana law that required biblical creationism and evolution be given equal class time.

A national scientific society, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, has decided to boycott Louisiana in the wake of the law. The society held its national meetings in New Orleans in 1976, 1987 and 2004. They’ve now crossed the Big Easy off their list of destinations. Oh well, there goes more money for the state and its most-storied city.

As Barbara Forrest of the Louisiana Coalition for Science pointed out in a recent blog post, the state ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to children’s educational success and economic prospects.

Jindal graduated with honors in biology at Brown University. Shouldn’t he know better?

“I want my kids exposed to the very best science. I don’t want any facts or theories withheld from them because of political correctness,” Jindal said in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

But creationism, or intelligent design, or whatever name is attached to the same religious-based explanation for the origins of life, is not science. There is a proper time and place for religion.

In the legal case Kitzmiller v. Dover, tried in Federal District Court in Pennsylvania in 2005, intelligent design was found to be a form of creationism and therefore unconstitutional to teach in public schools.

Americans are free to practice any religion they choose. They may choose to be athiest or agnostic. That’s what makes this country great. We’re free to think for ourselves. Let’s let our students do the same.

Let’s keep science in science classes and religion in religion classes.