America just got stoopider

Well, Louisiana did anyway (via RD.net).

The reality-denying lackwits in the states are getting to grips with evolution and adaptation (via artificial selection). First it was Creationism, then it was Creation Science, then Intelligent Design (via the completely awesome transitional fossil cdesign proponentsists) – all ruled un-Constitutional by American courts (bless ’em) and all forbidden from being taught in science classes. Now we have a new phase in the Religious Wrong’s War On Reality: “academic freedom”, which is in the same sub-branch as “teach the controversy (be sure to manufacture one first)” and “teach both sides”. Apparently both “sides” of the evo/creo debate are equally valid, so now it’s ok in Louisiana to confuse the shit out of kids by saying ID is just as valid & plausible a theory as evolution and leaving them less informed at the end of their schooling than they were before they started.

Thank the Great Galactic Squid (blessed by his inky discharge – aka Dark Matter) that my kids will go to school right here in Australia. I don’t often feel patriotic but it’s times like this I’m glad my countrymen wouldn’t put up with this shit. Barbara Forrest, one of many Dover trial heroes, did her best to muster opposition to this rank retardulence but to no avail:

Forrest’s testimony notwithstanding, the bill was passed by the state’s legislature – by a majority of 94 to 3 in the House and by unanimous vote in the Senate. On 28 June, Louisiana’s Republican governor, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, signed the bill into law. The development has national implications, not least because Jindal is rumoured to be on Senator John McCain’s shortlist as a potential running mate in his bid for the presidency.

Born in 1971 to parents recently arrived from India, Jindal is a convert to Roman Catholicism and a Rhodes scholar – hardly the profile of a typical Bible-belt politician. Yet in a recent national television appearance he voiced approval for the teaching of ID alongside evolution. He also enjoys a close relationship with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a lobbying group for the religious right whose mission statement includes “presenting biblical principles” in “centers of influence”. It was the LFF which set the bill in motion earlier this year.

94 to 3 House vote? Unanimous Senate vote? Shit, there are clearly some pollies in Louisiana that are dumber than a sack o’ doorknobs. The dumbest & knobbiest, clearly, is Governor Jindal. It’s also interesting to note that, once again, the ol‘ saying has been proven: any group with “Family” in the title is guaranteed to be a pack of bible-bleating quarter-wits bent on wedging religion into public life any way they can. Exhibit A:

“We believe that to teach young people critical thinking skills you have to give them both sides of an issue,” says Gene Mills, executive director of the LFF. When asked whether the new law fits with the organisation’s religious agenda, Mills told New Scientist: “Certainly it’s an extension of it.”

Excuse me while I ROFL in response to an avowed fundamentalist Christian creationist activist extolling the virtues of critical fucking thinking.

It looks like it’ll take a while to undo this legislation – it will need to be picked apart piece by piece, rather than squished before it gets of the ground a la the Dover Walkover. It’s a state law now – there’s absolutely nothing to stop some credulous redneck standing in front of his class like Kent Hovind and cocking on about dinosaurs on the fucking ark – and it’ll need to be dismantled gradually. Dover was a local school board getting too big for its boots and clearly the creos have learned from that epic fail – bypass individual schools & school districts, don’t bother sneaking bible text books into classes & take your scripture straight to the legislature.

So now it’s equal time for both sides. Fantastic. So, basically, in order to challenge the many-times-proven cornerstone of modern biology, medicine, genetics & a dozen other sub-branches of natural science in a Louisiana classroom, all you have to do is think of another way that life’s diversity might have come about and teach it like it’s equally plausible. You might say God did it, you might say it was the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Great Galactic Squid, Zeus, Extrapalopaketl, Odin or even that we’re all in a giant Matrix of human batteries and our entire shared experience is nothing but our brains firing away, locked in a MMORPG while our bodies sit in some pink goo, charging up a billion robots – though in this case I’m reasonably sure it’ll be “Goddiditism” of a particularly southern American flavour. And they wonder why they’re viewed as a pack of ignorant goddam hicks. News flash: this decision proves conclusively that you are, you improvident NASCAR-loving tornado-fodder.

When Jindal was elected governor last year, the stage was set. The LFF approached Ben Nevers, a state senator, who agreed to introduce the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act on their behalf. “They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory,” Nevers told the Hammond Daily Star in April. The bill was later amended and renamed the Louisiana Science Education Act. Its final version includes a statement that the law should not be taken as promoting religion. That way, those who wish to challenge Darwinian evolution have “plausible deniability” that this is intended to teach something unconstitutional, says Eric Rothschild of the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton, which represented the parents at the Dover trial. “They are better camouflaged now.”

Supporters of the new law clearly hope that teachers and administrators who wish to raise alternatives to evolution in science classes will feel protected if they do so. The law expressly permits the use of “supplemental” classroom materials in addition to state-approved textbooks. The LFF is now promoting the use of online “add-ons” that put a creationist spin on the contents of various science texts in use across the state, and the Discovery Institute has recently produced Explore Evolution, a glossy text that offers the standard ID critiques of evolution (see “The evolution of creationist literature”). Unlike its predecessor Of Pandas and People, which fared badly during the Dover trial, it does not use the term “intelligent design”.

They’ve evolved all right – they’re not even using the term “intelligent design” anymore and they’re going to ride this sneaky little “academic freedom” thing until it, too, is rendered inoperable. Then they’ll dig around for another back door. This makes me very uncomfortable. Not because I think it’s likely to catch on down here, like other US exports such as bad r&b, large pants, economic slumps, illegal wars & civil liberties violations in the name of security, but for a closely-related reason. What happens in the US affects the world and if this kind of religious idiocy catches on and sneaks into classrooms all over the country, the US may well be run entirely (worse than it is today) by a bunch of born-again, mentally-challenged bible-thumpers who went through school believing we were all magicked into existence a few millennia ago and will no doubt make Very Important Decisions based on divine guidance. Even considering the enormous trouble Dubya’s divine guidance has caused his nation and the planet so far there’s still room for more pain, misery & murder. Yes, things could actually get worse! There are people in the world stupider than Bush II and this bill guarantees that there will be people stupider than him coming from Louisiana for years. If the US once again goes to the polls and votes against its own interests for John “Bush Lite” McCain and Bobby Jindal ends up as VP, it could make the slope the nation’s already on even more slippery.

Stuff like this, however, eases the pain of the stupid:

The BBC announces a major series marking the life and work of Charles Darwin.

Ah, that’s better. Somewhat.

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