A freedom of information request has confirmed what activists have been warning for years, the bible is being used in high school science classrooms to promote creationism. Since the passing of the controversial Louisiana Science Education Act in 2008, teachers have been allowed to “critique” evolution using supplementary materials.
“There are no legitimate scientific critiques of evolution, and the purpose of this law is for teaching creationism,” Zack Kopplin tells IFLScience. “Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who signed the Science Education Act, was asked by NBC’s Education Nation about the law, and explained that he signed it because it allowed creationism into public schools.”
Kopplin has been heavily campaigning to have the law repealed since he was a high school student. He has written extensively on the subject, detailing evidence of creationism in at least eight school districts in Louisiana. After sending several freedom of information requests, he has discovered more damning evidence.
One teacher sent the following email to their principle:
You wanted me to let you know when I was planning the Creation point of view. I will be doing this on Monday 3/21. The students will actually be doing most of the presenting. We will read in Genesis and them some supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution from which the students will present.
The same principal received a PowerPoint presentation, entitled “Theories on the Origin of Life,” which contained a page that says “Creationism relies on the claim that there is a ‘purpose’ to all creation known only to the creator.”
“In Caddo Parish, one teacher explained that she teaches creationism because ‘God made science.’ In Sabine Parish, a teacher was teaching that evolution was a ‘stupid’ theory that ‘stupid people made up because they don’t want to believe in God,’” Kopplin explains.
In another email entitled “Support from a Bossier teacher,” a 4th grade teacher claims that a woman who was suing their school was told "Welcome to the Bible Belt, m'am." They go on to say: “Anyway, just wanted to tell you that we need more teachers like you and that my great granddaddy wasn't a monkey either!”
Though Kopplin has been able to get 78 Nobel laureates and many other prominent scientists and educators to join him in his campaign, the repeal bill has failed for five consecutive years. He blames this on Louisiana politicians who are either creationists or lack the political courage to “do the right thing.”
During the campaign, Kopplin has had a number of bizzare debates that range from “a Senator who wanted to teach about witch doctors in science class and a Senator who demanded we show him an E. coli metamorphosing into a person in front of him.” One senator who accused scientists of burning people alive for suggesting that the world was round and orbited the sun had to be corrected – that was the Church.
“The religious right wields an incredible amount of power, especially in smaller districts with competitive primaries. One legislator, Senator Conrad Appel, the Chairman of the Louisiana Senate Education Committee, cast the deciding vote to kill our repeal bill this year. Senator Appel isn’t a creationist, but he has pretended that the law does nothing to justify casting a vote against us to himself,” Kopplin tells IFLScience.
“Even after being presented with evidence of creationism being taught in Louisiana public schools, including teachers who are teaching their students that ‘snake leg nubbs’ are proof of creationism, Appel still claimed that the law ‘basically does nothing.’”
The most frustrating aspect of this fight, Kopplin says, is the lack of courage that too many politicians have displayed. He points to a national survey of more than 900 public high school biology teachers, which found that 13% of science teachers across the country are teaching creationism, and another 60% don't endorse evolution or its unscientific alternatives to avoid controversy.
“This means the majority of American students are getting a subpar science education,” Kopplin adds.
While Kopplin has yet to pass his repeal bill, he is pleased that the issue is out to the public. With the published emails from Bossier Parish, showing the Book of Genesis being used in science class, and evidence from many other teachers who are teaching creationism, Kopplin believes a lawsuit is “imminent”.
“I think there is an incredibly strong case built that shows creationism is being taught systematically across Louisiana, and that’s illegal. The courts can and must put a stop to it,” Kopplin tells IFLScience.
He calls on all Louisiana students who have been taught creationism (along with their parents and family members) to contact the ACLU or Freedom From Religion Foundation and challenge the law.
“We need a brave family willing to stand up and use the evidence we’ve discovered to take down the law in court.”