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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal recently urged his Republican Party to “stop being the stupid party.” In order to win elections, he also advised Republicans to reject anti-intellectualism. While this sounds like an excellent step forward, it will depend on their interpretation of “stupid” and “anti-intellectualism.”
This is the same Jindal who, in 2008, signed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which also sounds good on the surface. The act allows local school boards to approve supplemental materials for public school science classes as they discuss evolution, cloning and global warming.
Though marketed as support for critical thinking in classrooms, the law was actually designed to open the door to teach creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution in Louisiana public school science classes.
Although the bill had been opposed by every scientific society that voiced a position, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Jindal ignored the plea of his former genetics professor Arthur Landy, who wrote, “Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn’t make sense.” Instead Jindal gave credibility to Seattle’s Discovery Institute, the home base of “intelligent design,” which helped write the bill.
The Louisiana governor apparently doesn’t understand that neither he nor the Republican Party can avoid being stupid and anti-intellectual when they oppose scientific discoveries established for more than a century. It’s demonstrably unintelligent to weaken scientific standards for public schools just because those standards conflict with a literal interpretation of a “holy” book written in a pre-scientific era.
I’d like to hear Jindal criticize incumbent Republican Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, who ran unopposed and easily maintained his House seat, even though he denounced evolutionary theory, embryology, and the big bang theory as “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
Worse yet, Broun sits on the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
However, the good news is that Charles Darwin received over 4,000 write-in votes against Congressman Broun. We can only hope that two years from now, Broun will be defeated by a live opponent who shows signs of basic science literacy.
Perhaps Jindal was only telling his Republican colleagues not to be politically stupid. Sadly, it will not be easy to get the current crop of Republican leaders to openly embrace science.
Herb Silverman is founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America and author of “Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt .”