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Creationist initiatives denounced in ASBMB Today


Two articles in the August 2008 issue of ASBMB Today react to recent creationist initiatives. ASBMB's president, Gregory A. Petsko of Brandeis University, pulls no punches in his column, beginning, "They're at it again. Armed with another new idea from the Discovery Institute, that bastion of ignorance, right-wing political ideology, and pseudo-scientific claptrap, the creationist movement has mounted yet another assault on science. This time it comes in two flavors, propaganda and legislative."

The propaganda effort is the film Expelled, "which attempts to link evolution to the eugenics movement in Nazi Germany and to the Holocaust, and portrays advocates of intelligent design as champions of academic freedom and victims of discrimination by the scientific community." Petsko continues, "Fortunately, the film is sinking faster than the Lusitania ... Whether this is because people recognize it as rubbish or because it is simply a bad movie, I don't know."

Less easily dismissable, however, is the passage and enactment of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, which threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in the state's public school science classes. Quoting a defender as saying that it enables teachers to "teach the controversy," Petsko responds, "Let me say this as clearly as possible, so there can be no mistake about what I mean: there is no controversy."

Warming to his theme, he continues: "Just because a few misguided so-called scientists question the validity of the concept of evolution doesn't mean there is a controversy. ... The fact that some people believe nonsense does not give that nonsense scientific credibility." And the Louisiana Science Education is not really about academic freedom, he observes. "Any 'science' teacher who teaches that the earth might have been created about 6,000 years ago and that all the material evidence that it's billions of years old is controversial is simply incompetent."

Elsewhere in the same issue of ASBMB Today, ASBMB's policy fellow Angela Hvitved provides a history and analysis of bills like the Louisiana Science Education Act, noting that "most science education groups agree that, at best, these bills are unnecessary and do not provide any additional legitimate protection and at worst, provide cover for introducing intelligent design and other nonscientific topics into the science classroom."

ASBMB Today is a monthly publication of the American Society for Microbiology and Molecular Biology, a non-profit scientific and educational organization with over 12,000 members. Its mission is "to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through publication of scientific and educational journals, ... organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce."