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Progress in Louisiana?

New high school biology textbooks were recommended for approval in Louisiana, reports the Associated Press (November 12, 2010), despite the ongoing complaints of creationists objecting to their treatment of evolution. As NCSE previously reported, a decision on the textbooks, expected initially in October 2010, was deferred by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which sought a recommendation from its Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council. On November 12, 2010, the council voted 8-4 to recommend the textbooks; the board is expected to issue its final decision during its December 7-9, 2010, meeting.

Before the council's meeting, in a November 12, 2010, editorial, the Baton Rouge Advocate called on the council not to compromise the treatment of evolution in the textbooks. "The committee members have a duty to reject intrusion of pseudo-science, such as creationism or its offshoot 'intelligent design,' into science classrooms," the editorial argued. "It's one thing to be different culturally, as Louisiana is in so many ways. But the facts of science and biology do not change. For Louisiana to be different in the direction of ignorance would be a humiliation in the eyes of the nation and the world."

According to the Associated Press, "Most of those who testified before the council supported the books and objected to any inclusion of disclaimers about the theory of evolution or of provisions about intelligent design, which has been barred by federal courts from being taught as an alternative to evolution." Kevin Carman, the dean of the Louisiana State University's College of Science, said that "intelligent design" "simply is not science," adding, "We need our textbooks to be focused on what is scientifically accurate and not religion." High school senior Zachary Kopplin warned of the threat to Louisiana's national reputation.

Commenting on the council's vote, Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and cofounder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, wrote, "Past experience — which has been utterly and entirely consistent since the introduction and passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) in 2008 — suggested that this meeting would be just another railroad job." Two of the members of the council, after all, were Senator Ben W. Nevers (D-District 12) and Representative Frank A. Hoffman (R-District 15) — the chief sponsors of the LSEA in the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives in 2008.

Both Nevers and Hoffman voted against recommending the textbooks, with Nevers reportedly expressing concern about the cost of the textbooks and the length of the seven-year contract with the textbook companies — concerns that were not apparently expressed for any textbooks under consideration by the state except for the high school biology textbooks. Nevertheless, Forrest's expectations were happily confounded: she began her report by quipping, "something happened today in Louisiana that is about as common here as snowflakes at Christmas: the voice of reason prevailed at a meeting of public officials."