Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has long been a proponent of teaching creationism and intelligent design in the schools. It is not a surprise that he is pushing that topic again. After all, he was a proponent of the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allowed supplemental materials to question established science in the schools. Since then Louisiana teachers have been free to present alternative theories to evolution, global warming, the Big Bang Theory and 4.5 billion year age of the earth.
Yet, it is still a surprise to hear Jindal’s latest argument for allowing junk science to be taught to young minds. It is all about the “facts.”
“We have what’s called the Science Education Act that says that if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board is okay with that, if the state school board is okay with that, they can supplement those materials,” he explained.
“Bottom line, at the end of the day, we want our kids to be exposed to the best facts. Let’s teach them about the big bang theory, let’s teach them about evolution, let’s teach them — I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let’s teach them about ‘intelligent design.’”
The Science Education Act is more like the Science Uneducation Act. To hear Jindal claim that bringing in ideas that are not based on scientific research or the scientific method while promoting them as facts would be laughable if they weren’t so scary.
Jindal’s “best facts” are ideologically related. All the alternative hypotheses that he wants to present are embraced by the religious right. There are many other “best facts” similar to these that have just as much fact in them as creationism, for example. Why limit the teaching of fantasy to just science?
There are plenty of white supremacists who would gladly argue why slavery was great idea. It wasn’t that long ago that women were not allowed to own property or transact business. Children were viewed as property of their father. All these ideas were considered as based on facts too. All these ideas were as profoundly accepted as creationism was prior to evolution. At the same time as Darwin presented evolution, these fallacies began to slip away. One hundred and fifty years later, African-Americans, women and children are considered the equals of white males. Yet we still have evolution deniers.
Louisiana may as well teach alternatives to the moon landing. There are those who believe the landing was faked in the Arizona or New Mexico deserts. And there are still some flat earthers left too. What about their ideas? How about those who continue to embrace the geocentric model of the earth as the center of the universe? What about these “best facts?”
If facts are being considered as just alternative theories, then we have crossed the threshold of scientific relativism. There are no facts or truths, just what one believes. That probably worked in the Stone Age, but it won’t work so well in the Information Age.
Here we are in the twenty-first century where science and facts are more essential than ever. Jindal and others want to dismiss basic biology and geology as they try to create industries and jobs to compete with the rest of the world. As long as places like Louisiana fail to embrace science, the risk of the United States falling behind the rest of the world grows. Teaching “best facts” will not sound like a great idea once jobs and prosperity slip away. That is what it is all about. Ignoring the foundations of science will cost young people viable futures in the twenty-first century.