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it look scientific – it was really the exact same thing created by the exact same people with
the exact same purpose.
Luckily for me, I managed to send her an email, and once I did that we set up a
meeting. The next step after that was to find a sponsor for a repeal bill, although the bad news
was that, as I said, there were only three votes against this law when it first passed. The good
news was that we had a pretty good idea of who we needed to go to in order to fight the law.
I started out by emailing Senator Karen Clark Peterson. When I got into a meeting
with her I started explaining, “This law’s bad. This is why we need to fight it.” She cut me
off and said, “You don’t need to tell me. When do we get started?”
We began this effort in November 2010, and we’ve been going ever since. We’ve
built a pretty incredible coalition. At this point 78 Nobel laureate scientists have joined us
asking the Louisiana legislature to stop teaching creationism in the classroom. That’s about
40 percent of living Nobel laureates.
Now, that didn’t really matter to the Louisiana legislature. One of the state senators
was a bit irritated that she had to hear from what she described as “people with little letters
behind their name.” She didn’t want to hear from Nobel laureates as they don’t matter to her.
Her own two little letters, JD, were the only ones that were important to her.
The creationists like to make lists of scientists who doubt evolution; they’ve got about
800 names. So I supplied my own list, which includes, for example, the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, with 10 million members. That list dwarfs any
the creationists can put together. Another similar list is the Project Steve list created by the
National Center for Science Education, which is a list only of scientists named Steve or some
variation of it who endorse the teaching of evolution. Even though Steve is a mere 1 percent
of the names in the world, if you can make a longer list of scientists named Steve than the
creationists can draw up of mathematicians and mechanical engineers, then it really shows
how this is not an issue.
On our list we have the full New Orleans City Council. Some of the council members
made some choice statements about how the Louisiana Science Education Act was
backwater. We have thousands of clergy members. Even so, none of this has really mattered
to Louisiana’s legislators.
We’ve come back for three attempts. The first one we lost five to one in the Senate
Education Committee. The first year we had the Nobel laureates, but as I said, they’re just
people with little letters behind their names.
We improved the second time, only losing two to one. Four legislators were unwilling
to show up and vote against us. That year we tried to explain to a legislator how evolution
worked, saying that there’s a wonderful experiment done by Richard Lenski over about 20
years where he froze
E. coli
after different mutations, and you could watch them change. The
legislator cut off the science teacher explaining it and said, “Does it ever turn into a person?”
When the teacher replied, “Well, we’re talking about evolution,” the legislator said, “Exactly,
E. coli
to people.” That was his understanding of the science, and that’s what we’re
working with here.