By Peter J. Smith

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, June 27, 2008 ( – Louisiana public school teachers can now educate their students about the theory of intelligent design and scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolutionary theory thanks to a new law signed this week by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Louisiana Science Education Act now allows teachers to supplement the state’s curricula with additional scientific materials, but groups opposed to any debate over the “origin of the species” have warned that the new law will become the origin of the lawsuits if they believe it facilitates religion.

Lawmakers, however, were enthusiastically in favor of the Act signed by Jindal. The state Senate had passed the bill (SB733) with a unanimous vote, and the state House had approved it by a vote of 93-4.

The new law requires teachers to follow the standard curriculum, but allows a school district to permit a teacher to supplement his course with additional scientific evidence, analysis, and critiques regarding the scientific topics taught to his students.

One major goal of the law is to support an “open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” in public elementary and secondary schools.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will be required, at the request of local school boards, to “include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied.”

Supporters of the law have hailed it as a great step forward for academic freedom in the face of dogmatic proponents of evolution and man-made global warming, who have mischaracterized scientific/philosophical alternatives as “religion.”

Jindal, a Catholic with a biology degree, indicated his own affirmation of the bill in a statement saying: “I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and BESE to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children.”

Critics of the law have countered it opens a backdoor for putting religious views that they claim would sacrifice science into the classroom.

The Louisiana Coalition for Science called SB 733 “a thinly disguised attempt to advance the ‘Wedge Strategy’ of the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank that is collaborating with the LA Family Forum to get intelligent design (ID) creationism into LA public school science classes.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State warned that a lawsuit would come if they believed the bill was introducing religion into the schoolroom. Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman, on the other hand, admitted that as long as teachers follow the law as written, and did not introduce religion, it should be fine.

Section 1D clearly states that the law “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non religion.”

Intelligent Design advocates say ID has no direct bearing on religion and is neither a religious proposition nor “creationist,” because it is in fact a rational philosophic position older than Christianity. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle taught from observation that matter – which tends toward chaos – was ordered into distinguishable forms, and that everything in a chain of causes must have a first cause, or “prime mover.”

Only later did Christianity introduce Western science to the doctrine of “creationism” or “creation ex-nihilo” – the idea that the universe was created out of nothing and is constantly kept in existence by God’s power. Before this contribution, many philosophers and scientists did not consider the universe had a beginning in time.