Sometimes we miss a good story but with the help of our readers we usually catch up—even if it does take a year—or two.
Normally, we’d let a story this old slide into oblivion and chalk it up as one we missed. But this is just too bizarre not to go back and pick it up, thanks to a reader’s sending the slate.com link to the story our way.
The apparent ignorance of one state senator on the subject of evolution can only be described as surreal while the arrogance of a former state senator can serve to make us thankful she’s not around any longer.
During last year’s legislative session, Baton Rouge native Zack Kopplin, now a student at Rice University, was testifying before a state Senate committee on a bill to allow supplemental materials to be used by teachers in science classrooms.
The bill, SB 374 by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) was just what the creationist legislators did not want because it provided for the teaching of evolution and global warming.
Kopplin, 19, describes himself as a Christian but opposes the teaching of creationism to the exclusion of traditional science. During the hearings, he was testifying about the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) that allows the teaching of creationism when Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe) asked for a specific example of evolution.
Science teacher Darlene Reaves, responding to his request, described an experiment involving E.coli in which different samples were separated, and after several generations, one of the strains mutated and gained the ability to metabolize—an actual demonstration how the bacteria was able to evolve.
That’s when things got a little weird. Walsworth, ever alert for anything that might undermine the holy grail of creationism (if not overly enlightened about the bacterium that causes diarrhea from raw milk, undercooked meat and contaminated water), asked an incredulous question: “They (the E. coli bacteria) evolve into a person?”
Just in case you believe we’re making that up, here is the link to the exchange: http://www.youtube.com/embed/hQObhb3veQA?autoplay=&wmode=transparent
Ignorance on a scale of this magnitude is frightening enough but when that person is one of 39 senators who make laws that affect the rest of us, it’s downright terrifying.
Almost as bad was the haughtiness displayed by then-Sen. Julie Quinn (R-Metairie) during hearings on SB 70 by Peterson in 2011. (Both SB 70 in 2011 and SB 374 in 2012 were identical in calling for the repeal of LSEA and neither passed.)
Kopplin is again testifying when he is interrupted by Quinn. “That wasn’t what I asked,” she said, “and I am an attorney and I listened patiently to all the accolades that everyone has, all the little letters behind their names, doctor, etc. So, as an attorney, I am asking a question and I would like an answer to that question: do you support a law that prohibits the teaching of religion in the classroom?”
(First of all, when you are sitting on a Senate committee, Ms. Quinn, you are not an attorney; you are a state senator, no better or worse than the senator sitting beside you who might be a plumber or a horticulturalist. And your twice referring to yourself as an attorney while disparaging witnesses who went to school far longer than you to earn advanced degrees by referring them as having “little letters behind their names” is beneath contempt.)
Again, she asked Kopplin, “Do you support the promotion of religion in English class?”
Without missing a beat, Kopplin responded, “The Bible is always used in most English classes because it’s a classic piece of literature.”
Quinn throws up her hands at this point, scooting her chair back and shaking her head in apparent condescension as Peterson, seated at the witness table to testify on behalf of her bill, explained, “Promotion would be the key word in response.”
But then Peterson had her own rejoinder that again had Quinn, an ardent proponent of creationism, sneering in good, Christian derision.
“I don’t think Senate Bill 70 deals specifically with creationism in science classes and that’s why you see the plethora of people with ‘little letters behind their names.”
“I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful,” Quinn said somewhat defensively.
“I’m very respectful of over 40 Nobel laureates,” Peterson said. “I’m very respectful of the Association of Biology Teachers.” (Quinn rolls her eyes here and, mouth open, looks at her colleagues on the committee as if asking for help in shutting Peterson up.) “I’m very respectful of the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators,” Peterson continued. “I’m very respectful of the (unintelligible because the committee chairman attempted to cut Peterson off) Science Teachers Association, I’m very respectful of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and I’m respectful of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, as well as American Society for Cell Biology, and the Society for Vertebrae Paleontology and lastly, the American Association for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
“And yes, they have little, medium and big letters behind their names and they’re all suggesting that we repeal the act,” she said.
Here’s the link to their exchange. Watch the body language of Sen. Quinn. http://www.youtube.com/embed/3e2zPfsNe-w?autoplay=&wmode=transparent
Even though Peterson has twice failed to gain passage of her bill, word is she’s going to try again this year.
We can’t wait to watch and listen to the testimony to see which legislator will play the lead buffoon this time.