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Textbook Case 

  New science textbooks in Louisiana public schools will not have to present disclaimers about evolution in a roundabout acknowledgment of "intelligent design," following an 8-2 vote by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) on Dec. 9.

  Intelligent design is a Bible-based viewpoint discounting evolution in favor of a creationist point of view, a position rejected by most scientists. In 2005, a federal court in Pennsylvania ruled that teaching intelligent design in public schools violated the separation of church and state. The Louisiana version considered by BESE centered on pointing out what creationists see as flaws or inconsistencies in the theory of evolution, and perhaps providing warning stickers for scientific textbooks that mention evolution. Critics saw it as a back-door attempt to acknowledge intelligent design in high school biology classes.

  Josh Rosenau, project policy director for the National Center for Science Education, tracks creation/evolution education skirmishes at the state and local levels and says disagreement on the issue has occurred during the last five years in every state except Hawaii and South Dakota. To call it an actual debate, he says, gives too much credence to intelligent design. "These are things with a political controversy around them," Rosenau says, "but there is no scientific controversy."

  Local school boards are free to use supplemental materials to question evolution under the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). Critics of the LSEA say it was selective in spelling out which theories might be up for question under it. The act identifies the debatable theories as "including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning" — all flashpoints for the Religious Right.

  Gov. Bobby Jindal, who graduated from Brown University with honors in biology, signed LSEA into law. In response, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, a group of biologists that had held three conventions in New Orleans, pulled out of a planned 2011 convention in the city in protest. — Kevin Allman


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