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New (Bogus) Line of Attack on Louisiana Science Education Act

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Louisiana

The Boston Globe notes triumphantly, seeking to damn the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act with its protections for science teachers:

Researchers at MIT have found evidence confirming what many educators and science advocates have feared. After Louisiana passed a law allowing public-school teachers to contradict the scientific curriculum, scores on the science part of the ACT (an alternative to the SAT) declined relative to scores in neighboring Texas. There was no similar decline in math scores. At the same time, creationism-related search terms on Google became more common, relative to evolution-related terms, in Louisiana than in Texas. Notably, the decline in science test scores was concentrated in areas with a less-educated population but better Internet service — a further indication that the Internet enabled, rather than inhibited, ideological segregation.

They refer readers to a journal article, “Information Shocks and Internet Silos: Evidence from Creationist Friendly Curriculum,” by Ananya Sen and Catherine E. Tucker, both of MIT.

This is so bogus it’s hard to know where to begin. First, there is no evidence whatsoever to connect the LSEA to Internet search terms.

Second, there is no evidence whatsoever to connect Internet search terms to ACT scores. The correlation = causation fallacy is fundamental to their argument.

Third, why look at ACT scores rather than SAT scores? Is it because SAT scores didn’t give them the desired result? And how many questions on the ACT pertain to evolution? Enough to make any difference? This is silly.

All that aside, if you believe the media, then Texas is also teaching creationism. So by this tenuous logic of correlation = causation, shouldn’t Texas also have experienced a drop in ACT scores?

In fact, in Texas, critiquing evolution was arguably mandated whereas in Louisiana it was only protected as an option. So by their logic Texas should be the state dropping more.

Lastly, we already know that post-LSEA, predictions that Louisiana would falter in science and tech were completely wrong:

  • In 2010, Louisiana was “Business Facilities” State of the Year due in part to its burgeoning high-tech industry. See here.
  • A 2012 article in Nature noted: “Bioscience is thriving in New Orleans as the city bounces back from multiple disasters.” The article explains how important new pharmaceutical, agro-tech, environmental, and other new biotech companies have all started in Louisiana since 2009 — which of course is since the LSEA passed.

We’ve discussed all this before, here, here, and here. Give us a break.

Photo: Louisiana State Capitol, by Bluepoint951 [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.