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Louisiana Lawmakers Launch `Anti-Racist' Attack On Theory Of Evolution.

The scientific principle of evolution is under full-scale assault in Louisiana, and two legislators who attended universities founded by TV preachers are leading the charge.

On May 1, the Education Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 9-5 to approve a resolution condemning Charles Darwin as a racist. The measure was introduced by Rep. Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge).

Broome, a graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University, charged that Darwin "was the originator for a scientific basis for racism."

Several biology professors testified against the resolution. Joseph Graves Jr., a professor of evolution and African-American studies at Arizona State University, told the panel that passage of the measure would "further widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots in scientific education."

Other biologists noted that it is ironic to brand Darwin as a racist, given his strong anti-slavery views. In his book The Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin wrote about visiting Brazil, a country where slavery was legal at the time. Upon leaving, Darwin wrote, "I thank God I shall never again visit a slave-country."

Critics assert that the Broome resolution is designed to undermine evolution and cast doubt on its validity, an ongoing strategy for advocates of "creation science." In a letter to the Times-Picayune, David Beriss, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans, wrote, "There can be no doubt that [Broome's] real objective is to reject the theory of evolution itself. The linkage of evolutionary theory and racism -- and the strange focus on Darwin -- will, despite her protestations to the contrary, make Louisiana the laughingstock of the nation."

Beriss also observed, "It is worth noting that the Bible has been used far more often to justify racism than anything Darwin ever wrote. Perhaps Rep. Broome will introduce a resolution to condemn it next."

Gov. Mike Foster (R) seems to agree. Speaking to reporters in early May, Foster said of the resolution, "The best thing I can say about it is it's weird. I think most people wish that hadn't gotten out of committee." His spokeswoman later added, "It sends the wrong signal to businesses that want to locate here."

On May 8, Broome's resolution reached the floor of the Louisiana House, where Rep. Loulan J. Pitre Jr. (R-Cut Off) offered an amendment removing all references to Darwin. Over Broome's objections, Pitre's amendment was approved on a vote of 65-28. The resolution, now condemning racism only, then passed without objection.

A second anti-evolution measure is also pending in Louisiana. House Bill 1286 would prohibit any state agency, public school or employee from distributing material "which has been proven to be false or fraudulent."

The bill was introduced by Rep. Tony Perkins (R-Baker), a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. A similar measure was recently defeated in Arkansas. Creationists believe the laws will help them by giving them legal authority to declare evolution "false" and thus ban it from public schools.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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