Biologists Won't Meet in Louisiana Because of State Law on Teaching Evolution

February 16, 2009

An association of biologists has decided against holding its 2011 annual meeting in New Orleans because of a Louisiana law that the group sees as diluting scientific standards for the teaching of evolution and other science topics. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology instead will hold its 2011 convention in Salt Lake City, the group’s president, Richard A. Satterlie, wrote this month in a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

The society’s leaders “could not support New Orleans as our meeting venue because of the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula,” Mr. Satterlie wrote. “Utah, in contrast, passed a resolution that states that evolution is central to any science curriculum.”

According to Mr. Satterlie, more than 1,850 scientists and graduate students attended the group’s 2009 meeting, in Boston last month.

The governor did not respond to the letter, a spokesman told The Times-Picayune.

The legislation, which Mr. Jindal, a Republican, signed into law last June, allows local school boards to designate supplemental curricular materials that science teachers may use for lessons on topics such as evolution, global warming, and cloning. Backers say the law promotes critical thinking, but opponents say it opens the door to teaching religious ideas in science classrooms. —Charles Huckabee