Zack Kopplin interviews former Discovery Institute employee

Zack Kopplin, who has been opposing the antievolution nonsense in Louisiana since 2008, has an interesting new article in The Daily Beast:

Kopplin, Zack (2015). Creationism Whistleblower: ‘Academic Freedom’ Is Sneak Attack on Evolution. The Daily Beast. December 28, 2015.

Kopplin has really gotten the goods on what these “stealth creationism” bills mean on the ground – of course, what they mean is straight-up creationism taught in the public schools. Kopplin quotes from documents he has obtained from Louisiana school districts.

Also – it looks like Kopplin somehow got an interview with a former employee of the Discovery Institute – evidently someone who eventually saw that what was really going on there was apologetics for a very specific sectarian view, rather than actual science.

Here’s one of the good quotes from Kopplin’s article:

“Critical thinking, critical analysis, teach the controversy, academic freedom–these are words that stand for legitimate pedagogical approaches and doctrines in the fields of public education and public education policy,” said the former Discovery Institute employee. “That is why DI co-opts them. DI hollows these words out and fills them with their own purposes; it then passes them off to the public and to government as secular, pedagogically appropriate, and religiously neutral.”

In 2008, Louisiana became the first state to pass an academic freedom law, the Louisiana Science Education Act, which is being used to teach creationism in public school districts like Bossier Parish.

According to one email I obtained from Bossier Parish science teachers, students are learning the “Creation point of view” by reading the Book of Genesis and being given “supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution.” In a different email bashing the ACLU and celebrating religious influence in Bossier schools, one Bossier teacher, Carolyn Goodwin, explained her support for creationism succinctly:

“My great granddaddy wasn’t a monkey.”

…also, give Kopplin’s article some Twitter love:

Also be sure to check out Kopplin’s article in Slate from earlier this year:

Kopplin, Zack. (2015). “Dismissing Darwin.” Slate. April 21 2015.

The Slate article also contains some key material on the origins of the 2006 antievolution policy in Ouachita, Louisiana – much of the language traces back to Judge Darrell White, a young-earther, and member of the Lousiana Family Forum. I didn’t realize this connection until just before publication, so it is not in the main analysis of the “Evolution of Antievolution LegislationScience paper, but I did summarize it in the Supplemental Material:

Supplemental bill text history

After the analysis was complete, it came to my attention that some of the text of the Ouachita Policy is known to have been copied from a Proposed School Board Policy promulgated by retired military judge Darrell White (44, 45). White is a member of Louisiana Family Forum (a group historically involved in many creationist efforts in that state) and a “lifetime member of the Creation Museum” (45). He was also a public advocate for the passage of the Ouachita policy and Louisana’s SEA. White’s policy can be seen in a February 8, 2005 archive of the (now defunct) website ( An even earlier copy is appended to an “Open Letter to LA Educators” (dated March 9, 2004) by Darrell Scott, a parent of a victim of the Columbine High School shootings. The letter expresses concern that the teaching of evolution leads to atheism and school shootings (

The Judge White text is clearly the source for some of the Ouachita policy, and includes common Discovery Institute talking points, although it does not have some key pieces like the targeting of human cloning and global warming in addition to evolution.

The Discovery Institute website has recently posted a “2015-2016” version of an Academic Freedom bill (, “Model Academic Freedom Bill”). Despite the “Academic Freedom” label, this model bill is clearly in the SEA tradition, complete with the phrase “teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy.”

The original DI Model Bill seems to have disappeared from the website, but a 2012 copy of the version posted in 2007 can still be seen at


  1. B. Forrest, The Discovery Institute, the LA Family Forum, and the “LA Science Education Act” updated. Talk to Action (2008);

  2. Z. Kopplin, Dismissing Darwin. Slate, April 2015;

At some point, we will have to do a new analysis, with these additional texts, plus whatever legislation comes out in 2016 and beyond.

(I also was recently pointed to the Legislative Influence Database, which might have some interesting synergies with this kind of phylomemetic analysis. See also:

Text detective can unmask the secret influencers behind US laws.” New Scientist, November 11, 2015.