Friday, December 6, 2013

#820: Bill Keith

Billy P. Keith, or Bill Keith, is an author (fiction and, ostensibly, nonfiction) who served as a Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1980 to 1984. As a legislator, he made his main contribution to posterity through his promotion of a state law requiring balanced treatment in the instruction of creation science and evolution in public schools, namely the bill that was later overturned in Edwards v. Aguillard. The measure, entitled the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, required that scientific evidence for creation-science be presented whenever related material on evolution was presented in classes. The fact that no such evidence for creation science exists was, however, less relevant since by “evidence” Keith would not mean evidence, since he lacked any trace of an ability to distinguish evidence from religious dogma. Rather, a panel of seven “creation-scientists”, appointed by the governor, were to advise local school districts on the appropriate curriculum.

When the measure was overturned Keith complained that “[w]hat this means is that the vast majority of American school children will continue to be indoctrinated in evolutionism and will be denied the right and freedom to hear the evidence that points to creationism.” In fact, of course, students are indeed given all the evidence pointing to creationism (none), but again Keith was not talking about actual evidence. But he did expand on his views: “Evolution is no more than a fairy tale about a frog that turns into a prince, but this is what we are teaching our schoolchildren today.”

Diagnosis: Fundamentalist whacko (though it is worth pointing out that he is (or at least was) not a rightwinger) who is unable to distinguish evidence from appeals to dogma and who for a time had the power to force other people to refrain from drawing the distinction as well. In the end I suppose his efforts were overall detrimental to the creationist project, however.

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