I just received a distressing email from Barbara Forrest, a tireless fighter against creationism in Louisiana. It's distressing because it shows that the actions of the increasingly antiscience government of Louisiana are having repercussions. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB), a scientific society with over 2000 members, has chosen to boycott Louisiana for their annual conference because, basically, their creationist governor and legislature want to make sure kids in their state grow up without a basic scientific education.
Last year, the Louisiana government overwhelmingly voted to allow creationist materials to be used in the classroom, a clear violation of the First Amendment and an incredibly foolish decision with regards to children's education. I wrote about it quite a bit at the time (here is when it was signed into law, as well as here, here, and most recently here). Well, their chickens are starting to come back to roost. At the time, Governor (and amateur exorcist) Jindal was warned that putting a jack-booted heel to the neck of science would not be without ramifications. And now the SICB won't have their conference in New Orleans, and they have specifically cited the actions of Jindal and the Legislature as the key part of their decision. They have even gone as far as to say that the conference -- with nearly 2000 attending -- will be in Utah instead, where science is held in higher regard. That can't have been an easy decision for the society; New Orleans is a city that needs money, and holding a fair-sized conference there would help. But I understand their decision. Jindal and the creationists in the Louisiana government are essentially holding the educations of their students hostage, so scientists and everyone in the reality-based community need to take action. It's one thing to make your voice heard, but it's another to speak with your wallet. Holding the conference in Louisiana would be tacitly acquiescing to the fundamentalists running the state. I think this was the right decision, and I urge anyone who is considering running a science-based event to seriously consider states that hold science in higher regard. I hope that Louisiana teachers, parents, and students rise up and let their representatives know how they feel about science. I would hate to see the students suffer because of this, but the politicians in that state have already guaranteed that will happen. The LA Coalition for Science has released a statement to the press about this as well. It makes me physically ill that the science education of these children has been put into this position by the creationists, forcing the hand of the SICB. But the larger issue at stake here is the future of science itself in Louisiana as well as other states, a future Jindal and the other creationists are trying to choke out of existence.