May 01 2013

Louisiana replaces science with voodoo


Literally. A number of intelligent people have been trying to get the Louisiana Science Education Act repealed, a law that opens the door to teaching creationism in the public schools. The efforts have been stymied, though, and the Louisiana Creation Science Miseducation Act is still in effect.

One of the people who acted to kill the efforts offered an, ahem, interesting rationale.

Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, said he had reservations with repealing the act after a spiritual healer correctly diagnosed a specific medical ailment he had. He said he thought repealing the act could "lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures."

"Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man — in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed — if I had closed him off and just said, ‘That’s not science. I’m not going to see this doctor,’ I would have shut off a very good experience for myself," Guillory said.

“in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed”…that’s how I’m going to picture Louisiana legislators from now on.

I do wonder about one thing in Mr Guillory’s story, though. How does he know his witch doctor “correctly diagnosed” his ailment? Did he, perhaps, see a real doctor?


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  1. 1
    Matt G

    Ah yes, the old “it worked for me so it must be real” school of medical science. Has this clown ever heard of the placebo effect, or post hoc ergo proctor hoc? I didn’t think so….

  2. 2

    And did he let the faith-healer treat his illness or was this once again left to real medicine to take care of it?

  3. 3
    Glen Davidson

    Indeed, how horrible it would be for science to warn people from relying upon ignorant bozos cold-reading stupid marks for health “diagnoses.”

    What is science for, if not to allow fraud to run rampant? Guillory’s doing his best to prevent the narrowness of proper inference from the evidence from stopping fakery.

    Glen Davidson

  4. 4
    Kathy Orlinsky

    He knows he was correctly diagnosed because when he stopped banging his head against the wall, just like the witch doctor suggested, his headache went away.

  5. 5
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    And yet, I somehow doubt Senator Guillory’s spiritual healer will be invited to tomorrow’s National Day of Prayer festivities, despite his actual magic powers.

    (Note: PDF).

  6. 6
    John Morales

    Naked Bunny, indeed; to be considstent, Elbert should be in favour of teaching witch-doctoring ahead of Christianity as an alternative to science.

  7. 7

    Naked Bunny, John M:
    Nice catch.

  8. 8
    chigau (違う)

    “in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed”…that’s how I’m going to picture Louisiana legislators from now on.

    Nice image for bed-time.
    Who has the brain-bleach?

  9. 9

    Do you think this is a double bluff? By saying he supports the law because it allows the practice of voodoo, he could perhaps convince Christian Creationists to go against it.

  10. 10
    David Gerard

    Tyrannis on the RationalWiki blog: Pseudoscience is everywhere in Louisiana.

  11. 11

    He’d been turned into a newt…

  12. 12

    what is the chance the if the good senator was “looked at” not really examined that a M.D. with sufficient experience could not spot a “serious medical condition” just as easily.
    I doubt that the senator is the picture of health and fitness.

    uncle frogy

  13. 13
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened


    “…It got better.”

  14. 14
    David Marjanović

    It’s “I got better”.

  15. 15
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @David Marjanovic

    Is it?! Noooooooo! Have I misquoted Monty Python?! I thought it was:

    “She turned me into a newt!”
    “… It got better.”

  16. 16

    I wonder why this approach isn’t used in other areas.
    E.g. how come legal decision have to be based on evidence? Isn’t it narrow-minded and intolerant to favor fingerprints and gunpowder residue over the ancient art of reading animal entrails?

  17. 17

    Nope – pretty sure it’s “I got better”

    take a listen

  18. 18
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    throwing some bones on the ground

    Ah, the ancient alt-med practice of Yahtzee…

  19. 19
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    @LykeX #16:

    Isn’t it narrow-minded and intolerant to favor fingerprints and gunpowder residue over the ancient art of reading animal entrails?

    Video: Frontline – The Real CSI

  20. 20
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Awww, goddamn it, LA. Every time you’re in the news I haz a sad.

  21. 21

    With real stories like this, who needs April Fools?

  22. 22

    So he admits his witch-doctor is better than Jesus ?
    Wait, what’s he doing placing the Loa above Yahweh ? doesn’t he know that You shall have no other gods before me (Yahweh) ? Shame. he’s gonna roast in hell now.

  23. 23

    Without bothering to look if there’s more on the story, the witch doctor probably guessed something about heart trouble or some other common issue. Even if it was something more uncommon, I’m sure the Senator does not remember what information the “witch” had, what questions he asked, how he lead the conversation. In the end, the mark always delivers the information on a proverbial silver platter, only to be utterly stunned to have it handed back. People with that kind of non-awareness and gullibility are a gift to lobbyists. Maybe someone should send the Senator an issue of “The Demon-Haunted World”.

  24. 24

    The bill isn’t saying he can’t go see a witch doctor. I would advise against it, but this isn’t about whether witch doctors are good or bad. This is about whether things that aren’t science should be presented in a classroom as if they were science. They could be 100% correct, but if they got that answer by guessing, then it shouldn’t be taught as science.

  25. 25

    @24- But the bill *is* saying that we can’t teach kids to be witch doctors in science class. That’s totally going against the “multiple ways of knowing” and “respect for other cultures” memes that we want to promote, and it might mean that none of these kids ever grow up to be effective witch doctors. Who will be the witch doctors of Louisiana’s future if all these kids are taught are scientific facts?

  26. 26
    Samantha Vimes

    I was correctly diagnosed with asthma by an office worker. It had stumped doctors previously. I used to play saxophone, some mostly, I just breathe hard instead of wheeze. But I’d just caught a face full of dust while I was filing, so she heard enough to know I ought to be treated for asthma. I called up my doctor that afternoon. :)
    It doesn’t take casting bones to diagnose stuff. It takes experience, observation, insight, information, and a little luck. Of course, a trained medical professional has a LOT more information. The odd thing is it didn’t occur to the politician that anyone who had been around for a few decades hearing people complain about their health problems might stand a good chance of recognizing common serious illnesses.

  27. 27

    Louisiana is where I was born and grew up, it’s such a beautiful place with beautiful people and amazing food. It’s too bad dumb laws like this get passed, grrrrr….

    Also, the only good form of Voodoo is the BDSM non magick form of it: http://imgur.com/a/ZntKw#8

    Now if only I could mesmerize Bobby Jindal to repeal this awful legislation! >=(

  28. 28

    I want to laugh, but I teach biology at a community college in Louisiana, and I promise you, it isn’t funny. One example of the many bellwethers I see that makes me worry about my students’ future prospects in the scientific community is the fact that a significant proportion of my freshmen biology students think the plural of “scientist” is “scientist” (with no s on the end). I see it over and over and over again when they write papers and summarize journal articles. I am trying to understand where it comes from, and I think it may be that they’ve never seen the word “scientists” written, they’ve only heard it being said, and as a result, that hard to hear “s” on the end just doesn’t get processed. I think, “If they don’t even know the plural of scientist, how are they supposed to compete for science jobs?” It doesn’t help that we are a laughing stock.

    But not everyone here is like that. Yes, it is harder to grow intellectually when you are surrounded by willful ignorance, but there are people here who cannot be stopped. So while I may have many students who struggle to achieve escape velocity, I also have brilliant students who amaze me with their unbiased curiosity and unique ideas. And don’t think every teacher here is equating Genesis with Darwin. There are dedicated, hard-working professors and teachers who are not opting to teach creationism in their biology classes. Please, don’t discount a prospective employee or grad student just because they were educated here.

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