One of my favorite meetings is the annual Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meetings. One of my favorite cities to visit is New Orleans, Louisiana. The two pleasures will not be coinciding at any time in the near future because of the ineptitude and inanity of Louisiana’s legislature and governor, Bobby Jindal. Here’s the press release from the LA Science Coalition:
National Scientific Society to Boycott Louisiana over LA Science Education Act
The first tangible results of the Louisiana legislature’s passage and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act have materialized, and these results are negative both for the state’s economy and national reputation. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, a national scientific society with more than 2300 members, has put Gov. Bobby Jindal on notice that the society will not hold its annual meetings in Louisiana as long as the LA Science Education Act is on the books. In a February 5, 2009,letter to the governor that is posted on the SICB website under the headline, “No Thanks, New Orleans,” SICB Executive Committee President Richard Satterlie tells Jindal that “The SICB executive committee voted to hold its 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City because of legislation SB 561, which you signed into law in June 2008. It is the firm opinion of SICB’s leadership that this law undermines the integrity of science and science education in Louisiana.” [NOTE: Although the legislation was introduced as SB 561, it was renumbered during the legislative process and passed as SB 733.]
Pointing out that SICB had joined with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) in urging Jindal to veto the legislation last year, Satterlie goes on to say that “The SICB leadership 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.” Salt Lake City was chosen as the site of the 2011 meeting in light of the fact that “Utah, in contrast, passed a resolution that states that evolution is central to any science curriculum.”
Noting that SICB’s recent 2009 meeting in Boston attracted “over 1850 scientists and graduate students to the city for five days,” Satterlie pointedly tells Jindal that “As you might imagine, a professional meeting with nearly 2000 participants can contribute to the economic engine of any community.” The implication of SICB’s decision for both New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, and the entire state of Louisiana is clear. With Gov. Jindal threatening draconian budget cuts to the state’s universities, the loss of such a significant scientific convention will only add to the state’s deepening fiscal crisis.
Satterlie closes by telling Jindal that SICB will join with other groups “in suggesting [that] professional scientific societies reconsider any plans to host meetings in Louisiana.” However, SICB is not the first national scientific society to bring up the subject of boycotting Louisiana. Gregory Petsko, president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), has already called for a boycott not only of Louisiana but of any state that passes such legislation: “As scientists, we need to join such protests with our feet and wallets. . . . I think we need to see to it that no future meeting of our society [after the ASBMB’s already contracted 2009 meeting in New Orleans] will take place in Louisiana as long as that law stands.” (See“It’s Alive,” ASBMB Today, August 2008.)
After the Louisiana legislature passed the LA Science Education Act, a total of nine national scientific societies publicly called on Jindal to veto it. He ignored them, as well as everyone else who contacted him requesting that he veto the bill, choosing instead to help execute the agenda of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), the Religious Right organization on whose behalf Louisiana Sen. Ben Nevers introduced the bill and on whose behalf Jindal signed it. Jindal is a staunch ally of the LFF. The citizens of Louisiana, whose educational well-being the governor claims to be so concerned about, are now paying the price–literally–for his loyalty to his conservative Christian base.
Sorry, Louisiana. You are a lovely state, but scientists won’t be supporting you as long as you’re going to be dedicated to anti-scientific foolishness.
Other states don’t have cause for complacency, though — creationism is not exclusively a Southern problem. If this keeps up, we may be having all of our scientific meetings in Canada.