Miscellaneous mini coastal posts
by Len Bahr, Ph.D.
Editor’s note: The following is a collection of mini-posts, some of which have been gathering digital dust since April.
BRCC Chancellor exits state but Creationism lives on in the eyes of our lame duck governor
Three years ago I posted on the grossly inappropriate appointment of a creationist chancellor to oversee the academic future of the Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC). This person was (and is) Andrea Lewis Miller, Ph.D. (a biologist, of all things).
Ironically, this appointment was wholly fitting in a state with a Rhodes Scholar governor who also holds an honors degree in biology from Brown University. Here’s the problem. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal: (1) oversaw the implementation of the oxymoronically-named Louisiana Science Education Act; and (2) has ignored the severe handicap that his bogus law has perpetrated on impressionable students whose biology teachers are either too ignorant or too afraid to teach evolution, the pillar of the life sciences.
Meanwhile, as documented by Zack Kopplin, Bobby Jindal’s kids are taught science appropriate to the 21st, not the 18th century, in their elite University Lab School setting. But the times may be changing at BRCC. On June 12 The Advocate reported that BRCC’s Chancellor Miller has decided to accept a job as president of her alma mater in Memphis, LeMoyne-Owen College. This is a proud historically black college, and not the Georgia institution that conferred the Ph.D. in biology on Dr. Miller. Thus LeMoyne-Owen’s hiring decision may be understandable, in that their new president will be the first female to hold that position and she’s an alma mater who has acquired an impressive resume at a young age.
I don’t blame Dr. Miller for her anti-science views, which should have been flagged long before she was awarded a doctorate in biology. It’s just sad that in 2015 someone so lacking in credible credentials should be unnecessarily confusing the thinking of undergraduate students in the ever more important field of life sciences. The thought that these students may find themselves in a substandard medical-related baccalaureate program, believing that the ancestors of all of today’s pathogens traveled on Noah’s Ark. That’s truly frightening.
When BRCC appointed Andrea Lewis Miller as its chancellor I began referring to our local school of so-called higher learning as ‘Baton Rouge Creationist College.’ Tennessee, another southern bastion of regressive thinking and proud home of the infamous Scopes Trial on the teaching of evolution, is still inheriting the wind. Lemoyne-Owen College has now hired a president as qualified to call herself a life scientist as an illiterate person could claim scholarship in English lit. I can hardly wait to see who replaces Dr. Miller at BRCC. How about an engineer who doesn’t believe in the 2nd law of thermodynamics?
Jindal’s science/religion hangups explained
The March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones included a fascinating report by Tim Murphy that largely explains the bizarre juxtaposition of the scientific and religious views of Bobby Jindal. For example, he professes to believe Roman Catholic doctrine, which embraces evolution, yet presumably adheres to a Creationist view of human origins. I continue to puzzle over his acknowledgment of participating in an exorcism as an undergraduate.
More on the Jindal resume
On June 25, The Onion published a facetious version of Bobby Jindal’s resume. I was particularly struck by the fact that the list of bulleted items includes coastal restoration.
More on the subject of science
The disdain for science among influential Americans continues to amaze me. Among the latest examples is Jeb Bush, leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in a crowded and still growing field. Bush has conceded that climate change is real but he’s stated that it’s arrogant to assume that humans have caused the problem. In other words the 97% of climate scientists who recognize anthropogenic climate change on the basis of empirical evidence are arrogant, but their non-scientific skeptics are rational.
Meanwhile the data on the reality and potential consequence of this change continues to mount, while our GOP congressional leaders continue to deny the phenomenon. For example in June 2014 HuffPost reported that Lamar Smith (R-TX) chairmen of the house science committee, remains unfazed about increasing warnings from the science community.
In practical terms the effects of the record CO2 atmospheric concentration of 400 PPM are exemplified by a May 7 article in HuffpostGreen by Alex Dobuzinkis, who describes the imminent collapse of an Antarctic Ice shelf and its implications, as documented by NASA (see below).
Now that Louisiana is a totally red state, with no statewide Democratic or Independent elected officials, the climate change deniers and science illiterates are truly in charge. See Phil Plait’s May 14 article in Slate.com on Louisiana Senator Elbert Guillory’s shameful misunderstanding about the historical intolerance of scientific ‘heretics’ such as Galileo. The article is titled Louisiana: burning science at the stake.
The Advocate published a self serving column by Patrick Scheuremann, a New Oleans native NASA official working in Alabama, about a NASA space program that involves construction at the Michoud facility in New Orleans. Not a word about climate change and science in a speech to our clueless state legislature. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Here’s a link in an article in Mother Jones which quotes (guess who) Congressman Lamar Smith, calling for a 40% cut in NASA’s earth science budget. Sure enough, in May the house voted to cut the NASA’s budget for Earth Sciences by $300 M, according to this post in HNGN.com.
Finally, see this video cast in YouTube of a senate hearing with the Director of NASA questioned by presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. A putdown of the need for an earth science role by NASA.
Giving up on Katrina anniversary flood markers
Before the flood marks from Katrina’s dirty flood water had faded away I proposed that the city of New Orleans erect a permanent set of flood level markers around the city. This proposal was not received positively by realtors and other business leaders, so I proposed that the NOLA school system should get involved. My concept was that teachers could challenge their students in social studies and science classes to design personalized markers for each school that suffered flooded.
Unfortunately, the current discontent among 7,000 disgruntled former teachers who were laid off following Katrina probably renders this proposal dead on arrival.
Coastal tutorial for gubernatorial candidates
On July 1 The Advocate published a report by Amy Wold on a tutorial to staffers from the campaigns of candidates for Louisiana governors that was presented on June 30 by Cynthia Duet, a former assistant of mine in the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities. Ms. Duet is currently deputy director of Audubon Louisiana, a member of a coalition of NGOs advocating for the restoration of what they call the Mississippi River Delta and what I call America’s Delta. It’s worth noting that while candidates Scott Angelle, Jay Dardenne and John Bel Edwards were represented at the meeting, David Vitter was not.
I commented on the article in The Advocate web page as follows:
In addition to supporting 19 coastal restoration projects it would have been reassuring if this Mississippi River Delta Coalition had taken strong exception to the white elephant in the 2012 Master Plan, the $11 billion embarrassment known as the Morganza-to-the-Gulf project (MTTG). This politically popular so-called coastal protection project, on which the state has already squandered $100 million, would damage more of the delta than it would ‘protect.’ It has been dismissed by the scientific community and I predict that it will never be completed.
I’m working on multiple subjects, including feature posts on: (1) the exoneration of the former New Orleans Levee Board for the failure of flood walls during Katrina; (2) long term impacts of the oil and gas industry on America’s Delta; and (3) conjectures on the effects of the just-announced BP settlement.