Two Oklahoma legislators will try again this upcoming session to pass anti-science education bills that could allow creationist and Biblical ideas to replace the teaching of the scientific method in our public classrooms.
Under State Sen. Josh Brecheen’s Senate Bill 1322, “Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze,critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” It might sound innocuous, but Brecheen’s apparent point, when also considering his public stance and comments, which I address later, is to allow teachers and students to dispute the theory of evolution.
State Rep. Sally Kern’s House Bill 3045, however, is really the model, right-wing “weakness and strengths” legislation when it comes to the religious opposition to the theory of evolution. The bill states: “. . . teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” Those topics, as outlined in the bill, include “. . . biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” Brecheen, it should be noted, doesn’t specifically mention such topics in his bill.
— Dave Amidon (@mr_amidon) January 11, 2016
Both Brecheen (R-Coalgate), Kern (R-Oklahoma City), pictured above, and other legislators, have offered similar measures in the past, which have died in legislative committee. The bills, while they don’t openly claim to do so, are attempts to bring religious-based ideas into science classrooms. They are clear cases of religious intrusion, and, if passed, have a real chance to dumb down students in our woefully underfunded educational system in Oklahoma.
Brecheen, dating back to at least 2011, has publicly criticized the theory of evolution. Kern, of course, is the controversial and infamous anti-gay legislator, that has tried to bring religious dogma into schools for years. She is married to a local Baptist pastor.
In fact, this issue has remained a consistent one since I established this blog some 12 years ago. I’ve opposed this type of blatant religious intrusion for years. Is this the year the legislation finally passes? People need to speak up again.
The main argument against such legislation is obvious: The theory of evolution is a proven concept based on the scientific method and remains a cornerstone of modern science. The issue for me is not so much that students should memorize detailed information about Charles Darwin’s discoveries in the nineteenth century but that they come away with a firm understanding of the scientific method and the use of evidence to prove or disprove a hypothesis and what that process means and has meant to humankind over the centuries.
Evolution, in its most simplistic definition, simply means that matter changes over time. Over longer time periods, change becomes more apparent. Historically, however, some outspoken Christians in this country have tried to refute the theory of evolution using as evidence the creationist story as outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible. The most prominent historical example is the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. Some contemporary Christians now use the pseudo-science and creationist ideas of so-called “intelligent design,” but it’s still a religious view, not a scientific one, as one court ruled back in 2005.
One point that has struck me throughout the years has been the disingenuous frame of this type of proposed legislation. How can any belief system be considered morally superior if its practitioners are allowed to use indirect discourse and rhetorical subterfuge to advance a specific cause? Doesn’t that say something about the belief system itself? Of course, not all Christians are opposed to the teaching of the theory of evolution, but this type of ends-justify-the-means approach has always seemed radical and even dangerous to me. If you don’t believe in the theory of evolution because of religious beliefs, then just say so and openly argue the case in the public square.
The legislative session begins Feb. 1. Let’s hope both these bills are voted down quickly in committee votes.There are serious issues that need to be addressed this year by legislators, such as the state’s approximate $1 billion budget shortfall next fiscal year and the current revenue failure. Virtually any legislative action—note I’m not saying “all”—or extended discussion not focused on this issue is a waste of time and taxpayer money.
Any school would be fortunate to have a Head like this. He deals, sensitively but firmly, with brainwashed students https://t.co/HYUAzztsw8
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) January 26, 2016