An Oklahoma bill that would open the door for sustained attacks on the scientific method and the teaching of evolution in the state’s public schools is scheduled to be considered by a House committee Tuesday.
House Bill 1674, sponsored by Gus Blackwell, a Laverne Republican, is modeled after laws recently passed in Tennessee and Louisiana and rejected in other states. The bill claims that teaching topics such as evolution and global warming “can cause controversy” and administrators should “assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.”
The bill will be considered by the House Common Education Committee at 10:30 a.m. at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building in Room 412-C. Here is more information about the meeting and contact information for the committee members. The National Center for Science Education and Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, among other groups, deeply oppose the legislation, which would result in the dumbing down of our state’s public school students.
Called the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” HB 1674 is about anything but education and academic freedom. Topics such as evolution and global warming are absolutely not controversial within the world’s broader scientific community. The intention of the bill, as I’ve written before, is obviously to discredit prevailing science and allow pseudo-scientific ideas or just plain quackery, such as intelligent design “theory,” to be presented in classrooms as valid subjects.
The “teach the controversy” approach is by now an established right-wing political gesture, one that manufactures a false crisis and then makes that crisis a focal point for ulterior reasons, such as Christian proselytizing.
The teaching of evolution, in particular, has long been attacked in this country by people with right-wing religious views. HB 1674 is simply a continuation of this attack. Evolution theory, in its most simple definition, argues the world changes or evolves through time. Some right-wing religious people see that as a major contradiction of Christian Biblical scripture.
The attack on global warming is relatively new in a historic sense and has been led by Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a strong ally of the oil, gas and coal industries. Global warming, caused by manmade carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, is the world’s most serious problem and needs our urgent attention. The proposed legislation could obviously work to diminish the need for that urgency and conflate political argumentation paid for by corporate campaign donations with basic science.
If HB 1674 gets signed into law, Oklahoma public school students will end up with a science curriculum that allows bogus theories to be presented as facts. Our students will be less prepared for college. Teachers could become timid about teaching real science. The state will retain its low college graduation rate. Oklahoma will become known even more and for the foreseeable future as an anti-science state.
Unfortunately, HB 1674 isn’t the only anti-science bill under consideration this legislative session.