Oklahoma First To Push Flat Earth Legislation in 2009

The National Center for Science Education finds that Oklahoma is the first state to have an evolution bill this year:

Senate Bill 320 (document), prefiled in the Oklahoma Senate and scheduled for a first reading on February 2, 2009, is apparently the first antievolution bill of 2009. Entitled the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” SB 320 would, if enacted, require state and local educational authorities to “assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” The only topics specifically mentioned as controversial are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Unsurprisingly, SB 320 is a further instance of the “academic freedom” strategy for undermining the teaching of evolution; as NCSE’s Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott recently wrote in their article “The Latest Face of Creationism,” published in the January 2009 issue of Scientific American, “‘Academic freedom’ was the creationist catchphrase of choice in 2008: the Louisiana Science Education Act was in fact born as the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, and bills invoking the idea were introduced in Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina …” Of these, only the Louisiana bill was passed and enacted, over protests from the scientific, educational, and civil liberties communities.

The sponsor of the Oklahoma bill is Randy Brogdon (R-District 34), who was a cosponsor in 2006 of House Concurrent Resolution 1034. If enacted, HCR 1034 would have encouraged “the State Board of Education and local boards of education to revise the recommended academic curriculum content standards in science to ensure that, upon graduation, all students can accomplish the following: 1. Use of [sic] the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution; and 2. Use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and to formulate arguments for and against those theories.” HCR 1034 died in committee in May 2006.

Oklahomans concerned about SB 320 are encouraged to get in touch with Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, a non-profit educational organization that promotes the education of the public about the methods and values of science and advocates excellence in the science curriculum. As OESE explains on its website, “The formation of OESE was prompted by the attempts in the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee in 1999 to diminish the teaching of evolution by the introduction of creationist textbook disclaimers to be inserted into any textbook used in public schools that discussed evolution. There have been bills introduced almost every year since 1999 for legislation that would allow teaching creationism in science courses; OESE has opposed all such attempts.”

(Hat tip to Stranger Fruit)

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8 Comments

  1. 1
    DB says:

    Great. Here we go again. Then again, a positive in this might be that if this fails it is a victory for science and common sense. Unfortunately, victories on this front have been hit or miss lately.

  2. 2
    bjobotts says:

    Do we really want a return to feudalism.  Religion pre-dates science and just cannot accommodate it’s superstitious explanations used before  scientific proof was available.  Telling people about “miracles” does not mean teaching it in school as science.  Do they believe God gave us a brain but didn’t intend for us to use it.  Keeping  religion out of school is as difficult as getting schools to teach civics and how our government is supposed to work.  These fanatics want everyone to be just like them..make everything fit into a preconceived opinion no matter what the facts say.  Evolution is not a “theory”…it’s been proven…it’s a fact.  Creationism is pure conjecture.   How will we ever deal with global warming if we leave it to superman to save us?

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    No problem. The same people who deny science in backing the teaching of creationism also deny the scientific consensus on global warming. They don’t care about dealing with global warming.

    Ok, that’s not entirely true. There are those in the religious right who see it as their duty to protect God’s creation.

  4. 4
    Jerry Stephens says:

    The measure is a further, but unfortunate, sign of just how feudal Oklahoma is becoming. We’re a “family values” state but with monumental disdain for the welfare of our children. We’re self-proclaimed as the “capital of the 21st century” but with abysmal support for education. We’re certainly among the nation’s leaders, in the numbers and rate of incarceration that is. So the introduction of anti-science and “religious freedom” legislation should come as no surprise to anyone who knows what Oklahomans really want to be known as. Well, at least we have a topnotch football program with an extremely well-paid coach. We can match any state in that regard. The spread between the salary paid our OU football coach and the average teacher’s salary must rank up with the best of them as to the disparity of CEO and workers’ salaries. Yep, you bet. Everything is up-to-date in Oklahoma, especially when the wind comes whistlin’ down the plains and blows common sense to some other state.

  5. 5
    Fritz says:

    Ron, I am not at all a creationist and yet I have grave suspicions about the scientific “consensus” on global warming.  Way too much of the literature comes from how closely computer models can be tweaked to match data.   Of course, since the people who are writing the papers can tweak thousands of parameters in their models to their hearts’ content, they can eventually get their models to match existing data.  The predictive power of those models, though, is a different question.  However, lots of researchers have noticed that there are grants in them thar hills, and so there are lots of proposals getting funded.

    This last year pretty dramatically shows that a decrease in solar activity can still swamp anything we do with CO2. 

    In any event, even if human CO2 emissions are a major driver of global temperature, it is utterly unclear to me that it is either necessary or useful to spend a lot of assets to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.   That kind of expenditure would prevent us from having the assets available to deal with the consequences of temperature changes.  But you will find a lot of political pressure to have CO2 controls, since those controls put all industrial activity under the authority of government.

  6. 6
    DB says:

    I will admit that I am not entirely sold on all the details of Global Warming solely because there still is a rift among the scientists who make claims one way or another.  Though I act as if there is a danger and do my part to better our planet because I find that science always wins in the end. Plus, when the religious right rallies against science, I tend to side with those who get their information using logic, reason, and common sense…science.

    But this rift in the scientific community on Global Warming only makes my views on sciences like evolution stronger. Evolution is nearly universally accepted in the scientific community and it’s opponents are always far-right Christians (or far-right Muslims). If there was a huge scientific rift on evolution and it’s opponents actually offered an alternative (as opposed to pointing out the “holes”), then I could see the point of this legislation. But there is no rift, there is no alternative research, and I have yet to read about a someone who is not far-right and religious claiming evolution is a fraud. This legislation is bs.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    Of course you are presenting the opposite situation than I mentioned above–creationists who also believe in protecting the planet from the problems of global warming.

    The scientific consensus exists and placing it in quotation marks doesn’t change this fact.

    “…even if human CO2 emissions are a major driver of global temperature, it is utterly unclear to me that it is either necessary or useful to spend a lot of assets to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.”

    The response to the problem is of course a different question than whether the problem exists. However it seems that it would be far easier to reduce the problem than to try to fix it afterward.

    “But you will find a lot of political pressure to have CO2 controls, since those controls put all industrial activity under the authority of government.”

    This is the type of paranoia the right wing typically uses to scare people from responding to problems–pretend it is some sort of conspiracy to increase government. I find it unfortunate that economic conservatives generally choose to deny the problem as oppose to get involved in the actual political debate over solutions as it is important that free market ideas be considered. Fortunately such ideas are respected by Obama to a far greater degree than Republicans were willing to admit during the presidential campaign.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    DB,

    There really is not a “rift among the scientists” on climate change. The right wing tries to give this impression by bringing up claims by people who are generally not even in the field. There is a remarkable degree of consensus among the scientists who actually work in the field.

    That said, the argument for accepting the science based upon its acceptance and track record is much stronger for evolution. Evolution has been under study for considerably longer and therefore has a tremendously greater body of scientific study backing it up.

    In addition, evolution has become the framework of modern biology. While the religious objection is based upon the evolution of humans, the science encompasses far more than that. Without evolution we would only have natural history, not the entire science of biology.

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