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)