Friday, September 19, 2014
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Misleading Language in the Latest Anti-Evolution Bill in Oklahoma

State legislators revive a bill in Oklahoma that would affect teaching of evolution, presenting it as "controversial".

Misleading Language in the Latest Anti-Evolution Bill in Oklahoma

The National Center for Science Education just notified me that an anti-evolution bill in Oklahoma has been revived by the state legislature. The language in the bill claims that evolution is “controversial”, which wrongly implies that there’s controversy in the scientific community. There isn’t, of course, though some people in Oklahoma don’t like the implications of evolution for personal or religious reasons.  

Here’s an excerpt from the NCSE story:  

A bill in Oklahoma that would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution" and "global warming" is back from the dead. Entitled the "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act," House Bill 1551was introduced in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2011 by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in the Sooner State, and referred to the House Common Education Committee. It was rejected there on February 22, 2011, on a 7-9 vote. But, as The Oklahoman (February 23, 2011) reported, the vote was not final, since a sponsor "could ask the committee to bring it up again this session or next year." And indeed, on February 20, 2012, Gus Blackwell (R-District 61) resurrected the bill in the House Common Education Committee….

On February 21, 2012, just a day after HB 1551 was resurrected, the House Common Education Committee voted 9-7 to accept it, hearing no testimony from the public…

In its current incarnation, HB 1551 differs only slightly from Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320 from 2009, which a member of the Senate Education Committee described to the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009) as one of the worst bills that he had ever seen. In its critique(PDF) of SB 320, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Educationargued, "Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest ... Evolution as a process is supported by an enormous and continually growing body of evidence. Evolutionary theory has advanced substantially since Darwin's time and, despite 150 years of direct research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever been found." With respect to the supposed "weaknesses" of evolution, OESE added, "they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who don't like evolution."

The bill also mentions three other “controversial” topics - the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. NSCE has expanded its reach to include teaching about climate change. It’s interesting that climate change and evolution are often linked together in education bills and in political discourse. Since there is no human cloning, this last item might refer to stem cell research, using the term “human cloning” to give it a sinister feel. 

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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