Josh Brecheen’s Oklahoma Creationism Bill

We’ve been expecting this ever since we posted Oklahoma’s Senator Josh Brecheen: Totally Crazed. Now, thanks to the efforts of our chief Oklahoma operative (code name “OO”) we’ve learned that Josh has filed his bill.

Here’s a link to Josh’s masterpiece: SENATE BILL 554. The only thing that link does is give you the opportunity to open or save the bill in Microsoft Office format. We’ll spare you the trouble and copy the operative portions of it here, adding a bit of bold font for emphasis:

Section 1. … It is the intent of the Legislature that students in public school receive a comprehensive education in science and learn how to compare and contrast a variety of scientific viewpoints.

Section 2. A new section of law … reads as follows:

2A. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 11-103.6 of Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the State Board of Education shall adopt curricular standards requiring the teaching of all relevant scientific information on the biological origins of life.

2B. The State Department of Education, or any school district or school district administrator, shall not prohibit any teacher from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula. Controversial topics in sciences include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution.

2C. The State Board of Education shall adopt standards and curricula that require students in all science courses to:

2C1. Know the definition of science and understand that it has limitations. Science, as defined by the National Academy of Sciences, is the “use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.” This vast body of changing and increasing knowledge is described by physical, mathematical, and conceptual models. Students should know that some questions are outside the realm of science because they deal with phenomena that are not scientifically testable;

2C2. Analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;

2C3. Communicate and apply scientific information extracted from various sources such as current events, news reports, published journal articles, and marketing materials;

2C4. Know that scientific hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power which have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories;

2C5. Know that scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well-established and highly-reliable explanations, but may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed; and

2C6. Distinguish between scientific hypotheses and scientific theories;

2D. The State Board of Education shall adopt standards and curricula that require students in grades eight through twelve to:

2D1. Analyze and evaluate how evidence of common ancestry among groups is provided by the fossil record, biogeography, and homologies, including anatomical, molecular, and developmental;

2D2. Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record;

2D3. Analyze and evaluate how natural selection produces change in populations, not individuals;

2D4. Analyze and evaluate how the elements of natural selection, including inherited variation, the potential of a population to produce more offspring than can survive, and a finite supply of environmental resources, result in differential reproductive success;

2D5. Analyze and evaluate the relationship of natural selection to adaptation and to the development of diversity in and among species;

2D6. Analyze and evaluate the effects of other evolutionary mechanisms, including genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, and recombination;

2D7. Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning the complexity of the cell; and

2D8. Know that taxonomy is a branching classification based on the shared characteristics of organisms and can change as new discoveries are made and be able to: (a.) define taxonomy and recognize the importance of a standardized taxonomic system to the scientific community, (b.) categorize organisms using a hierarchical classification system based on similarities and differences shared among groups, and (c.) compare characteristics of taxonomic groups, including archaea, bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, and animals.

2D9. Analyze and evaluate a variety of fossil types such as transitional fossils, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and alignment with scientific explanations in light of this fossil data;

2D10. Explain how sedimentation, fossilization, and speciation affect the degree of completeness of the fossil record; and

2D11. Evaluate the significance of the terminal Permian and Cretaceous mass extinction events, including adaptive radiations organisms after the events. Transitional fossils, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and alignment with scientific explanations in light of this fossil data.

2E. No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula.

2F. This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and specifically does not protect the promotion of any religion, religious doctrine, or religious belief.

2G. Students may be held accountable for knowing and understanding material taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, but they shall not be penalized in any way for subscribing to a particular position of a scientific debate.

2H. For purposes of this section, “scientific information” means information derived from observation, experimentation and analysis of the natural world conducted to determine the nature of or principles behind the aspects being studied. Scientific information is not excluded from this definition solely on the basis that it coincides with the tenets of some or all religious beliefs or doctrines. This definition does exclude information based solely on religious writings, beliefs or doctrines.

Section 3. This act shall become effective July 1, 2011.

Section 4. It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.

There it is. It’s ridiculously long and detailed. Portions are probably unnecessary because they’re already in the standards. Perhaps that verbiage was included with the expectation that the creationist portions will escape everyone’s notice. That’s not going to happen. You noticed the usual “strengths and weaknesses” and the supplementary materials provisions, and the protection of students who believe “scientific information” that coincides with their religious beliefs. And you didn’t miss that little zinger about the complexity of the cell.

We have no idea what Oklahoma’s legislature is going to do with this thing, but we’ll all get a chance to find out.

Here’s some information from our prior posts. Brecheen’s page at the Senate website. The Oklahoma legislative session begins on 07 February and ends on 27 May.

There’s also a post about this with the text of the bill at the National Center for Science Education: Antievolution legislation in Oklahoma.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Josh Brecheen’s Oklahoma Creationism Bill

  1. “Analyze and evaluate scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance”

    WTF does that mean? There is no “data of sudden appearance”!

    Where is the “data of sudden appearance”??? I want to see the actual “data of sudden appearance” and I want to see it now.

    ……

    No? None?

    Well, then.

  2. LRA says:

    I want to see the actual “data of sudden appearance” and I want to see it now.

    You kidding? The oldest specimen yet found of any particular fossil type must have appeared suddenly. It’s just so obvious!

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    If the letter of this law were followed, it would be impossible to teach intelligent design or creationism in school. That’s what’s so hilarious about it.

    In the unlikely event this law passes, a school district that tries to teach creationism will be sued for violating this law. Irony detectors all over the country will need to be reinforced.

  4. Most kids in this country get very little classroom time devoted to evolution in school. Surveys generally show less than 16 hours, with many kids getting zero hours. It seems to me that Oklahoma kids would have more hours on evolution if this passes.

    Yes, we know this is a pro-creationist act, but since creationism does not involve any accepted scientific information, I agree with Gabe that this would prohibit the teaching of ID or Ham-ology.

  5. Ed says:

    I agree with Gabe that this would prohibit the teaching of ID or Ham-ology.

    You’re both correct, but Josh thinks that if all the evidence were really given to the kiddies, evolution would crash and burn. He has no idea what’s scientific and what isn’t. He thinks that creation science is good science, but it’s being suppressed.

  6. I know it’s been said many times before, but “creation science” is the ultimate oxymoron.

  7. What I like is using press releases and marketing materials as scientific evidence!

  8. What becomes important here is the agreed upon (?) definition of “scientific information”.

  9. fishorthology

    MD2020 makes a key point. Most parts of the bill would not be entirely unreasonable and would (as others have pointed out) actually support evolution if real scientific information were used. But if “marketing materials” and DI propaganda found in their own creationist “published journal articles” are accepted as scientific information, then we’re in trouble.

  10. Gabriel Hanna

    . But if “marketing materials” and DI propaganda found in their own creationist “published journal articles” are accepted as scientific information, then we’re in trouble.

    They will be, and then a school district will be sued, and then the question of what constitutes scientific material will be decided using Dover as a precedent. And then the people who passed this law will do…what? Say it only applies to creationism?

  11. “Sudden appearance” is right out of Pandas and People: animals appear fully formed, fish with fins and scales, birds with beaks, wings and feathers.

    It’s a synonym for special creation and “intelligent design” creationism.

    The sneaky little part is that students can’t be penalized for holding their own belief (whether or not it’s actually their own belief). Thus, “6,000 years” could be a “correct” answer on a quiz. Wouldn’t that be cool! Get an “A” in a class regardless of how you answer test questions.

  12. As several have noted, this bill actually requires the teaching of evolution only. I suppose that its intent is to demand some discussion of punctuated equilibria as opposed to steady-state evolution. That’s good, because then, Oklahoma students will have a better understanding of current biology.

    By the way, what is Section 4 referring to? It declares an emergency to exist.

  13. The Section 4 reference to an emergency is really a misnomer. Many introduced bills in Oklahoma end with this section. It simply means that, if passed, a bill becomes effective immediately, rather than several months later as required of bills without the Section 4 wording. Confusing? Yes, just like the many actions of this legislative body.

  14. Ed It seems to me that Oklahoma kids would have more hours on evolution if this passes…

    Other commentators also voiced a similar opinion, i.e. that this bill had some good bits. I think that is part of his strategy. He’s hoping to pass some pro-creationist measures by including them in a large package of otherwise agreeable material. The good senators of OK shouldn’t cave into this strategy.

    The OK legislature should reject his measure altogether. If the good bits are worth passing, then some pro-science senator can offer an alternative bill that has all the good bits but none of the bad bits.

  15. Is this boilerplate lifted from somewhere else? We’ve seen young Josh’s newspaper columns, which are written on the level of a muddled high school senior grappling with subjects he only knows about from half-understood Creationist tracts. This bill seems too well written for him to have composed it on his own.

  16. Deklane:
    Indeed the bill is almost entirely from other sources – plagiarized like his newspaper column. Major parts are taken word for word from the 2009 Texas science standards (TEKS). Some of the language comes from the Discovery Institute’s model for the ‘academic freedom act’ and one section derives from a New Mexico bill 433. The bill was certainly written (copied) by others.

    I doubt if Brecheen even understands much of his own bill or the subtle aspects of the purpose of statements like ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ ‘limitations of science, ‘critical thinking.’ ‘stasis,’ etc., – all from the DI’s usual verbiage.

    The Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United will hold the annual review of Oklahoma legislative bills at the State Capitol on 29 January. Brecheen is being invited to come and discuss his bill. He may not accept to appear before such an audience, but we will see. We are prepared to counter him if he has the guts to appear!

  17. If a teacher tries to use this bill to teach ID or creationism, will Senator Josh Brecheen provide funds so that when the inevitable legal challange happens the school won’t lose out because a teacher cant tell the difference between scientific fact and unproven religious doctrine.

    Although I suppose if means that they have to teach all alternatives, then finally the Pastafarian model (that the world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster) will be taught alongside creationism and logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.