Oklahoma’s 2nd Creationism Bill for 2011

Yesterday we posted about Josh Brecheen’s Oklahoma Creationism Bill. You probably thought that was enough brain-death for any state legislature. But you’d be wrong.

Once more, our intrepid operative in that state, code-name “OO,” has informed us of another creationist bill that has been pre-filed in the Oklahoma legislature, this time in the state House of Representatives. The author of the latest bill is Sally Kern. This is Kern’s page at the legislature’s website. There we learn that she is married to Dr. Steve Kern, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church; and she has a sociology degree from the University of Texas. Oh, she’s a member of Eagle Forum, of which Phyllis Schlafly is president. Schlafly’s son, Andrew, founded Conservapedia — an on-line source of young-earth creationist material.

Kern’s bill is House Bill 1551. As with Brecheen’s Senate bill, that link does nothing but allow you 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:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:

Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act”.

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

2A. The Oklahoma Legislature finds that an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens. The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.

2B. The State Board of Education, district boards of education, district superintendents and administrators, and public school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues. Educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted 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.

2C. The State Board of Education, a district board of education, district superintendent or administrator, or public school principal or administrator shall not prohibit any teacher in a school district in this state from helping 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.

2D. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.

2E. The provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act shall only protect the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. The intent of the provisions of the act is to create an environment in which both the teacher and students can openly and objectively discuss the facts and observations of science, and the assumptions that underlie their interpretation.

2F. By no later than the start of the 2011-2012 school year, the State Department Education shall notify all district superintendents of the provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act. Each superintendent shall then disseminate to all employees within the district a copy of the provisions of the act.

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.

This is, more or less, just another anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism “Academic Freedom” law modeled after the Academic Freedom Act promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Also, it’s very similar to something Randy Brogdon introduced (without success) into the Oklahoma legislature in 2009. See Oklahoma Creationism: It’s Back!

We’re not surprised that there’s already a post about this with the text of the bill at the National Center for Science Education: A second antievolution bill in Oklahoma.

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

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18 responses to “Oklahoma’s 2nd Creationism Bill for 2011

  1. This is, more or less, just another anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism “Academic Freedom” law modeled after the Academic Freedom Act promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s…

    Yeah, this one’s cookie-cutter enough that it should be much easier to defeat or circular file.

    I’m a lot more worried about the first bill you reported on. Okay, well, given that I don’t live in Oklahoma, “a lot more worried” is relative. I think the first one has a much better chance of passing.

  2. As with the previous bill, so long as the Boards of Education follow the language exactly, there’s no problem, since the subjects mentioned aren’t controversial in scientific terms. I do have to wonder about that bit that “protects” students whose opinions are at variance with the science. If my religion tells me that the quadratic equation always yields a whole number answer, am I allowed to give that without penalty on a math. test?

  3. 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.

    What the heck does this mean? Is what to teach in schools so important that if Ok gets it wrong, there will be rioting in the streets?

  4. OgreMkV asks: “What the heck does this mean?”

    Victor Hutchison explained that in the other thread. It’s a peculiarity of Oklahoma legislation that “means that, if passed, a bill becomes effective immediately, rather than several months later as required of bills without the Section 4 wording.”

  5. ah thanks.

  6. That horsesh*t will never stand up in court. The Supreme Court banned creationism in 1983! How arrogant to think that they can get around the Supreme Court and thwart the 1st Amendment. Jeez! Don’t these people know their history? D’oh! With people like David Barton meddling in social studies, I’d say that’s a negatory.

  7. Actually, I think a dose of “what you asked for” would be a good thing.

    “Scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories” —> For the case of AGW, many. For the case of string theory, many. For the case of quantum mechanics, very few. For the case of evolution via natural selection…. none.

  8. no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.

    That should make exams a lot easier.

  9. TomS: “That should make exams a lot easier.”

    Maybe not. Even the most clueless teachers are unlikely to ask test questions such as “when did life first appear on Earth” for which there are common wrong answers. First, from what I can tell, and much to my dismay, “when” questions are rarely covered in biology. Second, if such questions are asked, the “scientists say” qualifier makes a great loophole, one that many teachers and students know about. Third, most teachers are clued in just enough to know that giving credit for an answer that is considered wrong by not just 99+% of scientists, but even many creationists, might jeopardize any future jobs in schools that are not as liberal.

  10. If “weaknesses” are defined the way the DI defines them, i.e. gaps in knowledge, then teaching them would be fine. What better way to motivate a student to pursue science than telling her that there are amazing things yet to be discovered, and here are a few examples…. The problem is, that’s not what the legislators want or expect.

    However, I can imagine creative science teachers finding ways to teach this correctly even under such an act.

  11. Frank, this clause doesn’t seem to be restricted to creationism or to any religious objection. For example, a question about the Period Table.

  12. Assuming the science teachers actually care about science, these laws could be gotten around. BUT that’s a big assumption. There are actually people who have Bio degrees who care nothing about science and have as a mission the intent of teaching creationism/ theology in the classroom. This is what the ICR wants– to attack on two fronts: get the laws vague enough and then get creation “scientists” into public school classrooms.

    So, we need to fight back on both fronts. Neither should there be laws in place that allow for the promotion of creationism in a science class nor should there be any kind of tolerance of teachers publicly espousing creationism in a science class.

  13. LRA, I sense that you are beginning to understand. Now if only you would submit to me …

  14. What is the submission deadline? And what kind of papers are you calling for?
    :)

  15. Don’t be coy, LRA. Your Curmudgeon requires total submission.

  16. Ok, this impacts me personally. I will be getting my teaching license via alternative certification next month in Oklahoma.

    I will be in my own biology and chemistry classroom as early as the next school system. If this law passes, I will have to be doubly on guard to ensure that some administrator at the district level does not try to slide in creationist material into the curriculum. There are state standards, but districts can and do add to them.

    Some of us DO care deeply about science education. This is why I am leaving a relatively safe and stable job in medical laboratory science and going to the classroom. Laws like this make me wonder if perhaps I should not leave the state.

  17. This part is troubles me:

    2E. The provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act shall only protect the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine …..

    IMHO, the idea of “cause and effect” could be viewed as a “nonreligious doctrine” … one that is central to scientific understanding. How does one teach science (or even basic critical thinking) without assuming cause and effect, plus some other “nonreligious doctrine” ? Rejecting “and then a miracle occurs” as a reasonable explanation is also a central “doctrine” of scientific reasoning. Then there is Lord Kelvin’s famous assertion (doctrine?): “… when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.” I would hope that teaching of Kelvin’s “doctrine” would not be prohibitied by this statute.

    But while we’re at it, let’s agree to reject the doctrine of the phlogiston theory of chemistry :-)

    Realist1948