Oklahoma Creationist Legislation for 2021

The last time there was any creationist legislative activity in Oklahoma was back in 2019, when we wrote Oklahoma Creationism Bill for 2019. There was almost no creationist nonsense in any of the U.S. state legislatures in 2020, and we weren’t expecting any for this year, but we were wrong.

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) just posted this news item: New antiscience legislation in Oklahoma. It was written by Glenn Branch, their Deputy Director. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 613 (PDF) and Senate Bill 662 (PDF), which would empower science denial in the classroom, were prefiled in the Oklahoma legislature on January 21, 2021.

Isn’t that wonderful? Now we have creationist lunacy to write about. Glenn says:

Styled “the Academic Freedom Act” and “the Oklahoma Science Education Act,” respectively, the similar bills would ostensibly provide Oklahoma’s teachers with the right to help students “understand, analyze, critique[,] and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught,” while prohibiting state and local administrators from exercising supervisory responsibility.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Classic, drooling creationist idiocy! There’s even a Wikipedia article on it: Strengths and weaknesses of evolution. They say:

“Strengths and weaknesses of evolution” is a controversial phrase that has been proposed for (and in Texas introduced into) public school science curricula. Those proposing the phrase, such as the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), Don McLeroy, purport that there are weaknesses in the theory of evolution and in the evidence that life has evolved that should be taught for a balanced treatment of the subject of evolution. The scientific community rejects that any substantive weaknesses exist in the scientific theory, or in the data that it explains, and views the examples that have been given in support of the phrasing as being without merit and long refuted.

This has led scientists and journalists to conclude that the phrase is a creationist tactic to introduce religion into science courses. The phrase was introduced by the SBOE in the late 1980s. Since then it has been promoted in California and Missouri. In late 2008, it became a highly publicized issue as the Texas SBOE held public hearings on whether this language should be removed from the curriculum. According to the National Center for Science Education, the phrase, like ‘Teach the controversy’ and ‘Critical Analysis of Evolution’, is an attempt in a series of legal and political tactics adopted by intelligent design advocates to encourage educators to teach fallacious information — that a controversy exists among scientists over whether evolution has occurred.courses.

That sums it up rather well. NCSE tells us:

No particular theories are identified as controversial [It’s a mystery!], but a string of similar bills in the Oklahoma legislature — most recently Senate Bill 393 in 2017, which passed the Senate before failing to receive a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives — were clearly aimed specifically at evolution.

We wrote about that one, and when it died we posted Oklahoma’s 2017 Creationism Bill Is ‘Blocked’. Glenn describes one of Oklahoma’s new bills:

Senate Bill 613’s sole sponsor, David Bullard (R-District 6), introduced the similar Senate Bill 14 in 2019; it was rejected by the Senate Committee on Education.

Here’s the legislature’s bio page on that guy: Senator David Bullard. He’s a teacher, but we’re not told where. They say he has a degree Social Studies Education from Oklahoma State University; and then he got a Masters in Educational Administration from Lamar University in Texas. He’s obviously one of the intellectual giants in the Oklahoma legislature.

The other new bill, Senate Bill 662, was sponsored by Nathan Dahm. The legislature’s bio page for him says he’s a software developer who was home schooled. He has also been a missionary in Romania.

Oklahoma’s legislative session begins on 01 February and is scheduled to adjourn on 28 May. That’s plenty of time for drooling legislators to spew their lunacy far and wide. Are enough of them toad-brained creationists who are willing to plunge their state into Dark Ages ignorance? We’ll soon find out. Stay tuned to this blog!

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15 responses to “Oklahoma Creationist Legislation for 2021

  1. “in an objective manner”
    Call me silly, but in my dictionary “objective” means “not creationist” manner. But after meeting so many creationist loonies (thanks, dear SC, for pointing out several of them) I susect that “objective” here means “my personally preferred” manner.

    ‘Teach the controversy’ and ‘Critical Analysis of Evolution’
    It probably gets tedious, but “teach the controversy” means objectively “evolutionary biologists have the evidence, creationists have big fat thumbs they love to suck”.
    “Critical Analysis of Evolution” leads to the conclusion that “the [creationist] examples that have been given in support of the phrasing as being without merit and long refuted.”
    Plus, because we don’t want to be onesided, “Critical Analysis of Creationism” leads to the conclusion that (thanks, TomS) it doesn’t provide an alternative.

  2. If these legislators who are continually foisting the “strengths and weaknesses” nonsense unto the public schools want it to be taught, they should instead talk to all the like-minded ministers of evangelical churches and ask that it be included in all their Sunday School classes.

  3. I would love to see an course on Strengths and Weaknesses of the Bible as a Historical Account

  4. Volume 1 of this series

    https://www.academia.edu/4626666/Meier_John_P_A_Marginal_Jew_Rethinking_the_Historical_Jesus_Volume_3_Companions_and_Competitors_The_Anchor_Bible_Reference_Library

    would be a good start. I like

    “a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew and an agnostic locked in Harvard Divinity School’s library until they have produced a consensus document on Jesus of Nazareth”.
    I doubt if these politicians, Ol’Hambo and the IDiots from Seattle share my appreciation.

  5. This sort of thing comes up often, and gets the reaction: how about strengths and weaknesses of religion.
    I suggest that that is the wrong reaction. Evolutionary biology is not anything like religion.
    Rather, how about the strengths and weaknnesses of the heliocentric model of the solar system?
    Or, if you want to get attention from the public, how about the strengths and weaknesses of the scoring systems of sports: it is just a convention as to whether the highest number, rather than the lowest number, is the winner.

  6. @TomS, I didn’t mention religion; I mentioned, specifically, history, so as to compare like with like

  7. Dave Luckett

    The sponsors of these bills are probably aware that most science teachers will take little notice of them. They will continue to teach the Theory of Evolution (and the Theory of Gravity, and later, Relativity) in science classes. Or, if put under sufficient community pressure, will soft-pedal it and not mention the origin of the species at all, or at least, not much. The last is, alas, all too often the effective outcome. Teachers who teach real science no matter what, and those who just keep quiet about it, are not the targeted beneficiaries of this legislation.

    Nor are these bills exactly meant to allow teachers to teach religion in science class. If they’re within shouting distance of sanity, the legislators know that they can’t do that. But they also know that whether it’s officially allowed or not, some teachers will teach religion anyway. This is meant to give them a figleaf. Bills like this provide a possible line of defence, make a suit more difficult and increase the costs. Any plaintiff will need to be more motivated and determined, and maybe the standard of the evidence will need to be higher. It’s not going to give a licence to creationists to push creationism in school. It’s only going to make it a little more difficult to stop them. But that might be enough for the legislators’ purposes.

    You know it’s a principle of evolution that any trait that has a statistically positive effect on survival will be selected and conserved? It doesn’t have to be perfect or absolute – just a little better over a whole population. Well, here we have creationists applying that principle.

    Creationism evolves. Who’da thunk it?

  8. @Dave Luckett, Nick Matzke has documented that evolution in glorious detail, with particular attention to mutation in the wording of “academic freedom” bills: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/207460275.pdf

  9. Academic Freedom legislation!

    As Admiral Akbar put it, “It’s a Dover trap!”

  10. From LesL’s link: “Proponents of “objective science” tend to view science as a collection of facts. The objective approach is then to consider all facts and to draw independent conclusions by propositional logic.”

    A link further:

    http://lclane2.net/proposition.html

    the author gives a few examples of propositional logic creacrap style. It’s clear to me that creationists, like all propagandists, typically skip “the consider all facts” part, because they love cherry picking. In other words, what they do is not objective science as defined above. They fail, as so often, even on their own terms.

  11. @Dave Luckett: Re: What’s motivating legislators to introduce creationist “Academic Freedom” legislation —

    I would posit that these politicians couldn’t care less about what’s actually taught in science classes – they are only interested in appearing as though they care, so as to garner the votes of their Christian conservative constituents. A politician in Oklahoma will not get re-elected if he/she is seen as being wishy-washy about defending Christianity.

  12. @RetiredSciGuy, I think a lot are, in addition, sincere, and may even have sought office in order to advance their agenda.

  13. @Paul Braterman: True, some probably are sincere and sought office to advance their agenda, just as many creationists have sought positions on school boards.

    But their sincerity is no license to violate the Constitution.

  14. These anti science bills have been numerous in Oklahoma over the past 20 years, perhaps more than any state. But, none have become law thanks to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (oklascience.org) assisted by Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, and often other groups. However, often the vote gets approved in committees and moves towards a floor vote where they would likely pass. This is why it is best to get the bill killed in committee. Fortunately in the past few years, especially in the House, did not allow the bills to come up for a vote.