Controversies That Do Not Exist

It took conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature several years, but they are now likely to pass an anti-science bill, which is a “strengths and weaknesses” measure that will mean schools can dilute the teaching of evolution and other scientific facts in the state’s public classrooms.

Senate Bill 393 has passed the full Senate and a House committee. The House will almost certainly pass it if it comes to a vote. I’m fairly sure Gov. Mary Fallin will sign it into law, but maybe fiscal conservatives can convince her how this bill could hinder economic development by depicting the state, once again, as a place in which many of its residents have a difficult time accepting basic scientific truths.

Here’s the relevant paragraph in the bill, which may seem innocuous, but is really an effort to undermine the teaching of the scientific method in the state’s classrooms:

The State Board of Education, school district boards of education, school district superintendents and school principals shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.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 covered in the course being taught.

Previous versions of this type of bill through the years have referred specifically to the theory of evolution and climate change as two of the controversies. The bill’s main sponsor is Sen. Josh Brecheen, a Republican from Coalgate, who has been pushing such legislation for years. Years ago, as The Lost Ogle noted in 2011, Brecheen published an article in the Durant Daily Democrat that included this gem of a paragraph:

If Darwin is right then I am free to be the strongest by eating all in my way (forget “love thy neighbor”). Additionally, we put zero thought to the psychological consequences of low self-esteem as people are taught their existence is as purposeless as their “brother and sister animals.” This produces a value system where protecting beetles is prioritized but unborn children are not.

The literal summary of the paragraph is absurd. It goes like this: The theory of evolution will turn us into abortion-approving cannibals who protect beetles.

The problem with the legislation is that it could have the very real effect of dumbing down our students, making them ill-prepared for college. Oklahoma has a low rate of college graduates compared to the national average, which doesn’t make it attractive for businesses that need an educated workforce.

But that “economic” argument is really secondary to how the bill rejects intellectualism in a state that struggles to fund education at all levels, a state that struggles to pay its teachers adequate wages. That affects our quality of life because leadership roles often go to people like Brecheen, who then impose their narrow views on other people in systemic ways.

Finally, let’s be clear. There are no scientific controversies when it comes to the theory of evolution and climate change. The controversies only exist either on the religious level by creationists or within the fossil-fuel industry, which has a vested interest to deny carbon emissions contribute to global warming. The actual science is proven. The evidence is in front of us. This bill rejects what’s true and embraces mythology and money.