Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kern Just Can't Keep Herself from Distortion and Deception

HB 1551 by Kern – Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act
Distortion and Deception Revisited

The wording of HB 1551 is virtually identical to SB 320 introduced by Brogdon in 2009 (failed in Education Committee). Identical bills, apparently written by the creationist Discovery Institute, have been introduced in several other states over the last several years. They are cleverly worded to sound as if not promoting religious views in order to skirt the first amendment establishment clause and recent court rulings. However, the religious motivations of Rep. Kern (and the Discovery Institute) are abundantly clear. The terms “academic freedom”, “strengths and weaknesses”, and “scientific information” are well-known euphemisms used in order to cast doubt on established science and introduce religious counter-arguments in science classrooms.

The bill states:
2A. . . . 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.

Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest.
There isn't one. 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. The fact that evolution has occurred is accepted by virtually all scientists around the world and is as well established as the fact that the Earth is round. The controversies are purely religious and political. The reason some teachers may be unsure of how to teach evolution, etc., is due to anti-science interference from from some parents and members of the community.

2B. . . . 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.

There really are no scientific “weaknesses”. If one looks to the sources of these alleged weaknesses, we find they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who don't like the implications of evolution. One may not like the implications of atomic weapons but that does not mean that there is some controversy over the physics or that one may simply reject the science as flawed. Instead of teaching science, this approach teaches our children that it is acceptable to simply ignore the parts of science they don't happen to like.

2C. . . . 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.

What weaknesses should teachers teach? The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have not found any legitimate scientific weaknesses to evolution but we expect high school teachers to fabricate and discuss so-called weaknesses in class? This provides an opening for the introduction of supplementary creationist intelligent design materials into the classroom. This is now being attempted in Texas where curriculum standards are based on wording similar to this and other anti-evolution bills.

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.
This is vague. It would seem to allow any position to count on assignments or exams.

2E. . . . shall only protect the teaching of scientific information,
The term scientific information is not defined here. Creation “scientists” and intelligent design proponents claim to be doing science – they are not but their propaganda might be interpreted to be scientific information by some teachers or school administrators.

HB 1551 makes the completely baseless association between academic freedom and freedom to teach pseudoscientific nonsense in science classes. Forcing teachers to present the “strengths and weaknesses” will force them to pretend that we know less than we really do about the natural world and to present ideas based in one specific religion as if they were science. The issue is not about fairness or free inquiry; it is about science vs. nonscience. With academic freedom comes academic responsibility; that is, to teach only science in science classes. This bill does not promote academic freedom, rather academic misconduct.

Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education –

Here is contact information for the members of the House committee that will hear this bill.


Since time is short, we are asking you to also send letters to the
Republican members of the House Common Ed Committee, except for Chair
Coody and Sally Kern.

The messages should be in your own words, short, and emphasize the
main points - harm to science education, harm to economy, likely
unconstitutional and already killed two years ago in Senate.

Here is the contact info:


Gus Blackwell
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 305-A

Dennis Casey
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 300B

Doug Cox
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 410

Corey Holland
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 537

Fred Jordan
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 333

Jason Nelson
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 301

Jadine Nollan
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 320

Pat Ownbey
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 301

Dustin Roberts
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 319


Jabar Shumate, Vice Chair
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 510

Ed Cannaday
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 539-B

Donnie Condit
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 500A

Jeannie McDaniel
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 508

Emily Virgin
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 539-B

Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education
P.O. BOX 721454
NORMAN, OK 73070

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