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Oklahoma antievolution bill dead

Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320, the so-called Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act, died in committee on February 16, 2009, according to a report in the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009). The bill, if enacted, would have required state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies" and permitted teachers 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." The only topics specifically mentioned as controversial were "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

In its critique (PDF) of the bill, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education argued, "This is a 'Trojan horse' bill intended to open the door for the teaching of specific religious concepts in school science classes," observing that "[p]romoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest ... 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." With respect to the supposed "weaknesses" of evolution, OESE added, "they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who don't like evolution."

The bill's sponsor, Randy Brogdon (R-District 34), told the Tulsa World that the bill was needed because science teachers in his district were confused and fearful about how to address controversial topics, but Owasso Public Schools Superintendent Clark Ogilvie told the newspaper, "I don't think our teachers are confused at all, and I'm somewhat puzzled because Sen. Brogdon and I have never had any dialogue on the subject." Richard Lerblance (D-District 7), who sits on the Senate Education Committee, called the bill "subterfuge," adding that it was one of the worst bills he has seen. Lerblance was among the eight members of the committee to vote to kill SB 320; under the rules of the Oklahoma Senate, the measure is dead for two years.