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Second antiscience bill dies in Oklahoma

House Bill 1674 (PDF) died in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on March 14, 2013, when a deadline for bills to have their third reading in their house of origin passed. Along with Senate Bill 758, which died in February 2013, HB 1674 was one of two proposed laws that would have undermined the integrity of science education in Oklahoma. If enacted, HB 1674 would have encouraged 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." HB 1674 specifically mentioned "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as subjects which "some teachers may be unsure" about how to teach.

Sponsored by Gus Blackwell (R-District 61) and Sally Kern (R-District 84), HB 1674 passed the House Education Committee on a 9-8 vote on February 19, 2013. A previous incarnation of the bill, House Bill 1551 from 2011-2012, was first rejected (in 2011) but then passed (in 2012) by the House Education Committee, and then passed by the House of Representatives on March 15, 2012, by which time it managed to attract condemnation from national scientific and educational organizations. HB 1551 died in the Senate Education Committee in April 2012. A similar bill, Senate Bill 320 from 2009, was memorably described by a member of the Senate Education Committee as one of the worst bills that he had ever seen, according to the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009).

Writing in The Oklahoma Daily (March 6, 2013), Richard E. Broughton, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Oklahoma, described HB 1674 as "a 'Trojan horse' bill specifically crafted by an out-of-state, religious think tank to open the door for the teaching of religious or political views in school science classes. This is clearly understood by everyone familiar with the bill on both sides. HB 1674 would write false claims about science into state law, contradicting the wealth of scientific evidence, our own curriculum standards and the expertise of Oklahoma's scientists and teachers." He concluded, "Passage of this bill will damage the education of our students, diminish the ability to attract scientifically-based industries to Oklahoma and will likely lead to costly lawsuits over constitutionality."