Oklahoma antiscience bill passes the House


Oklahoma's House Bill 1551 — one of two bills attacking the teaching of evolution and of climate change active in the Oklahoma legislature during 2012 — passed the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on March 15, 2012. If enacted, HB 1551 would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The bill was originally introduced in 2011 by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in the Sooner State; although it was rejected by the House Common Education Committee in 2011, it resurfaced in 2012 under the sponsorship of Gus Blackwell (R-District 61), and a slightly amended version was passed by the committee in February 2012.

In its current incarnation, HB 1551 differs only slightly from Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320 from 2009, which a member of the Senate Education Committee described to the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009) as one of the worst bills that he had ever seen. Explaining his opposition to such bills in the Oklahoman (March 16, 2012), Douglas W. Mock, the George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the University of Oklahoma's Department of Zoology, wrote, "Wrapped in the deceptive language of promoting critical thinking, they aim to get the nose of a malodorous camel (pseudoscience) inside the tent of science. This camel has tried before, many times, and been rebuffed — for good reason." He added, "The low scientific literacy of our citizens is a serious concern that's not helped by adding fake controversies."