A second antiscience bill in Oklahoma

01.22.2016

House Bill 3045 (PDF), styled the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act, is the second antiscience bill in the Oklahoma legislature for 2016, joining Senate Bill 1322.

If enacted, the bill would require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies" and permit 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," prohibiting administrators from interfering. As introduced, the bill specifically mentions "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as subjects which "some teachers may be unsure" about how to teach.

The sole sponsor of HB 3045 is Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of antiscience legislation in the Sooner State. In 2011, Kern introduced House Bill 1551. The House Common Education Committee initially rejected the bill, but passed a revised version, which then passed the House of Representatives, but died in the Senate Education Committee. In 2013, House Bill 1674 — identical to the revised version of HB 1551 passed by the House of Representatives — was introduced with Kern as a cosponsor. Like its predecessor, it passed the House of Representatives, but died in the Senate Education Committee. HB 3045 is virtually identical.

Kern's antiscience bills have elicited criticism from scientific and educational organizations within the state and across the country. Responding to a previous incarnation of the bill, HB 1551 in 2011, for example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science's chief executive officer Alan I. Leshner wrote, "There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution," adding, "asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them."

As usual, the grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education will be coordinating opposition to the antiscience bills in the state.