Oklahoma Lawmaker Sally Kern proposes bill that forces teachers to question evolution, climate science

The National Center for Science Education asserts of creationism thatstudents who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level.”  But that hasn’t stopped state Rep. Sally Kern (R) from proposing the second anti-evolution bill this year in Oklahoma.  ThinkProgress has the story in this repost.

Entitled the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” the bill, which will be first considered next month, would require the state and local 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” the scientific strengths and weaknesses of “existing theories.” But the only topics mentioned in the bill as contestable are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

In an attempt to legitimize the bill, Kern said, “It’s a simple fact that the presentation of some issues in science classes can lead to controversy, which can discourage teachers from engaging students in an open discussion of the issues.” However, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education previously released a critique against a similar bill, SB 320 “” which died in committee in February 2009 and only differs slightly from Kern’s bill “” that said, “promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest”:

‘Promoting 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.’

Kern is a relentless advocate for anti-evolution legislation in Oklahoma, so the newest bill comes as no surprise. Kern was the head sponsor of HB 2107, which would have called for “academic freedom” in connection to “biological or chemical origins of life.” The bill passed the House by a vote of 77-10 in March 2006, but then came to its demise when the legislature adjourned in May. Kern was also the lead sponsor for the House Concurrent Resolution 1043, which mandated the state board of education amend the state science standards so students could “critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution.”

Kern has frequently used Oklahoma’s education system as a prop for her grandstanding. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo points out, Kern fought vehemently against educational reforms to bolster Oklahoma’s chances in winning grants through the Race to the Top program, saying, “these are standards that are not American standards”¦Race to the Top is Obama’s baby.”

Kern also proclaimed that homosexuality is comparable to “toe-cancer” and that “it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam. Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell of this country.”

-Paul Breer, in a TP repost.

JR:  As for global warming, there may be a manufactured controversy, but the globe is incontrovertibly warming and humans are a key reason.  The U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded its recent review of climate science saying it is a “settled fact” that “the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

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39 Responses to Oklahoma Lawmaker Sally Kern proposes bill that forces teachers to question evolution, climate science

  1. John McCormick says:

    Senator Inhofe is up for reelection in 2014. He’ll be 80 years old. He had an obvious successor in Sally Kern. Is Mel Brooks writing this script?

    John McCormick

  2. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Maybe they should teach the kids to be skeptical of Republican claims.

  3. Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities

    That’s so wishy washy!

    Clearly the CO2 and other GHG that man spews into the air will warm the climate.
    Why are they afraid to say

    Earth system is warming and that this warming is largely due to human activities


  4. bobbyy53snake says:

    “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” Orwellian Newspeak lives and thrives.

  5. Scrooge says:

    Of course there would be no problem having a scientific discussion but I don’t see where magic belongs in a science class.

  6. Ziyu says:

    Promoting scientific discussion is not the same thing as purposely trying to cast doubt (without evidence) on scientific theories just because your religion disagrees with it. Arguing without evidence is not scientific discussion.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    So Sally wants to debate the “chemical origins of life” on her terms. That probably means an analysis of Adam’s rib, showing how Eve was cloned. Mel Brooks would indeed be perfect.

  8. Scrooge says:

    The rabett has a new post that ties into this some what. I found it interesting.

  9. David Smith says:

    A Course specifically to address multi-discipline controversies might be in order. Evolution & Chemical origins controversy is a conflict between science and individual religeous beliefs. Global warming is a conflict between some business interests and science (with maybe a little religion thrown in). Cloning is science and ethics with a little religion as well. None of these represent conflicts within the scientific community. You would have to represent business interests and personal faith as disciplines to include them into the course.

    One would normally think that teaching critical thinking skills would address this problem but those advocating this legislation are not interested in critical thinking. It seems their interest is in indoctrination.

    For me, my religious faith does not conflict with my acceptance of science. I would therefore suggest that this religion / science conflict derives from personal interests of individuals involved in the business of religion.

  10. This is about power, not faith.

  11. “Promoting scientific discussion,” I might add, only makes sense when the people in the discussion have already established a sufficiently robust background in the subject that they can discuss it intelligently. That simply has not been achieved at the high-school level. Otherwise, one is simply “expressing an opinion,” and opinions are like certain bodily orafices: everyone has one, but that hardly justifies waving it around in public.

    Any version of the “teach the controversy” meme that is (1) forced by law upon (2) groups unequipped to make the requisite evaluations is nothing other than a smokescreen to legislate anti-science ideology.

  12. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) demands to be included.

  13. Leif says:

    With you Richard.

    Has anyone done an analysis of the number of followers and growth rate of the Flying Spaghetti Monsters Flock? Polled? I would think the data would be illuminating. Especially if we get to make up the questions.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Surely children should also be taught to question the claims by ’roundists’ and be allowed to consider the strong evidence for the flatness of the earth. This can be made easier by including the DiscWorld books of Sir Terry Pratchett. Biring your own elephant.

  15. Adam R. says:

    Indeed, the flock of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pesto be upon him) is growing to a mighty throng! We demand tax-free sacraments of wine and bruschetta!

  16. Richard Brenne says:

    We sent the wrong Sally into space.

    Inhofe and Kern aren’t exactly effectively fighting the “Dumb Okie” stereotype. Kern treats her constituents as if they haven’t evolved beyond prokaryotes (the single-celled bacteria, not the super-evolved CP commenter), while I’m guessing some of them have.

    Algal scum first colonized land 1.2 billion* years ago, and now they’ve taken over the Republican Party, which should change its name to Algal Scum.

    *or 6000

  17. Gord says:

    I think they are putting the cart before the horse here.

    I’m a former teacher and from my perspective, the youngsters are just trying to get the science into their brains along with the math that demonstrates it.

    Now they want to introduce a Philosophy of Science class for the little ones where science theories are de-constructed and evaluated? What? This is college level stuff that many in college would not understand … and they want kiddies to try to get their minds around these concepts? Even J.S. Bruner would have problems with this idea IMO.

    This pedagogy is brutal stupidity.

  18. James Newberry says:

    Rep. Sally Kern (R – NOT OK)

  19. BBHY says:

    Sadly, science education is so bad in America that most Americans can’t even recognize this as anti-science.

  20. Mike says:

    Her combining anti-evolution and anti-climatology may have the positive effect to getting different groups of scientists to work together to stop anti-science from spreading.

  21. Ed Hummel says:

    I’ve had many run-ins with anti-evolution as well as anti-global warming dogmatists and it’s truly like talking to a wall. They just don’t want to hear about anything concerning real science that conflicts with their religious beliefs. They are 100% self-assured in their “righteous path” and have no intention of listening to the “other” side, and so talking to them is a total waste of time. However, they must be stopped at every opportunity when they try to push their drivel into public schools and our political institutions. Otherwise, we’ll be heading toward an American theocracy, ranked right up there with Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Taliban, with astonishing speed since a huge number of our fellow citizens are so scientifically illiterate that they can’t tell the difference between real scientific thinking and wishful thinking.

  22. Sou says:

    This false ideas that Kern wants discussed would better take place in a critical thinking class than in a science class. Once a state has to resort to imposing laws to try to enforce extremist and erroneous points of view and outlaw the dissemination of facts, it is heading for disaster.

    Will the time come when weather forecasts are only permitted on days when it is forecast to be cooler than the previous day?

    It’s a double injustice for her to try to hide the problem from the generation that, in adulthood, will have to address much worse conditions than we are facing at the moment.

  23. adelady says:

    Thanks for that Sou. This idea of school age children ‘evaluating’ competing claims about science and the real world is just nonsense. I’d not be too worried if it were introduced for final year school but it more properly belongs in tertiary, if anywhere.

    Could be OK for debating, critical thinking and those sorts of activities, but only for older students. It’s hard enough to get straightforward factual material, let alone mathematical skills, into year 1-12 students.

  24. Edward says:

    Science could have an enormous impact on the financial state of the religion business. That is Sally Kern’s motivation. Preaching is highly profitable as long as there is not too much education going around. A church is a very strange kind of a store. The customers pay money and waste time, but get nothing in return.

    Science is the ultimate Protestant Reformation in which Religion is reformed out of existence. As I remember the Protestant Reformation, it happened because the invention of printing press enabled everybody to own and read and interpret the bible. Priests were no longer necessary when everybody could read the source of knowledge. Science takes the next step: Ancient text is not the source of knowledge when every person can find out the truth by carefully following a procedure called “Science” for him/herself.

    There is another implicit step here. The implicit step is realizing that ancient people did not have some source of knowledge that we do not. In fact, we have enormous knowledge and “The Ancients” did not. Even people in the middle ages had technology that the ancients did not, such as crossbows or even longbows. Yet there are still people who believe that “The Ancients” knew things that we don’t. I find that describing people as old stone age, new stone age, copper age, iron age, mideval, etc does not work. What works is describing “The Ancients” as “just a bunch of wild indians”. The description that works is inaccurate in the details, but it gets the correct message across. It is understood. This is said with apologies to stone age native Americans who were no more stone-age than stone age Europeans or stone age middle easterners or stone age anybody else.

  25. Sou says:

    The aim stated is:

    would require the state and local 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” the scientific strengths and weaknesses of “existing theories.” But the only topics mentioned in the bill as contestable are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

    Any class in critical thinking would first examine the purported link between scientific controversies and the topics mentioned as contestable, and find that the quoted topics are NOT scientific controversies nor contestable. End of class.

    Unfortunately, given the paucity of critical thinking skills and scientific education among today’s generation of teachers, even critical thinking classes in many schools might not be up to par. Although there are good teachers, with each new generation, there are fewer well-educated and thoughtful people entering the teaching profession as the entire education system is being dumbed down.

  26. Tim says:

    It would be interesting for Oklahoma teachers to question evolution and in so doing go straight through Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. It would indeed be educational to raise the creationists’ pathetic objections to evolution and shoot them down one by one – just as Coyne does in an interesting and systematic fashion.

  27. Edward says:

    It seems like a case for the Texas Freedom Network or some other organizations that regularly deal with the subject.

  28. Edward says:

    We all make amazing mistakes once in a while. How do we teach everybody to check their assumptions? Perhaps a course on assumption checking could make a ned run around religious objections to the teaching of thinking and science.

  29. Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma have all seen attempts by creationists to link a “teach the controversy” approach towards both evolution and global warming.

    Please see:

    The linkage of evolution and global warming is partly a legal strategy: courts have found that singling out evolution for criticism in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state. By insisting that global warming also be debated, deniers of evolution can argue that they are simply championing academic freedom in general.

    Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets
    By Leslie Kaufman, NYT
    Published: March 3, 2010

  30. Danny says:

    I think it would be great to give both sides. Now how about a comparative religion class that investigates the origins of religion from a historical and cultural perspective, with a critical analysis of religious texts.

  31. For those who may be unfamiliar with it, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a well-established organization that has existed since 1981. In their banner it states “National Center for Science Education: defending the teaching of evolution in public schools.”

    The NCSE puts out a free monthly newsletter that has a web archive on Google Groups. Given attempts by creationists to link their attacks of evolutionary biology with attacks on climatology under the guise of “teach the controversy” or “teach critical thinking,” I performed for the term “global warming.”

    The ten results organized by date with links to the newsletters themselves are here:

    NCSE News (search of the archives for “global warming”)

    Someone doing a news story might find it a good start as background for the article, but others may be interested as well.

  32. PurpleOzone says:

    This legislator is a real dip. Apparently she believes hi-res photos for driver’s licenses/ids are a sign of end times:

    “A bill that would have allowed people with religious concerns to refuse high-resolution driver’s license photos died in a House committee. The bill’s author, Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, expressed concern that the higher resolution pictures could be included in a national database. She said the Bible’s Book of Revelation mentions “a one-world government and everybody will be enrolled into a system and have to have a certain mark in order to buy, sell and trade.””

  33. oudiva says:

    In addition to Sally Kern’s other mistakes, she and many evolution deniers don’t use the word “theory” properly. They use that word as though it meant somebody’s crackpot notion that has no evidence to support it. An idea that hasn’t been tested yet is a “hypothesis,” not a “theory.” It’s not a “theory” until you have some observations to back it up. Evolution is a theory, not a hypothesis.

    I’m a Christian myself, and have no difficulty with evolution. A careful reading of the Bible – which the deniers apparently haven’t done – shows nothing that conflicts with evolution, and there’s nothing in the theory of evolution that denies God. If God created everything, and evolution is a fact, then it follows that God invented evolution. End of argument.

  34. Matter says:

    “Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades.”

    Yep, just like Sparta.

    Oh, wait.

  35. Gdh says:

    I believe in global warming and its human-caused drivers. I also believe in creation. My suggestion would to be for those interested in a seeing this country develop a strategic and comprehensive energy policy is that you should work on winning converts(sorry about using that word). Do not assume everyone that believes in creation does not believe in climate change. This is a blog on climate: use it for educating each other and reaching out to the undecided. Do not make some of the undecided mad for taking on their belief in creation. My suggestion/opinion is to take the evolution/creation battle somewhere else.

  36. David B. Benson says:

    She’s a Mad Hatter.

  37. And we’re surprised how?

    Given both “movements” share a hostility to science and identical tactics, it is only natural they will converge.

  38. adelady says:

    I’m pretty certain that the creationist argument is a dead end as currently framed.

    Surely the argument has to be that if your God went to all that trouble to create the perfect environment for you to flourish, it is blasphemous to ruin it by deliberate (or even thoughtless) actions. There are sins of omission as well of commission, you know.

  39. catman306 says:

    Having its origin in Oregon, this is a left coast based religion. There always seems to be work for Spaghetti Monster Missionaries. FSM bumper stickers are available somewhere. They need to be hastily distributed in Oklahoma.

    Heat up to a furious boil with the Pasafarians, followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There’s a link to the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster here: