Educators in Oklahoma would be forced to openly question in their classes the legitimacy of the scientific theory of evolution should a new bill become state law.
“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,” state Rep. Sally Kern, a Republican, said in defense of the bill she filed recently.
The legislation (HB 1551) titled the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act” singled out “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as topics that are controversial and thus questionable.
It is the second of such anti-evolution proposals in Oklahoma and the fourth filed nationwide so far this year.
In response to a similar bill that died in committee in 2009, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education called any claims that evolution is controversial as “just plain dishonest,” adding that they are "phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who don’t like evolution.’
"Evolution as a process is supported by an enormous and continually growing body of evidence," the OESE said in its criticism of SB 320 [PDF].
The group continued, "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."
Kerns, a former schoolteacher whose district includes Oklahoma City, has waged relentless attacks on science education, specifically targeting evolution, in recent years.
According to the National Center for Science Education, 2006 was her banner year for she sponsored two of four anti-evolution bills in the state. However, Kern's HB 2107, which called for "academic freedom" on "biological or chemical origins of life," died at the end of the 2006 legislative session without a final vote.
Kern's new bill has yet to receive a hearing in the Oklahoma House since the next session starts on February 7.