Two antiscience bills in Oklahoma

Two antiscience bills, Senate Bill 758 and House Bill 1674, have been prefiled in the Oklahoma legislature.

First, Senate Bill 758 (document), styled the Oklahoma Science Education Act, would, if enacted, 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." Unusually but not uniquely, no scientific topics are specifically identified as controversial, but the fact that the sole sponsor of SB 758 is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced specifically antievolution legislation in the two previous legislative sessions, is telling.

In late 2010, Brecheen announced his intention to file antievolution legislation in a column in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010): "Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable." In a subsequent column in the newspaper (December 24, 2010), he indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented as scientifically credible, writing, "I have introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which conflicts with Darwin's religion."

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Antiscience legislation in Colorado
House Bill 13-1089 (PDF), introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives on January 16, 2013, and assigned to the House Committees on Education and Appropriations, would create "Academic Freedom Acts" for both K-12 public schools and institutes of higher education in the state of Colorado. If enacted, the bill would, in the words of the summary, "direct teachers to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning."HB 13-1089 is a typical instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the teaching of evolution. As NCSE's Glenn Branch, Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau explained in 2010, such bills tacitly license and encourage teachers "to miseducate students about evolution, whether by teaching creationism as a scientifically credible alternative or merely by misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial." The effect on the teaching of climate change is similar. Colorado's new bill is unusual in targeting higher education as well as K-12 education, however.
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Antievolution legislation in Missouri
House Bill 179, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 16, 2013, and not yet referred to a committee, is the latest antievolution bill in the Missouri state legislature. The bill would, if enacted, call on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution."
 
"It's ironic that creationist strategies continue to evolve," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. "At first, creationists tried to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools altogether. When they were no longer able to do so, they tried to 'balance' it with the teaching of Biblical creationism, or scientific creationism, or intelligent design. After the Kitzmiller trial in 2005, in which teaching intelligent design was found by a federal court to be unconstitutional, there's been a shift toward belittling evolution — as just a theory, or as in need of critical analysis, or as the subject of scientific controversy." She explained that over forty bills adopting the tactic of encouraging teachers to misrepresent evolution as controversial have been introduced in the last decade, successfully in Louisiana in 2008 and in Tennessee in 2012. Scott added, "The sponsors of House Bill 179 will doubtless claim that there are good reasons for it. Missourians concerned with the integrity of science education are going to be skeptically replying: show me." . . .