Two Oklahoma lawmakers file bills encouraging creationism
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2011
1/28/11 at 6:02 AM
A freshman state senator from southeastern Oklahoma and a four-term state representative from Oklahoma City are taking another run at Charles Darwin.
Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, and Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, have filed legislation designed to undermine the teaching of a fundamental of modern science, the theory of evolution.
Kern's House Bill 1551, called the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act, says students cannot be penalized for subscribing "to a particular position on scientific theories."
Brecheen's Senate Bill 554 actually encourages the teaching of evolution - but in a way his critics say is designed to tear it down rather than reinforce it.
"It's very slickly written," said Victor Hutchison, a retired University of Oklahoma zoology professor who tracks such legislation. "But it includes comments from the creationism crowd that you recognize if you're familiar with these things."
The upshot, Hutchison said, is "criticism of evolution without any scientific basis."
Brecheen does not really dispute that his bill is an attack on evolution. He promised such a measure after his election in November and said evolution is "a religion," not science.
"I have introduced legislation requiring every publicly funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution," he wrote in the Dec. 24 Durant Daily Democrat.
Brecheen would not agree to be interviewed for this story, but he said in an e-mail that "legislators have a responsibility to ensure state-supported classroom instruction is factual so, concerning evolution, ... we must fully educate using all confirmed scientific discoveries."
Kern did not respond to an interview request, but she issued a statement earlier this week denying that her bill is "anti-evolution."
"Given the impact of the theory of evolution, it is important that students be familiar with it and able to discuss it," she said. "At the same time, teachers and students should be free to discuss critiques of the theory, and no student should ever be penalized for personal views on this issue."
U.S. courts have consistently ruled that creationism and "intelligent design" are based on religion, not science.
But Kern's and Brecheen's bills state that they are not intended to promote a religious viewpoint.
"That's ridiculous," Hutchison said. "These bills come primarily from people who are biblical literalists."
He pointed out that most mainstream Christian denominations accept evolution.
"It comes down to the definition of science," Hutchison said. "Religion has no place in a science course. It can, however, be taught in courses on religion."
Original Print Headline: Bills take shot at evolution
Randy Krehbiel 581-8365
Rep. Sally Kern and Sen. Josh Brecheen: Kern says her bill isn't anti-evolution but that students should be able to discuss critiques of the theory. Brecheen, who promised such a measure after his election, says evolution is "a religion," not science.