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National Center for Science Education Misrepresents Oklahoma Academic Freedom Bill

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Why make an argument when a good ad hominem will do? That seems to be the mantra of our friends over at the National Center for Selling Evolution Science Education (NCSE). Last week they reported that a bill introduced in the Oklahoma state legislature was “the second anti-science bill in the Oklahoma legislature for 2016.”

The proposed law, Oklahoma House Bill 3045, is officially called the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act (SEAFA). It states:

The Oklahoma Legislature finds that an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens. The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

According to the NCSE, anyone who wants students to learn critical thinking skills or how to properly evaluate scientific evidence to reach conclusions is “anti-science.” Never mind that the SEAFA goes on to say:

The State Board of Education, district boards of education, district superintendents and administrators and public school principals and administrators shall 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.

The NCSE simply will not stand for students learning how to “explore scientific questions,” “learn about scientific evidence,” or “develop critical thinking skills” — and definitely not to “respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion on controversial issues.” That last one seems well beyond the ability of the NCSE itself, as their continued factual misrepresentations attest.

However, what really has the NCSE in a state of agitation is this language in the bill:

Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help student s understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.

There’s that pesky phrase, “strengths and weaknesses.” For the NCSE that’s just secret code for sneaking “creationism” into science classrooms. And how do they know that? Because anyone who knows anything at all about evolution knows that there are no scientific controversies worth noting in evolutionary biology.

In support of that contention, the NCSE cites this helpful comment from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s chief executive officer Alan I. Leshner, who wrote:

There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution…[A]sserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.

Perhaps someone should give Leshner and the NCSE a copy of Michael Denton’s forthcoming book Evolution: Still A Theory in Crisis. You might even throw in a copy of Susan Mazur’s book The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry.

We’ve written before about the several prominent evolutionary biologists who met at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria, in July 2008 to discuss the need for an update to evolutionary thinking. As Casey Luskin noted:

It seems that the NCSE was indeed quite worried that this conference [in Altenberg] will do damage to neo-Darwinism. At the very least, this exchange exposes the NCSE’s intolerant attitude towards non-Darwinian thoughts, even when the doubters don’t support ID. Indeed, Mazur’s reports reveal that various scientists and academics she has interviewed during her reporting about the conference have fundamental doubts about neo-Darwinism, but they are eschewed by the scientific community.

With so many evolutionary biologists having serious doubts about standard evolutionary theory, even as the Darwinian community works to silence them, it seems disingenuous for Alan Leshner and the NCSE to claim that there simply are no controversies of any significance in evolutionary biology.

Which brings us back to Oklahoma’s SEAFA. In characterizing the bill as “anti-science,” the NCSE is playing politics with science yet again. Susan Mazur noted back in 2008 that there are “hundreds of other evolutionary scientists (non-Creationists) who contend that natural selection is politics, not science, and that we are in a quagmire because of staggering commercial investment in a Darwinian industry built on an inadequate theory.” So much for “no controversies” in evolutionary biology.

What is really “anti-science” is opposing any science education standards that require students to learn how to “develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens.” Far better to just feed them the Darwinian dogma than let them learn how to think! Anti-science indeed!

Image credit: Oklahoma State Capitol, © Caleb Long [CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.