Point: More doctors, less preachers

The strategy among creationism proponents for a long time has been to create a nonexistent controversy and cast doubt on proven science and the scientific method, a disingenuous ploy that brings into question the sincerity of those who push it.

Why don’t the religious-inspired politicians here just openly push to place the story of Christian creationism in science classrooms? It would be terrible for intellectual integrity and students if they were successful, but at least there could be a truthful debate.

Legislation was introduced this year in the House by state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, and in the Senate by state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, that once again tried to make the debate an academic issue within the framework of scientific study. Kern’s bill was defeated in a committee vote, and Brecheen’s bill failed to meet a committee deadline vote. Can legislative maneuvering still bring the substance of these bills to a full vote?

Kern’s bill, the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act, represented the opposite of what its name implies. The bill argued, “ … scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy.” Brecheen’s bill argued, “Controversial topics in sciences include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution.”

But the controversy doesn’t exist.

The country’s scientific community overwhelmingly supports evolutionary theory. Project Steve, sponsored by the National Center for Science Education, collected support from more than 1,150 people in the scientific community named Steve or a derivative of that name in favor of teaching evolution. According to the NCSE, “‘Steves’ are only about 1 percent of scientists.”

Project Steve was an attempt to counter legislation that at least implicitly endorses the ideas of the faux science called “intelligent design.” Proponents argue the natural world is too complicated to have occurred undirected, and thus must have been created by a “designer” (i.e., a god). It is based on conjecture only, not scientific experiments.

In 2005, federal judge John E. Jones III ruled a Pennsylvania school district couldn’t teach intelligent design as an argument against evolution. He wrote, “ … ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class.”

Six years later, politicians continue the controversy strategy against a wellproven scientific theory that has been the foundational science for advances in vaccines and livestock breeding.

Casting doubt on evolution theory in state science classrooms with creationism-backed controversy theories is anti-intellectual and damaging to the academic futures of students. Oklahoma needs more doctors than it needs more preachers.

Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and author of the Okie Funk blog.

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