Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oppose the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act

HB 1551, the "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act," passed the Oklahoma House, and goes next to the Senate Education Committee. The committee meets at 9:00 on Monday morning, and I ask those of you who live in Oklahoma to contact members as soon as possible (see below). Remember to include your home address in email correspondence.

Note that this bill, if passed into law, would give science teachers the freedom to judge where "scientific controversy" exists. It lists "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as examples of controversy. It does not mention, of course, the "scientific controversies" as to whether HIV causes AIDS, and as to whether HIV even exists. The thought of biology teachers effectively encouraging teenagers to doubt that unprotected sex puts them at elevated risk of AIDS is chilling. Most would not do this, but I guarantee you that there are some who would.

Senator John Ford (R) (Chair) 405-521-5634
Senator Gary Stanislawski (Vice Chair) 405-521-5624
Senator Cliff Branan (R) (405) 521-5543
Senator Josh Brecheen (R) (sponsor of similar bills)
Senator Greg Childers (R) (405) 521-5522
Senator Kim David (R) (405) 521-5590
Senator Judy Eason McIntyre (D) 405-521-5598
Senator Earl Garrison (D) 405-521-5533
Senator Jim Halligan (R) 405-521-5572
Senator David Holt (R) (405) 521-5636
Senator Clark Jolley (R) (405) 521-5622
Senator Charlie Laster (D) (405) 521-5539
Senator Richard Lerblance (D) (405) 521-5604
Senator Mike Mazzei (R) 405-521-5675
Senator Jonathan Nichols (R) (405) 521-5535
Senator Susan Paddack (D) 405-521-5541
Senator John Sparks (D) 405-531-5553

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I laughed at him, but I also applauded him

I'm just back from a public debate of whether intelligent design should be taught in public-school science classes. Baptist pastor Steve Kern argued for, and doctoral student Abbie Smith argued against. Kern is the husband of Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern, a sponsor of "academic freedom" bills.

I half-expected to see a skillful orator tie a scientist-in-training into rhetorical knots. I've known many Baptist preachers and preachers-to-be, and I assure you that plenty of them are capable of it. Abbie would nail them on the relevant science, but that's not really what wins debates on matters like this.

However, Kern was ill-prepared and slow-witted. He was so bad that I wonder whether the host of the event, the Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, invited him not just for his views, but also for his ineptitude. (In last year's debate, Kern argued that the U.S. was established as a Christian nation.)

Kern did get his tongue loose at one point in the debate. He emphasized that he reads creationist science books, and then proceeded to regurgitate various ill-digested morsels. When he made his way to genetic entropy, and stated that mutations always destroy information, I merely grinned. But when he ended by proclaiming that evolutionary improvement would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I let myself chortle. I wasn't alone, but I may have been the first or the loudest. The moderator gave me a disapproving look, and I deserved it.

The debate was a bore, though Abbie presented well. The highlight, for me, came during the Q&A. Kern said outright that it is theology that drives his science, and not science that drives his theology. I waited for the audience to respond, and when it did not, I initiated a round of applause. And I was sincere in doing so. What I detest about ID creationists is their fabulous dishonesty, not their belief in God. There's nothing more I could ask of Kern, than that he explain with complete honesty his subjugation of science to religious dogma.