Sunday, February 22, 2015

Some Ways of Confronting Anti-Science Are Better Than Others

It is an annual ritual in Oklahoma. The same legislators file the same bills each year. Two of them that come up year after tiresome year are intended to guarantee the rights of religious students to not be forced to believe in evolution. Sigh. Students already have this right. As President of the Oklahoma Academy of Sciences I know a lot of science teachers in Oklahoma and none of us, to my knowledge, ever requires our students to believe in evolution, just to know the scientific theory and evidence. What they do with it is their own business. A couple of years ago, the best student in my evolution class (and, incidentally, the university valedictorian) was a creationist. I certainly did not penalize her. Students do not need legislators protecting them from scary scientists.

So every year the leading science educators in Oklahoma send emails to legislators urging them to not consider these bills in their committees. I tell them, each year, that these bills are a big-government top-down solution to a non-existent problem.

There is no need to resort to abuse and ridicule of these legislators, even though it is clear that they do not know what they are talking about. (What else is new?) A simple explanation that the bill is unnecessary is sufficient. But I recently saw an article written for an Oklahoma progressive website (there are some) that mercilessly ridiculed one of these bills. Yes, the bill was ridiculous (and may not even be heard in committee) but there is no need to insult people. For obvious reasons, I will not identify the author. Here are some excerpts from “Frankensteins Return with Obsessive Legislation”:

The religious fundamentalists here who want to keep our school kids as dumb and unsuccessful as possible have introduced yet another ‘Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act’ bill in the Oklahoma Legislature.

These types of bills have been regularly defeated or vetoed in the past, but I must say the bill introduced this session, in its current form, is one of the most loony and unconstitutional measures I’ve ever read in my more than 30 years of writing about politics in the great state of Oklahoma.

This latest religious-intrusion bill is a rambling, overly qualified, disingenuous cartoon of rhetorical nonsense. It should be enshrined as one of the worst legislative bills ever written in the history of the planet. (Full apologies to the legislative staff member/attorney who had to put this slop together in some semblance of coherence.) The bill’s language should be carved out in stone and placed next to the state Capitol’s Ten Commandments monument. My fellow Okies, let us now bow our heads in prayer to Our Oklahoma God of Mediocrity and forgive those who make this state a laughingstock to the rest of the world. Amen.

Using language like this only makes religious fundamentalists stronger in their distrust of scientists and educators (I don’t know the author and I’m not sure if the author is either). To save time and to minimize the effects of cortisol on my body, I’ll just stick with the basics when I write to legislators.

For more information about the anti-science bills in Oklahoma, you may visit the website of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE).

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