Last year, Oklahoma Rep. Gus Blackwell introduced legislation allowing students to dissent from scientific theories that they disagree. The bill died in the legislature. This year it is back and is moving forward as it passed 9-8 through the House Common Education Committee.
HB 1674 is like other anti-science bills throughout the country. Blackwell promotes it as an “academic freedom,” but it is really an attempt to undermine “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” All those subjects are specifically mentioned in the bill as topics that teachers may be confused on how to teach because of their controversy.
“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks…A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations,” Blackwell said.
Apparently, Blackwell thinks that a teenager is going to know more about “highly complex life” than a scientist analyzing the wealth of scientific knowledge from human history. While there are plenty of bright high school students out there, no one is that smart.
While there are some ethical questions on human cloning, the other topics are firmly rooted in science. There is not a controversey in the scientific community over these issues. What disagreements exist are minor compared to the political woo Blackwell is promoting.
Essentially, the bill lets a teacher and student present whatever evidence they desire for any scientific consensus they oppose. Who better to reveal the flaws to Darwin’s theory on evolution or massive amounts of highly technical climate change data than a sixteen-year-old, his parents and his teacher?
If scientists have led the world astray, why not question all of it, including the theory of flight or atomic theory? Blackwell and the other doubters of science can’t do that because planes and nuclear power plants clearly work. On the other hand, those who doubt evolution are still looking for the missing link, which is not missing at all.
Most disturbing of all is that Blackwell’s legislation allows a student to pass a science class while dismissing what is taught.
Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.
In other words, if told to write a paper on the origin of life and the student writes about creationism while covering the basics of accepted scientific theory, the student can’t be flunked. This language doesn’t just allow for particular religious concepts or even unproven scientific hypotheses. It allows for outright quackery. Flat earthers or those who deny the moon landing could work in their particular nuttiness into class time.
If the United States is going to decline as a great nation, it is going to be because of legislation like this that makes a mockery of science when the need for educating or young people is never greater. A technological society can’t thrive when a large portion of its population wants to pick and choose science. Unfortunately, none of that seems to bother Blackwell and his supporters in the Oklahoma legislature.