Opposition to Oklahoma's antiscience bill

As Oklahoma's House Bill 1551 is under consideration in a state senate committee, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers have all expressed their opposition to the bill, which would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution" and "global warming."

In his March 21, 2012, letter, the AAAS's chief executive officer Alan I. Leshner expressed his concerns with the bill, writing (PDF), "There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution," and adding, "asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them."

In his March 24, 2012, letter, Donald P. French — who serves both as president of the NABT and as Professor of Zoology at Oklahoma State University — observed (PDF), "the wording of this legislation clearly allows non-scientific explanations for topics such as evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning to be introduced into the science classroom," and explained, "A concept like biological evolution should not be misrepresented as controversial or needing of critical evaluation."

And in her March 27, 2012, letter, Elizabeth Wright, the president of the NAGT, expressed her organization's concerns with the bill, writing (PDF) that "the scientific theory of evolution should be taught to students of all grade levels as a unifying concept without distraction of non-scientific or anti-scientific influence" and reiterating NAGT's acceptance of the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its commitment to "intensive public education, increased awareness, and action" on the issue of climate change.

House Bill 1551 passed the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on March 15, 2012. Explaining his opposition to such bills in the Oklahoman (March 16, 2012), Douglas W. Mock, the George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the University of Oklahoma's Department of Zoology, wrote, "Wrapped in the deceptive language of promoting critical thinking, they aim to get the nose of a malodorous camel (pseudoscience) inside the tent of science. This camel has tried before, many times, and been rebuffed — for good reason."

Updated on March 28, 2012, with the addition of the fourth paragraph and a corresponding revision in the first paragraph.