- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma science teachers could teach creationism alongside evolution under a bill that narrowly got initial backing in the Legislature on Thursday, despite opposition from teachers and others.

The House General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee backed the measure in a 4-3 vote after hearing from supporters and opponents of the bill, which would prohibit school boards and administrators from preventing science teachers from exploring any theory with their students, including those with no scientific basis.

The bill’s Republican sponsor, Rep. David Brumbaugh, of Broken Arrow, said it would help science students “develop critical thinking skills” and encourage them to explore theories and learn about scientific evidence. He said 16 states, including Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana, have similar laws or legislation.

“This is all part of helping kids,” Brumbaugh said. “This only facilitates a more educated youth.”

Opponents, though, said the bill is really meant to open the door to religious teaching in science classrooms and would prevent educators and parents from having control over what their children are taught. They said presenting non-science based theories in a science classroom would harm students, and that more than 2,000 people have signed a petition opposing the bill, which the Senate already passed.

“We believe that the bill will not prepare students to be competitive in a very competitive environment,” Dr. Elizabeth Allan, a biology professor at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, told the committee.

Brumbaugh said some opponents believe scientific theories that are already part of science curricula are firmly established science.

“Nothing’s settled,” he said.

Among other things, the measure would prohibit the state Board of Education and school districts from preventing teachers “from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”

Dr. Donald Ewert, a microbiologist and director of research at the Hough Ear Institute in Oklahoma City, said teachers and their students should have the freedom to explore and question scientific theories and doctrines.

“They need an intellectually safe place,” said Ewert, who has urged that intelligent causation, a component of the intelligent design theory that life cannot have arisen by chance and was created by an intelligent entity, be considered as a component of scientific theories.


Senate Bill 393: https://bit.ly/2nJbjRT

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