Oh, Oklahoma. The only way I will visit you is if I either get hopelessly lost or if my plane has to make an emergency landing. Nothing about you makes me – as an advocate of science and rational thought – want to set foot there when you make it so abundantly clear that you are doing everything you can to create a code of laws based on nothing more than scientific ignorance and half-baked personal philosophy.
I present to you two reasons, which are only the most recent in a long, rich history of the same. The first is HB1674, a piece of legislation which passed the Oklahoma Common Education committee on the 19th of this month. In the words of state representative Gus Blackwell, the republican who proposed the legislation, the bill is intended to “encourage scientific exploration”. Why an inherent quality of the scientific method needs to be protected by the government, I’m not sure, but let’s read on.
“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“May be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks”?? Why would they be afraid? And for what reason would they choose to go against something they read in them?
“A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”
Ah yes, of course. So we have a Republican Baptist Christian politician trying to give legal protection to students who don’t want to believe in evolution. Just wonderful. So after failing so far to implement a law forcing creationism into public schools – even under the guise of “intelligent design” – Oklahoma politicians are now taking the approach of putting in verbiage to allow students to just-sorta-kinda-ignore the science they don’t like.
To be fair, a student may write such a paper as he suggests … in a comparative religion, mythology, or contemporary American history class. That’s not a problem. But if this is done in a science class and presented as a legitimate opposing “theory” to modern evolutionary synthesis, then the teacher has the obligation as an educator to fail that student, because the vast body of anatomical, biological, paleontological, and phylogenetic evidence we have says they’re dead wrong.
I can’t believe how many politicians are operating under this delusion that science can be treated as nothing more than a matter of public opinion. Just because there is a group of people in this country who choose not to believe in the scientific method doesn’t mean we should listen to them if they whine loudly enough. Their point of view is neither valid nor worthy of mention. They’re wrong. There is no controversy. Evolution is the closest thing to a fact that we can get in the scientific world. The mechanisms explaining it have enough independently verifiable supporting evidence that it is considered a theory. It may not be perfect, and it’s still – and will always be – a work in progress, but there is nothing else out there that can even come close.
“Students can’t say because I don’t believe in this, I don’t want to learn it,” Blackwell says. “They have to learn it in order to look at the weaknesses.”
True, they still have to learn it … but this bill is protecting their “right” to reject it within the classroom and undermine the authority of the educator (the numbers are line numbers on page 3, for those who are reading along):
17 Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of
18 course materials, but no student in any public school or institution
19 shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a
20 particular position on scientific theories. Nothing in this
21 subsection shall be construed to exempt students from learning,
22 understanding and being tested on curriculum as prescribed by state
23 and local education standards.
In other words, this bill says, “a student can learn about evolution, but we’re telling them it’s not real, they don’t have to believe it, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Seriously, what if we did this to other issues, like human reproduction? How about instead of requiring that all students accept the well-established scientific fact that a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg, we allow kids to walk out of the class at the end of the year convinced that a stork dropped off their little brother or sister?
Actually, given some of the idiocy being taught in abstinence only “education” classes, that’s basically what some states are doing. Speaking of which, there is another bill going through the Senate right now that allows for health insurers within the state to opt out of providing contraception and abortion coverage.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees,” the bill says.
I can’t imagine the bill getting a great deal of traction considering the Affordable Health Care Act only allows religious exemptions for this requirement. Letting any business opt out of whatever part of the AHCA they choose might get a little tough to defend in the context of the federal mandate. It’s also tough to defend in any other context considering – for example – the widespread and varied reasons for the use of contraception and its efficacy in preventing unwanted pregnancies which would otherwise lead to abortion. Because hey, let’s be honest … Oklahoma isn’t exactly all too keen on supporting single mothers-to-be with low cost pre-natal care or health screenings to begin with, so prevention is clearly the most viable approach for them.
[State Senator Clark] Jolley said the measure is the result of a request from a constituent, Dr. Dominic Pedulla, an Oklahoma City cardiologist who describes himself as a natural family planning medical consultant and women’s health researcher. Pedulla says he is morally against contraception and abortion.
Haha, what? So a state representative cobbled together some legislation that will affect the lives of thousands of women in Oklahoma in response to the personal morals and warped ideas of womanhood of one of his constituents? One of his male constituents?
Women are worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are, Pedulla said.
“Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother,” Pedulla said. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity … “
“They are being asked”? By whom? And how is their identity being “contradicted” by allowing them the right to determine whether and under what circumstances they wish to become pregnant? It’s true that part of the identity of a woman is, in many cases, the potential for motherhood; however, it’s also her inalienable right to determine whether or not to realize that potential. Suggesting otherwise strongly implies that at the root of Mr. Pedulla’s “concern” for women is his objection to their being allowed to have a say in matters of their own reproductive freedom.
” … and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.”
Huh? Again, no one’s “asking” women to do anything. It’s true that some forms of hormonal birth control have side effects, but considering their widespread use and the length of time involved, the medical community would likely have found some major problems by now if they truly were poisoning women … unless he’s just talking about poisoning some sort of Platonic female “ideal”, which naturally should be open and receptive to making babies or something. I don’t know.
Whatever the logic might have been for that last comment, the bill passed the Senate Business Committee and heads to the full Senate for consideration. It just goes to show you that for some people, no amount of consensus on the part of the medical community can outweigh the opinion of one guy with some personal feelings.