OUR VIEW: Professors show need for academic freedom bill
Two OU professors who are adamantly opposed to Senate Bill 320 – a Science Education and Academic Freedom bill filed by Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso – have recently shown why the bill is necessary.
Zoology professors Vic Hutchison and Richard Broughton have passed out fliers encouraging opposition to the bill, which would permit high school science educators to teach the strengths and weaknesses of science topics that can cause controversy. The blatant misrepresentation of the bill that Hutchison and Broughton display creates a climate of fear that warrants such academic freedom legislation.
We think the bill would encourage students in science classrooms to make honest inquiries about the scientific validity of certain theories, including “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” The bill would allow teachers to present all of the scientific information available. Both of those are essential to the free flow of ideas in an academic setting, and such freedom is essential to a democratic society.
The flier is out of line, and is full of claims that are easily discredited by a quick reading of the bill itself. The fliers’ authors’ attempt to conflate evaluating scientific theories with religion is indicative of the very attitude that causes educators to be hesitant in how they answer students with scientific questions.
The bill is hardly religious. It does not allow for the teaching of fundamentalist religious doctrines like creationism. In fact, it protects scientific discussion.
The bill states, “This act only protects the teaching of scientific information, and this act shall not be construed to promote an religious of non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”
The professors are in a minority of people who don’t think the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution should be taught. A Zogby poll released earlier this month shows 80 percent of voters agree students should have the academic freedom to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory. Of those, 54 percent strongly agreed. Only 17 percent disagreed.
The professors claim the theory of biological evolution has no scientific weaknesses. This is a naïve claim. If it were true, these scientists should encourage it to stand alone as a theory that is discussed and questioned rigorously in the classroom.
Charles Darwin said: “…a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
We agree with Darwin, and think this bill could go a long way in ensuring that happens.