Oklahoma, Textbooks, and Ignorance

In an online press release on 2005/05/25, Oklahoma state Senators Mike Mazzei & Clark Jolley announced, “Henry Nominee for Textbook Committee Opposed”.

Interesting… what, in particular, made them think that the nominee in question, Dr. Virginia Ann Dell, should be opposed?

“Despite her impressive academic degrees and her service as a teacher at the Oklahoma School of Science and Math, her errant belief that the teaching of the Intelligent Design Theory blurs the line between the separation of church and state is the first of many problems to arise with her nomination,” stated Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond.

Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, stated, “Nothing exists in state or federal law that prohibits the discussion of creationism or Intelligent Design theory in the classroom. Let’s encourage open and honest discussion of all theories so students can learn to think critically and, with their parents’ guidance, develop their own worldview.”

Dell’s responses to questioning in the Senate Education Committee showed she is unwilling to even allow a mention or discussion of alternative theories on the origins of the universe.

Hmm… what was Dr. Dell’s training in, I wonder?

Virginia Ann Dell, Ph.D.

Dr. Dell earned her degree in 1987 from the University of Oklahoma, Health Science Center in Biochemistry. She is also the Mentorship coordinator for OSSM. This duty entails pairing interested students with a mentor in a particular field of science, encouraging a hands-on experience. Dr. Dell teaches Genetics, Biochemistry, and Molecular and Cell Biology.

(Source: OSSM Biology Department)

So, someone with actual academic training in science, experience as a science teacher, and apparent familiarity with the legal status of antievolution efforts (such as Epperson v. Arkansas, McLean v. Arkansas, and Edwards v. Aguillard, which show Mazzei to be behind the times as far as legal issues go) is definitely someone to keep away from helping make decisions on textbooks in Oklahoma.

And the same goes for anybody else with half a clue on this topic:

“Since this is Gov. Henry’s second appointee to the Textbook Committee to openly hold this viewpoint, I fear he is trying to stack the Textbook Commission with liberals whose goal is to stamp out all discussion of alternatives to the theory of evolution in Oklahoma classrooms,” Jolley said.

No, Mr. Jolley; what you are seeing is the principled non-partisan stance that we should be teaching science in science classrooms and not teaching non-science there. In order to do right in teaching a scientific alternative to the evolutonary biology you must actually have a scientific alternative to evolutionary theory, not just a lot of long-rebutted antievolution arguments coupled with, “therefore, {God | an intelligent designer} did it.” In other words, first do some science, convince the scientific community that there is a point there, then it will be ready to teach in K-12 science classes. This, I know, is a difficult lesson for those pushing theistic antievolution to learn.

I’m working on the content of a five-day seminar to be given in Oklahoma on the topic of “Evolution and creation”. I had been wondering about how to tie current events to Oklahoma. So, thank you, Oklahoma state Senators Mazzei and Jolley. You have provided me with exactly the sort of hook I needed.

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11 thoughts on “Oklahoma, Textbooks, and Ignorance

  1. Ed Darrell

    You’d think that people who live in a state where finding oil is important would be a little more circumspect before urinating on the science establishment that finds the oil . . .

    It appears that the Oklahoma State Senate needs a course in First Amendment law, as well. Can we run it concurrently with yours? And can we require Oklahoma senators to attend?

  2. QuesterUK

    Being open and honest about evolution AND critics of evolution surely means knowledge of alternatives to evolution should not be denied.

    What is actually wrong with the comment given “Let’s encourage open and honest discussion of all theories so students can learn to think critically….”?

    You must ask how close-minded is Dell – “Dell’s responses to questioning in the Senate Education Committee showed she is unwilling to even allow a mention or discussion of alternative theories on the origins of the universe”.

    This sounds like she is being a bigot for the religion of evolution.

  3. Austringer Post author

    In science classes, religious alternatives to scientific theories are not topical. Please note that I’ve already discussed how one legitimately gets things into the science curriculum — convince the science community that your “alternative” is science.

    As for Dell’s “close-mindedness”, there is the issue of who is doing the reporting. Mazzei and Jolley don’t seem to be inclined to take anything less than credulous acceptance of their stance as being non-bigoted. She is cast as a bigot by people who are trying to railroad antievolution into the science curriculum, where it has no place.

  4. G Lynn

    Quester Uk

    There is nothing wrong with discussing all theories – ID however is not a theory – saying the fairies did it contributes absolutely nothing to the discussion.

    What exactly do you propose is taught – there is no evidence and no theory !

  5. Zeno

    In other words, first do some science, convince the scientific community that there is a point there, then it will be ready to teach in K-12 science classes.

    Ok. Genetics 101.. Everybody that’s born gets 50% of their genetic makeup from their mother and 50% from their father, therefore evolution is impossible.

  6. Austringer Post author

    The very saddest thing about Jeff “Zeno” Low’s comment is that he is serious, and not simply relaying a parody of what antievolutionists think.

  7. Ereshkigal

    Thanks! I do not qualify to attend the classes, but I noticed that OSLEP’s website states: “Many of the visiting scholars present a free public lecture, open to the community. These programs always include a question & answer session and an opportunity to meet and talk with the scholar.”

    Will you be presenting such a lecture?

  8. Austringer Post author

    Yes. The lecture is for the Physics department in their Physics2005 schedule. The title I’ve provided is “Physics, Physiology, Evolution: Cues for Accommodation and Adaptation.” I think the lecture will be the Thursday night while I’m there.

  9. Bryan T rim

    Good article. I will be starting the fall semester at Cameron U. to get my science degree with the aim of becoming a high school science teacher. I have worked in laboratory science for three years, and medical science for six. It saddens me that people take shots at scientists by calling them “bigots”. They would not allow us to teach biology to their sunday school students, so why should we allow them to teach religion to public school students. What the “ID” crowd also fails to realize that once that door is flung wide, any “alternative” theory is admissable, including my personal favorite, that of the FSM. http://www.venganza.org home of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

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