Oklahoma House of Representives oppose Richard Dawkins as speaker at OSU
The Oklahoma House of Representives has issued a Resolution opposing the invitiation to speak, by Oklahoma State University, of Richard Dawkins. A state sponsored, bona fide, Resolution (State of Oklahoma 1st session of the 52nd Legislature, 2009, House Resolution 1015)! In so doing they have demonstrated a complete disregard for concepts like irony, hypocrisy, and unintentional comedy. The Onion could scarcely do a better job of ridiculing the Oklahoma House, or satirizing parochial politics better than the god-squad in Oklahoma.
It is a
A Resolution opposing the invitation to Richard Dawkins to speak on campus; encouraging the University of Oklahoma to engage in a certain discussion of certain scientific theories; and directing distribution.
The state legislature is encouraging a "certain discussion of certain scientific theories?" On what grounds ought they do this? What scientific qualifications do the honorable members of the House possess that they should be offering ideas about what is good or bad science? How certain a discussion I wonder? What certain theories you may ask? Of course you needn't ask because you already know. Besides they inform us very early in their Resolution.
Under the guise of academic freedom, members of the Oklahoma House are trying to force OSU, indeed any university I would guess, that gets public funding to teach either intelligent design (hereafter ID) or straight creationism (hereafter tucked into my ID abreviation because they are one and the same thing). The wording of the Resolution pretends to want to foster a university which is "open to all ideas, and should train students in all disciplines of study and research, and to use independent thinking and free inquiry." This is an assortment of meaningless nonsense. There are obvious objections. What would it mean to be "open to all ideas?" If a professor wanted to teach a course on the therapuetic benefits of bondage gangbangs would Todd Thomsen (the representative who appears to be pushing Resolution 1015) and his gang be open to the possiblities? Would they embrace this fresh, counter-intuitive idea, that would presumbly be short on data, and even shorter on sound methodology? The hypothetical professor's idea is certianly ripe with independent thinking, and encourages free inquiry. Would they support a field course on cryptozoology, that taught the wildlife biology of unicorns, bigfoots, Lochness monsters? Just what is it they want OSU to allow? R1015 is actually short on such specifics but we can infer a great deal of their specific aims by examining that which they aim their extreme antipathy.
All disciplines? What does that even mean? What more can reasonably be added to college curriculae? Clearly our minds must be open to new possiblities, but they should be so open that our brains fall out. That Resolution 1015 singles out Dawkins is something of a surprise, but that it would then attack the science of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin was not.
You are probably wondering just what R1015 has to say...
WHEREAS, the University of Oklahoma has planned a year-long celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s theory of evolution, called the “Darwin 2009 Project”, which includes a series of lectures, public speakers, and a course on the history of evolution; and
WHEREAS, the University of Oklahoma, as a part of the Darwin 2009 Project, has invited as a public speaker on campus, Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published opinions, as represented in his 2006 book “The God Delusion”, and public statements on the theory of evolution demonstrate an intolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking and are views that are not shared and are not representative of the thinking of a majority of the citizens of Oklahoma; and
I must confess that I doubt Todd Thomsen, or the other authors of R1015 have even cracked the cover of The God Delusion or read any thing but quotes of Dawkins "public opionions", nor ever listened to him discuss evolutionary theory. A harsh accusation I grant you, but one born of some unpleasant experiance. Dawkins is in no way obligated to hold an opionion commensurate with that of "the thinking of a majority of the citizens of Oklahoma." Nor is OSU's biology department or its College of Arts and Sciences in any way similarly obligated to parrot the purported sentiments of most of the thinking citizens of Oklahoma. Charges like cultural intolerance, and intellectual intolerance are, when left vague, ultimately pointless. What does it mean specifically to call Dawkins intolerant? The authors of R1015 are not concerned with specifics, just making the charge, and the careless implication.
R1015 demonstrates a decided annoyance with evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, and any celebration of either or both. It accuses the scientific establishment at OSU of presenting "a biased philosophy on the theory of evolution to the exclusion of all other divergent considerations rather than teaching a scientific concept" not only by inviting Dawkins, but by its focus on Darwin this year. What other divergent considerations? Again the authors glide by it. But we can bet they are not upset by the fact that hypotheses utilizing group selection are not more widely examined, or the novel and engaging ideas of Lynn Marguilis concerning the role of cooperation as a driver of evolutionary trends are not being widely accepted among evolutionary biologists. The reason for this is that those minor scientific arguments (which will be settled by experiental results that are subsequently duplicated in various independent labs) do not claim to be doing anything other than expanding the mechanisms by which evolutionary change happens. ID is exactly the thing with which the authors of R1015, and presumbly most of thinking Oklahoma want to see in the class rooms of OSU. The problem is that pesky scientific method, that ignores ideas, no matter how novel, free wheeling, or paradigm shifting if they come with no data, no experiment, er...well, with absolutely nothing but the earnestness of the their claimants. While the authors don't want to bring up ID, it is the only thing about which they can be talking.
But what has been resolved? (The caps are theirs not mine)
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE 1ST SESSION OF THE 52ND OKLAHOMA LEGISLATURE:
THAT the Oklahoma House of Representative strongly opposes the invitation to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published statements on the theory of evolution and opinion about those who do not believe in the theory are contrary and offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma.
Dawkins has said that most people who think there is an alternative explanation for the diversity of life on are simply ignorant of the facts. His views about evolution are as it happens not opinions per se in the same way that my thoughts on the sun being the center of our solar system are not opinions. It is demonstrable, verifiable fact. Evolution is as demonstrable as heliocentricy. In fact it stands as one of the three great pillars of scientific success in the past 200 years. The other two relativity, and quantum mechanics being found in physics. When more ID nitwits understand those two theories better they will have no choice but oppose them as well. Being offended by facts can happen I suppose, but it won't stop their being true.
1015 further "resolves" that
THAT the Oklahoma House of Representatives encourages the University of Oklahoma to engage in an open, dignified, and fair discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution and all other scientific theories which is the approach that a public institution should be engaged in and which represents the desire and interest of the citizens of Oklahoma.
OSU's biology department is already engaged in an open, dignified discussion of evolutionary theory and has been for several decades. I do wish they would spell out what they think is unfair about the current approach. Evolutionary biology is a lively field, full of intense inquiry, disaggreement and research. What can we add that isn't already being discussed? If the authors of R1015 would like professor's of biology to teach something they call "the controversy" (IDers prefer to think in terms of a false dichotomy. In their mind there is Darwinian evolution and ID. Here they are utterly wrong. There is currently only evolutionary biology because IDers have produced no science at all). There is no scientific controversy to teach. It seems that simply because some, perhaps sizable, percentage of Oklahomans prefer a literal interpretation of their scripture, the authors of R1015 think science classrooms should waste valuble time on mythology. Sadly for the proponents of R1015 scientific truth is not adjudicated by democratice means.
Opposing Dawkins as a speaker, while at the same time crying over academic freedom, fair and dignified discussions, and asking for free inquiry all seem like counter-productive moves. It would be hard to ignore the fact it also seems utterly inconsistent with the stated goals of the distinguished representatives in question. "Please, we want free inquiry, we want a fair and balanced appraisal of the issues, but...uh...this guy shouldn't be allowed to speak."
Did the authors of R1015 not see this? Apparently not.
Finally R1015 resolves:
THAT a copy of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the University of Oklahoma, the Dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Oklahoma, and the Chair of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma.
This is easily the only intelligent thing accomplished by R1015. They decided to send a copy to the people that offended them. Well done.
Clearly the authors of R1015 are creationists who hold a more or less fundamentalist, literalist position of the bible. As such they are likely completely in the dark about how science works. Only in this way can they think that all that is needed for creationism to be more widely believed among biologists is for more "discussion." The simple fact is that there is just nothing to discuss. The past one hundred and fifty years of research have established evolution as scientific fact. Discussion won't shift that paradigm. The only thing that possibly could cause a change in the scientific view would be actual research that falsified the evolutionary hypothesis. No one is opposeing such research, and I invite the proponents of ID to get well on with it.
If you don't hold a literalist view of your scripture I suppose science is not a threat to your religious views. If you take the position of metaphor, and allegory then what bother is it that we are kin with the rest of the biosphere? There are probably ways to make even greater, more beautiful religious metaphors awaiting you in the sciences. No doubt such a view is more work and all yours to do, but why set your belief system on the tracks of the scientific endeavor? The literalist of the cosmos has already been run down.
Move along, nothing to see here.