Wednesday, March 25, 2009

America's Most Backward State: Oklahoma!

Last week, Fosco was outraged by the head of the Texas State Board of Education and his love for a book that claims to disprove evolution. Because what kind of state allows that kind of moron to be in charge of education? Well, then Oklahoma had to go one better (thereby winning the appellation "America's Most Backward State").

As Fosco's favorite cyber-crusader, Jonathan Turley, notes:

It appears that Oklahoma legislators are continuing their attempted crackdown on University of Oklahoma for the outrage of allowing evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins of Oxford University speak to its students. After proposing two resolutions denouncing the scheduled appearance, legislators are now demanding answers about the funding and communications with Dawkins.
For those of you who don't know, Richard Dawkins is one of the foremost evolutionary biologists. His writings on evolution for a popular audience are well-written and impeccably reasoned. He is one of the most persuasive theorists of evolution (and a frequent critic of creationism and religious fundamentalism). He is also, by any conceivable measurement, smarter and better educated that every single member of the Oklahoma State Legislature (or does that go without saying?). Oh, and if the above photo is to be believed, he is Buffy's Watcher.

But because some morons aren't happy unless they're fucking things up for everyone else, Oklahoma State Representative Rebecca Hamilton (apparently, in some sort of bizarro Oklahoma universe, a Democrat) tried to force the University to cancel Dawkins's speech. Dawkins was invited to speak to celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday. Hamilton (who is most certainly not a LILF and, as far as Fosco can tell, probably did descend from monkeys) first tried to squelch Dawkins's speech with two resolutions, one of which contained this paragraph:
WHEREAS, not only has the Department of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma been engaged in one-sided indoctrination of an unproven and unpopular theory but has made an effort to brand all thinking in dissent of this theory as anti-intellectual and backward rather than nurturing such free thinking and allowing a free discussion of all ideas which is the primary purpose of a university;
The "unproven and unpopular" part is certainly a hoot. Even if that were true (outside of Ms. Hamilton's church, that is), should we really be making decisions about scientific veracity based on popularity? As for making dissent seem "anti-intellectual and backward," I don't really think the Department of Zoology needs to do much work--Ms. Hamilton has done a good job of making her own dissent seem both anti-intellectual and backward (not to mention petty).

But because the University decided NOT to cave in to Ms. Hamilton's demands that they cancel Professor Dawkins's talk, she's moved on to Plan B: hound the OU administration to the extent that future "controversial" speakers don't seem worth the hassle. As Jonathan Turley notes:
Hamilton has reportedly demanded information relating to the speech from Vice President for Governmental Relations Danny Hilliard, including a list of all money paid to Dawkins and the entities, public or private, the total cost to the university, and an account of any “faculty time spent promoting this event.”
One can only imagine how she intends to use this information. However, I don't think you need to be a strict fundamentalist about academic freedom to recognize that a legislator has absolutely no business inquiring into the scholarly pursuits of any member of the university faculty (including any time they spend "promoting" an academic event). This is a blatantly transparent attempt to produce a chilling effect on scholarship at the University of Oklahoma (a place that, frankly, can use all the scholarship it can get).

I'm starting to think that, sometime in the last twenty years, large swaths of the American public (mostly, but not exclusively, in the "Bible belt") not only became complete idiots about science, but also lost track of what universities are supposed to do. Granted, beating Texas in football every year is an important goal for any institution of higher education; however, Oklahomans need to realize that there is actually a bit more involved in running a university. Nitwits.

submit to reddit
submit to reddit


Jill said...

Stupidity scares the shit out of me.

Anonymous said...

Who would say that in the first decade of twenty first century such a discussion could be possible. As an European that sounds so bizarre specially because USA do have some of the best universities in world. The future of North America may well be in the fight of that religious virus and in the true understanding of the word 'secularism'.

Just found out about your blog and I just loved it. Did a link in mine. (if you do not approve please tell me so)

FOSCO said...

@Jill: Me too!

@Fabulastic: I know--it's hard to believe that the legendary US university system (one of the true prides of this country) is coming to this. I think you're right about a fight-to-come.

I am thrilled to discover your blog as well! I'll be linking to it momentarily.

Anonymous said...

"He is one of the most persuasive theorists of evolution (and a frequent critic of creationism and religious fundamentalism)."

Well said. (The emphasis is mine) Fear of criticism is a sure sign of a weak argument. Academic freedom should be the freedom to theorize and critique either theory.

If their shorts are in a wad over a pro-evolutionist "polluting" young minds, why not encourage (but not require) the university to give equal time to a creationist?

The BeeMaster

Word Verify: mingnery
A collection of art from China's Ming dynasty

todd said...

@BeeMaster: Show me a creationist that uses accepted scientific methods and I'll go along with you.

Anonymous said...

Like this?

Or maybe the "scientific method" that taught me global cooling in grade school?

The BeeMaster

Anonymous said...

I love in oklahoma, i can vouch for the ignorance in oklahoma.
The ignorance is a disease spread by the southern baptist crutch, as well as all of the other evangelical Christians.
Religion is not something you talk about unless you are one of them.
I was raised catholic, then i went to college and got a degree in physics, and learned better.
With the education system being shit in Oklahoma.
I don't see a change in the foreseeable future.