Oklahoma Legislator Says Students Can't Be Penalized For Being Ignorant of Science

Nobody knows how this little fellow evolved or what ecological niche he fills,
so we're just going to say he's made of lost dreams and burning tires. Whatever.

I believe the problem here is that a certain Mr. Gus Blackwell does not actually know what science is:

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Common Education committee is expected to consider a House bill that would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers attempting to debunk almost universally accepted scientific theories such as biological evolution and anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change.

Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. "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. "A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations."

The premise here appears to be that instead of Oklahoma students writing a paper on the assigned topic of, say, the various evolutional precursors to the modern horse, students ought to just as easily be able tochallenge the notion that there were any such things at all, and instead turn in a paper supposing that space aliens, with assistance from the Bilderberg Group, brought horses to earth in 1974 on the Space Mayflower. The teacher would then have to accept this paper and grade it without penalizing the student for being entirely batshit wrong on the premise, because hey—the student is just questioning the science. Who are you, science teacher, to try to teach him otherwise?

Here is where Mr. Blackwell's problem lies. In his eagerness to teach "controversies" in science, i.e. stuff that science doesn't tell us but Mr. Blackwell believes anyway, he does not quite grasp that science consists of sifting through evidence in order to come to provable hypotheses. It is not merely the ability to come up with hypotheses so sufficiently outlandish that they cannot possibly be tested, then calling the whole thing done. You are perfectly welcome to believe such things, but the entire rest of the planet is not obligated to look upon your own mental fetishisms as equally valid to, say, the work of Marie Curie, and grade accordingly. Nor does Mr. Blackwell know what controversial means—he apparently believes it means whatever he, personally, finds unpleasant, and not what the rest of actual human science considers controversial or not. There are plenty ofcontroversial ideas in science, mind you, but they're not where Mr. Blackwell thinks they are, or even in things Mr. Blackwell has probably even heard of. (You may have heard Europe recently built a big-ass donut-shaped science machine in order to prove or disprove some of those. We could have done the same in Texas, but Republicans, etc.)

So what we have here in this students shall not be punished for saying basic scientific facts are wrong and substituting their own hearsay bill seems to be mere lunch counter parochialism redefined as a noble pursuit, which is the same dynamic behind every other one of these things. And Oklahoma is, for some reason, a hotbed of this stuff.

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