Friday, March 6, 2009

Legislature Doesn't Want Dawkins in His State


State Rep. Todd Thomsen has filed a resolution to keep Richard Dawkins out of Oklahoma. Well, not the whole state. Presumably they would not try to arrest the good professor if he wandered across, say, the Arkansas border. But he does want to keep Dawkins off the grounds of the big university there. From House Resolution 1015 (RTF file):
. . . 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.
Well, since most Americans don't accept the fact of evolution, it surprises me not one iota that the majority of Oklahomans do not either. But what on Earth could be Thomsen's reasoning here? What is the basis upon which he objects to hearing from someone who thinks differently than he? Perhaps there is a clue in the language of the resolution:
WHEREAS, the University of Oklahoma is a publicly funded institution which should be open to all ideas and should train students in all disciplines of study and research and to use independent thinking and free inquiry; and . . .
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 . . .
[Head scratch]
. . . 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.
So in the name of tolerance, free inquiry, and open debate we want Got it. According to the resolution, Dawkins demonstrates "intolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking," so the solution for Rep. Thomsen is to rub out an example of diversity of thought. Nothing could be more representative of diversity of thought in Oklahoma than atheism! I'm going to guess that Mr. Thomsen is not grasping the irony of this. Thomsen, a football playing alumnus of the university in question, was responsible for another resolution that would undercut the authority of the State Textbook Committee, allowing for the infamous stickers that would "disclaim" about evolution's "controversy." (If anyone has a link to the actual language of that resolution -- HB 3375 -- I'd appreciate it.) He is also a local coordinator of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which touts on its website:
Influence...FCA uses athletes and coaches to reach youth and adults with the adventure of following Christ.
No mistaking their intentions there! I particularly like the inelegant and blunt choice of the word "use." But hey, that's their thing.I have to admit, if this resolution goes anywhere within the State House, I'll be a little surprised. I know there is some antipathy toward atheism in Oklahoma, but if they applied this "ban" across the board, there would be very few biologists left in Oklahoma's centers of learning.But I think the thing that troubles me most about this whole thing -- Thomsen is the chairman of the Education Committee. Shudder.It's a shame that he's taking this odd position, even in light of his religious views, because in the things that I have gleaned about him since learning of this, he does seem to be a guy who is genuinely concerned about the quality of education in the state. Just a little hung up on some specifics regarding content, I suppose. I'll be watching this to see where it all goes.

1 comment:

Bill Cooney said...

Talk about irony of the highest order! Richard Dawkins personafies the very free thinking State Rep. Todd Thomsen says he undermines.

I hate to generalize but Oklahoma may be getting to be as bad as Kansas when it comes to giving refuge to the intolerant.

It speaks volumes about an environment that would have such an individual serve as chairperson - of all things - the Education Committee!

Oklahomans can take a giant leap toward moderation and reason by rejecting this resolution outright.