Oklahoma State Senator Josh Brecheen Wants Public Schools to Teach Creationism December 25, 2010

Oklahoma State Senator Josh Brecheen Wants Public Schools to Teach Creationism

For Christmas, I give you another church/state battle: Oklahoma State Senator Josh Brecheen wants to introduce a bill next year that will hamper the teaching of evolution:

Senator Brecheen says children should be given all the facts when it comes to evolution.

The senator says he supports having creationism — the belief that God created the world without evolution — taught in public schools.

“You either remove both or you put both in,” he said.

In an op-ed he wrote last week, Brecheen called evolution, “a religion,” and says there are serious flaws in the theory that students ought to know.

“The main fallacy with Darwinian theory,” he argued, “is the sudden appearance at about 540 million years [ago] of fossil records. It’s like a guy standing at the chalkboard and saying okay here’s an atom [and then writing] question mark, question mark, human — here we are. But its fact, and there’s zero evidence to back it up.”

I believe the Cambrian Explosion has been explained before…

It’s obvious Brecheen wants to pass legislation about a subject he knows very little about. But instead of deferring to the experts, he thinks he knows better than the scientists.

Even the major universities have come out against this idiocy:

Oklahoma’s major universities including OU and OSU all agree that evolution is the best science and that alternatives such as creationism should not be taught in public schools.

I don’t know if Brecheen never got around to reading his Constitution, or whether he failed his science classes, or whether he thinks he needs to use his government position to spread his faith.

In all those cases, what he’s trying to do will only hurt the children in his state — it’ll make them as ignorant as he is about science; it’ll make their education a liability for college admissions counselors who see that they come from a state that doesn’t prepare its children for college-level science classes.

This is what Brecheen wrote in an op-ed last week:

One of the bills I will file this year may be dismissed as inferior by “intellectuals” so I wanted to devote particular time in discussing it’s merits… I’m talking about the religion of evolution. Yes, it is a religion. The religion of evolution requires as much faith as the belief in a loving God,

Read the whole thing if you want to play a game of “Find all the Fallacies.”

This should all be moot, though. Courts have said repeatedly you can’t teach Creationism in the classroom. It’s religion, not science.

(Thanks to Garret for the link)

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  • First he says that children should be “given all the facts,” and then moves on to Creationism, which has NOTHING to do with facts at all!!

    How odd is that?

    These two items are not in the same ballpark. Evolution is based on scientific study, while Creationism is based on blind belief in an ancient superstition.

    But since he puts them on par with one another, maybe it’s time for preachers around the world to dedicate a part of their weekly sermons to Evolution.

    You know, give the kids ALL of the “facts,” or none at all.

  • Claudia

    PZ deconstructed the entire op-ed recently. I think the greatest shame is that Brecheen is a graduate in Animal Science from southeastern oklahoma state university. I doubt this is a Harvard level institution, but still, I have to assume the faculty there are tearing out their hair and moaning about the kind of shame their former student is bringing to their university.

  • RiftchaserMej

    Again, unexplained phenomena do not justify supernatural beliefs.

    Creationists essay to create a false dichotomy; they want people to believe that every gap in evolutionary records supports creationism. Yet, even if evolution did have serious, theory-breaking flaws (which it doesn’t, but hold that point aside for now), there would still be zero support for creationism; you’d need positive evidence to support that case.

    But even that’s giving creationism too much credit, because creationism isn’t a falsifiable theory. No amount of evidence against it can’t be explained away by the “it was placed to test our faith” mantra.

    This is really the same sort of playground assertion we all dealt with as children. “I can fly, but only when I want to. I won’t prove it to you because I don’t want to right now.” “I know the answer to your question, but I don’t want to tell you.” Just as you probably figured out as a child, claims like these don’t deserve the attention they crave.


    One of these days we are going to have a new “Sputnik” moment, this time with Chinese script on it, when we will realize how far behind we have fallen in the realm of science education.

  • JD

    A state that has a $1.2B budget deficit shouldn’t be looking for ways to waste it on a Senator’s pet project and the lawsuit that’s going to be stopped with almost 100% certainty. I hope all his attempts die in committee.

    Nonsense like this cause to me to wonder how many Christians believe in a flat earth and the moon emits light.

  • Samiimas

    Now I don’t see how this is possible. People keep assuring me that creationists are really a tiny minority and that the vast majority of theists don’t reject science.

    It’s not like they were lying and guys like this have massive support in their attempts to throwout the last 150 years of science.

  • ACN

    PZ massacred this guy earlier this week.

    What a tool, what a clown.

  • Jeff

    Love that he puts “intellectuals” in quotation marks; his contempt is palpable.

    It’s moments like this that I agree with those among use who say there’s no point in being non-confrontational, or even “civil”.

  • bjza

    I love how as you move down the ID/Creationism spectrum, you can watch the sciency arguments about information and complexity shift into “we want our religion taught in schools.” What are the chances Brecheen’s comments will result in IDists publicly challenging him along the lines of the accommodation debate among nontheistic scientists? IDists should be as offended by the “religion of evolution” comments as we are. (Someone please link if they do. That’s a debate I’d love to read.)


    One of these days we are going to have a new “Sputnik” moment, this time with Chinese script on it, when we will realize how far behind we have fallen in the realm of science education.

    I have been saying for the last decade that it’s been happening very slowly. No one has noticed, because it wasn’t one particular event like Sputnik. If anything the one thing we can point to is outsourcing. No one wants to bring up the issue, because then we would have to figure out how to pay for it, which would mean raising taxes and no politician is going to touch that. A report released in the last week or so by the Pentagon that said 25% of American kids couldn’t pass the military entrance exam should be a wake up call…but it was only mentioned a few places. We should take the idea more seriously that, as someone said, “It is nowhere written that the American empire goes on forever.”

    On the other hand…if I was running for Senator in Oklahoma and wanted to get and stay elected, I would say exactly the same thing he said. 😉

  • In a republic with a two-party system, the representatives need be representative of no more than 50.1% of the population in the jurisdiction of the politician. Those people got what they voted for. Too bad for the 49.9%.

  • jolly

    If atheism and evolution and science are all religions like I keep hearing, I want my tax breaks.

  • Jeff

    @Claudia: I think the greatest shame is that Brecheen is a graduate in Animal Science from southeastern oklahoma state university.

    Two things:

    1. It’s Oklahoma.

    2. Animal Science isn’t zoology; it’s animal husbandry. It’s about the selective breeding (which, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution, God forbid!) and raising of farm animals. In fact, he owns a ranch, and breeds and sells horses (because, again, it’s Oklahoma, and if you aren’t farming or drilling for oil, what else are you going to do?), which he advertises on his website: http://www.joshbrecheen.com/

    Bottom line: he doesn’t have a science degree. What he has is a certificate from a state university saying he knows how to get animals to schtup.

    This isn’t to minimize the danger of awarding science degrees to creationist morons – which is, tragically, happening with increasing frequency, especially at large schools in the South and Midwest, although even the Ivy League and other universities in the liberal, godless Northeast aren’t immune:



  • Jon Peterson

    Proud to be have been a student participant in one of the most recent major (aka, noticed in more than just my hometown) rejections of this nonsense (Roseville Joint Union HSD, CA). Even more thrilled to be able to watch this guy get utterly torpedoed when one of his senator peers brings up the whole “yeah, it’s illegal to do that, dude” point.

  • Dave B

    “You either remove both or you put both in,” he said.

    That’s the problem with relying on the courts to stop this nonsense. Eventually, states will realize that they can just remove things they don’t like from the curriculum. There are plenty of constitutional ways to ensure a substandard education.

  • Baconsbud

    Jeff P. you are correct in general but in reality I doubt in a midterm election the wining politician seldom has to get the votes of more then 25% of eligible voters to win. From what I get of the numbers, very seldom do more then 50% of the voters actually vote. That would probably fit with the number of fundies in any given district.

  • Magdalena

    As an Oklahoma resident, this kind of “news” is an everyday occurrence here.

    I’d say it’s pretty likely this doofus will get his bill passed….with HUGE support.

    After all, we’re talking about a state who already put evolution disclaimers in science textbooks about 10 years ago.

    If they could only pump jesus-y goodness into the air we breathe! I’m sure Tom Coburn is working on that.

  • Jeff P

    @baconsbud, you right. I should have said 50.1% of the voting public.

  • Richard Wade

    “You either remove both or you put both in,” he said.

    That’s it? Science and the Abrahamic religions’ creation myth? That’s a bit chauvinistic, don’t you think?

    Time to write to to the Senator protesting his exclusion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pasta be upon him) from this all-inclusive curriculum. After all, that is why His Noodlyness was revealed to us during the Dover case.

    While we’re at it, we should also demand that he include the Navajo creation myth, the Shinto creation myth, the Samoan creation myth, the Hmong creation myth, the traditional Lapp creation myth, the Australian Aborigine creation myth, the Hindu creation myth, the Kayapo (along with dozens of other Amazon indigenous tribes) creation myths, the Tibetan creation myth, the… (ad reallylongum)

    Faced with that, Brecheen might opt for the exclusion of all science from the curriculum in Oklahoma schools. The state could become a 68,667 square mile science-free zone, forbidding any science and its progeny, technology from being imported in any form. I suspect he’d prefer that, since science of any kind has the nasty effect of getting young people to be curious about the world. No more pesky kids asking their embarrassing questions that preachers can’t answer but teachers can. Just slap their smartass faces and send them back out into the cornfields. Since the farming technology will soon stop working, they’ll need all the manual labor they can get.

  • Jeff

    The state could become a 68,667 square mile science-free zone, forbidding any science and its progeny, technology from being imported in any form.

    Richard, it could come to that. Although, encouragingly, most of the comments beneath his article in the Durant Daily Democrat (amazing that they never changed the name of the paper!) are outraged and critical of him, one of the few positive reviewers had this to say:

    Who says we have to teach creation OR evolution in schools? Teach my kids to read and write, teach them math, history and the scientific method. Let me teach them about the creation or evolution of the world.

    Welcome to the future. Yee-haw.

  • Tony

    I’m currently working on my PhD in Science Ed and one of the dissertation ideas being considered is the possible relationship between attitudes toward science education and religious belief. It may be a serious third-rail, but it could be very enlightening.

  • You can’t argue reasonably with non-thinking people such as Brecheen. You can only hope more reasonable voters will choose to remove his kind from office.

  • Just because this one jackwagon calls a scientific theory a religion doesn’t make it one. A rose by any other name is still a rose and all that. I don’t think he can get it called one in court.

    Creationism, ID, etc., however, are all religion and again a rose (or skunk) by any other name… What an ass.

    I’m so tired of this whole thing. I didn’t get much of an education regarding evolution in school and I’m still pissed at it even considering I graduated in 1976. My grandson should get a better education about it than I did but rather looks more and more like if he does, it’s up to me to see that he does. So he gets to be taught by someone who admits to being horrible at science. Swell.

    (Books are my and the grandson’s friends; good thing too.)

  • vhutchison

    @ Magdalena: The textbook disclaimers were proposed by the State Textbook Committee in 1999. That committee was dominated by fundamentalists knowingly appointed by then Republican Governor Keating. In 2000 the Oklahoma Attorney General Edmondson ruled the disclaimers invalid because the Committee did not ‘promulgate’ them properly, thus the disclaimers were never used.

    Since 1999 there have been attempts in the Oklahoma Legislature almost every year to pass creationist bills. Unlike Louisiana and Texas, for example, none have passed, although the ‘Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act’ was vetoed by the Governor two years ago. It was back last session, but was not acted upon. The bill (HB 1001), however, has been carried over and is on the list for the new session. A bill almost identical to HB 1001 is now law in Texas.

    For the past 10 years no creationist bills have been become law, although in some years several were introduced. In this reddest of states, where both houses of the Lege have a supermajority of Republicans (many are far right religious proponents) and all elected state officers are pretty much of the same ilk, continued defeat may not be likely.
    Histories of Oklahoma creationist bills and news items, etc., are provided on the web site of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE, http://www.oklascience.org/ ). OESE has been a major organizer against creationist and other bills harmful to science education, but assisted by many individuals and State and National Organizations. OESE also received significant donations for its continued work from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

  • I don’t think this bill will pass. If it does, it’ll be struck down before the ink dries.

  • Baconsbud

    I have to agree with you Donna. My education into evolution really sucked and I graduated in 81. The good thing is I don’t base my disbelief in a God on evolution. I find people who only use evolution as a defense against religion as closed minded to a good degree. I have been looking within myself as to why I don’t believe and I have found it is a combination of basic understanding of evolution, the bible and watching reality. What really pushed me to at least close to being an atheist is watching reality.

    Atheistattorney the problem with that attitude is it gives ammo to those that like playing the persecuted christians. They don’t push these bills to pass them but to become victims the news media can parade around.

  • Baconsbud, exactly. My evolution education was so poor that I didn’t believe it for years after losing my faith when the advent of the internet better educated me. (Given I lost my faith in Jesus in 1975 and any sort of god idea at also by 1981, that’s a long time.)

    Seems like two separate issues though evolution rather does disprove the creation myth at least if taken literally. However, some do, some don’t. Some think a day to god is a 1,000 year to gawd or some such nonsense.

  • SeekerLancer

    Removing the teaching of evolution because schools don’t also teach creationism is like removing any reference to medication because the schools don’t teach that faith healing is also a viable option.

  • CC

    Someone present this man with a textbook describing the evolutionary process. Be sure to highlight the information pertaining to human evolution and the fossil record.

  • Lsain

    I am not sure about this bill at all. Living in OK I am happy that in the past such stuff hasn’t stayed law or passed as law. But with the new uber republican mayor and republican majority everywhere else, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did go somewhere. After all in my experience they have taught the bible as literature, while coming very close to preaching in the classroom.In one school they actually had the lord’s prayer broadcast over the speaker system right after the pledge in the mornings when I was in school and with no support to oppose. I am not shocked at the backward and stupidity of “this great state”.

  • gabriel rupp

    As a professor in oklahoma who teaches evolutionary psychology, i am especially concerned about this issue. ironically, i was taught evolution–in catholic school. For the record, I am NOT a catholic, but after moving to oklahoma, I at least have discovered that the intellectual tradition in catholicism does at least ofter a sophisticated, thoughtful, and functional approach to both having “faith” and using science.De chardin, for example, was an aevolutionary biologist(redundant, but apparently needed )who also was a Jesuit priest. For him, evolutionary was a “fact” in the sense that it was the theory that best accounted for prior observations of nature as well as allowed for testable predictions of future operations.
    That all being said, I have discovered that in Oklahoma to even entertain the possibility that evolution is an elegant scientific theory that does not undermine faith is dangerous. One example involves my daughter. When she was in sixthh grade, her science teacher asked for a meeting with us, her parents. When i spoke to him, he apologized and began to cry, telling me that he had been tutoring a small group of gifted students after class. Simply, he was teaching them evolution. He was convinced he would eventually be fired, but could not teach biology without teaching its best theory. That it would be like teaching physics without teaching the theory of gravity.
    At that time, Oklahoma had a democratic majority in the house and senate, so when draconian bills outlawing evolution emerged, they were rightfully stopped. Now, the whole state is Republican, and they are hot on the social issues. I fully expect the outlawing of the teaching of evolution in schools, with the very real possibility that to teach evolution will be criminalized. However, I refuse to stop teaching science, and will risk even jail time or dismissal. All i ask is that y’all send me and my fellow scientists books when we are incarcerated, preferably current elaborations/extensions of darwinian theory. In jail, at least, I’ll be able to teach other convicts, so at least when they are released, a small population will be educated.

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