COLUMN: Legislature's anti-Dawkins measures assault free speech
By ZAC SMITH
Added: Sun, 12 Apr 2009 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Diello for the link.
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins delivered a lecture on the illusion of intentional purpose in nature on March 6 at McCasland Field House.
Earlier that week, Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, authored two resolutions apropos of Dawkinsâ lecture.
These resolutions opposed Dawkinsâ invitation to speak because of his âintolerance for cultural diversity and diversity of thinking,â and condemned the University of Oklahoma for engaging in âone-sided indoctrinationâ in service of the âunproven and unpopularâ theory of evolution.
After this failed to prevent Dawkins from speaking, the Oklahoma Legislature launched an investigation, demanding that OU hand over copies of all e-mails and other communications relating to the event, identify all entities who had provided funding for the event and present a complete itemization of costs related to the talk, down to the printing of the one-page posters that had been taped up around campus.
What is the Legislature expecting to find? Thereâs been nothing to suggest financial malfeasance occurred during the coordination of the lecture.
In fact, Dawkins waived his usual speaking fee and, while at OU, spontaneously decided to donate $5,000 to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education.
However, even if OU had paid Dawkins thousands of dollars of state funds, it would not have been improper.
The only actions here that suggest impropriety are those of the Oklahoma Legislature.
There is no reason to suspect illegal actions behind the Dawkins lecture.
The Legislature does not suspect illegal actions behind the Dawkins lecture. What the Legislature hopes to do is intimidate OUâs administrators out of hosting similar events in the future.
Thankfully, however, this pseudo-McCarthyite âinvestigationâ seems to have failed as miserably as Thomsenâs prior resolutions.
OU President David Boren has barely acknowledged the Legislatureâs histrionics, much less indicated that he intends to alter OUâs policies on the basis of them.
Those OU faculty who have spoken on the Legislatureâs actions have done so with concern and annoyance.
Even Dawkins took a few minutes out of his lecture to poke fun at Thomsenâs resolutions.
But the ineffectuality of these efforts should not distract from the fact that they are dishonest, bullying attempts to scare OU students and faculty out of exercising their right to free speech.
Thomsen objected to Dawkinsâ presence at OU because Dawkinsâ âpublished 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.â
What would the solution to this be, I wonder?
If OU is not to promote views that oppose those of most Oklahomans, perhaps we should set up polling booths around the state so that we know how to revise our textbooks.
Does the Oklahoman public support evolution or creation? Geosyncline theory or plate tectonics? Ptolemaic or Copernican cosmology? I canât wait to see the results!
Or perhaps Thomsen should just take up residence at OU so that he can vet every single thing that goes into our curriculum.
Thomsenâs assessment of evolution as âunproven and unpopularâ is borderline insane.
Evolution by natural selection is accepted by all but an infinitesimal fringe of biologists, and is as well-substantiated as, say, Copernican cosmology.
Iâd rather not burn up the rest of this column reiterating the proof of the theory of evolutionâs veracity and widespread acceptance, but interested readers might check out my previous column, âFundamentalist doctrine does not belong in schools,â or, more to the point, a biology textbook.
Thomsen also objected to Dawkins being allowed to speak because âhis presence at OU was not about science,â but âto promote an atheistic agenda.â
Dawkinsâ lecture was on the subject of biology, not theology. Posters advertising the talk didnât even announce Dawkins as the author of âThe God Delusion.â
The only people to broach the subject of Dawkinsâ atheism were audience members during the Q&A session and Todd Thomsen himself.
Again, one wonders what Thomsen would propose as a solution. Should atheists be forbidden to speak at OU, even on topics unrelated to their atheism?
If Thomsen disagrees with some of Dawkinsâ assertions, he should argue against them in a way that helps enrich public discourse. After all, as a state representative, he has the ability to communicate his arguments to millions of Oklahomans.
I wish my own soapbox were so high!
Instead, Thomsen has tried to bully those who disagree with him into silence. In doing so, he displays the frailty of his own convictions.
Again and again, fundamentalist state representatives like Thomsen, Rebecca Hamilton (who helped spearhead the âinvestigationâ of the Dawkins lecture) and Anita Bryant clone Sally Kern have shown that, in Oklahoma, politicians can engage in displays of mind-bending ignorance and suffer no ill effects so long as they pay lip service to Christianity.
It was right and appropriate for OU to invite world-renowned biologist and science writer Richard Dawkins to speak.
It was wrong and stupid of Thomsen et al to try to interfere. Boren is better qualified to run OU than Thomsen.
-Zac Smith is an English junior.
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