By Althea Peterson
Transcript Staff Writer
Discussions are evolving on evolution in Oklahoma.
The University of Oklahoma Department of Zoology recently released a statement on evolution, which received unanimous support among its faculty. The statement begins “Evolution is a fact. Evolutionary theory is a cornerstone of biology.” Bill Matthews, director of the department, said the department included all faculty on the discussion before releasing the statement April 19.
“The faculty felt it was important that it showed where we stand on the issue,” Matthews said.
Ola Fincke, zoology professor who drew up the original draft of the statement, said calling evolution a “fact” probably surprises many in the public. However, she said it is the sole explanation for organism creation that can be tested, but has not been proven wrong.
“There is no valid alternative to evolution,” Fincke said.
This statement only comes one month after Oklahoma State University’s department of zoology released a similar statement on zoology, which received support from OSU’s faculty council. Stan Fox, regents professor of zoology at OSU, said their faculty also composed the statement as a group.
“It was in response to the pressure to put intelligent design in the curriculum,” Fox said. “We of course agree with OU that evolution is a cornerstone of biology.”
The difference between the two is a matter of science versus supernatural, said Matt Loven, OSU assistant professor of zoology.
“Among scientists, there is no controversy to evolution,” Loven said. “We believe it is an important part of education. I’m really excited to see that OU finally released a statement. The fact that two major universities agree on this is great.”
However, some do not feel that this news is “great.” Representative Thad Balkman, R-Norman, said the statement seems to exclude any other explanations to organism creation.
“I think it’s disappointing that these people are not open to debating these issues,” Balkman said. “I believe in intelligent design. There are many scientists and physicists who believe in intelligent design. This is orthodoxy.”
When the Oklahoma House considered the “Academic Freedom Act,” Balkman said some incorrectly thought this was an endorsement of teaching ID. He said he is for teaching both evolution and ID.
“I support the teaching of evolution in schools,” Balkman said. “I’m not anti-evolution.”
This is not just a state issue. President George W. Bush spoke on evolution and intelligent design Aug. 1, 2005. He spoke in favor of teaching both equally in science courses.
“Both sides ought to be properly taught… so people can understand what the debate is about,” he said, according to an official transcript of the session. “Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. …You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.”
Fincke said intelligent design has no place in a science classroom, because it is not science.
“It’s philosophy at best,” Fincke said. “You can believe that, but I believe that God did it via evolution. Teach intelligent design in a philosophy class, or in Sunday school. Intelligent Design has created no new scientific knowledge.”
Vic Hutchison, OU emeritus zoology professor, called OU’s statement “The best I have ever seen on evolution,” but fears that if ID is also taught it will take necessary time away from teaching evolution.
“Science does not, cannot and will not address the matters that are supernatural,” Hutchison said. “Why teach something in science that isn’t science?”
While neither OSU or OU have publicly endorsed the statements from their zoology departments, the OU Faculty Senate has the statement on its agenda for their next meeting. Fox said he hopes state higher education will take a position on the issue as the departments already have.
By Althea Peterson
- Local news
Latest updates on Moore tornado
A massive tornado touched down Monday afternoon in Moore, Okla., leaving entire neighborhoods flattened and dozens of people dead. Follow the latest updates in this live blog.
Latest storm photos | Share your pictures | More tornado updates | How to help
Deadly tornado nearly follows path of ’99 storm
MOORE — A massive F4 tornado with winds estimated at 200 mph spun through this city Monday afternoon, killing approximately 91 persons and taking a path eerily close to the May 3, 1999, storm that killed 43....
Moore patients, employees accounted for
MOORE — Patients and staff inside the seriously damaged Moore Medical Center were all accounted for, hospital officials said late Monday....
‘This is it. This is my life’
MOORE —In the aftermath of a violent tornado ripping through Moore, residents are shocked, dazed and resolute....
Thousands jam roadways trying to get home
People were running and walking, riding bicycling and careening through ditches on ATVs trying to get into neighborhoods in the Moore area Monday afternoon. History seemed to replay the events that once rocked this area when a tornado ...
Journey Church, OU open doors to storm victims
Journey Church in Norman has opened its doors to shelter victims of the tornado that swept through Moore on Monday. They are also collecting donations for the victims....
Theater guests, staff take cover then help others
MOORE — Before even hearing the massive tornado that ripped through the walls, obliterated the windows and chewed through the Warren Theater in Moore where he works as a team member, Young said he could feel it.
Tornado rekindles nightmare storm of 1999
MOORE — For some residents of Moore, Monday’s events were a reminder of the May 3, 1999, tornado that caused devastation in the same area. Judy Odem, who’s lived in Moore for 40 years, said she learned after the 1999 tornado that she ...
ME identifies Sunday victims
One of the injured storm victims taken to Norman Regional Hospital on Sunday evening has died, raising the death toll from Sunday’s storm to two....
Tornado tears through county
A spring storm packing a single tornado ripped across far eastern Cleveland County on Sunday evening, carrying hail, strong winds and injuring at least six persons, with three in critical condition....
- More Local news Headlines
- Latest updates on Moore tornado