Resolutions filed in the Oklahoma House are critical of plans by a renowned British evolutionary biologist sometimes referred to as "Darwin’s Rottweiler” who was to speak at the University of Oklahoma. Richard Dawkins, a retired professor at Oxford University and author of "The God Delusion,” was scheduled to speak Friday night as part of OU’s Darwin 2009 Project to observe the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Darwin introduced the theory of evolution 150 years ago. Legislative resolutions filed earlier this week by Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, say the state House "strongly opposes” the invitation and that Dawkins’ published statements on evolution and opinions about those who do not believe it "are contrary and offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma.” They also urge OU "to engage in an open, dignified and fair discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution and all other scientific theories.” Thomsen, a former punter and kicker for OU’s football team and head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in southeastern Oklahoma, filed the nonbinding resolutions earlier this week, and they have not been put to a vote. Jennifer Monies, spokeswoman for House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, said no decision had been made on whether they will be heard. Thomsen did not return telephone calls to his office at the state Capitol and his home seeking comment. The resolutions reflect the political beliefs of some Oklahoma lawmakers that alternative theories on the origin of life should be taught in public school science classes.
Legislation failsLegislation that would have allowed classroom discussion of alternative theories to evolution was narrowly defeated in a state Senate committee last month. It was similar to a bill passed by the state House in 2006 that died in the Senate. Supporters maintain the measures promote critical thinking by exposing students to all sides of the scientific debate about evolution, a theory they complain is treated as fact in many science books but conflicts with the views of some religious groups. The failed measures did not mandate the teaching of "intelligent design,” creationism or other beliefs based on Christian principles. But critics believe it is an attempt to bring religion into the classroom with ideas that have their origins in the Bible and are based more on faith than science. Efforts to contact Dawkins were unsuccessful. In a statement, OU President David Boren said faculty and students have invited various speakers to OU for the Darwin 2009 Project and that Dawkins’ appearance is not a formal university program. "If individual faculty and students want to extend invitations to those who are critics of Darwin, the university would extend full rights of free speech to them, as well,” Boren said. "One of the basic functions of the university is to be a free marketplace of ideas. Free speech on a university campus is protected by the First Amendment.”