Legislation 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.”