March 2009 was an eventful month for evolution in Oklahoma. It began, as described below, when Richard Dawkins visited the University of Oklahoma. I also mentioned that two resolutions were written for the state House of Representatives that condemned OU for inviting Dawkins.
Now a member of the Oklahoma House has demanded that OU turn over all the records connected with the Dawkins invitation. She seems to be fishing for something with which to accuse the university of abusing state resources, facilities, or faculty time. I guess she thinks that OU faculty, paid by the taxpayers, are supposed to spend all their time promoting creationism. You can read more in the Tulsa World article published on March 30.
On March 26, Edward O. Wilson spoke at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO). Wilson practically invented the study of biodiversity. In the 1970s he was famous for promoting sociobiology. His passion now is to campaign for the preservation and documentation of all wild species. Time is running out. He says that, of all the bad things we are doing to the world, the mass extinction that we are now causing is the sin for which future generations are least likely to forgive us. Wilson also talked about how secular humanist biologists can work alongside preachers to spread a joint message: we need to save the creation. But to some students at USAO, none of this mattered. To them, all that was important was that Wilson had not himself proclaimed the existence of God. One creationist student used up a lot of the question-answer period insisting that Wilson had incorrectly quoted Darwin. The student said that Darwin had claimed that the Creator breathed life into the first organism. Wilson said that this was added in later editions, but was not in the first edition. The student would not give up! He insisted that his iPhone was right and that Wilson was wrong. It was really really weird. In all of this exchange, Wilson's passionate message for saving the world of species was lost. Thanks, Mr. Creationist. I hope that in heaven there is an extinct species named just for you.
Then on March 28-31, the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Division of the AAAS met at the University of Tulsa. There were numerous symposia and papers. I organized one of the symposia. It was about Darwin's impact on all fields of scientific inquiry: "How Darwin has revolutionized scientific thought." The speakers talked about biodiversity, coevolution, molecules, geology, botany, and even the understanding of human races. Speakers included myself, two faculty from OU (Phil Gibson and Rich Broughton), two faculty from the University of Tulsa (Peggy Hill and Jim Derby), and a premiere performance by graduate student Valerie O'Brien of TU. At the end, the man who knows more than anyone else about the challenges to evolution in Oklahoma, Vic Hutchison of OU, brought us up to date. You can find out all about this at the website for the Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. I want to thank the participants for making this symposium a success! There was also a keynote address on Sunday night by Carl Zimmer, one of the nation's leading science writers.
That's all for now. But I am sure that more will be happening soon!