"When adopting science textbooks, the Committee shall ensure that the textbooks include acknowledgment that human life was created by one God of the Universe." So reads an amendment to a bill that the Oklahoma legislature passed on 5 April by a vote of 99 to 0. Although the measure is likely to be scuttled in committee, church-state watchdogs say it is a sign that state debates over teaching evolution in public schools are getting ever more fractious.
Last year, the state's textbook committee tried to put a disclaimer in biology textbooks stressing that evolution is just a "theory." But the state attorney general ruled that the committee didn't have that authority. In a bid to bypass the ruling, the Oklahoma House of Representatives last week tacked wording onto an education bill that not only authorizes the committee to add antievolution disclaimers to textbooks but also requires the "one God" statement.
Although the measures passed with little opposition, the wording "will be cleaned out" when it goes to a House-Senate conference committee, predicts Representative Raymond McCarter. Nonetheless, the vote "tells us a lot" about the topic's sensitivity in Oklahoma and elsewhere, says Molleen Matsumura of the National Center for Science Education in El Cerrito, California. Challenges to evolution are "going from state to state. ... We're seeing a lot of intense activity."