Symposium on Teaching Evolution at the University of Colorado

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A few days ago, on June 12, 2006, I attended the second, more-or-less annual symposium on “Teaching Evolution: Meeting the Challenge” at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The symposium was organized by Sarah Wise, a teacher turned graduate student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department (EEB), along with fellow graduate student Mike Robeson and Cathy Russell of the university’s Science Discovery unit. It was aimed at public school and college teachers, including elementary-school teachers. The symposium’s purpose was to “feature a full day of practical one-hour workshops and panel discussions on Teaching Evolution, interspersed with opportunities to interact informally with other participants. Additionally, resources for teaching evolution will be available to look at, including books, posters, software and other products to facilitate the teaching of evolution.” You may find information on the workshops here http://www.colorado.edu/eeb/EEBproj[…]rkshops.html and many of the materials presented here http://www.colorado.edu/eeb/EEBproj[…]sources.html

Approximately 70 people attended the symposium. Of those, approximately 50 % were high school teachers, 15 % were teachers from middle or elementary levels, 25 % were university faculty, staff, or students, and 10 % were from other scientific organizations such as the Denver Zoo and the Boulder Open Space department. In a survey given in conjunction with the symposium, 57% of respondents reported that they self-censor their teaching of evolution at least somewhat and/or receive indirect pressure to avoid teaching evolution from their school or community. I do not have any further information, but we may note that only 65 % of the respondents were school (noncollege) teachers, so the fraction that self-censors or receives pressure not to teach evolution may be as high as 85-90 %.

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The latest battle front of the battle of science versus religion in education is Oshkosh Wisconsin where a required physics from from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh wants change. From thenorthwestern.com: Sandra Gade, a retired University of Wisconsin... Read More

37 Comments

Thanks Matt for an excellent account of an excellent symposium. Next, we need to organize similar symposia in each state.

My thanks go to Matt too for his support of the event and his contributions as panelist/journalist.

Anyone interested in organizing a symposium or set of workshops like this in their state is welcome to contact me at: [Enable javascript to see this email address.]. This event did not add an overwhelminig amount of time or duties to my already full grad student life. I estimate I spent 50h on the event over 6 mo, with an additional 30h during the final week.

Events like these are very fun and rewarding and completely doable, especially if you can corral 4-6 willing volunteers (read: grad students) for assistance the day of.

Loves it - poopy pants

I see little hope for general acceptance of evolution within my grandchildren’s lifetimes. Indeed, I will be surprised not to see evolution denial eventually spread to Europe and all of the advanced “Western” nations such as Canada and Australia. It is already prominent in the Muslim world.

That’s truly pessimistic.

If in fact the entire world goes the way of the script-reciting moron who looks to his preacher and/or preacher-politician for “God’s Truth” then evolution denial will be the least of our problems.

While evolution denial is a big problem in the United States right now, it’s not as big a problem as reality-denial generally. As long as we have a country which pays lip service to fundamentalist religious preachers and their bleeting bigoted ignorant flock, we’re screwed.

And so is everybody else.

Referring briefly to process theology, Dr. Russell defended the idea that all major religions are compatible with evolution. Only scriptural literalists have any problem in reconciling the two (so, I would add, do certain dogmatic atheists).

Is George Bush a “scriptural literalist”? Given the extraordinary ability of conservative fundamentalist Christians to read the Bible “literally” so it means whatever they want it to mean,, I’m not sure what is meant by the term “only scriptural literalists”. I think “willfully ignorant fundamentalists” might be a better term. Unfortunately, there are a lot of those in the United States.

Speaking of teaching evolution I’ve been meaning to note here a hilarious turn of events over at the Cornell Creationists website (http://designparadigm.blogsome.com/).

As regular readers here will recall, the Cornell Creationists belong to the so-called “IDEA Club” where little propagandists are trained by Sal Cordova among others to recite the latest scripts (like the latest fad where “ID theory” as some sort of a “seed” for inspiring research, “just like it inspired Kepler!”).

And regular readers of PT will also remember that the quintessentially pointy-headed and “just-a-tad arrogant” Cornell professor Allen McNeill is all set to teach a summer course to the Cornell Creationists where they will spend time actually reading lengthy texts of utterly debunked baloney by Discovery Institute fellows (unless the syllabus has been changed recently).

So one of the Cornell Creationists posts some Lord of the Rings passage sans context and one of the commenters (“Don Baccus” – not a creationist, as far as I can tell) brings up the ivory-billed woodpecker. Simultaneously, another commenter (“Amy Lester”) brings up the ivory-billed woodpecker. But here’s the best part: Don (maybe because he is a Cornell student?) feels inspired to defend the ivory-billed woodpecker “rediscovery” paper in Science while Amy thinks the paper was garbage.

So how does it all end? In classic creationist fashion, the entire discussion (about 100 comments last time I checked) is obliterated but not before its existence is immortalized over at Tom Nelson’s excellent Ivory-Billed Skeptics blog:

http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2006/[…]died-50.html

I recall some discussion here about the Ivory Billed “rediscovery” and the dubiousness of the “evidence.” It looks to me as if things are going to turn out badly for the Cornell team (and not just because the ivory billed is almost surely extinct). Either way, it’s an interesting story about good science, bad science and the fickle nature of contemporary “journalistic neutrality”.

Referring briefly to process theology, Dr. Russell defended the idea that all major religions are compatible with evolution. Only scriptural literalists have any problem in reconciling the two (so, I would add, do certain dogmatic atheists).

Aside from being obviously false (RU mentions GWB, but there are numerous others such as Behe and Dembski), the statement isn’t even coherent. What “two”? The claim is that “all major religions” are compatible with evolution. Scriptural literalists say that the bible – as written – isn’t compatible with evolution, and most people (with a few wacko exceptions like Judah Landa and Carol Clauser) agree (what differs is which they think is inaccurate). And contrary to the dogmatic dig about “certain dogmatic atheists”, I don’t know of any atheist who denies that *some* major religions (but not, say, evangelical Christianity, which is indeed a major religion) declare themselves to be compatible with evolution, or that any religious person can declare their beliefs to be compatible with evolution. What a number of atheists do claim is that those folks generally have to compartmentalize, putting reason and logic in one compartment and “faith” or “belief” in another, and continually retract empirical claims, converting what once were definite factual claims into “metaphorical” and “symbolic” statements as the gaps close. Compatibility is cheap; introduce any false premise into a logical system and all other claims become “compatible” in the sense that “p and q” becomes a theorem in the system for all possible p and q.

While evolution denial is a big problem in the United States right now, it’s not as big a problem as reality-denial generally. As long as we have a country which pays lip service to fundamentalist religious preachers and their bleeting bigoted ignorant flock, we’re screwed.

You nailed that one.

The situation is becoming so bad, that politicos known for their moderate stance for basically their entire career, now apparently feel they literally HAVE to pile on the fundy bandwagon if they want to run for president on the republican side of things. Check out McCain’s shiftorama over the last year or so. scary stuff.

The dems, while not piling on the bandwagon per se, are also not doing a very good job of pointing out why not.

*sigh*

What a number of atheists do claim is that those folks generally have to compartmentalize, putting reason and logic in one compartment and “faith” or “belief” in another, and continually retract empirical claims, converting what once were definite factual claims into “metaphorical” and “symbolic” statements as the gaps close.

or never make them to begin with. many don’t.

as to “a number of atheists”, any possibility you ran across a specific reference?

I’ve been spending a bit of time lately collecting references relating to compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance, and how this relates to the commonality of behavior we see in “creobots”.

Registered User Wrote:

just like it inspired Kepler!

*laugh* Wow, Kepler is a great analogy to use! He worked for years trying to get the orbits of the planets to work properly with Platonic solids. The solar system as Dungeons and Dragons dice just never quite worked. The ellipses we know and love today came at great heartbreak.

One can only hope that the ID-“inspired” researchers, after trying to get mysticism to work to no avail, will come to the proper honest conclusion :)

What a number of atheists do claim is that those folks generally have to compartmentalize, putting reason and logic in one compartment and “faith” or “belief” in another

Of course, ALL humans do this. It’s part of, well, being human.

I’m pretty willing to bet that no scientist or atheist on this list used the scientific method or logic or reason to choose a life-partner. I’m pretty sure they all used irrational illogical emotional intuitive factors.

Unless their name is “Spock” and they recently attained “Kohlinar”. The way some atheists talk, ya’d think they were all Vulcans or something.

“or never make them to begin with. many don’t.”

How do they not? For example, deism is making empirical claims (first cause, finite time) that has definitely problems with modern cosmology. Can one remove deism and still have a solid basis for a faith?

I’m curious. I guess one could propose completely empirically empty dualisms. But non-empty dualisms have been found incompatible with science, and empty dualisms, while not making any empirical statements, ought to have problems with the similar rationality (parsimony) that is used within science. If one use different rationality, is that not to compartmentalize?

“The way some atheists talk, ya’d think they were all Vulcans or something.”

I’m not a Trekkie, but aren’t Vulcan’s pantheists? Kohlinar and similar Vulcan ceremony also points to religion of some sort.

Uuups. Time for a break - googling easily finds that “The Kohlinar is a rigorous discipline intended to purge all emotions and embrace pure and total logic” ( http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/[…]9/flash.html )

Meditation with ceremony, perhaps. But the effects of meditation is easily gotten with video games and similar activities, if memory serves. So it still seems like a nod to religion.

And indeed, Vulcans pray for deads, believe in souls, and “So, while imperfect, the analogy of Vulcan beliefs to Buddhism stands as the best.” ( http://www.memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Vulcan )

But maybe you think of this digging for facts as Vulcan.

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank Wrote:

What a number of atheists do claim is that those folks generally have to compartmentalize, putting reason and logic in one compartment and “faith” or “belief” in another

Of course, ALL humans do this. It’s part of, well, being human.

I’m pretty willing to bet that no scientist or atheist on this list used the scientific method or logic or reason to choose a life-partner. I’m pretty sure they all used irrational illogical emotional intuitive factors.

Actually, if they did make that choice without the scientific method or logic or reason, they probably aren’t with that partner anymore (unless they had kids). “I believe that this person meets my needs because I really want to believe that” only gets you so far.

Actually, if they did make that choice without the scientific method or logic or reason, they probably aren’t with that partner anymore (unless they had kids). “I believe that this person meets my needs because I really want to believe that” only gets you so far.

Quite so. It seems that some people can’t distinguish a silly TV caricature of logic and reason as “without emotion” from actual logic and reason.

P.S.

Most people blindly (irrationally) accept the myth that emotion and rationality are opposites or at least are in conflict, without considering what it actually means to be rational, and what function emotions might have (why evolution resulted in them being a central part of human cognition). Here’s a little thought experiment that might help shake up these unexamined assumptions:

Imagine yourself on an island with your child, little chance of ever being rescued, and very little food. You have the option to consume your child, or not; which is the more rational choice?

“Imagine yourself on an island with your child, little chance of ever being rescued, and very little food. You have the option to consume your child, or not; which is the more rational choice?”

Well, if God lives, it is rational not to. If He does not then it is still rational not to because the kid is younger than you.

“Imagine yourself on an island with your child, little chance of ever being rescued, and very little food. You have the option to consume your child, or not; which is the more rational choice?”

Is there any ketchup on the island?

nope, no ketchup.

no mustard either.

No phones, no lights, not even any cars.

not a single luxury.

Think: Robinson Crusoe.

Pretty much as primitive as it can be.

I wonder if it would change if it were a weekly thing?

could be humorous.

we could even add five more to the mix.

What would we call it though?

It seems that some people can’t distinguish a silly TV caricature of logic and reason as “without emotion” from actual logic and reason.

And it seems that some people can’t use their, uh, actual logic and reason to recognize “sarcasm” when they see it. (shrug)

Anyway, we should all respect Darwin for his contributions to rational marriage planning. He approached it much more scientifically than a Vulcan would (none of that silly pon farr or duels to the death for Emma!)

And it seems that some people can’t use their, uh, actual logic and reason to recognize “sarcasm” when they see it. (shrug)

To call it sarcasm suggests that you believe the opposite of what you stated, but you don’t. But then, you’re the fellow who claims not to be an atheist, even though you do not believe in any deities.

Well, if God lives, it is rational not to. If He does not then it is still rational not to because the kid is younger than you.

Why? If rationally analyzed, both of these claims will lead to emotional evaluations of various consequences.

I’d like to say something to the logic/emotions debate :)

I am probably what Mr. Flank (btw, great book!) talks about - a Vulcan-like atheist. Actually, I came to that comparison before, as I was thinking about my life. As a child I suffered from temper, so I gradually learnt to suppress my emotions to the point that I am not even sure what I feel (if anything) any longer. Recently I found a possible reason. I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a condition similar to autism (luckily, not THAT serious). Simply said, instead of having reason and feelings in something like harmony, I have much more reason that I need, and correspondingly less feelings.

This might be a part of reason why I never found religion attractive - it appeals to urges that I seem to lack. The desire to belong to a group, the desire to achieve happiness and content, the desire to have certainty, the fear of death - but what if you simply don’t feel those things? (I have fear of death sometimes, but it simply goes away if I ignore it.)

I cannot help but wonder if Vulcans couldn’t be in fact based on people like me - people simply unable to express what they feel, even to themselves.

So, please, don’t judge us too harshly, Mr. Flank :) Some of the Vulcan-like atheists might simply be biologically incapable to do better (ah, what a joy to have an excuse after all those years of being a freak!). Chiding us for it is about the same thing as chiding the colorbling for having bad fashion sense.

Simply said, instead of having reason and feelings in something like harmony, I have much more reason that I need, and correspondingly less feelings.

It’s not that simply said. People with autism or Asperger’s do not generally have an excess of reason (but there are notable exceptions, such as Kim Peek, aka “rainman”). Rather, they have trouble analyzing and predicting human behavior due to a deficit in their ability to model other minds.

Popper’s Ghost wrote: It’s not that simply said. People with autism or Asperger’s do not generally have an excess of reason but there are notable exceptions, such as Kim Peek, aka “rainman”). Rather, they have trouble analyzing and predicting human behavior due to a deficit in their ability to model other minds.

I reply: Might this be the reason why atheism feels “natural” to me? Because I don’t have the tendency to see “mind” in the world outside of me?

Popper’s Ghost has it right about the compatibility of science and religion: one distorts the one for the other. Natural selection as the unthinking process behind events in the world is incompatible with a man behind the screen directing events. T he theistic evolutionist makes the new Omphalos argument : it just seems that natural selection does the heavy lifting,but actually Sky Pappy is in control.What gibberish: natural selection is the force that determines events .What theists do is to invoke the two category classification [Russell Stannard] of origins or contingency and creation or a necessary being ,which is begging the question as the second category is what is to be found ,not assumed [See Malcolm Diamond’s book on philosophy of religion on this point in depth.] Furthermore, a deity notion is vacuous and thus not an argument in the first place .It just says:let it be or god did it .[See John Hospers book on introductory philosophy for explanation of explanation .]I expect theists ‘gibberish.Fr.Griggs is in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.Anton Mates ,thanks for answering my buddy’s remarks on rationality.Anton Mates and I rationalists ,so our opponents are irrationalists .e are naturalists, so the others are a-naturalists. Others, thus can see that we are positive .Do see Amiel Rossow’s wonderful essay @ Talk Reason on the Ying and Yang of Kenneth Miller’s use of the origins and creation fallacy in detail .Miller is just wrong, in my humble opinion. Popper’s Ghost and Anton Mates keep up the wonderful commentary ! Bless all!

Popper’s Ghost and Anton Mates, thanks for the commentary in favor of rationalism.We are the rationalists and the naturalists. That makes our opponents the irrationalists and a-naturalists; that has merit against the theist - atheist tems . I t is contrdictory to have the mindless force of natural selection in league with a mind behind the curtain to direct changes.I t will not do as Russell Stannard does to posit a two category classification of origins [ contingency] and creation [ a necessary being], for that is begging the question ,assuming what has to be proven, a second category[ See Malcolm Diamond ‘s philosophy of religion for in-depth look at the fallacy use here.]. Furthermore, parsimony would not permit a second category anyway .And the god notion is vacuous -let it be and god did it explain nothing [See John Hosper’s book on philosophy for an explanation of valid explanations.] Amiel Rossow @ Talk Reason [ llibrary] has a details in the Ying and Yang of Kenneth Miller the incompatibility of natural selectin and teleology . Jordan Howard Sobel in “Logic and Theism “ has more to say of a technical nature. We naturalists just use what is there without having to use the ad hoc notion of the theists . Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.

By mistake I wrote two everlapping set of comments.Now both are gone .What happened?

I have schyzotypy and thereby supposed to believe in the supernatural and the paranormal,but fortunately the reverse is true.However I do have the paranoia and utter shyness.I also have a faulty cortex.Any more rationalists/naturalists out here?

I have schyzotypy and thereby supposed to believe in the supernatural and the paranormal,but fortunately the reverse is true.However I do have the paranoia and utter shyness.I also have a faulty cortex.Any more rationalists/naturalists out here?

To call it sarcasm suggests that you believe the opposite of what you stated, but you don’t.

Mind-reader, are ya?

But then, you’re the fellow who claims not to be an atheist, even though you do not believe in any deities.

Sorry that you don’t like my religious opinions. (shrug)

If I did call myself an “atheist”, would THAT make you happy . … ?

How about the apparent eternity of the polyerse according to Team Ashtekar and others? Again no deity required!

WHY DO I HAVE TO MAKE A COMMENT IN ORDER TO SEE MY COMMENTS.PLEASEE-MAIL ME.

Thanks.I do not see the new comment so I make this one!

Thanks.I do not see the new comment so I make this one!

This is very interesting site

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on June 17, 2006 6:55 PM.

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