"Evolution 101" - Understanding evolution for the layperson in Kansas

Kansas Citizens for Science announces a class we are co-sponsoring with the Shawnee Mission Universalist Unitarian Church in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, entitled “Evolution 101 – Understanding Evolution for the Layperson.” On April 6 and 13, for two hours each, I will make a presentation and then lead a structured discussion on the core elements of the theory of evolution: in respect to the diversity of life on earth, what has happened, why, and how do we know?

You can read the full announcement at our new weblog, KCFS News at http://www.kcfs.org/kcfsnews/.

In part, the announcement says,

“Evolution 101” will use the excellent website Understanding Evolution at the University of California Museum of Paleontology as a guide and resource for the course. We encourage everyone, whether you intend to attend the classes or not, to browse Understanding Evolution for Teachers at http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evohome.html.

“Evolution 101” will focus on mainstream science: in respect to the diversity of life on earth, what does the theory of evolution say has happened, why, and how do we know? Each class session will begin with a presentation, but there will be plenty of opportunity for facilitated discussion at the end of each class. In addition, KCFS will host an online discussion forum for class participants for further discussion during the periods between events.

The course will not focus on objections to evolution held by advocates of young-earth or Intelligent Design creationism, nor on the Kansas Science Standards issue. Some time will be provided at the end of each class for questions on these issues, but the main portion of each class will stay on the topic of the mainstream science of evolution.

Of course I don’t expect many Panda Thumbers to be able to attend, but here’s the point I’d like to make for discussion’s sake: this course is not intended to debate creationism or talk politics. It’s intended to help the average person who accepts evolution understand it better.

Of course, the creationism issues will comes up – both the scientific ones (what about those transitional fossils?) and also the metaphysical ones (can you accept evolution and God?), and there will be time set aside at the end of each session for more open discussion on these issues. But the focus will be on mainstream science: instead of being on the defensive, forever battling creationist misconceptions, at least in this course we hope to be proactive by educating people about evolution.

We are hoping this program will develop some materials and be a model that others can use. We will post materials from the course, and at least an audio recording of the sessions, at a later time.

Note that the announcement also describes the other two events that will accompany the Evolution 101 course: a lecture and discussion by Dr. Dick Wilson, former Biology Department Chair at Rockhurst University, entitled “Creationism vs. Evolution: Sorting out Religion from Science”, and special tour of the “Exploring Evolution” exhibit at the Kansas Museum of Natural History led by museum director Dr. Leonard Krishtalka.

Many thanks to Dale Trott and Rev. Thom Belote of Shawnee Mission Universalist Unitarian Church for conceiving and organizing these event.