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Teaching Science to Religious Students: A Theological Perspective

Featuring: 
Peter M.J. Hess, Ph.D.
Peter M.J. Hess

Time: 
9:00pm
Date: 
February 18, 2012
Location: 
Room 220 (VCC West Building)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada


Science teachers are often challenged by students, parents, or the public about aspects of what they teach. Examples include scientific theories such as the Big Bang or biological evolution, and contemporary issues such as vaccination or climate change. How can or should a teacher respond to such incidents? The first step is to determine whether the classroom challenge is pedagogically legitimate, or whether dealing with it would constitute an illegitimate use of class time. The next step is for the teacher to decide whether the challenge can best be responded to from a scientific point of view, or whether it would be more appropriately approached from another perspective.

It may be that the classroom challenge is AAAS logoextrascientific in character, stemming from a student’s anxiety that some element of a scientific question or theory seems to challenge his or her worldview. Is a student unwilling to discuss the scientific evidence for climate change because he fears that it will carry political or economic implications at odds with what he has learned in his family? Is the student reluctant to discuss evolution seriously because she is afraid she will be forced to choose between (1) belief in the tenets of her religious tradition, and (2) acceptance of the evolutionary assumptions of modern biology?

The staff of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California have extensive experience assisting teachers negotiate the minefields of science denial. Using examples from cases we have encountered, this presentation will suggest effective ways in which teachers can protect the content of their science courses without discounting student or parental concerns. There are good ways to deal with science denial by leading students to a clear understanding of the philosophical background of an apparent conflict. One can show them, for example, how accepting a compelling argument for climate change need not necessarily entail acceptance of a particular economic policy. Reframing scientific questions in light of a clear understanding of a student’s worldview can go a long way toward defusing potential conflict.

For more information: 
View the Session webpage

Darwin: Demon or Revolutionary?

Featuring: 
Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D.
Eugenie C. Scott

Time: 
3:00am
Date: 
February 16, 2012
Location: 
Singletary Center
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky


Although Charles Darwin is recognized internationally as the founding father of evolutionary biology and one of the world's most influential scientists, in the creationist world, Darwin's ideas and Darwin as scientistAmerican Institute for Professional Geologists logo and scholar are routinely denigrated. Three basic themes characterize this demonization: Darwin is presented as an incompetent, or lazy, or plagiarizing scientist; secondly, as the atheist founder of a materialist science (evolution) dedicated to undermining Christianity; and third, as the proponent of toxic social beliefs such as racism. (This would certainly come as a surprise to the quiet Englishman who regularly donated to the Kentucky Paleontological Society logoAmerican abolition movement, and who almost got himself thrown off the Beagle over an argument with Fitzroy over the evils of slavery). Of course, the actual Darwin contrasts strikingly with these mischaracterizations -- but the mischaracterizations serve to promote an overall anti-evolutionary agenda that survey research has shown has been embraced by a surprisingly large percentage of Americans.

Sponsored by the
Kentucky Section of the
American Institute for Professional Geologists
and the
Kentucky Paleontological Society


For more information: 

Darwin: Demon or Revolutionary?

Time: 
7:00pm
Date: 
February 16, 2012
Location: 
Singletary Center
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky


Although Charles Darwin is recognized internationally as the founding father of evolutionary biology and one of the world's most influential scientists, in the creationist world, Darwin's ideas and Darwin as scientistAmerican Institute for Professional Geologists logo and scholar are routinely denigrated. Three basic themes characterize this demonization: Darwin is presented as an incompetent, or lazy, or plagiarizing scientist; secondly, as the atheist founder of a materialist science (evolution) dedicated to undermining Christianity; and third, as the proponent of toxic social beliefs such as racism. (This would certainly come as a surprise to the quiet Englishman who regularly donated to the Kentucky Paleontological Society logoAmerican abolition movement, and who almost got himself thrown off the Beagle over an argument with Fitzroy over the evils of slavery). Of course, the actual Darwin contrasts strikingly with these mischaracterizations -- but the mischaracterizations serve to promote an overall anti-evolutionary agenda that survey research has shown has been embraced by a surprisingly large percentage of Americans.

Sponsored by the
Kentucky Section of the
American Institute for Professional Geologists
and the
Kentucky Paleontological Society


For more information: 

What Would Darwin Say to Today's Creationists?

Featuring: 
Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D.
Eugenie C. Scott
Time: 
12:30am
Date: 
February 15, 2012
Location: 
Carrick Theater
Mitchell Fine Arts Complex
Transylvania University
300 North Broadway
Lexington, Kentucky


Many elements of the modern American creationist movement would be familiar to Darwin, especially the argument from design, which of course was very well known (and well-regarded) by educated people of his time. Transylvania University logoYoung-Earth creationism, on the other hand, would be puzzling to him; Bishop Ussher's 4004 BCE age of the Earth was not considered mainstream Christian theology in the late 19th century, though certainly the view had its adherents among clergy. Darwin might have heard of the “scriptural geologists” who promoted a young-Earth view during the 19th century, but like other scientists of his time, he would have ignored them. The current creationist strategy of disclaiming evolution as weak science would have seemed more familiar to him, given the criticisms of evolution he encountered during his own time.

A presentation in
Transylvania University's
Creative Intelligence Lecture Series

For more information: 
View the University's Event Calendar for February 15

Evolution and Modern Religious Thought

Featuring: 
Peter M.J. Hess, Ph.D.
Peter M.J. Hess
Time: 
10:30pm
Date: 
February 12, 2012
Location: 
Sacramento Darwin Day
John Smith Hall
La Sierra Community Center
5325 Engle Road
Carmichael, California


The annual celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday give us an opportunity to consider the significance of the evolutionary paradigm that permeates most dimensions of postmodern thought. Anyone with the slightest brush with education will recognize that we inhabit an ancient, dynamic, and evolving universe. In recent decades the debate about the relationship between science and religion, and the appropriate place of each in a pluralistic society, has become so acrimonious as at times to erupt in incivility.

This talk will explore the varying reception of evolution by modern religious groups. Some reject evolution completely, insisting upon a young universe, a recent creation, a literal Adam and Eve in a literal Garden of Eden, and a literal Noachian flood that covered the entire planet. Under this broad umbrella of science denial exists a number of subcategories, ranging from so-called “young earth creationism” to self-styled “intelligent design” theory.

Many people in ancient faith traditions now recognize that religion has everything to gain from a bold and incisive engagement with it. What does theology look like if it takes science seriously? What does science and its objects of study look like if we approach them with religious faith? These are hermeneutical questions about the translation of meaning not only across time and space, but between the contrasting cultures of religion and science. The interpretive framework within which a theistic evolutionist reads the Bible, church history, doctrinal theology, and religious ethics will inevitably reflect an unimaginably vast, ancient, dynamic and evolving universe.

This discussion will broach two central questions: (1) is it possible for religious believers both a) to believe in a purposeful God and b) at the same time to accept the evolutionary assumptions of modern cosmology, geology, biology, genetics, and neuroscience? I will contend not only that this is possible, but that it is essential for their coherence that religious traditions integrate the evolutionary world view into their theologies and religious cultures. (2) Second, what are the parameters of free thought in a pluralistic society? Do the interests of science and secularism demand the erasure of all cultural traditions that do not meet the rigorous demands of scientific reductionism? What place is there in our educational system for introducing students to some of the many religious and philosophical traditions developed by human kind over the last 3,500 years?

For more information: 
Contact: Peter Hess at hess@ncse.com

[To be announced]

Time: 
2:30pm to 4:30pm
Date: 
February 12, 2012
Location: 
Sacramento Darwin Day
John Smith Hall
La Sierra Community Center
5325 Engle Road
Carmichael, California


For more information: 
Contact: Peter Hess at hess@ncse.com

Keynote Address: What Darwin Said (And Did Not Say)

Featuring: 
Kevin Padian, Ph.D.
Kevin Padian
Time: 
9:00pm
Date: 
February 11, 2012
Location: 
Arkansas Darwin Day Conference
University of Arkansas
Little Rock, Arkansas



Charles Darwin Montage Arkansas Darwin Day

For more information: 

Teaching Evolution in a Climate of Controversy

Featuring: 
Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D.
Eugenie C. Scott

Time: 
5:00pm
Date: 
February 11, 2012
Location: 
Room TBA
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida


Evolution is an essential part of the biology curriculum, and a similarly-critical part of the Earth sciences curriculum; it is simply not possible to teach good University of South Florida - logobiology or Earth science and omit evolution. But what if there are students who are reluctant to be taught evolution, and (worse) administrators who don’t back their teachers? Dr. Scott will present some useful tips for teachers about handling what shouldn’t be a controversy, but unfortunately is.

Presentation at the
Science Teachers Workshop

For more information: 
Email: NCSE

Teaching Evolution in a Climate of Controversy

Time: 
9:00am
Date: 
February 11, 2012
Location: 
Room TBA
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida


Evolution is an essential part of the biology curriculum, and a similarly-critical part of the Earth sciences curriculum; it is simply not possible to teach good University of South Florida - logobiology or Earth science and omit evolution. But what if there are students who are reluctant to be taught evolution, and (worse) administrators who don’t back their teachers? Dr. Scott will present some useful tips for teachers about handling what shouldn’t be a controversy, but unfortunately is.

Presentation at the
Science Teachers Workshop

For more information: 
Email: NCSE

Screening of "No Dinosaurs in Heaven"

Time: 
12:00am
TBA
Date: 
February 11, 2012 to February 12, 2012
Location: 
REASONfest
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas


"No Dinosaurs in Heaven" is a film essay that examines the hijacking of science education by religious fundamentalists, threatening the separation of church and state and dangerously undermining scientific literacy. ReasonFest logoThe documentary weaves together two strands: an examination of the problem posed by creationists who earn science education degrees only to advocate anti-scientific beliefs in the classroom; and a visually stunning raft trip down the Grand Canyon, led by Dr. Eugenie Scott, that debunks creationist explanations for its formation. These two strands expose the fallacies in the "debate," manufactured by anti-science forces, that creationism is a valid scientific alternative to evolution.

NCSE's Steve Newton will host a question and answer session following the film.

Sponsored by
SOMA
The Society of Open-Minded Atheists & Agnostics


For more information: 
Contact: Steve Newton at newton@ncse.com

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