NCSE Past Events
Ithaca, New York
The subject of origins – of where we, Earth, and the universe come from – is one that has been considered by many religions since time memorial. Science, as a relatively recent actor on the intellectual stage, also considers these topics, coming up with answers at variance with those of most religions, including Christianity. How do these two approaches differ? Are there similarities? And is there an uncrossable divide between the two? The answer is not just philosophically interesting, but directly relevant to decisions being made about what to teach in public school science courses.
C.P. Snow Lecture Series
sponsored by Ithaca College
Middle Tennessee State University
Many topics in the curriculum of American schools are controversial, but perhaps the one with the longest tenure is evolution. Politics plays a role in this controversy in a number of ways. Politicians have keen antennae for cultural values, and the "fairness" argument (i.e., it is only "fair" to "balance" evolution with creationism) regularly is exploited, regardless of the appropriateness of its application to science education. Variants of the fairness argument such as balancing evolution with "scientific alternatives to evolution" or balancing evolution with "strengths and weaknesses of evolution" have in fact become the current predominant antievolutionist strategy, partly in response to a series of legal decisions that have excluded the advocacy of creationism in public schools. Tennessee currently is wrestling with a bill in its legislature that would compromise the teaching of evolution in exactly this fashion.
Middle Tennessee State University
University of South 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 biology 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.
Science Teachers Workshop
San Francisco Main Library
San Francisco, California
Steve Newton presents the documentary film, 'No Dinosaurs in Heaven'. This film, by award-winning director Greta Schiller, takes us along on a raft trip through the Grand Canyon, while examining the challenges to science literacy and education from creationists.
Live music will be performed by Joey Fabian of 'The Skeptic's Jukebox.'
We'll enjoy birthday cake for Chuck, then join in a rousing round of the team trivia game, Evolutionary!
Science, food, and music-- free and open to the public!
Vancouver, British Columbia
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 extrascientific 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.