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Lecture to focus on teaching evolution

TAMPA, Fla. -- In celebration of the birthday of Charles Darwin, the University of South Florida welcomes renowned science educator, Eugenie Scott, who argues that students cannot understand science without grasping the centrality of evolution. Scott will present a public lecture at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9 in FAH 101 on Florida’s ‘Critical Thinking’ Bills: Creationism du jour?”

Florida legislators have often contemplated bills addressing the teaching of evolution, most recently in 2011. In such bills, teachers are directed to “critically analyze” evolution, or present the “full range of scientific views of origins.” Scott notes that these bills have a history -- they are the current manifestations of the creationism and evolution controversy that has dogged science education for more than 100 years.

“When they say 'teach the controversy, they want us to pretend to students that scientists are arguing whether evolution took place. This argument is not taking place,” Scott said.

Scott is a physical anthropologist who has been the executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) since 1987. For years, she has led the national movement of scientists and educators against the teaching of creationism and its more recent cousin, intelligent design, which Scott has described as “ultimately a science stopper.”

Throughout her distinguished career, Scott has received multiple awards from academic associations, as well as bodies devoted to science literacy and skepticism. She has numerous honorary degrees, including from McGill University and Ohio State University. She is a former chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2009 was the inaugural recipient of the Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution.

While at USF, Scott also will visit with high school science students, who will be treated to a day of hands-on, lab-based activities coordinated by faculty and graduate students from the Departments of Integrative Biology, Anthropology and Philosophy. To cap her visit, Hillsborough County Public School District and the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) will host a workshop for school teachers, with participation from Scott and USF faculty. Scott’s presentation, “Teaching Evolution in a Climate of Controversy,” will show that evolution is an essential part of the science curriculum.

“It is simply not possible to teach good biology or Earth science and omit evolution,” Scott said.

The Humanities Institute and the Department of Integrative Biology, which have established a tradition of celebrating Darwin Day, are sponsoring the event.

“Today we’re seeing a push to train more students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields,” said Elizabeth Bird, the director of the Humanities Institute. “Yet many people, including Florida politicians, don’t understand that scientific literacy and competency can’t be achieved without a grasp of the core principles of evolutionary theory.”

Additional sponsors of Scott’s visit include the USF Coalition for Science Literacy, the Departments of Anthropology and Philosophy, Research One and the College of Arts and Sciences.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Anthropology Integrative Biology Events Humanities Institute