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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Arkansas Curriculum Conference 2016

On November 4th, I presented a workshop on evolution at the Arkansas Curriculum Conference. The workshop was sponsored by TIES, the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science, an organization dedicated to helping teachers teach evolution, itself sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Unfortunately, the wifi died right at the beginning of my talk, so the videos embedded in the talk were not able to be played. So for those of you who attended, and for those of you who would like to see the talk, I am posting the powerpoint file here. I know, it is incredibly overdue, but in my defense, the world took a sharp turn into weirdness right afterwards and then we had Thanksgiving. Any of you who are teaches or students also know what a crazy time of year this is. At any rate, here is the powerpoint. I will see about trying to record some audio for it at some point, along with the other talks I have meant to put up. We will see how that goes over the holidays.

If you go to the TIES website, you will see a version of this talk. I have modified it to include more information on fossil formation, which I skimmed over, for the most part, in the workshop itself. I focused more on the slides discussing why learning evolution is important in the first place. It has far more everyday impacts than most people imagine and is well worth understanding even if one believes in creationism or doesn’t care about esoteric biological concepts at all (for instance, if you are a cutting edge software or robotics designer).


In addition, there are a couple of other things I wanted to post. First is an icebreaker activity that TIES provided. In this activity, participants determine whether or not a series of statements about evolution are true or false. In a twist that catches most people off guard, they are ALL false. They are all commonly held beliefs about evolution, but they are all wrong, which makes a good way to start a conversation about the topic.


Here are the statements and a very brief explanation of why they are wrong, as supplied in the document. Further clarifications and discussions are happily supplied upon request.

1. Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution.
The theory of evolution existed before Darwin; it was Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection that became widely accepted.

2. Living things adapt to their environment.
As a whole, living things are adapted to their environment. Individuals are unchanging, they either live or die based on the traits they are born with.

3. Biologists “believe” in evolution.
Science is not based on belief. The theory of evolution provides a model for scientists to understand the relationships between organisms on the planet.

4. Monkeys will eventually become human.
There are many species of primates and all are adapted to their environment. A chimpanzee would not turn into a human over time anymore than a cheetah would turn into a lion (or vice versa).

5. Evolution is JUST a theory.
Saying that it is “just” a theory implies that it is a guess, or that its not well supported. There is much evidence to support the theory of evolution, as well as direct observation of species change.

6. Only atheists accept the Theory of Evolution.
Scientists of many religions across the world accept evolution, and do not find it incompatible with their faith.

7. If evolution is disproven, creationism must be true.
A problem with logic (disconfirming evidence). Even if you disproved evolution, you would have to develop and support another model of organism diversity. Disproving one, doesn’t
prove the other.

8. No one has ever seen evolution happen.
In organisms that reproduce quickly (like bacteria) changes in species can be directly observed, such as resistances to antibiotics.

9. Order cannot come from disorder, so evolution is false.
Many instances in nature show molecules and substance organizing, such requires energy. The sun provides the energy that ultimately fuels all of life’s processes.

10. There is evidence that dinosaurs lived with humans.
There is no evidence that suggests humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

11. Scientists regularly debate that evolution occurs.
Scientists debate elements of evolution, relationships between organisms, and fossils. The only place the evolution debate really happens is in the social settings.

12. Creationism is a valid scientific theory and should be presented with evolution. Creationism violates the scientific principle of natural causality.

13. There are no transition fossils. Museums are filled with fossils that show intermediate species.

14. Carbon dating is not accurate, therefore the age of the earth cannot be determined.
Carbon dating is one of many methods used to date the earth. Taken as a whole, the evidence is overwhelming that the earth is very old.

There is also a dice game that I want to share with you demonstrating how natural selection works, but that will have to wait until next post.