Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Book Update

I've been swamped with UAB work since Thanksgiving, and I haven't been able to get any work on the book done. I'm sitting down today to write, though, and I'm glad to be getting back into it.

I've finished the first draft of the core 7 chapters; so, here's the plan:

-Work back through chapters 1-7, tightening them up and making sure the message is coherent. I've been working on these chapters across a full year now; so, I know some of the things that I wrote in the earlier chapters isn't consistent with my message now.

-Write the introductory chapter and the concluding chapter.

-Finalize Appendix 1, which is chiefly the resources I'm pointing teachers to.

-If time, write a new Appendix 2, which will be on the pedagogy model I'm employing in the book. I'm calling that the Spain Park Model, and it's the graphic included here in the post. Click the title of this post to take you to a PDF of the graphic.

-Submit the manuscript by my deadline of Feb 1. Heinemann says it will be out by this time next year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Peculiar Comfort

When people find out I'm writing a book, they of course ask, "What's it on?". Almost every time I tell them the topic, there's this really awkward pause. Then, I fumble out some even more awkward explanation of what I'm trying to do and why. Usually, the more I say the worse it gets. Often during those times, I wonder why I'm doing it. A couple of weeks ago, though, the voice of Martin Luther of all people really helped me.

Charlie and Ruth Jones are actors who perform at our church regularly. They make up the group Peculiar People. They came the Sunday after Reformation Day and performed their show on the life of Martin Luther. Of course, Luther's experiences leading the Reformation caught the attention of this reformer. But, the climax of the show was what helped me make some sense of why I'm writing this book. As Luther stood before the court, being asked to recant his life's work, he said, "Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me."

That's really where I am with writing this book. I can do no other. I may be so off track with what I'm doing, and I may be deeply in sin. If so, then may God have mercy on my soul. I can do no other, though. Children are leaving their faith because of how evolution is being taught, and it doesn't have to be that way. Evolution doesn't tell us that there is no God and that all things spiritual are foolish. Some look a the evidence and see that, but many, many scientists look at the evidence and see the supernatural at work.

Thanks, Charlie and Ruth. You brought Luther to life in such a way that he has encouraged me to simply stand, as he did. I have no idea what will come of this book I'm writing; it may end up making no difference at all. But, I'm encouraged again to "never give in, never, never, never, never," as Mr. Churchill said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Orlando High School Follow-Up

Orlando High School Science Teachers:

It was great being with you on Wednesday, and I hope the What and the Why of Inquiry was helpful to you as you think about how to strengthen the use of inquiry in your classes. Many of you seemed to be interested in the connections between inquiry and improved ACT scores. Click the title of this post to see the ACT's College Readiness Standards; you'll see the document that I popped up on the LCD.

Use the comment button below to let me know any questions or comments you have about our time together, and I look forward to the next time we get a chance to work on inquiry again.


Saturday, November 01, 2008


I'm still working on the book, but I've had to focus elsewhere for a couple of weeks. I'm going up from promotion to full professor this year, and the first set of my review materials was due this week. I'm in the home stretch, though, of the book, and plan to get back to writing in the week ahead and having the first draft of the main chapters done by Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

#1 in Google???

I was looking for something, and of course did a Google search. My search query was "nsta presentation." I was a little discombobulated when one of my own blog posts got returned by Google as top on the search list. And oddly, it was one of my obscure blog posts too, the one from March 28, 2007, when I was simply letting people know when my NSTA presentations were.

Makes me wonder how Google does its magic???

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A little housekeeping

If you're following my blogs on the book I'm writing, you'll see that I've changed the label on those posts from "Hearts&Minds" to "UNBelieve". I've been looking for a new way to refer to my work on this because I want to honor David Jackson's leadership on the original "Hearts & Minds" article by leaving that phrase to his use. I haven't really found a key word for my focus, though, until UNBelieve just came into focus. I'll probably tweak that term some in the weeks and months ahead, but it seems to represent well what I'm trying to do.

Friday, October 03, 2008

UNBelieve Reflections

I've been pondering the session I lead on teaching evolution this week at ASTA. In writing this book, I find that I have to think a lot about my message, both what it is and how I can communicate it effectively. Live presentations are good opportunities to test out that message.

One thing that I blatantly tried to do this time was to push forward my central message about students understanding, but not believing, evolution. I think I've mentioned earlier here how in writing that message has become my focus. The ASTA session seemed to work well with consistently bringing everything back to this message and making it the chief take-away for my participants. Science teachers must teach evolution, and they should teach it in a way that all students, even religious students, understand evolution. They should not teach evolution, however, with a goal of getting religious students to believe that evolution really happened.

Am I on thin ice here? Can students really understand evolution without believing it? I'm thinking they can. For some religious students, I would think that it's major progress if they simply had a basic knowledge of what evolution is and a sense that clear scientific evidence exists for it working around them and in the history of the earth. I'd be OK even if they didn't believe in evolution itself or even believe in the evidence that they saw. I also know that students from some religions, such as Christian fundamentalism, would encounter significant difficulties learning about evolution at even that basic level. 

Believing that evolution occurred at any level beyond natural selection is going to be a major stretch for many religious students. They've been taught to believe in creation, and they just will not believe that life evolved. They won't believe that it evolved by itself, because of their belief in supernatural creation, but I'm beginning to see that they won't even believe that evolution was the mechanism of special creation (i.e., that God created by evolution). Their faith tells differently, and believing the scientific worldview in this instance is going to be pretty much impossible for them.

So, we're back to understanding evolution, but not believing it occurred, as the goal of evolution education. And, I'm OK with that goal. I don't think it's undercutting science education because it at least lets students enter into the study of evolution at some level without creating a science classroom where they feel like they can't learn about evolution at all. As the teacher blatantly says, "I don't expect you to believe this," the students know that their faith isn't threatened. I'm hoping that having that security gives them the freedom to look more at the evidence for evolution and the way the theory explains the evidence.

Please let me know any thoughts you have on that message, especially holes that you see in it. More and more I'm focusing on "Understanding Not Believing." So, I guess I'm pitching the idea that we need to U.N.Believe (un-believe) the evolution curriculum.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

ASTA Evolution Follow-Up

Thanks to all of you who attended the session on teaching evolution to religious students. I hope the message of guiding theistic students to understand, but not believe, evolution was helpful to you. 

The handout I promised is linked to the title of this post. Click the title and it will take you to my public website, where you'll see the handout that you can download. If you're a PC user, please see the note there about possible needing to right-click the file to get it to download.

Please let me know any questions or comments you have about the session. You can click on the word "comments" below to reply back here. Also, if you want to see previous posts here about teaching evolution, you can click on the word "heartsNminds" under the Labels section to the left of this post, and the site will show you only blog posts related to the topic.

ASTA Inquiry Follow-Up

Thanks to all of you who attended Inquiry: What & Why. I look forward to hearing from you any questions or comments you have on the session. To reply, just click on the word "comments" directly below. 

Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm looking forward to seeing the Alabama crew at ASTA this week. I'll be there on Wednesday, and I'll be presenting 2 sessions:
  • At 10:30, I'll be presenting on teaching evolution to religious kids. This is the session I've done in the past on the topic, but I've updated it some to include the big ideas that I'm covering in the book.
  • At 2:00, I'll present on the what and the why of inquiry. This is the same session on inquiry I've done several times, and if you heard it before, there's not a lot that's new. Feel free to come, though, especially if you want to share what's working on inquiry in your classroom.
Other than that, I'll just be hanging out and looking forward to catching up with you.  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Science Notebook Tips, á la Susie Q

Susie Quillan is a science teacher extraordinaire in the Orlando area, and she has posted some really top-notch tips about science notebooking. She's new to blogging, but I betcha her blog is one to watch. (Thanks, Leyla, for the lead on Susie's blog.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Dialogue on Genesis

A few weeks back, I posted a Facebook note explaining the basic idea of my book. Some people there had asked about it, and I wanted to have a summary available for them. A guy I know named Dave saw the note, made a comment, and that turned into a back-and-forth dialogue between him and me. With Dave's permission, I'm posting our conversation. One of the commentators here, Chris, also joins in the dialogue. (If you're a Facebook user, you should be able to click the title of this post and go to the original conversation.)

Chris Morrow has told me a lot about your book, and on a recent trip to North Carolina, the two of us had a very long discussion about evolution vs. creation (or to be more specific, perhaps I should say theistic evolution vs. spontaneous creation).

The difficulty I keep coming back to is twofold--one are the events of Genesis, which I just can't see how they would ever be meant to be taken metaphorically--and the other is the soul. I just don't see how a soul could evolve.

At this point, I'm afraid that if I became convinced that evolution was real, I would end up being an atheist, or at best, an agnostic.

Can you help me out here?

I think I understand completely your confusion and questions. The kind of concerns that you express are ones that so many people face when they think about evolution, and in my book I hope to help science teachers address evolution with grace so that students who feel your concerns aren't afraid of evolution.

I do think that Genesis 1-3 is not literal, but it is true. The Song of Solomon is clearly poetic, not literal, and Genesis 1-3 read to me more like an artistic perspective than a scientific one. An obvious indicator of that is how the creation story is told 3 different times and in 3 different ways in those chapters.

I don't believe, though, that the soul evolved. God breathed life into us to make us human, whether he created our bodies with a zap from dust or via millions of years of evolution, like the fossil evidence seems to say.

P.S. Accepting evolution as God's mechanism for creating life doesn't force someone into atheism. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the scientific evidence is piling up about how life evolved, but that in no way convinces me that life evolved on its on. I just don't think the amazing wonder and beauty we see around us was a cosmic accident.

What's the whole point of the Adam and Eve story, though? If it's meant to be metaphorical, are we to assume that Adam and Eve never really existed? And if so, then why is Adam included in the geneeology? What's the meaning of their story? These are the things I can't get past. I might be able to accept that God created the rest of the world through evolution but then spontaneously created Adam and Eve. But if Adam and Eve are a myth, I don't know that I can take any of the Bible at face value.

I think Adam & Eve were real people.

Do you think they were the only two people on Earth at the time, or do you think they were just two of many?

Probably the only two on earth at the time (as far as really human, in the sense that God had breathed a soul into them), but I'm pretty murky on all of these details. I need to look into all of that more. The real push on all of this for Christians, though, is the wealth of scientific evidence about pre-human species. The fossil record is pretty clear about human-like species being on the earth.

I see. So theoretically, there could be a scenario where we have a bunch of sub-human neanderthals running about, but Adam and Eve are the only truly human people? Interesting.

It would be a lot easier for me to deal with the "days" of Genesis one being eons and animal and plant life evolving on Earth. It's human evolution where everything breaks down for me.

I think a lot of people are like you--human evolution is the biggest problem they have with evolution. I was the same way up until a few months ago when I started looking at the fossil evidence. (It all started with a chance/Providential visit to Lucy's bones at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. ) I begin to realize that there was a lot more fossil evidence for human evolution than I had ever realized.

Chris Morrow (adding his perspective):
Lee, this question about Adam and Eve is a tough one. I really don't have a problem with evolution when it comes to my faith. I think Genesis 1 reflects evolution metaphorically. Simpler forms of life come on the scene first followed more complex ones.

The hard part is the intersection point where scripture picks up the literal story humans, the lives of Adam and Eve. From the viewpoint of a Christian-theistic evolution person like me, our family tree bottlenecks at Adam and Eve. Now-a-days, that would cause a whole bunch of genetic defects for latter generations. Were genetic conditions different back then?

Although evolution sits well with my faith, the story of Adam and Eve in time and space does not.

So now the question becomes, did Adam and Eve arrive on the scene via the evolutionary ladder, or did God create them spontaneously? I would tend towards the latter, as the Genesis account describes God creating them separately, making Eve out of Adam for a help-mate. Did God then plop them down in the middle of Eden, away from all the mindless neanderthals running about?

Looks like we're ending this in questions, which is really where I am now. I don't have a nice, neat package for how it all fits together, but I think that's part of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Understanding vs. Believing

A long time ago, my democratic/Yankee/agnostic/liberal good friend David Jackson talked about how he wanted fundamentalist kids to understand evolution but not believe it. I'm wondering if that should be my message to teachers, and I would appreciate feedback on the idea.

I've been searching for a central message. People ask me about my book, and after a couple of minutes of me talking, their eyes usually glaze over. I know that this is a tough topic, and I know it's threatening to a lot of people. That's one reason why I'm looking for a nice, terse message. I like elevator statements, and I've been trying different ones out when people ask about how the book is going. None of my messages have worked well thus far. Maybe this one will.

I've always admired David for how his goal of understanding, but not believing, didn't require religious students to change their core beliefs. He has always been very strong about how belief change is the wrong thing for a science teacher to target. Coming from someone who trained under Stephen J. Gould, his sensitivity on this point is something I really appreciate, and it's something that surprises people when I tell them about David's worldview. Until now, though, I've wanted more for religious students. I know that a disbelief in evolution will hamper future biologists and geologists; they have to be able to work within those fields where evolution is treated as fact. Although I still see that believing may be important for future scientists, I'm now realizing David's wisdom when we're talking about teaching all the students in a classroom.

I think this message could bring a lot of clarity to science teachers and to students studying evolution. What's the goal? Students need to see the evidence for evolution and understand where it came from and why it's reliable. Students need to understand how scientists explain the evidence using the theory of evolution as a natural explanation of how life on Earth came to be. If all students in a biology class understood those two things, the evidence for and the scientific explanation of evolution, I would think their teacher had worked a miracle!

They wouldn't have to believe that life evolved on Earth without supernatural intervention. They wouldn't have to believe in macroevolution. They wouldn't have to even believe all of the evidence they had seen in the unit. If they stayed engaged in learning, realized that evidence for evolution exists, and that scientists explain the evidence without using religious arguments, that would be very successful teaching of evolution in classes with religious kids. 

So, I'm really liking this message. "What's your book about, Lee?" Well, it's about teaching evolution so that religious kids understand it, but don't have to believe it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

HIV macroevolution?

I'm still thinking about the objection I wrote about in my recent T-Rex to Tweety post. It's the concern that many people, religious or not, raise along the lines of, "I don't buy evolution because I don't see it happening around me." As I was doing research for chapter 5 of the book, I began seeing the emergence of HIV as an example of macroevolution at work. I'm wondering, though, if I'm off base on this, and I would appreciate any input you can give.

From the research I've done, I've learned that HIV developed from SIV, a non-fatal disease affecting mainly chimps in Africa. In that part of Africa, humans eat chimps; so, that's the probable pathway of the virus into humans. But, the virus had to mutate so that it could infect humans, and in doing so, it also became lethal. Several descriptions of this process can be found on-line, but one I've been using recently is "The origin of AIDS and HIV and the first cases of AIDS". (It's posted by an advocacy organization, but I think they got the basic facts correct.) The thing I like about the page is how it is referenced with scientific articles; so, they're tying down their explanation with actual science.

But, is this a good example of macroscopic evolution? Am I ok in saying that this is evolution from one kind to another? As I look at it, it's an example right in front of our eyes of a virus becoming significantly different, but would people say that it's actually microevolution because it's still a virus, similar to Darwin's finches still being finches after thousands of years of evolution?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

South Sound Laser Teachers--Look here!

Click the title of this post to get to the article giving the background of the Spain Park Model, or copy and paste the URL below into your browser:


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From T-Rex to Tweety?

One objection to evolution that I hear among my friends (mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly Christian) runs something like this: "I don't have any problems with microevolution. The Creator would have to make animals so that they can adapt. What I do have problems with is evolution from one species to another. I mean, that's just impossible. Look around. You don't see birds turning into monkeys or dogs turning into elephants. It just doesn't happen."

I've been pondering that objection and how to answer it from the scientific evidence, and I've come up with an angle. I'll be interested in feedback on this approach, especially since I'm at the point in the book where I'm going to need to address this issue. My answer to that objection, however, has to do with the massive amounts of time involved in evolution. I know that's a mind-bender for many Christians who come from a young-earth viewpoint. I wonder if time causes the same issue for people form other religions.

To understand how new species develop, I had to look back to the past. You can't look around now. Our short lives (75 or so years) and our short human history (3000-4000 years) don't stretch long enough to see speciation occurring in any way that we will ever be able to say, "Oh, I see a new species over there." Instead, we have to look back over the fossil record to see large periods of time when new species are evolving.

An example of this would be to look back at the end of the dinosaur age to see how animals very different than the dinosaurs evolved from them. As best I understand, it goes something like this: During the time of the dinosaurs, they evolved until they were many kinds of dinosaurs roaming around. One group was the maniraptors, whose wrists were different than those of other dinosaurs. Over a long period of time, this group of dinosaurs got more varied. The fossil record shows that it included Velociraptors and their relatives (of Jurassic Park fame), Oviraptors (who took care of their eggs), the group called Troodontidae (thought to be pretty dang smart for a dinosaur), and birds. That last word, "birds," may be surprising to you. It was to me as I did the research to write this post. I didn't realize that birds were classified right there as members of the dinosaur family. (If you want to know more, take a look at the page on Coelurosauria in the Tree of Life project. That website can be a little tricky to learn how to move around. Make sure to see the "Containing Group" link below the list of species. It's what lets you go backwards, that is earlier along the fossil record.) And, if you look at Birds (technically Aves from the Latin), you'll see that they contain Archaeopteryx, which most people think of as a dinosaur.

So what? Well, back to the original objection. "I've never seen animals evolve!" If I'm reading the fossil record right, here's a time where we see one animal evolving into a very different one. A dinosaur became a bird!

But, the clever reader will realize that the statement I just made--dinosaurs becoming birds--is the wrong way to state it. That's not really what happened at all, according to the fossil record. During the millions and millions of years that dinosaurs were on the earth, they evolved into a huge variety. One small group out of this was what we think of as birds. And, natural selection kicked in here at the end of the age of dinosaurs. When whatever happened to wipe out the dinosaurs occurred, the early birds were different enough that they were able to survive under the new conditions and begin to evolve into the vast variety of birds we have today.

Does that make any sense? The way I see it is that we'll never actually see the macroevolution that many people object to because we live such short lives. But, if we look back over the fossil record, we can see species change into totally different kinds. I don't really expect religious kids to believe that this is how the Creator made birds, but I do want them to see how science explains the fossil record.

By the way, if you want a little challenge, try using the Tree of Life to trace Mammals (i.e. Mammalia) back to find out when they and the dinosaurs diverged from each other. I'll give you a hint--what fluid surrounds a baby during pregnancy? If you find the answer, you should also see where turtles and reptiles split off.

(The T-Rex skull is from the collection of the Lawrence Hall of Science. I took the picture.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Moving slow

My wife and I have both been under the weather over the past couple of weeks; so, I'm moving slow on writing and blogging. I appreciate your patience, and I hope to pick the pace back up soon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stay Tuned...

This note gives the last of the Puerto Rico thoughts, but I'm brain-dead after 2 days of writing. I'll get back to this as soon as I can, but maybe you can make some sense of it on your own. (BTW, do people still know today what "Stay Tuned" means, or am I just a relic?)

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Heart Issue

I thought a lot about wonder and awe in Puerto Rico. The beaches of Vieques were truly beautiful, and each had a unique beauty that made them together almost a wonderland. Walking in the Il Yunque rainforest was just as amazing. The first picture here captures some of that majesty. Please don't miss the scale of these plants. They were huge! (The second picture may help you with the scale. If you look in the lower right hand corner, you'll see my wife just walking into view. And she wants to make sure that you all know she's not tall!)

Wonder and awe, for me, is a heart issue. The creation calls out to my heart, "There's a Creator." I know my Christian beliefs do impact what I hear, but it's really the other way around. One of my foundational reasons for being a Christian is because the wonder and awe of creation tells me that there must be a God. "He is here," as C.S. Lewis says. (The second part of Dr. Lewis's quote, the "and He has spoken" is something creation can't do fully.) 

I know, though, that many people who are not religious still sense the wonder and awe of creation. I hear it in things agonstic scientists write about the beauty of the world. I see it in the way non-religious people fight valiantly to preserve the environment. So many of us on both sides of the origins issue see the incredible beauty of this planet, and we're moved deeply by it.

To me, this is the problem with scientific materialism. Dawkins and others out on one end of the argument want to use evolution like a club to beat religion out of our brains. They talk about how science makes it perfectly obvious that the Earth evolved to its present state without a god intervening. But, scientific materialists are missing the heart issue of wonder and awe. Even many non-religious people lift their heads up, look at the beauty all around them, and think to themselves, "There's more." They may not be able to identify it, but they know there's something more than natural processes at work. This Earth is just too amazing! So, I think the question of "How?" just seamlessly morphs into "Who?" for many of us.


I just realized what labels are for in creating blog posts, and I'm starting to use them. The main labels I'll use right now are "heartsNminds" for posts about teaching evolution and "inquiry" for posts on that subject. I hope the labeling helps you find more easily the topics that you're interested in.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Oh yeah...gotta back it up!

Almost lost a day of writing. I started to work on the current chapter, and realized the last day of my writing was missing! Thankfully, I had made a second backup to a thumb drive. My original copy and first back up had failed.

Would it matter?

David and I were talking when we were in Puerto Rico, and we had walked passed the waterfall in the picture. A question he asked got me thinking about young earth creationism. I'd phrase the question as, "If God used evolution to create the earth, but in 6, 24-hour periods, how would we know? Would the scientific evidence show anything different than the 6 billion year history that science talks about?"

Unless I'm way out to lunch on that question, then I'm thinking that the process is the key issue, not the time involved. The real question is the mechanism of creation, not the time involved. So, did God create with a magical zap where things appeared out of thin air? That's the general gist of the way I viewed creation when I was young-earth in my thinking. Or, did he create via the process of developing life slowly and methodically via evolution, with steps indicated by scientific evidence?

If I'm on to anything here, then we should shift the discussion from "How long?" to "How?". "How long?" is a dead end discussion anyway. We've not gotten any closer to resolving that conflict over the past 160 years, and I don't see anything on the horizon that will make resolution any easier. But, the discussion of "How" might be more productive.

Please help me out here with your thoughts. I've got more thoughts from the Puerto Rico trip, including questions about the role of awe and wonder, but I'll hold off on those until we kick the current question around some.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Coming Soon

Been on vacation in Puerto Rico. The beauty of the island of Vieques and the rain forest on the main island have me thinking a lot about evolution. Watch for a post over the next week or so...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hey, Orlando Teachers!!!

Click the link above to take you directly to the page at which you can download the Spain Park Model article. My internet connection is being kind of goofy right now; so, if the article doesn't appear there, please check back later. I'll try to have it up by 6:00 p.m.

Or, try the link below. (You may have to cut and paste it into your browser.)


Friday, June 06, 2008

Ostriches and Flat-Earthers

I'm deep in the weeds of understanding the evidence for evolution, and there's a lot of it out there. (Actually, a lot of it is available on-line! Maybe I'll try to catalog what I'm finding somehow.) All the evidence has me thinking about how I have probably been an ostrich regarding all of the evidence. I've had my head stuck in the sand, and I'm beginning to realize why many non-religious scientists get so frustrated with Creationists. With all of the evidence for evolution out there, it's like we're a bunch of Flat Earthers.

My son passed me a link to the Flat Earth society. I'm not sure how he found it, but he's good with technology like that. He didn't even know I was thinking about ostriches and flat earthers. Click on the header of this post, if you have a moment, and take a look at what they say and believe. Honestly, they sound so wacko that I can't tell if it's a joke or not! Are there really people today who believe that the Earth is really flat?

We all look down on Flat Earthers. "How dumb?". "Who would believe that in this day and age?". "Don't they know anything about science!". Now, though, I'm really seeing Creationist views from the other side. People who know the evidence for evolution have to be just as dumfounded about the statement, "I don't believe in evolution," as we all are about, "The Earth is really flat."

I'm a little scared of what I'm learning about evolution. It challenges my understanding of Genesis 1, and of course, that cracks the door to challenges to my understanding of all of Scripture. I don't want to be an ostrich, though. I really don't want to keep my head in the sand anymore. I want to know. My faith tells me that the truth really will make me free, and I don't want to be afraid anymore.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scared of evolution?

I've been working on the appendix of my book, where I'll try to pose an answer to, "Help! I'm a biology teacher, and I really don't understand evolution myself!". I've spent the last couple of days searching out resources that show the actual evidence for evolution, and I've found a lot of great websites. (I'm excited about that so that I can point teachers to free, on-line resources.) A question keeps plaguing me in the back of my mind, though, as I've been working. What are we afraid of?

I keep seeing all of this evidence, and the amount of evidence just keeps piling up across the decades. I guess paleontology is like that, huh? The more they work, the more bones they have. I'm realizing how much I've been afraid of evolution and how I've looked away from the evidence. Now, in the strength of the gospel, I realize that I don't have to be afraid of what's buried in the ground and where the bones lead us. I'm also seeing how radiometric dating is good science, and when it says that Lucy was 3.2 million years ago, that's as trustworthy as pretty much any other scientific explanation. But, of course, pre-humans from 3.2 million years ago doesn't fit well with most sermons on Genesis 1!

So, as I do all this research, I'm wondering what we're scared of. ("We" means those of us who are religious and either intimidated by, skeptical of, or even antagonistic to evolution.) Of course, I know that there's this big war going on out there between the scientific materialists and the creationists, but I'm not really focusing on that. That war is much more political than it is about the facts. I'm talking about the deeper question of why we're scared that science says something that seems to contradict Scripture. So what? Why does that bother us so much? Why don't we simply say, "Oh, that's evolution. OK," and move on without getting in a tizzy. That's the kind of stance I'm taking in this research, but I guess I'm too close to the issue to know why it's so intimidating for other people. Maybe some of you can help me out in understanding what we're so afraid of.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Boston NSTA '08 Follow-Up (Teaching Evolution to Religious Students)

I appreciate the time those of you took to attend my session at NSTA's national convention in Boston. Please let me know any thoughts or questions you have on the session by making a comment here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Believing Scientists?!?

So, I'm off on an new adventure, and I think I'll be blogging about it in the months ahead. I just got my first book contract! It's on teaching evolution to religious students. I know, I know, I'm always picking the easy battles, right? Why don't I take on some big, important controversy, huh?

In doing research for the book, I ran across "Science, Evolution, and Creationism" from the National Academy of Science, and I've linked it here. Page 15 from the document really caught my attention:

"Scientists, like people in other professions, hold a wide range of positions about religion and the role of supernatural forces or entities in the universe. Some adhere to a position known as scientism, which holds that the methods of science alone are sufficient for discovering everything there is to know about the universe. Others ascribe to an idea known as deism, which posits that God created all things and set the universe in motion but no longer actively directs physical phenomena. Others are theists, who believe that God actively intervenes in the world."

I don't think I've ever seen such a clear statement from such a reputable source that people like me, who believe that God is working in the world today, have a place in science. i wish more people understand this view, including scientists like Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, who use the bully pulpit of science to make it seem like theists have no place in science.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Demo by video?

So, I'm having to do a presentation at a conference next week, and I don't have time to do the demo I wanted. (Also, I don't want to have to take equipment on the road.) I'm wondering if a video is as good as a live experiment. For example, does the video here grab you. It grabs me, but I've done a similar experiment for my students live, and I watched the impact. I can't imagine the video having the same impact.