Creation and evolution are hot-button topics that almost always evoke great passion on all sides of the debate.
Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Science Education, will speak on “Controversy over the Teaching of Evolution” at MTSU on Monday, March 26, at 7 p.m. in the Business and Aerospace Building’s State Farm Lecture Hall (BAS 102). The event is free and open to the public.
Scott’s appearance is one of the highlights of the annual MTSU Scholars Week, a research-oriented endeavor that runs from Monday until Friday, March 30, ending with a Universitywide celebration of posters, exhibits, entertainment and more on the Murphy Center track level. More about Scholars Week events can be found at http://www.mtsu.edu/research/scholars_week.shtml.
“Her national center is the leading center in the country to disseminate proper information about evolution and work with local communities to make sure science is taught in science classrooms,” said University Provost Brad Bartel, who has been friends with Scott for 42 years since they attended graduate school at the University of Missouri at Columbia. “She’s doing a great justice to science education in the United States.”
Earlier this week, the State Senate passed an amended version of a bill that opens classrooms to question established scientific theories. The bill states that teachers would be allowed to find ways to deal with “debate and disputation” on subjects like evolution and global warming.
Opponents say the bill opens the way for religious and political statements to be inserted into science classrooms as though they were equal to scientific theories.
“It illustrates the crux of the issue, which is that an anti-science bill is being packaged as a critical thinking bill,” Scott wrote via email in response to a question about the recent news. “The history of this controversy reveals clearly that such ploys are back-door efforts to slip creationism into the classroom. As creationists say, ‘evidence against evolution is evidence for creationism.’”
Scott added that “creationism and evolution are hot topics because part of the Christian community rejects evolution because it is incompatible with their faith. Catholics and mainstream Protestants, on the other hand, accept evolution as the way God brought about the world as we see it today: an ancient Earth, and living things sharing common ancestry. But people who reject evolution don't want their kids to be taught it without some qualification.
“The current Tennessee laws are examples of a long-time creationist effort to discredit evolution so students don't accept it as valid science.“
Will there ever come a point in time when Scott thinks they will not be hot topics?
“There was a time when whether the Earth went around the sun or vice versa was a hot topic, but eventually, like everything else, Christian religion evolved,” Scott said. “Few Christians today dispute heliocentrism. We can look forward to a time in the future when fights over evolution education will appear just as quaint.”
Scott, a former university professor, is the Executive Director of NCSE. She has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for more than 25 year and will address many components of this controversy. She has received national recognition for her NCSE activities, including awards from scientific societies, educational societies, skeptics groups and humanist groups.
She holds eight honorary degrees from McGill, Rutgers, Mt. Holyoke, the University of New Mexico, Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Colorado College and Missouri.
Scott is the author of “Evolution vs. Creationism” and co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of “Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools.”
Off-campus visitors planning to attend Scott’s talk should be aware that nearby construction will limit parking opportunities for the lecture. University Parking and Transportation officials encourage visitors not only to arrive early, but also to park in the South Rutherford Boulevard lot and ride the Raider Xpress shuttle into the campus core to reach the BAS. A printable campus map is available at www.mtsu.edu/parking/Map_2011-2012.pdf.