TEN TIPS ABOUT: How university professors can contribute to strengthen evolution literacy

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. & Avelina Espinosa — © 2011

Excerpts from “New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views  About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity” published in Evolution Education and Outreach

(1) By being proactive rather than reactive in confronting the “anti-evolution wars.” It is imperative that the university professors reach out to the public and lead the debate over science education and evolution literacy.

(2) By persuading the education departments at their institutions to fortify science training of future educators: higher education and outreach programs in science, particularly biology, for school teachers are fundamental to integrate evolution into our society’s culture.

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(3) By changing the emphasis with which college science is taught and improving the science curriculum: it is easier and faster to change the perspectives with which a course is taught than to modify the university/college curriculum; however, both might be indispensable to improving positive attitudes toward science and evolution.

(4) By creating a new type of professorship position: “professor for the public understanding of science,” whose exclusive role shall be to explain to the public the significance of the research conducted by each discipline, and also by assigning the most reputable professors and best communicators of science to the large-lecture courses, usually attended by nonscience majors.

(5) By constantly surveying variations in attitudes toward science and evolution among faculty, students and staff, and coordinating immediate responses to emerging antievolutionism: contrary to the assumption that skepticism toward creationist views predominates in academia, U.S. university professors, even at prestigious research institutions, increasingly embrace religiosity, a factor negatively correlated with acceptance of evolution; it is conceivable to forecast a decline in acceptance of evolution by university professors.

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(6) By sponsoring in- and off-campus lecture series, workshops and debates, open to the local high school teachers and the public, where university professors of all disciplines examine the anti-evolution phenomena, learn about the limitations established by schools boards on the science school curriculum and orient the audience on how to communicate modern science to all. Workshop discussion modules on “why evolution matters” can be particularly effective when organized for school board members, school district administrators, science teachers and university professors.

(7) By actively pursuing participation in “town Evo Edu Outreach halls for scientists and public” to discuss issues related to scientific research and the controversy of evolution versus creationism versus ID.

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(8) By organizing multidisciplinary teams of professors (anthropology, biology, education, ethics, history, law, philosophy, political science, social psychology, and religious studies) committed to advice community groups on theoretical and practical aspects of civil action to counter anti-evolution campaigns, anti-intellectualism tendencies, and pro creationism and ID agendas.

(9) By never underestimating the influence of the anti-evolution movements that grow strong among misinformed citizens, vary in impact geographically, and benefit from the frequent disconnect between scientists and society. Indeed, the regional differential acceptance of evolution in the U.S. (i.e., Northeast 59%, Northwest 57%, Midwest 45%, South 38%; The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press 2005) suggests that pro-evolution campaigns shall require strategies compatible with local idiosyncrasies.

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 (10) By including in the “broad impact” section of research grant applications specific multidisciplinary outreach modules to educate the public in the areas of scientific literacy, “on-the-job-training” workshops for local/ regional high school teachers, online-mini courses, online assessment of local/regional attitudes toward science/evolution, laboratory internships and field work. The National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and private donors encourage and even require grant applicants to reach out to the public in meaningful areas of current interest and societal debate. — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. & Avelina Espinosa all rights reserved

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For original scientific article (New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views  About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity), published in Evolution Education & Outreach, click on [PDF]



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