Darwin's Birthday Event Feb. 9

Renowned science educator Eugenie Scott to discuss Florida’s ‘critical thinking’ bills during lecture.


Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2012) – In celebration of the birthday of Charles Darwin, the University of South Florida welcomes the nation’s most renowned science educator, Eugenie Scott, who argues that students cannot understand science without grasping the centrality of evolution.


Scott will present a public lecture – “Florida’s ‘Critical Thinking’ Bills: Creationism du jour?” – Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Hall (FAH – College of The Arts), Room 101.


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 over 100 years.


A physical anthropologist, Scott has been the executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) since 1987. For many 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.”


“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,” she says.


While at USF, Scott will also 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. She notes that “it is simply not possible to teach good biology or Earth science and omit evolution.”


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 the 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.


The public talk is sponsored by the USF Humanities Institute and Integrative Biology, which have established a tradition of celebrating Darwin Day. Says Humanities Institute Director, Elizabeth Bird, “today we’re seeing a push to train more students in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). 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.


For more Humanities Institute events visit: http://humanities-institute.usf.edu/events/index.aspx. For more information, call 813-974-0802.