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AIBS Special Symposia

Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation

National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Meeting, November 2004


AIBS teamed up with the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and the National Association of Biology Teachers

BOOK NOW AVAILABLE IN THE AIBS WEBSTORE. October 2005. Edited by Joel Cracraft and Rodger Bybee. The proceedings of this two-day symposium are now available; contents include 17 lectures by research scientists in evolutionary biology and five panel sessions of educators.


National Association of Biology Teachers, Annual Convention, Chicago, IL, 12-13 November 2004


Two full days; 17 speakers; five panel sessions

(schedule, program, and meeting products.)


One of the most important, and contentious, issues in biological science education within the United States is the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Many laypersons, including frequently those serving on state and local school boards, are often confused and uninformed about current evolutionary thinking and its importance to society. Unknown to them, and probably to many biology teachers as well, the science of evolutionary biology has increasingly become crucial for solving numerous challenges facing society, from maintaining human health and well-being, to forensics, to resource management, and in many other fields. There is a need to make this new information available to all those interested in ensuring that students are exposed to the best science education possible, including those who set textbook standards, design curricula, or teach.

AIBS has had a long involvement with improving the teaching of biology. Because contemporary evolutionary science is a fundamental framework for our understanding of all biological knowledge, we believe that advancing the teaching of evolution is crucially important. We also believe that one of the best ways of doing this is to work in partnership with teachers of biology.

Therefore, AIBS is partnering with two of its member organizations, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and the National Association of Biology Teachers, to convene a two-day symposium, "Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation," to be held at the 2004 NABT Annual Convention, 12-13 November 2004. The symposium will be the vehicle for summarizing up-to-date research, articulating the importance of evolutionary biology to society, and for education and outreach using both print and web media. We have assembled a program of internationally reknowned evolutionary biologists and biological-science educators, including members of the National Academy of Sciences.

The symposium will be divided into four major parts. The first section (Introduction to Evolutionary Thinking) will be a short session that addresses evolution within the context of scientific inquiry as well as the relationship between evolutionary science and religious thinking. The middle part of the symposium will have two sections (The Tree of Life and How Evolution Works), with talks that succinctly summarize current thinking and controversies in the science of evolution. The final section of the symposium (Evolutionary Science: Advancing Societal Well-being) will address how evolutionary biology contributes to solving societal problems, including those of human health, forensics, agriculture and biotechnology, and natural resource management.

In addition, the symposium will include a series of panels that will focus specifically on teaching the material discussed by the speakers. Prior to the meeting we will engage various educators to plan pedagogical material for presentation at the meeting. Because of time constraints, we plan to augment this teaching material in our outreach activities.

Education and Outreach

AIBS, BSCS, and NABT want to use the symposium as a vehicle to advance the teaching of evolution in the public schools and to meet the threats to science education posed by creationism, intelligent design, and misplaced ambivalence toward the nature of scientific inquiry. We plan several layers of education and outreach beyond the symposium. First, a major goal of this symposium is to produce a short, inexpensive book based on the invited talks that will be written for a general audience, and which will be useful to teachers, students, school boards, state and local textbook committees, and the lay public; BSCS will publish the book, sell bound hard copies, and place the full text online for free viewing. Second, we plan to produce classroom materials, which will include web support and dissemination, available on all three of the AIBS, BSCS, and NABT websites, as well as on AIBS's bilingual (English and Spanish) education website,

Evolution and Human Health

As already noted, one of the major challenges to the teaching and acceptance of evolution is the wide misunderstanding within the public that evolution, as a science, contributes little of benefit to society. This symposium specifically addresses this issue by devoting six presentations to the relationship between evolution and societal well-being. At the heart of this material will be three presentations and a separate education panel on the role evolutionary biology plays in advancing human health. Other talks will also touch on the connections between human health and evolutionary science.

Our first talk on human health will present a general overview of the many ways that our understanding of the Tree of Life and methods of phylogenetic analysis contribute to improving human health, from identifying emerging diseases and the origins of pathogens to understanding the geographic history of diseases and their vectors. The second talk will specifically look at evolutionary genetics and population biology as they relate to confronting infectious disease. Finally, the third presentation will show how evolutionary biology guides our search for new medicines. We will augment this material substantially in the post-symposium outreach.


November 12 morning

8:30-8:45 Introduction to Symposium

Part 1. Introduction to Evolutionary Thinking

8:45-9:15 1. Evolution and the nature of science. Robert T. Pennock, Michigan State University
9:15-9:45 2. Evolution and religious thinking. Kenneth R. Miller, Brown University
9:45-10:30 Panel 1. Teaching the scientific and philosophical foundation of evolution.

Gordon Uno, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (moderator)
Brian Alters, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Barbara Forrest, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA
Eugenie Scott, National Center for Science Education, Oakland, CA
10:30-10:45 BREAK

Part 2. The Tree of Life

10:45-11:15 3. The origins and early evolution of life. W. Ford Doolittle, Dalhousie University
11:15-11:45 4. An overview of the Tree of Life. Joel Cracraft, American Museum of Natural History
11:45-12:15 5. Our species on the Tree of Life. William H. Kimbel, Arizona State University

November 12 afternoon

12:15-1:30 LUNCH BREAK
1:30-2:00 6. The importance of the Tree of Life for biological comparisons. Michael Donoghue, Yale University
2:00-3:00 Panel 2. Teaching the Tree of Life

Christopher Haufler, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS (moderator)
Rodger Bybee, Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Colorado Springs, CO
Lawrence C. Scharmann, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Mark Terry, Northwest School, Seattle, WA
Sam Donovan, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
3:00-3:15 BREAK

Part 3. How Evolution Works

3:15-3:45 7. Molecular evolution. Walter Fitch, University of California, Irvine
3:45-4:15 8. The nature and efficacy of natural selection. Douglas Futuyma, State University of New York, Stony Brook
4:15-4:45 9. Sexual selection and evolution. Kerry L. Shaw, University of Maryland
4:45-5:15 10. The origin of species. Robert M. Zink , University of Minnesota

November 13 morning

8:30-9:00 11. Biological diversity through time. Peter Sheehan, Milwaukee Public Museum
9:00-10:00 Panel 3. Teaching the mechanisms of evolution

John Jungck, Beloit College, Beloit, WI (moderator)
Ethel D. Stanley, Beloit College, Beloit, WI
Judy Diamond, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, NE
Stacey Kiser, Lane Community College, Eugene, OR
10:00-10:15 BREAK

Part 4. Evolutionary Science: Advancing Societal Well-being

10:15-10:45 12. How the Tree of Life and evolution contribute to human health. David Hillis, University of Texas
10:45-11:15 13. Using evolution to combat infectious disease. Carl T. Bergstrom. University of Washington
11:15-11:45 14. Using evolution to discover new drugs. Lynn Caporale, New York
11:45-1:15 LUNCH

November 13 afternoon

1:15-2:15 Panel 4. Teaching evolution's importance for public health

Lori Zaikowski, Dowling College, Oakdale, NY (moderator)
Bruce Fuchs, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
Randolph M. Nesse, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Margaret (Betsy) Ott, Tyler Junior College, Tyler, TX
2:15-2:45 15. How evolution helps solve crimes. David P. Mindell, University of Michigan
2:45-3:00 BREAK
3:00-3:30 16. How evolution advances agriculture and biotechnology. Paul Gepts, University of California, Davis
3:30-4:00 17. Using evolution to combat invasive species and manage ecosystems. Massimo Pigliucci, SUNY-Stony Brook, NY
4:00-5:00 Panel 5. Teaching evolution's importance for society

M. Patricia Morse, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (moderator)
Jay B. Labov, National Research Council, Washington, DC
Judy Scotchmoor, Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Anastasia Thanukos, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY
Steve Rissing, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
5:00-5:05 Concluding Remarks
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