• Louise Mead of the National Center for Science Education, speaks to an MIT audience on the movement against the teaching of evolution.

    Photo / Mandana Sassanfar

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Lecture examines anti-evolution movement

Run-up to 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth

In an early kick-off to the 200th anniversary celebration of English naturalist Charles Darwin's birth, members of the MIT community gathered Wednesday to hear an expert offer a historical perspective on the movement against the teaching of evolution.

Louise Mead of the National Center for Science Education, founded to defend and promote the teaching of evolution in public schools, traced the morphing of creationism to creation science to intelligent design, and finally to the current "teach the controversy" campaign.

"There is no scientific controversy about evolution," Mead told a packed audience at the Whitehead Institute's McGovern Auditorium, adding that scientists "need to do a better job educating people about evolution."

Darwin was born Feb. 12, 1809. His detailed observations of animals and plants species provided him with the evidence to support his theory of the existence of common ancestors with natural selection as a mechanism.

The event was organized by biology graduate students Emiko Fire, Sarah Bagby, Brian Chin, and Matt Wohlever, and Professor of Molecular Biology Jonathan King.

After her presentation, Mead answered many questions from the audience, and heard suggestions and comments about promoting the teaching of evolution in public schools while being sensitive to religious faith and how to diminish the current clash between science and religion. 

Some in the audience agreed with a need to compromise and teach evolution while also mentioning intelligent design in public school, others wondered if discussion of intelligent design in science classes would legitimize its theory, while one member of the audience wondered how much the general public trusted scientists and therefore the many strong scientific evidences that support the theory of evolution. Another member of the audience likened the teaching of creation in schools to an assault on the minds of children.

MIT will celebrate Darwin's anniversary next January 22-24 with the Darwin Bicentennial Symposium. 

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 17, 2008 (download PDF).

Topics: Bioengineering and biotechnology, History, Education, teaching, academics


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