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PhACT this Sat at 2pm - talk on Controversies in Science and Society

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  • eric
    People, Here s a really whacked out group right in our area: The Delaware Valley Demonology Research http://www.demonologyresearch.com/DVDR/index.html Our
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 18, 2003
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        Here's a really whacked out group right in our area:  The Delaware Valley Demonology Research
      Our state is has more than it's fair share of nonsense.  Some of our members in the Lancaster area have
      tried to counteract the efforts of a creationist advocacy group that maintains a staffed office.  As
      mentioned, at the Science Teachers Convention earlier this year, the teachers were met at the door
      by people pushing anti-evolution information.  Our speaker on Saturday has been instrumental in
      keeping just pure science in Biology classes in our state.
      The weather should be OK by Saturday for our first meeting of the season, so please come out for our meeting.  The following is the announcement from our web page:

      Sat Sept 20 2pm Andrew Petto (Science editor for the National Center for Science Education) will speak on Creationism vs Science in a talk called)

      Controversies in Science and Society: An Exploration of Critical Thinking About Scientific Theories

      Andrew J. Petto

      Associate Professor of Liberal Arts, University of the Arts, Philadelphia; and Editor, National Center for Science Education, Oakland CA.

      When evolution was awarded its proper status as the fundamental theoretical foundation all of modern biology in national and state science education standards, evolution opponents proposed that standards should include considering "alternatives" to evolution under the guise of "critical thinking." Evolution opponents have consistently lost battles in both legal and scientific arenas over the past 30 years, but despite these failures, they have made considerable inroads in the political arena (including the infamous "Santorum Amendment"). What makes these non-scientific proposals so successful?

      The answer, it turns out, is embedded in two generally well-regarded principles of modern educational practice: critical thinking and studying controversial and "alternative" explanations. In the first, students learn to pose questions, gather and analyze data, synthesize and apply conclusions to the problem at hand, and evaluate the outcome. Of course, the "critical thinking" of these "alternatives" consists only of looking for unanswered questions, inconsistencies, and potential errors in evolution (and related scientific fields, but only if they seem to support evolution).

      The second approach is to present evolution as a "controversial" theory, but this approach confuses the source of the controversy in two important ways. The first confusion is semantic. Materials from the Discovery Institute, for example, typically trumpet the shortcomings of Darwinian theory ­ conveniently ignoring over a century of research that has expanded, modified, and, in some cases, replaced strictly "Darwinian" ideas about evolution. The second source of confusion is more insidious. While it is clear that there is an ongoing controversy about teaching evolution, it is equally clear that this controversy is not a scientific but a socio-culturo-political one. These proposals continue the misinformation inherent in the "two-models" approach of the late 1970s and early 1980s ­ that is, that there are competing scientific models for the history and diversity of life on earth that challenge evolution's role as the theoretical foundation of the biological sciences.

      Andrew Petto is a science educator and currently teaches life sciences courses at the University of the Arts and scientific writing at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. His bachelor's degree is in Sociology and Anthropology followed by 2 years of  post-baccalaureate studies in biology and chemistry.  His PhD is in Biological Anthropology, and he completed post-doctoral studies in primate behavioral biology at the New England Regional Primate Research Center at Harvard Medical School and in primate ecology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M). He is currently enrolled in an Masters of Education program at Drexel University with a specialty in secondary science education. Prior to coming to UArts, Dr. Petto served as the associate director of the Center for Biology Education and later as an outreach specialist in the Department of Genetics, both at the UW-M. Dr. Petto began teaching undergraduate courses in 1981 and has taught anthropology, human evolution,  primatology , and human anatomy and physiology at several colleges and universities in the US and Canada. He came to UArts in 1998 to assume responsibility for the undergraduate science program where he also teaches a course that explores pseudoscientific ideas. Dr. Petto also teaches in enrichment programs for advanced secondary students and outreach programs for pre-college teachers. He has been involved in multicultural science teaching programs and activities and has directed workshops on integrated, multidisciplinary teaching in the sciences. Since 1994, he has served on the board of directors at the National Center for Science Education and became the NCSE editor in 1995. During that time he has written, solicited, and published numerous articles on the acceptance and understanding of science — especially evolutionary theory — among the general public and in various Christian denominations active in the US. He is co-editor, with Laurie R. Godfrey of the forthcoming Scientists Confront Creationism, revised edition, to be published by WW Norton, Inc.  His contribution to that volume is a chapter on the current calls by  evolutionist opponents to "teach the controversy" about evolution under the guise of promoting "critical thinking." Dr. Petto helped organize  members of NCSE and the PA chapter of the ACLU to oppose changes in the PA science education standards that would insert "intelligent design" creationism into the science curriculum under the guise of promoting "critical thinking."

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