The “treatment of human evolution [in education] is abysmal”. Previous research completed by Meads and Mates indicates the inclusion of the Big Bang Theory is nearly non-existent in education regarding the origin of the universe. Instead, creationist theory is being taught to students. While their assessment indicated multiple states received poor grades in evolution education, Alabama showed a distinct cultural resistance to change.
Some strides have been made by the federal government to enact education reform, which will hold each state to a higher standard when it comes to STEM. Just one week ago, Alabama updated its decade-old science standards to require that students understand evolution and learn about climate change. But the fight is far from over… These curriculum updates are highly controversial in the state of Alabama, and all throughout the Bible Belt. According to Steve Ricks, director of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, ‘textbooks used in Alabama science classes have carried a disclaimer sticker for years stating that evolution is a “controversial theory,” not fact, and the new course of study doesn’t change the warnings, which were advocated by Christian conservatives.’ On November 9th, a committee will meet to decide if the sticker should be removed from text books.
At the University of Alabama, an interdisciplinary minor and student-based club in Evolutionary Studies is available. It combines biology, anthropology, geology, psychology, philosophy, and history classes that each focus on evolution. Another way for students to be exposed to evolution education on campus is through the ALLELE (ALabama LEctures on Life’s Evolution) series. Each lecture is lead by a leading scientist in the field to promote knowledge of modern evolutionary science. Next week the school will welcome Bill Nye (the science guy). Students went WILD for tickets. Ticket give away was separated into three days. The first day, students lined up 3 hours early to receive tickets. 600 people came for ~200 tickets. Each day the insanity grew just a little bit. Day 2 people began lining up at 615am, even though ticket give away didn’t start until 1pm. On day 3 students camped out overnight, in hopes of gaining entrance. What this proves in the students in Alabama want to learn more about science! They are interested in evolution, climate change, and medicine.
Students lined up four hours prior to ticket give away on September 23rd, hoping to get a ticket to see Bill Nye lecture. [Photos from Juliann Friel and Christopher Lynn]
Students and patrons lined up at Smith Hall at 615am on September 24th. [Photos from Dana Ehret]
Students camped out over night on September 25th to get the last of the Bill Nye tickets. [Photo from Taylor Burbach]
Unfortunately, not every one who came to the ticket give aways were successful. But I want to remind those students that there are many more opportunities this semester to attend lectures about evolution. ALLELE speakers this year are as follows: September 28, 2015 Bill Nye October 15, 2015 Linda Ivany November 12, 2015 Ron Numbers December 3, 2015 Becky Burch February 16, 2016 Morten Christiansen March 31, 2016 William “Lee” McCorkle April 14, 2016 Julia Clarke.
I encourage you to attend these lectures and invite others, especially if they grew up in the Bible Belt and received poor evolution education.