Science, Religion, and the Classroom

On Thursday, June 11, 2015, I was interviewed for the Live Wire, UNC Charlotte’s online news program about my work with science, religion, and the classrooms. I primarily discussed some of the work I did while in Louisiana associated with evolution, but this gives a nice overview of what we are currently facing when it comes to Academic Freedom legislation. There are some really good readings available on the history of the anti-evolution movement. Most of the resources that I can think of at the moment require a subscription to the journal. Here are a few:

  • Matzke, N. (2010). The evolution of creationist movements. Evolution: Education & Outreach, 3, 145-162. (NOTE: This journal is now open access. Go here.)
  • Binns, I. C. (2013). Academic freedom legislation: The latest effort to undermine the integrity of science and science education. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24, 589-595.

Of course, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), who I reference at the beginning of the interview, is the top organization in the United States who protects the teaching of evolution and climate change. You can find a lot of information there about all of the tactics used to undermine the teaching of evolution and climate change. They have a great blog, too.

So, here’s the video:

A few things that I didn’t get to address in the interview because we ran out of time are the work I’m doing at my local Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, and the current research I just did with my students this past semester. Here’s a little more information on these two endeavors. I anticipate blogging more about each of them over the summer.

Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter

Last fall, Father Kevin Brown, the rector at my church, and I co-taught a 4 week course of science and religion. Each week while the kids were in Sunday School, Kevin and I addressed a specific topic. The first week focused on what is science, the second on what is faith, the third on evolution, and the fourth on the anti-evolution movement. We decided that for this first year, we would focus on evolution. This coming fall we will focus on climate change.

Overall I think it went pretty well. We had good attendance each week. In fact, we had to add two weeks on because we realized that we didn’t have enough time for a discussion with the attendees. I think these two weeks were the most interesting. This is where we discussed what things we could do to address the perception that science and religion are in conflict. One of the main messages I emphasized was that a possible way to improve this perception would be for those of us who don’t see a conflict between religion and science to speak up. We could educate others. We could start a dialogue with people, especially those individuals who hold the view that you can’t accept science if you are a person of faith. You may notice that I also bring this up in the above interview (right around the 5 min mark).

Current Research

I conducted some research with my elementary science methods classes this past semester. Our primary focus was to see if the use of film clips with explicit discussion influenced students’ views of nature of science, scientific inquiry, and dispositions of scientists. Mark and I decided to add one component to the type of data that we typically collect.

During the exam period I gave students what we called a “school board scenario.” Some parents were interested in adding creationism and intelligent design into the science curriculum and we were interested in how they would vote if they were on the school board. We first had them define science, presented them short descriptions of evolution, creationism, and ID, and then asked them how would they vote based on their definition of science. We are still in the preliminary stages of coding and analyzing the data, but I’m pretty excited about what we are seeing at this point. We will definitely write more about this in the future.


One thought on “Science, Religion, and the Classroom

  1. You did great during the interview! Looking forward to posting some preliminary results of our recent analysis of the School Board Scenario!


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