Friday, February 17, 2012

Teaching Evolution in Oklahoma

I got my student evaluation comments back from the evolution course that I taught last fall. My goal is to teach evolutionary science, and in the process it is necessary to undermine creationist claims. But I also wish to make it clear that many scientists have religious beliefs, including Christian beliefs, that do not prevent them from accepting evolutionary science. So I teach science from neither a creationist nor an atheistic perspective. The science, of course, is consistent with atheism, but not with creationism. I make it clear to students that I am not trying to make them quit being Christians.

I think I am being successful. I am hitting right in the middle of the religion spectrum. I bothered one atheist in the class (yes, there are a few in Oklahoma) and one creationist.

The atheist wrote, “As an atheist I wish for all my professors to keep their beliefs to themselves and as someone whose way of life is often scorned, I understand how some of my fellow classmates felt. The professor had no bad intentions with the comments, but they should be left out of the classroom as they will offend no matter how they are phrased.”

A creationist wrote, “I have been studying claims that falsify evolution along with studying for this class. If such claims were taught at the end of the semester it might make us learn more in depth on this topic and to think for ourselves. A mark of an educated man is to entertain an idea without accepting it.”

So for those of you who think that Oklahoma is filled with raging fundamentalists who hate anyone who presents evolution…well, maybe you are right, but the raging fundamentalists do not generally attend universities. The fundamentalist university students are generally very cordial. I think I know who the creationist was, and if I am right, she actually earned the highest grade in the class.

The creationist comment ended with, “P.S. Christ loves you.”

Check out the new YouTube video at This week, Darwin hangs out on the corner of South Trenton Avenue and South Trenton Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and explains the process of evolutionary convergence.

As ever, I want to hear your comments and questions and responses. I do not have an absolutely predetermined list of blog entries, and would be happy to follow a discussion thread that you introduce.


  1. Honest Ab, I'd be interested to know the comments you made that offended the atheist. As an atheist myself, I certainly would not mind the type of discussion you described. But an attempt to weave a professor's own religious belief into the teaching of evolution might bother the heck out of me, even if said professor was factually correct. It almost sounds like the atheist student was offended by something of that nature.

    Enjoy your blog very much!

    Pam in CO

  2. I wish I knew what the comment was that bothered the atheist student. All I remember saying is that there are many scientists who have, to their satisfaction, managed to put Christianity and evolution together, as many scientists have done for over a century and a half. Also, since rural Okla. has so many fundamentalists, I wanted to make it clear I was not teaching atheism. Maybe I would not bother with this point if I were teaching in a blue state. Thanks for reading and commenting.