Brief response to comments on E:EO.

Various bloggers on my must-read list have weighed in on the latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, which focuses on transitional fossils (guest editor, Don Prothero). It is great to see the articles being discussed and recommended. A couple of minor responses to the apt comments (not criticisms per se, or at least mostly constructive ones).

@ Sandwalk: Larry is absolutely right that I did not get into the role of drift alongside natural selection in any significant way. This is a more advanced subject that will be covered in a follow-up article “What natural selection does and does not do”.

@ Laelaps: Why no humans? Special issue unto itself coming.

@ Pharyngula: Articles are not really useful for talking with creationists. I agree, but the target audience is teachers, students, postsecondary educators, researchers, and interested laypeople. That said, an article on effective strategies for entering into reasoned discussions with creationist proponents would be appropriate and welcome.

6 thoughts on “Brief response to comments on E:EO.

  1. In regards to PZ's comments, I think it's best to assess the limitations and benefits of each form of outreach. The E:EO is very good for what it is, and I've enjoyed reading the articles thus far. Other formats should also be used to reach the broader public however.

    One form of outreach that hasn't been used so far (to my knowledge) would be "podcasts". A dedicated evolution podcast might be a good idea. Popular science podcasts like Astronomy Cast reach something like 30-50 thousand people per week. Interest in an "evolution cast" might even be higher. Perhaps the same people who put together E:EO could do this? Such a project would have to be a collaborative effort, for I've heard that it can take 10 hours or more to put together a single episode.

    The limitations of podcasts are that they tend to reach a predominately male audience, usually aged 18-40.

    Other formats have their limitations too. Newspapers and magazines tend to be too short to include much depth on any topic. Blogs, and science tv specials tend to reach only those already interested in science already.

    The real answer might be to completely revamp science education at the high school level. At my school, astronomy and geology barely got any mention. Most of the classes were taught by people with no science background (gym teachers mostly). It was only in grade 11 that I had any dedicated science teachers. They were very good, but you only had to take one or two science classes at this level to graduate. So, most students could graduate without ever having any real understanding of even the core principles of physics, biology or chemistry.

    On top of this, my sociology teacher brought in someone to "teach the controversy" over evolution, and brought in someone from a local baptist church to explain why evolution was scientifically wrong.

    Not sure how to fix HS science, but it is the main place where most people learn about science.

  2. Sorry, I was wrong. There was a short lived "Evolution 101" podcast. It was okay, but only covered a few topics.

  3. An "Evolution Cast" would be great to listen to, and help explain such a complicated topic. I'd be happy to pitch in, explain our methods for Astronomy Cast, and even help produce it. Make it happen!

    Fraser Cain
    Astronomy Cast

  4. I confess that I am not familiar with Astronomy Cast, but I will have to check it out. I have thought about an evolution cast, or perhaps a series of videos for Youtube, but have not followed through. I was speaking with a friend (designer of Evolver Zone) last week about it. Perhaps it's time to at least get it started, with other colleagues recruited to contribute in the future.

  5. I agree, a new Evolution 101 podcast would be great. Dr. Zack's series on the molecular evidence was a great primer. There are so many anti-evolution podcasts out there on itunes it would be nice to have one dedicated to real evolution.

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