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Defending Evolution: A Guide to the Evolution/Creation Controversy

Author(s): Brian J. Alters, PhD, Director, Evolution Education Research Centre, McGill University, Canada
  • ISBN-13: 9780763711184
  • ISBN-10:0763711187
  • Paperback    262 pages      © 2001
Price: $131.95 US List
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Defending Evolution is a novel handbook that explains why so many secondary and college students reject evolution and are antagonistic toward its teaching. Defending Evolution helps science instructors better understand their students' Creationist beliefs (including those of intelligent design advocates) and the bearing those beliefs have on learning evolution. The book provides instructors with a variety of concise, pragmatic suggestions to help lessen students' anxieties about evolution and to facilitate teaching.

Applicable Courses

Intended  as a reference and guide for instructors teaching life science and any discipline at the high school and/or college level where evolution is likely to be covered.  In addition, it is an excellent read for anyone interested in the creation/evolution controversy.

Course Names

  • Biological Sciences 53: Evolution, Diversity, and History of Life    
  • BIO. 455 Evolution    
  • 330 Evolution    
  • BIN 200: Biology of Vertebrates

Sample Course Descriptions

A study of the process of organic evolution and its result: the structural, functional, and genetic diversity of organisms.  Emphasis on recent advances in understanding phylogenetic relationships among the primary groups of organisms, major events in the history of life, and the fundamental concepts and methods of evolutionary biology.

A study of organic evolution and its theoretical basis.  This course develops three major themes: the history of evolutionary thought, the mechanisms of evolution, amd highlights in the history of life. Offered in alternate years.

Study of the processes of evolution from macromolecules to the genesis of major groups of life. Examination of Neo-Darwinian theories of adaptation and natural selection as well as competing scientific explanations of evolutionary change. Assessment of contemporary criticism of Darwinian theory.  Three class hours per week in seminar format with emphasis on reading of primary literature and discussion.

Foreword by Stephen Jay Gould 

1 -  Creationists Declare War
2 -  Creationist Students' Culture and Nature of Science
3 -  Why Students Reject Evolution: Religious Reasons
4  - Why Students Reject Evolution: Non-Religious Reasons
5  - Why Should Students Learn Evolution?
6  - Questions & Answers: Science Education
7  - Questions & Answers: Religion
8  - Questions & Answers: General Education
9  - Questions from Instructors
10 - Methods for Teaching Evolution

Appendix A: Organizations That Support Evolution Education
Appendix B: Eight Significant Court Decisions Regarding Evolution/Creation Issues
Appendix C: National Center for Science Education
Appendix D: National Association of Biology Teachers: Statement on Teaching Evolution
Appendix E: An NSTA Position Statement: The Teaching of Evolution
Appendix F: Evolution Education Research Center


Brian J. Alters, PhD-Director, Evolution Education Research Centre, McGill University, Canada

Brian J. Alters, Ph.D. lead author, holds appointments internationally at McGill University, Montreal, where he was recently named William Dawson Scholar, and at Harvard University, Cambridge. Dr. Alters is Director of the newly created Evolution Education Research Centre.

  • "This impressive book is a critical examination of those religious and scientific issues that still surround the creationism versus evolutionism debates. It is highly recommended for all students, educators, and scholars who are concerned about these ongoing challenges to teaching the factual theory of organic evolution."

    H. James Birx
    Professor of Anthropology, Canisius College
    Visiting Scholar, Harvard University (The Divinity School)  

    "This book is remarkable and indispensible for its irenic spirit. While the authors document quite accurately the warfare mindset characteristic of many on both sides of the creation-evolution controversy, they do not approach their own task as if they were wading into a battlefield. Instead, they seek to give biology teachers a better understanding of the fears and precommitments that keep many of their students from learning evolutionary explanations for the diversity of life. They offer practical ideas for how these ideas can be overcome cooperatively and constructively in the classroom, and encouraging examples of how this is already being done effectively. The last chapter is particularly outstanding for the invaluable practical ideas it offers."

    Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith

    "This book becomes a vital document in one of the most important issues of our age."

                                    Stephen Jay Gould
    Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard

    "A well-researched, clearly presented, and judiciously argued account of the controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution and a valuable guide to how educators should handle them."

                                        Howard Gardner
    Professor of Education, Harvard

    "This book should be in the hands of every educator dealing with the subject of evolution."

                                                    Ernst Mayr
    Emeritus Professor of Zoology, Harvard

    "At last a book for teachers to help them cope with antievolutionism.  Clearly written and filled with practical advice about the underlying religious and scientific issues prompting student questions.  Defending Evolution should be on every teacher's bookshelf."

                                        Eugenie C. Scott
    Director, National Center for Science Education

    "Through a rigorous examination of both the beliefs of students who doubt evolution and the most effective methods for teaching science, the authors steer a respectful course in answering the difficult questions asked of teachers.  This book will do much to free American science classrooms of creation science and return the teaching of religious beliefs more properly to our nation's Sunday schools and houses of worship."

                            Philip Sadler
    Director, Science Education Department
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    "It is a thorough, systematic compilation of the problem of teaching evolution and is way past due as a resource for the professional science educator."

                                                    Charles Granger
    Professor of Biology & Education
    University of Missouri-St. Louis

    "The Alters prose is clear, their research convincing, and their attention to both facts and emotional intent makes the book more useful than a more traditional refutation of creationism can ever be."

                                                     Nadine Butcher Ball
    Maryville University School of Education

    "It is pro-active and I would strongly recommend it to any science educator who cares about science, teaching and scientific literacy."

                                                    Anne Ross
     Professor, Champlain College

    "The wake-up call has been sounded many times, and yet scientists and science educators keep trying to ignore it, turning the other cheek, asleep in their ivory towers. Creationists have made steady advances since the 1960s, despite having been repeatedly and soundly defeated in the courtrooms (the last time they won a legal battle was at the Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925). The advances are being made at the level that is farthest from the everyday concern of most evolutionary biologists: the grassroots level of junior and high school students, their parents and—astoundingly—their teachers."

    View the entire review from Massimo's Skeptic and Humanist Web.

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