x x x


Note that during the longer fall and spring semesters there is a Town Hall Meeting (discussions) about evolution related topics. During the shorter summer semester this assignment is merged with the General Class Discussions. However, the reading assignment for the Town Hall Meeting should still be read. The instructor has updated the class pages to reflect this. However, if there happens to be an old page with outdated text, then ignore that page. There is no Town Hall Meeting during the summer semester, but instead the evolution related topics are discussed in the General Class Discussions.

(During summer semester there is no Town Hall Meeting Key Quiz. Ignore.) To assure that students read the reading assignments -- and this page -- students must submit a quiz called the Town Hall "Key" Quiz (sometimes also referred to by the older name Evolution "Worksheet" Quiz). Because of problems with the new Blackboard platform STC started using 2012, the originally required longer quiz called the Evolution Worksheet Quiz has been replaced with the much shorter " Town Hall Key Quiz" , which must be passed with 100 before you can participated in the Town Hall Meeting. The Town Hall Key Quiz is located in the separate Town Hall Meeting course shell described in the Grading Criteria for the class.

x x x

Town Hall Meeting Instruction Hub
-- with a biological evolution clarification statement from the instructor --

x This page used to be short, and students pretty much just had to click on the links below to read the reading assignments. However, the text paragraphs below has been deemed necessary by the instructor, after having taught this subject since 2004, and -- unfortunately every semester (no exception) have experienced various degrees of protesting "offended" religious students, who lacked science education -- or at least didn't have a very good one -- and protested that they had to hear about this "horrible" idea called EVOLUTION -- some call it "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". Evolution is part of biology, and this is a biology class. You registered for it -- and if you register for it because you were "required" to do so, there is probably a quality educational reason why it REQUIRED...

I challenge you to read the whole page.

xSome of this is repeated in the reading assignments you must navigate to -- "The Preface", and "The Serve", but read this page first with care -- especially if you are a deeply religious student. Do like Sanjuanita below, who was nervous about the class but came to participate with an open mind, or Vilma, who was "protected" by her father the "biologist" x from learning about "Darwin's dangerous idea":

Sanjuanita's statement

As I began with this course, I was not so sure if it was ok for me to be exposed to the theory of evolution. Being raised to only believe in the bible was something the caused such fear in me. I feared that I would be sinning if I began to believe in this theory.

I was scared that this idea would drive me away from God, yet, now I comprehend that the theory of evolution was not invented so that people could stray away from God's word but only to inform us, educating us about our origins and for a better understanding of our surroundings.

Evolution is defined as change over time and that is what it is. There is nothing wicked or evil about it. This course has not only helped me accept new ideas but has also educated me on this subject. I now know that there is nothing wrong with accepting the theory of evolution and that fearing this subject seems so ridiculous.

Sanjuanita Environmental Biology student, Spring 2009

Vilma's statement

How could I have been so blind all this time?

Why didn't my father, who has a degree in Biology and a Master's in Education, ever bother to teach me about the Theory of Evolution? What was he thinking he'd protect me from?

Why does the government continue to choose to leave it out of our curriculum? I can't exactly answer these questions, but I know that religion has had something to do with it. It is no wonder that our world is in much danger. We don't take the time to educate ourselves about the real world.

A quote from The Serve states, "But the message is that like an opium drug addict, religious believers are "blinded" by the "drug" and cannot deal with the real world." Disaster strikes and all we can do is sit back and pray? We need to take action. Part of taking action is educating ourselves on real-world issues and a real-world issue today is knowing where we actually come from...how we came to be.

Acquiring knowledge in Environmental Science is like acquiring knowledge in a bundle of topics such as nature, culture and technology. If it were not for these, we would not be able to prove our existence. It is up to us (this class and our generation) to teach our children everything that we have learned in this class and more. I have learned that it is ok to have religion a part of your life and accept Evolution. I have also accepted that the Adam and Eve story, the talking serpent, the forbidden fruit, etc., are not actual occurrences but symbols of religion.

Sure there are verses in the bible that can relate to real-life situations, but when it comes down to it, the bible is not a scientific textbook and it can only do so much for you, spiritually. Mentally, it takes an education to understand the REAL WORLD and everything that occurs in it.

I now accept Evolution and all it took was getting EDUCATED on the FACTS!

Vilma Environmental Biology student, Spring 2009.

x Before I continue talking about evolution and how that for some reason often offend religious student, let me first introduce a concept I use in my classes called "Challenge apples" .

x A college class is supposed to challenge students to think. If a class is easy the class is a waste of time.

x Yes, we know that there are many students who prefer an easy class, but it is the instructors responsibility to assure that a class is challenging whether a student like that or not. This includes challenges to the worldview some students may have. This is a biology class. Biology is a natural science. Evolution is an integral part of modern biology. Some religious colleges have restrictions on teaching and discussing evolution -- for religious reasons. STC is not a religious college. You will read and hear about evolution in this class whether you like it or not. If you are a religious student and you do feel threatened by "evolution" (many do, that is why biologist Daniel Dennet coined the term "Darwin's dangerous idea"), read the challenge apple below.

Challenge apple: Face the challenge of this class! Listen to what you are told about evolution! Pay attention to the class discussion postings! Argue against if you wish, but don't hide your head in the sand. Instead demonstrate that your faith is strong and that it can survive "the dangerous idea". Or -- and here is perhaps the real challenge -- is your faith so weak that it cannot survive hearing the current modern science-educated viewpoint accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world that humans have common ancestry with the Chimpanzee? Are you so afraid that you will loose your faith? If it isn't strong enough to hear about evolution without crumbling, then perhaps it is not worth defending. Or if it doesn't have anything to do with a weak faith, are you the perhaps ashamed that we all have common origin with the apes -- in fact, that we are apes? x

xFormer Governor of Arkansas and republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee criticized blind faith, and said that "real faith always questions, real faith is not blind, it's eyes wide open, it's the lights on, not the lights off." and "Šreal faith is always willing to be challenged," EXCELLENT! Let the challenge begin!

xAlso our former Bishop Pena raised the challenge some years ago when he wrote his weekly column in the local newspaper The Monitor:


The Town Hall Course Shell

x The evolution discussions takes place in the Town Hall Course Shell -- a merged Blackboard course shell for all Biology classes taught by this instructor. You can see the shell in the figfure below from fall 2012, called Town Hall Meeting - Biology - Fall 2012. (You are of course not going to have the same list of classes, but you will have the Town Hall.)

x This page you are reading right now, contains links to the mandatory reading assignments, and to various instruction pages, to get to the Town Hall discussion bulletin boards, as you of course know, you must be logged in to Blackboard. Most of these pages can also be reached via links from other pages, but this is the only page where they are all grouped together.

xIt is important to point out that this discussion, unfortunately, often stir up feelings in a negative way. We live in a divided world (see the x video from the Gallup Organization below) consisting of people who accept or don't accept the biological concept called EVOLUTION. EVOLUTION is the connecting concept -- the read thread -- of biology. This is a biology class -- a natural science class -- and STC is a public college. Evolution is taught and discussed at STC, including this class, in order to EDUCATE students about the NATURAL world -- the REAL world -- as opposed to the SUPERNATURAL world. Conflicts often erupt, unfortunately, in discussions, since some people think evolution is in conflict with the SUPERNATURAL world they prefer to live in.

x According to Gallup polls there is a relationship with education. The more education one has, the more likely one is to accept the theory of evolution. Percent YES to the question, "Do you, personally, believe in evolution, or not?" Post-graduate 74 percent, college graduate 48 percent, some college 50 percent, and high school or less 41 percent.)

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=looBgVhYdXw

x In college we discuss things, and discuss evolution we will. To facilitate keeping the discussion friendly, while still having an interesting DEBATE, this instructor prefers that we try to leave God out of the discussion as much as possible. However, it cannot be left out if certain religious beliefs and ideas make it impossible to maintain a quality academic level about FACTS of the natural world. For example, if being told that we are apes is insulting to someone, then that someone needs to understand that this is the current modern science-educated viewpoint accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world. We live in a democracy with free speech and academic freedom, and if the current viewpoint accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world is offending to someone, then that someone must either do their best to try to overcome feeling offended, and participate in the discussion offering their viewpoints. If that is not possible, it is probably best they seek their education in another country where evolution is a FORBIDDEN topic. Afghanistan comes to mind...

xWhen this is said, this instructor prefers to not have the discussion disrupted by offended students who cannot listen to other people's viewpoints -- including the current viewpoint accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world. For this reason, there is an alternative assignment, but it is much more demanding, and will EARN you a lower grade, than participating in an almost non-demanding class discussion online. The instructor must be fair to students who live up to their job as college students and participate in the class as intended by the instructor. However, if someone prefers the alternative assignment the information is at the bottom of the Grading Criteria.

x EVOLUTION is the current biological concept accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world, including but not limited to the scientific establishment within the Catholic Church, former Pope John Paul II, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church. For students sensitive to this discussion: You are NOT graded on your opinion -- no matter if it is an educated or an uneducated opinion. You are here to LEARN, not to prove that you already know a lot. You EARN a grade by PARTICIPATING (posting messages on the topic on Blackboard). If you don't participate with the minimum required, you don't earn any grade points. The above and the below has been mentioned at several places on the class pages, to try to avoid offending religious students:

This is not a discussion about God.

This is a discussion about EVOLUTION

EVOLUTION is the current biological concept accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world, including the scientific establishment within the Catholic Church, former Pope John Paul II, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church.

Perhaps God started evolution?

x Perhaps if you think about the topic this way it will help some deeply religious students "survive " these discussions? Scientists cannot say with certainty how the universe started -- at least not yet -- so why not? However, accepting this idea -- that God started evolution -- may put a demand to not accepting the 2000 - 3000 year old Bible as a science book... Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, the Great Flood, and similar stories. Right? No? Then, let's discuss that!


x Today there is an increasing demand that "both viewpoints" -- the scientific view of the world and the religious view of the world, should be taught in science/biology classes. The Supreme Court stopped the demand for equal time by "Creationism groups" a couple of decades ago, by ruling that creationism is religion not science -- and religion should not be taught in the science classroom. However, today another similar idea called "Intelligent Design" is masquerading as a science, and has taken the place of creationism putting pressure on schools for equal time.


x Religion, and criticism of religion, must be introduced somewhere in these class discussions in order to explain to the student why the established scientific community accepts evolution but not creationism or intelligent design. The topic cannot be avoided.

x If that is offensive to someone, then it is self-inflicted, and so be it...

x Below is a x video from a segment of speech by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. A researcher and science educator at one of the most well-known and respected natural history museums in the world. Dr. Tyson is concerned about the current low level of quality science education in this country. A low quality level resulting in the rejection of evolution, the current modern science educated viewpoint accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world.

x From previous reactions from students I must ask you to pay attention to what Dr. Tyson is "attacking", and "not attacking" in his speech in the video before you decide that you are offended.

x Dr. Tyson is "attacking" the religious community lacking science knowledge and for religious reasons wants to interfere with quality science education in public schools, and take it back to the Bronze Age. In certain states -- Texas included -- religious groups/parents are trying to stop the teaching of evolution in schools -- or are at least demanding equal time. Dr. Tyson is NOT attacking the science-educated religious community, who has demonstrated an OPEN MIND and updated their science knowledge to the 21st century.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEP50dxfRAw

x Perhaps if you try to approach this with some humor -- even religious people are allowed to laught, right? Use humor in your discussions. I have -- as you can or will see -- used cartoons for this purpose, and some of these cartoons are AFTER EDEN from "Answer in Genesis", a religious web site by the same people who one the "creation museum"... A good laugh makes you live longer!

x If you still don't understand why we are having these discussions perhaps you have not understood what education is about -- in this case science education -- and the philosophy statement, by a professor at Emory University, can perhaps help you understand:

I'm the Teacher, You're the Student

"The title refers to my belief that the teacher should take control in the classroom. The students come there not to be my friend but to learn [Environmental Biology]. I know it; they don't, so it's my responsibility to create conditions in which they can learn it. It is not a democratic or egalitarian situation. If they query my rules and regulations I sometimes say: "Ah well, I'm the teacher, you're the student, so you must put up with it." I've found that students are well-behaved and work hard if you make it clear to them right from the beginning that you have high expectations and high standards. They're very eager (at least here at Emory) to get good grades, and will strive to meet my expectations so long as I'm not unreasonable."

Modified from Patrick Allitt (Professor of U.S. History at Emory University) in: Rosen, Christine. 2004. I'm the Teacher, You're the Student. National Review Online. (http://www.nationalreview.com) (Search URL: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ODVlMTllNDIwNjRhZjdkYTZkNjRiNDJjNTljOWE1ZDg=)

x x
(Figures used for educational purpose, left image from http://www.daviddarling.info/images/primate_family_tree.gif, and right image from Belk and Borden. 2004. Biology. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Excellent textbook considered for use by this instructor in non-majors introductory biology at the time the web page was created. See copyright and fair use notice below.)

x These are the current educated facts accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world: x
Humans have common ancestry with the Chimpanzee.

x We are apes. I am an ape, but I am also college biology instructor, with a Ph.D. in biology, with 16 years teaching experience at college level. Most students taking this class have a high school education and perhaps a few college courses. While students have the right to "believe" anything they want, it is my job as a college biology instructor to educate these students about present day "knowledge" in biology, e.g., evolution and common ancestry with the apes.

xThis is present day established knowledge: Humans and the Chimpanzee have common ancestry. We had a common evolutionary line that separated about 5 million years ago. Two populations of the same species living in different areas with different environments, after being separated by some kind of geographic barrier, might evolve in different genetic directions due to different adaptations to the different environments. That is what happened to the common ancestor of Man and Chimp (the Pygmy Chimpanzee).

xThis is another present day established knowledge: In order for humans to become bipedal, because of skeletal changes, we had to sacrifice certain physical characteristics such as a much easier and "better" birth in our common ancestor with the chimpanzee. The population that eventually evolved into Chimps continued to live in the rainforest, while the population that eventually evolved into Humans was exposed to a new grassland environment. This new environment eventually led to upright walk and bipedalism and that gave us the ability to move around better -- to move out of Africa. The rest is history...

x So, let's have an educated and interesting discussion about this, without becoming offended -- using critical thinking and an open mind for new ideas and new knowledge, while you at the same time will become better educated about the topic of evolution. The links to the reading assignments are below.

Dr. Nilsson


The password to the evolution worksheet quiz is on the "Preface". Read the page to find the password:
Reading Assignment (click on the link) x x

Reading Assignment (click on the link) x x

Quiz Information (click on the link) x

Short Quiz Taking Addendum: While you need a password to start the Town Hall "Key" Quiz, do NOT use Respondus Lockdown Browser when you take the quiz -- I want you to use the reading assignments when you answer the questions (you cannot do that if you use Respondus...)

x x x x x

If Earth had been hit by that asteroid 65 million years ago we dinosaurs probably would have gone extinct and who knows what terrible creatures would have evolved...

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