What it's like to teach evolution at the University of Kentucky



Kudos to Krupa for using a sensible approach to help students obtain the tools to learn science, in spite of any anti-science indoctrination they may have endured.


I’ve dealt with this far too many times myself. It’s always slightly amusing when such people insist that I not judge them.

Sadly this also brings up memories of the small Midwestern university I went to where there was a running joke that creationists ran the biology department and evolutionists ran the religion department. Well, it was called a joke, but I think it fell under the category of “not funny because it’s true”.


I think the problem that he is encountering is less an issue of scientific literacy than it is a complete lack of openmindedness. Some of the students think that their religion is a set of edicts that must be accepted at face value, which is a means of embracing a faith that is incredibly limited in its rewards.
A more thorough education of the theological disagreements that comprise the 2000-year political and philosophical history of the church would do a lot to introduce them to the possibility that it is their own responsibility to be inquisitive enough to formulate a personal understanding of scripture and biology alike.


I guess we dodged a bullet, as my Kentucky kids were taught about evolution in both parochial school and the public high school. But considering small-town politics, I can understand why some teachers try to avoid the subject. Teaching involves so many hassles already. Now my older daughter is considering going to UK next year, so I will have her look for Krupa’s classes. That is, if he teaches any classes FOR science majors.


That’s why I’m glad I belong to a denomination that isn’t so hung up on itself.

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“True” and “funny” are independent variables, I’d say.

Some days I even consider the hypothesis that the reality itself is a twisted sort of an amusement park with no escape other than death.


Great job trying to actually teach about life on this planet. The item that caught my attention is the surprising fact that in this age of easy information access, you had a so called student who would not take even one minute to check out what you said about the Pope! Every student should question what is said, however with questioning come the responsibility to read and check sources. It so very easy to verify what you said!


I think evolutionists (in the macro sense) can become as dogmatic as any theologian.

One difference between mainstream religions (like the Catholics, the Episcopalians and the Reform Jews) and sects is that mainstream religions actually teach church history to would be ministers, and have research students investigating it, while sects have “Bible colleges” which basically have a gap between the Book of Revelations and the founders of their sect. The difference between the theology department of a major university and a Bible college is that between an engineering department and a school for motor mechanics.
The same problem applies; a lot of motor mechanics think they are engineers, and the products of bible colleges think they know Christian theology.
More thorough “education” in Bible colleges would just worsen the problem. How do you get a pry bar into a closed mind?


Even when wikipedia is wired directly into their brains, they still won’t want to check it.


I don’t understand how a load of poorly researched articles on an evolution denialist website is supposed to imply that evolutionists are dogmatic. Are you suggesting my wife’s oncologist is dogmatic because he doesn’t believe cancer can be cured with lemon juice?

We don’t want them near Wikipedia, it has quite enough rubbish edits already.


I’ve always thought evolution was like seeing an impressive equation or well-constructed piece of architecture, and the people who say it’s bunk are just insisting the numbers can’t possibly add up, or that the building is going to fall over any second now. When you really understand how evolution works, it just makes sense, is quite beautiful, and is absolutely worthy of any all-encompassing creator-god you want to believe in.


I’m curious. I was educated in the Ontario, Canada school system 35 years ago, and I don’t remember ever encountering evolution in our curriculum. I don’t know anyone who didn’t believe in evolution, it just wasn’t covered in our curriculum (same as we didn’t cover geology, astronomy, etc.) Mind you, I only took one bio course (grade 11) (and cell parts were sooo boring), so maybe it was covered later.

My question is: Where did people get exposed to the concept of evolution? Was it school? For me it was the same place as I learned about astronomy: a combination of family, common knowledge, TV shows, and books.

And again, this was in an environment were a grade 7 teacher brought up the concept of Creationism to invoke the giggles of disbelief from my fellow 13 year olds (4004 BC? hee hee.)


A slightly less charged comparison (just because it leaves religion out and it cites historical fact that even young-Earthers can agree with) might be “most Americans are descended from Europeans, so why are there still Europeans?”


swing it with both hands.



I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it that way. While there are certainly people in any religious body who think this way, many of the students/people Krupa is engaging with come from religious sects that specifically include this concept in their beliefs. Those edicts must be accepted in order to qualify as a good christian, or christian at all. Think of the number of Christians who refuse to acknowledge Mormons as a kind of Christian. The way many Evangelicals do not consider Catholics to be Christian in any sense. The way many conservative and Evangelical Christian, and certain Catholic groups do not consider Main Line liberal Protestant churches to be Christian. And even the way those same very conservative groups within Catholicism do not consider other less devout/conservative Catholics to be properly Catholic or Christian in the first place.

I once had a very long, frustrating discussion with a Catholic woman about how she thought “Cafeteria Catholics” (effectively 90% of Catholics in her mind) were basically Atheists because they didn’t accept, uncritically, every dictate of the Church going back to its foundation. She got very frustrated when I pointed out that she was both pro-life and supported/used birth control despite Church policy being against it, and accused me of making things up. She claimed that John Paul and Benedict had reversed that (while also arguing that the Church had never, ever changed such a thing), even claiming they were handing out condoms in African churches to fight HIV. Changed the subject when I provided her with proof. I’d like to think that she was an isolated example, but she’s a member of one of those papal/church societies (similar to Opus Dei, but way less creepy) that specifically pushes this approach within The Church. I’ve got a number of other friends from that area of the country who were raised in the same organization, and often espouse the same ideas (without the rhetorical hoop jumping around abortion/birth control, they’re just rabidly pro-life).

Its a pretty specific theological approach that’s built into the fabric of certain sects. And you see similar ideas in other religions, usually among the most conservative, fundamentalist, or traditionalist groups. Acceptance of X concepts (usually treated as if they are every edict, but usually not) are a necessary and required precursor to being a member, or even having belief. Deviation is equated with lack of faith, sin, and atheism, or membership in a nebulous and dangerous “other” group.

For me it was church actually. My gay Episcopalian priest gave us 2 or 3 lectures about it, why it doesn’t conflict with faith, and how to counter creationist denials. Tied to later sermons on similar subjects, in one case a sermon lead by an evolutionary biologist from the local university. In terms of how its usually taught in US public schools, its typically a small unit within an Earth Science or Biology intro class some time in middle or high school. It gets mentioned before that as part of “history of science” units but you don’t ever really dig into it till college. I got a lot more instruction and detail about the subject from church than from public schools.


evolutionist? Yeah, I remember them - hanging out in the quad with the gravitarians and thermodynamicist cool kids making fun of those poor unfortunates who’d managed to get through high school without the least understanding of the scientific method.

You argument for Darwin’s “disbelief” is laughable in the extreme. Imagine that - a scientist wanting to finish his research before publishing.


I like the one “if English came from German, why do people still speak German?” In this case, you can see a sort of evolutionary development of the language and trace it back to its roots. You can then look at modern German to see that it’s changed too. What’s more, there are other cousins, and languages before the common ancestor. English itself is evolving, and creating dialects that would eventually become mutually unintelligible if cut off from each other.

I think a lot in analogies, and studying linguistics was the first time that I really started to doubt creationism. Until then, the modular science teaching I had received made it easy to dismiss evolution as something that could be separated from the rest of biology.