Evolution expert seeks to inform creationists

A centuries-old debate wages on tonight in the Fine Arts Hall (FAH) in a lecture highlighting Charles Darwin’s birthday.

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, will speak at 7 p.m. in FAH 101 about the different arguments in favor of both evolution and creationism.

However, she hopes to illustrate to students why scientific study can’t be grasped without accepting the centrality of evolution, said Elizabeth Bird, director of the Humanities Institute.

“(Students) have to understand that creationism is based on a belief on a thing and evolution is based on massive amounts of scientific evidence,” she said. “I just hope everyone comes in with an open mind and tries to understand that this is essentially the way science works.”

While Bird said an understanding of evolutionary theory is a necessity, students do not need to forsake their religious beliefs to subscribe to the theory.

“You can’t tell somebody to give up their beliefs,” she said. “But there’s no reason why people can’t have strong religious beliefs and understand and accept the principles of scientific evolution. They’re not incompatible.”

Bird said Scott is one of the most famous and internationally known faces in science education today and called the $5,000 expense of bringing her to the University “very reasonable for a top, nationally known” individual. The lecture’s sponsors include the Humanities Institute and the Department of Integrative Biology.

Christina Richards, an integrative biology assistant professor, said Scott’s approach to breaking down the controversy between the two theories is “very logical” and “very methodical.”

“Eugenie is very effective at understanding what the counterpoint, creationism, is and breaking it down point-by-point to where its fallacies and inaccuracies are,” she said.

Given Florida’s increased emphasis on science, technology,engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and simultaneous attempts to bring creationism into classes, such as a bill proposed last year by state Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville), Richards said “there is a pressing need” for the lecture. However, she said she hears about creationism less in her classes.

“I haven’t seen a lot on this campus,” Richards said. “Either they already don’t believe in creationismor it isn’t that big a problem for them. They’ve come to terms with it or they just don’t really talk about it in class.”