I got some email today with lots of constructive suggestions (See? Not all my email is evil!) for how we ought to change the education of biology students — such as by giving them a foundation in the history and philosophy of our science, using creationist arguments as bad examples so the students can see the errors for themselves, etc. — and it was absolutely brilliant, even the parts where he disagreed with some things I’d written before. Best email ever!

Of course, what helped is that I spent my summer “vacation” putting together a new freshman first semester course for biology majors that I’m teaching for the first time right now, and it’s exactly the course he described. It was eerie, like one of my future students had invented a time machine and come back into the past to tell me what to do. A lot of the course content is locked up behind a password-protected firewall, I’m afraid, but just to show you what I’m talking about, I’ll put the course schedule below the fold.

The course is called Fundamentals of Genetics, Evolution, and Development, and it’s purpose is to give all of our students a basic understanding of those three topics in the title. One quirk of our curriculum (and it’s a fairly common quirk) is that while we offer upper-level electives in those three, and genetics and evolution at least are implicit in most of our courses, we didn’t until now have a core course that spelled out explicitly that not only must our students understand basic evolutionary theory, but that it is a foundation for future progress in the field. We’re consciously moving away from Evolution Avoidance Syndrome.

This course is intended for freshman biology majors, so unfortunately we can’t dive heavily into the math (they do get a little introduction to it), and few will have much understanding of the molecular basis of the topics. The first big change is that instead of using one of those colossal biology reference books as the primary text for the class, I’m using Science as a Way of Knowing: The Foundations of Modern Biology(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by John A. Moore. We also use one of those standard texts (Life: The Science of Biology(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by Sadava, Heller , Orians, Purves, and Hillis) to supplement the general material of the Moore book with some specific details here and there. The plan is that UMM biology majors will get out of here not only knowing how genetics works on a general level and why evolution is the central theory of biology, but they’ll also know who Aristotle, Bacon, Descartes, and Hume were. And they’ll also be able to fillet any creationist poseurs they encounter.

Anyway, here’s the schedule. As glowing bits on a screen, it looks darned good, if you ask me. We’ll see what the students say after they’ve gone through it all in December. (Oh, and I blush a bit to confess that there’s one week in there where I’m playing hooky — I’ve got some outside events that plopped into my lap all at once. These things happen. Don’t worry, the students will have assignments to do, so they won’t be able to turn their brains off.)

Week Date Chapter Topic Readings
1,2 30 Aug-6 Sep 1-3 The ancient world
The early whys and hows of doing science — the scientific method as a pragmatic, practical way of dealing with the world.
3 11-13 Sep 4-5 Beginnings of modern science
A transition in the Middle Ages: from revelation, inspiration, and contemplation as the source of knowledge, to observation and experiment.
4 18-20 Sep 6 Precursors to evolutionary thought
Geology and taxonomy lead the way, and the orderly and complex history of the world begins to be revealed.
20 Sep First exam
5 25-27 Sep PZ Myers is gone!
Sorry, gang, I’m giving talks in other parts of the world this week. We may arrange something else for this time.
6 2-4 Oct 7-8 Evolutionary explanations
Darwin and Wallace: evolution as a logical and necessary explanation of the accumulated evidence. The importance of THEORY.
7 9-11 Oct 9-10 Evidence for evolution
The power of evolution as an explanatory framework; the continually growing evidence for the theory.
8 16-18 Oct Creationism and Intelligent Design
Science and culture in conflict. Social origins of creationist beliefs; common arguments refuted.
18 Oct Second exam
9 25 Oct 11-13 Cells and pre-Mendelian inheritance
The cell theory and chromosomes. Mitosis, meiosis, gametes, fertilization.
10 30 Oct-1 Nov 14 Mendel, and a little probability theory
Mendel’s Laws, monohybrid and dihybrid crosses.
11 6-8 Nov 15 Modern genetics, and a little statistics
Genetics gets more complicated: reconciling genetics with cytology and evolution.
8 Nov Third exam
12 13-15 Nov 16 Flies!
TH Morgan and Drosophila. Sex and mapping.
13 20 Nov 17 Modern genetics: DNA, genes, and the central dogma
Beadle, Tatum, Griffith, Avery, Hershey, Chase, Watson, Crick — the foundations of molecular biology.
14 27-29 Nov 18-20 Embryology
Making an embryo. The roles of gene, organism, and environment in building form.
29 Nov Fourth exam
15 4-6 Dec 21-22 Interactions, induction, integration: developmental biology
Molecular genetics, developmental genetics, eco-devo, and evo-devo. The new synthesis?
16 11-13 Dec Ethics and the future of biology
The 21st century will be the century of biology. What will we be able to do, and what should we do?

Now you know what I’ll be doing for the next few months — the course above, and also an upper level course in neurobiology. Busy busy busy.


  1. says

    PZ, this looks great. Our department is currently overhauling the undergrad curriculum and I hope they will make room for a similar course early in the sequence.

  2. C.E. Petit says

    Although it’s not entirely clear, I hope that weeks 3 and 4 will include the interplay among alchemy, medicine, chemistry, and biology, because some of the transitional figures (e.g., Paracelcus) will provide an excellent preview of week 8. One of the problems with the whole debate is the “evidence only matters to certain kinds of scientific explanations” psychology (I’m using a polite term for this family-friendly blog) that we can see readily in hindsight, but is much harder to diagnose during events without making it a personal attack.

  3. Ray S says

    Prepare to be quote mined for teaching creationism, intelligent design and the central dogma.

    Wish I could be in the class. Any chance of a video series?

  4. says

    [W]e ought to change the education of biology students — such as by giving them a foundation in the history and philosophy of our science, using creationist arguments as bad examples so the students can see the errors for themselves, etc.

    “Teach the controversy!” hahaha… I’ll be dying to see what that second exam looks like. That’s an absolutely brilliant idea.

    On the other hand, I’m sure the ubiquitous whiny zealots will be out in force to protest the fact that a mere layman such as you dare discuss creationism in his classroom.

  5. MarcusA says

    Hey, PZ. When are we going see video of your lectures posted on google video? I’ve watched lectures from Harvard, MIT, and UC, all for free. But I’d pay to watch your biology classes. Maybe you can hook up some pay-per-view deal. Reading from your class schedule just makes me jealous of those freshman. Except I don’t want a grade or the pressure of completing another degree. I just wants some sweet learning.

  6. Eric says

    Is it possible to, you know, take your class online? Because I’m not near Morris, but this sounds like an awesome class. I didn’t get nearly as much biology as I would have liked having been an electrical engineer, but it interests me to no end. (Well, to be honest, studying just about anything at college level and above interests me. But this class still sounds amazing.)

  7. says

    I really want to go back to college, now. (I am subtly trying to steer the kids towards Morris when they graduate from high school.)

    The thing that intrigues me is the filleting of creationist poseurs. Maybe you could get Greg Laden to fill in for you the week that you are trekking. I understand he has some good fillet recipes for fish. I am sure that creationists would taste just dandy with a proper beer batter.

  8. MikeG says

    Is there any chance you could post some of the lectures, notes or highlights, so those of us interested could follow along at home? I’d even buy the books and do all my homework, I swear!

    Even a trained microbiologist like me occasionally needs to revisit some of the basics that I don’t use as much as maybe I should. Dealing with prokaryotes can do that to a guy.

  9. Don Henry says

    Have always thought that presenting the historical context was a great way to ground the current state of a science. A student can see how problems and issues became the important problems and issues. Also, to see the struggles, mistakes and blind alleys makes science into a human enterprise and less intimidating to students (“Here are the facts. Just memorize them”).

    Will the course notes ever be handled like MIT’s OpenCourseWare?

  10. says

    About making the course stuff available to the public: maybe. Someday. We do have people on campus to tape lectures and format them for podcasts, and I might try that next year. We’ll see. There are two hindrances: one is that this is the first year this course is being taught, so there will be more rough spots than can be seen in a list of topics. This is the shakedown cruise right now. The second problem is that I’m trying to avoid the talk, talk, talk trap and increase student participation. I do lecture, of course, but a third of the course time is spent in discussion and students voicing their ideas, and as I work more on the class that part should expand. And unfortunately, that part does not translate to non-interactive media at all well.

  11. Carlie says

    Excellent! I always start off my evolution course with two weeks of geology and biology history – Steno, Lyell, Hutton, Smith, Cuvier, Agassiz, etc. This gives me even more justification when they complain about it.

  12. Michele says

    Sounds like a great course. I’ll weigh in on the side of those who wish they could take it. Unfortunately I’m in California so I’ll have to wait.

  13. MikeG says

    Well, I’ll have to be content with just reading the book, then. It’s already on my wish list, I guess I’ll just go ahead and get it.

  14. Susan B. says

    Excellent to hear you’re going to encourage participation and discussing of students’ own ideas–it’s definitely my favorite way to learn, and I’m sure your students will agree.

  15. Sean says

    I’m squeezing a lot in as it is, and something had to go. Cephalopods were an unfortunate sacrifice.

    Were they tasty at least?

  16. sailor says

    “I’m squeezing a lot in as it is, and something had to go. Cephalopods were an unfortunate sacrifice.”
    Well I hope you sacrificed them in front of an airoplane so we can all fly more safely.

  17. Jonathan says

    Honestly, that’s a great idea. When I was in graduate school one of my committee members insisted that I study Philosophy of Science for my comprehensive exam. I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but I’m really glad I did it now; I’m much better equipped to face the arguments I sometimes get into. Last night, for instance, I was defending science against someone who was trying the old ‘science is just another kind of religion’ argument. Ungh…

  18. cureholder says

    Hey PZ,

    This course outline looks fantastic! I somehow managed to earn two undergraduate degrees without taking any real science (1985-1992). Of course, one of the degrees was from a seminary, where my Earth Science (Geology) class centered around “God did it”—and then those credits actually transferred to a real university as Geology credits, thus saving me from any real science learning.

    Two small points: In Week 3, the reference to revelation et al as “the source of knowledge” rubs me the wrong way—maybe it’s the lawyer in me, but I’d love to see a qualifier in there, such as “alleged source of knowledge” of maybe you could just put “knowledge” in quotations. I know you don’t actually see them as sources of knowledge and that the people you’re talking about did, but for some reason it struck me badly. Again, just my perception.

    Secondly, Week 8 is gonna bring out the wacko church-state protesters. “If WE are not allowed to teach our religion in your science classes,” they’ll say, “then YOU can’t talk about our religion in there, either.” Should be a fun moment!

  19. Carlie says

    I don’t, partly because I want to keep the march through names at some reasonable level so I stick with the “big” names, emphasizing that I’m only skimming the surface. I do spend a lot of time on how people came to realize that fossils really were the remains of living creatures in different parts of the world, and I like Adrienne Mayor’s ideas on it, but don’t get to the level of detail about specific fossil discoveries.

  20. inkadu says

    I’m taking an intro bio class at community college now, and discussion of “the scientific method” is limitted to hypothesis, hypothesis testing, and control groups. Very basic stuff. Nothing about Karl Popper, though. That made me sad. But the teacher let me culture a scraping from my infected finger, so I was happy again.

    For all those adult learners out there, I’d recommend “The Teaching Company.” Theu sell lectures (audio, mostly) on just about everything, including History of Science. I can recommend the History of Science one… very entertaining and informative.

  21. says

    And this is an undergraduate course? Wow. I wish I would have had course options like this back at my college! Perhaps I would have switched majors from English to Biology!

    This makes me want to go back to school again. If only I could afford it!

  22. Chris says

    The course sounds great and it makes me wish there were some sort of biology requirement for my engineering major. I took AP Bio in high school and do a lot of reading, so I have a fairly firm grounding, but this type of course sounds very interesting.

    Well I hope you sacrificed them in front of an airoplane so we can all fly more safely.

    I agree wholeheartedly. Much tastier than goats.

  23. says

    I will second the many requests and suggestions that you make some of the course materials, or even the lectures themselves, available on-line. It would be fun, I would learn something, and it would be the closest thing I could manage to being a student of yours.

    (sigh) I don’t know how to make requests that don’t sound gushing and fulsome, ugh.

  24. anti-nonsense says

    as a biology/biochemistry major I would say that I would love to take that course. I’ve always wished that my school had a course with elements of the curriculum specifically designed to tear Creationism and ID to shreds. I had a good teacher for the second half of my first year biology that did a good job emphasizing evolutionary relationships and I had the same guy for ecology and he had part of a lecture discussing evidence for evolution and stuff and he did a great job tearing creationism to shreds a bit. Also, he reads Richard Dawkins.

  25. says

    You teach neurobiology?!? As much fun as this class sounds, I think I’d be more interested in the neurobiology class. Of course I live a couple thousand miles from Morris, so I’ll just have to take neurobiology from someone a bit closer to home. . .Unfortunately, that won’t happen for a year or two.

  26. says

    Sounds to me like you should get the university to fly in an antipodean philosopher of science or two to help out in developing the course. Who knows … one of them could even be convinced to stay on for a little food and a lotta beer.

    And, as you develop the course, you might want to consider Marjorie Grene’s and David Depew’s The Philosophy of Biology: An Episodic History. It is very good on the roots of modern biology.

  27. JWalker says

    PZ. I applaud you taking this on. But I’d really think again about Math Avoidance Syndrome. Do Chemistry and Physics avoid math in their freshman classes? I recognize the math phobia of most bio students (its the science for students who like science but are afraid of math, right?), but freshman bio would seem to be a wonderful opportunity to show how the math that students have learned is not just relevant but necessary for doing science, including biology.

  28. James Stein says

    Do you make up power-points and the like to accompany your lectures? I’d love to see some of the details you go into in this class.

    @33, Hell, I’m almost done with my B.Sc in biology, with a minor in chem, and the only time math has ever come up in bio classes was when I needed to do some relevant chem. I’ve yet to do bio-math.

  29. Dave says

    I read in one of your Pivar slapdowns how you only made 45k… it seems to me by many of the above posts there is an opportunity here. I live in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada and would never have the opportunity to take your course, let alone meet you and your friends…. but I would gladly pay a good dime to do so on-line.

    It has been a pleasure discovering Pharyngula. Keep up the great works.


  30. says

    It’s not math avoidance syndrome — it’s an unfortunate recognition that many incoming freshman are very weak in mathematics (I’ve said before that I’m willing to sacrifice evolution in the high school curriculum if the trade off is MORE MATH!) I can’t add more mathematical biology to a freshman course, unless I want to spend most of my time doing remedial algebra.

  31. Bee says

    I would imagine first year students will have to take a math course or two outside of Biology, so allowing the mathphobic (such as myself – I blame it on a really scary Gr.11 math teacher) but Bio loving student to take a really interesting course without the added headache of applying math to everything could easily be the difference between a student continuing in Biology or heading straight for a Liberal Arts degree.

    I agree, it would be nice to see some of the course material online – make your best note-taker do it!

  32. says

    How wonderful! ID & creation science being brought to the classroom…although last I heard you all supported JJ’s conclusions that it couldn’t be addressed without the threat of a lawsuit. Oh, I forgot, that would only be necessary if an actual ID advocate broaches the subject.

    If a couple paragraphs in regard to ID can’t be read in a classroom without causing a major lawsuit, you wouldn’t think that PZ would be allowed to babble on about it either. But, it’s not surprising that PZ will be allowed (and encouraged no doubt) to proceed to twist, spin, and misrepresent design…to his hearts content! Genius, I tell you!

    Brainwashing at it’s absolute finest, unless…

    perhaps PZ will allow an ID advocate class time to lecture on the accuracy of the picture PZ paints of ID? Probably not…unless he can spring a guy like Kent Hovind from prison long enough to give a little speech and make it appear that ID is “creationism” and is supported only by “fundies” who are on a religious warpath.

    Although I am ~completely~ against bringing up lawsuits due to these little squeemishes over what can and cannot be considered science, I couldn’t think of a person more deserving of being the target of one than PZ.

    Good luck with that course…

  33. says

    Looks like a fascinating course – I’m out of college now, but if you ever do put a future version of your lectures online, I’ll be among the first to download. I’d really love to see this in action.

  34. Cassidy says

    Wow, I wish my school had a course like that. I think there’s some definite EAS from what I’ve seen so far at NC State (not as much at Carolina, but I remember the freshman evo stuff being extraordinarily basic).

    Interestingly, NCSU is currently revamping their biology curriculum (I think because they’re merging zoology with biology and adding concentrations) and part of the change is making Bio 181, the freshman course, genetics- and mathless and taking out cell biology so that Chem 101 is no longer a coreq and leaving all that for 183, the second year version. They’ve been warning us all not to fail 183 because it’s not going to exist after this semester…

  35. Louise Van Court says

    I am not sure that including the creationism and ID section will do much to lessen the present culture war but I welcome the discussion into the college classroom. I am not as worried about the students being “brainwashed” as FTK. If PZ can teach this material so also might other professors at other universities who undoubtably would have a variety of views. This would be a more balanced approach.

  36. says

    “If PZ can teach this material so also might other professors at other universities who undoubtably would have a variety of views. This would be a more balanced approach.”

    Hmmm…that’s true. If PZ can take this approach, an ID friendly biology professor *should* be able to take a crack at it as well. Perhaps it would be interesting to find out just how many anti-ID science professors are broaching these topics in their classrooms. I know that Joe Meert does.

    If they do not abide by JJ’s ruling, that would certainly be something to document and report on when the next trial over ID takes place…or when the next pro-ID professor or scientist is about to lose their job due to discussion of this topic.

    Casey? You out there, dude? Are you taking this down?

  37. says

    MAN, I wish I lived in MN. I’d give my right arm to sit in on PZ’s class. I’d be quiet as a tiny little mouse…seriously. I just want to see if he is a nasty and arrogant in class as he is at this site. I’d love to see how he addresses these issues in real life.

  38. Mike says

    Good idea running that course. Learning biology without first having an understanding of evolution is like learning mechanics in physics without having calculus. It can be done, but it will never make as much sense.

  39. Jim Thomerson says

    I’ve seen the comment that university courses do not teach a subject, but rather teach about a subject. Not sure I really believe that, but I have taught about creationism in evolution courses. One suggestion on teaching Mendelian genetics. Mendel was a genius. I and most of my students are not. Mendelian gentics complicated by dominance is very difficult for most students to understand within the time frame of an introductory course. I generally do mitosis and meiosis first, then look at situations like yellow, cream, and white guinea pigs, or red, pink, and white 4 O’clocks. Then go back and look at Mendal’s work. Another one that is fun to deal with is Hardy-Weinberg. Talk about Hardy writing it out for Punett on a napkin to answer the question, “Do dominants take over a popultion?” Make the point that H-W conditions have to be violated for evolution to occur. If it all works out, it slides very nicely into the ideas of microevolution. Your course sounds very good. Do not fall into the trap of trying to teach too much. I think it better that the student well understand a few core ideas rather than having some fuzzy heard-of type knowledge of a bunch.

  40. khan says

    25-27 Sep
    PZ Myers is gone!
    Sorry, gang, I’m giving talks in other parts of the world this week. We may arrange something else for this time.

    Perhaps you could have a guest lecturer from Clown College show them how to make balloon animals.

  41. sailor says

    If anyone cannot wait to get PZ’s course. The teaching company ( has a good course on biology by Stephen Nowicki from Duke. These courses are a real bargain when they come on sale, which is often.

  42. nunyer says

    FtK thinks an eminently qualified biologist should be sued for presenting mainstream science’s view of ID

    Betcha Don Pivar’s lawyer wouldn’t even take the case

  43. says

    Hm. The biology course I’m taking (bio for non-bio-majors) doesn’t include debunkals of creationism. I suppose it’s assumed that everyone already knows creationism is a load of hogwash here. O_o

  44. Efogoto says

    Yo FtK, ID and creationism are the culture part of “Science and culture in conflict” and their tenets are addressed under “common arguments refuted.” What Judge Jones swatted down was teaching ID as science … which it isn’t and PZ isn’t doing – he’s teaching that it isn’t science.

    (And, yes, I do know that FtK is a troll. I just felt like posting.)

  45. Ichthyic says

    I’d love to see how he addresses these issues in real life.

    here’s how it’s dealt with at the college level, FTK:

    “What issues?”

    seriously, you folks are so deluded you actually think a majority of science profs at the college level even give your nonsense a second thought.

    *hint* it’s not even a minority. it’s not even a tiny group.

    it barely gets mentioned in passing. I went through both undegrad and grad school without ever even hearing the word “creationist”.

    sorry, but that’s the reality.

    Most scientists are too busy working if they are at a major university, and most teachers are smaller colleges like Morris are too busy working on lectures, or simply just don’t see the point.

    a lot of us have been turning them on to the damage you idiots cause, much like the extreme animal rights groups have, but really, it’s still business as usual.

    you just aren’t important enough to care about, and no, nobody is talking about creationism or “intelligent design” in any serious dept. of biology or zoology that I’ve ever been involved with.

    If it gets mentioned at all, it’s in the form of “What are those nutters up to now?” kinda like, “What’s the latest Doonesbury comic say?”

    Now you idiots can raise all the stink you like, but in the end, you won’t ever get any scientist to really take you seriously until you do one, and only one, thing:

    publish a paper in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

    if you hadn’t wasted all your time whining about your perceived injustices, which don’t exist, and instead had sent yourself to school to actually learn something, hell, you might actually have been able to publish something yourself by now.

    but that would mean you would actually understand how science works, something that might entirely break your delicate sensibilities and give you the vapors.

    so I guess in retrospect, there is little else someone with your level of cognitive dissonance can do but spin endless projections and waste your entire life whining about conspiracies that don’t exist, and think you are doing what jeebus would do.

    I’d weep for how pathetic you are, and what a waste of time your life has become, but that too, would be a waste of time.

  46. AntonGarou says

    Sounds like a great course- I wish my freshman year’s course had similar curriculum.Unfortunately I’ll have an ocean to cross if I wish to attend in person so any course materials on the web- especially those pertaining to the history&roots of biology, which were sadly neglected by my lecturer, would be greatly appreciated.

    Any chance you would reveal the subject of your neurobiology course?I’m currently majoring in neural science, so it’s something of a personal interest:)

  47. Mike says

    If the sender doesn’t mind, post the email. It would be nice to see some sane and insightful correspondence once in a while instead of the usual creationist dreck (as entertaining as that is.)

  48. says

    ftk said:

    perhaps PZ will allow an ID advocate class time to lecture on the accuracy of the picture PZ paints of ID?

    Let the ID advocate get her own degrees, do her own research, publish it, get her own appointment, and then, when ID fits into the curriculum and is backed by 20,000 or 30,000 research papers, teach it to her own class, after the dean and the rest of the department approves the course.

    Easy, no?

  49. says

    Re Ichthyic @ 59: “Now you idiots can raise all the stink you like, but in the end, you won’t ever get any scientist to really take you seriously until . . . ”

    At bottom, FtK and his/her ilk aren’t interested in getting scientists to take them seriously. Their main goal is to muddy the waters sufficiently to prevent the “authoritarian followers” whom they lead around by their noses from acquiring critical skills and the knowledge base that of necessity underlies them. This will allow them to continue using the sheep as the base on which to build their own personal power. At a conscious level many of the authoritarian leaders believe they’re doing god’s work (not all; some are just deeply cynical), but subconsciously its all about power.

    John Dean’s recent book Conservatives Witout Conscience” addresses the psychology behind authoritarianism in some depth for the layperson. He’s also just begun doing so on a more abbreviated bases from his perch at Findlaw. See

    I think it is even more important that the historical and epistemological elements PZ plans to cover in the first weeks of this course for prospective biology majors be included in introductory science courses for non-majors. This is vital if the practice of science is to continue to (or should I say again?) be respected and supported in the mainstream culture.

    PS: As one who has an undergraduate major in another science (physics) but who knows nothing about biology other than what he has read since on his own, this course sounds absolutely fascinating.

  50. ks says

    That sounds like a really interesting class. I would have loved to take something like that as an undergraduate. I would also love to teach something like that in physics/astronomy, but unfortunately I’m a lowly part-time instructor at our local U and don’t get to actually design my own courses.

  51. says

    oops that should have been Stuart, not Don

    Posted by: nunyer

    Actually, I kind of like the title “Don” on Pivar’s name. It gives him the stench of an old, irrelevant mobster who’s foolish enough to believe he still has some sort of influence remaining.

  52. Lucy says

    Wow, that sounds amazing! Funny, just five minutes ago, I was thinking about how useful and interesting a science history/philosophy course would be. And I agree with SEF, don’t forget Rosalind Franklin…..anyway, U of MN has been officially added to my list of schools to look into. Please post whatever you can from the course (notes, lectures, anything), even though it’ll probably be over my head (I’m still in high school). I hope its a success!

  53. says

    I’m looking forward to my TA position this fall (first class: Tuesday), but now I really want to spend an exchange semester at Morris and TA PZ’s course.

    Teach it again in a year, so I have some lead time to get this temporary transfer thing sorted out, please.

    Cephalopods were an unfortunate sacrifice.

    Others have already hit on this, but:
    Please tell me that sacrifice included a lurid candle-lit room, a pentagram painted on the floor, and an obsidian dagger.

  54. Bill Anderson says

    I’d like to mention a few things about a Freshman level Bioloogy class I took many years ago. It was a lab course with two lectures and one lab per week. In the syllabus, the Prof. noted there’d be three lecture exams and one lab final, and on average, he’d give two quizzes every week that would be on previous lecture and reading material. Also, students could substitute their quiz grade average score for any one exam score (if they wanted to). So, after a few quizzes, I realized that if I reviewed my notes after every lecture, and kept up with the reading, I’d get a high quiz average. The surprizing thing was that when it came time to study for the bio. exams, I realized that I really didn’t have to study much because I had been reviewing the material on an almost daily basis. Also, come Final exam time, I was able to substitute my ‘A’ average quiz grade for the upcoming final exam. So during finals week, I had one less major exam to study for!

  55. Ichthyic says

    I’d like to mention a few things about a Freshman level Bioloogy class I took many years ago.

    that’s a great way to teach a class, but very difficult if it is a typically large freshman bio class.

    have to have an army of TA’s to grade all those quizzes.

    how big was your class, Bill?

  56. says

    Let the ID advocate get her own degrees, do her own research, publish it, get her own appointment, and then, when ID fits into the curriculum and is backed by 20,000 or 30,000 research papers, teach it to her own class, after the dean and the rest of the department approves the course.

    Easy, no?

    Right on. The ID enthusiasts want to get their stuff into the curriculum without getting it into the literature. They want to make it appear as if they are intellectual martyrs, rather than academic slackers. They want to characterize the scientific community as faith-based, and their own ideological framework accepted as rational. They want the scientific community to do all the work, but they want the present-day self-anointed representatives of non-science get all the credit.

  57. Jim Thomerson says

    At my university we required secondary education biology majors to take the evolution course. I thought it proper, and my colleagues agreed, that such folks (and others taking the course) should learn about creationism (this was pre-serious ID). Highschool biology teachers will encounter creationism in one form or another and need not to be ambushed.

    Unfortunately many science classes go along like this, “We know an awful lot. Get up to speed on current knowledge. It will be on the test.” I think it is important for scientists and nonscientists alike to know something about how we came to know what we do. And why people thought it important to learn the things we know. As a colleague once commented, “Biology is all story-telling.” Better than lists of stuff to memorize, for sure.

  58. Bill Anderson says

    Reply to #71 for Ichthyic:
    That was in an intro Botany course (130) in the mid-1980’s at Univ. of Wis. Stevens Point, with Professor John Curtis. In the section I was in (lectures on M & W and lab on Tues, for instance) there were only about 25-30 students, but he also taught other sections that semester. From that semester on, I always reviewed each day’s lecture notes that night, and if I found something that I didn’t understand, I’d know what I had to work on. The grading system really motivated me to develop good study habits, which I used until I graduated. I talked to Professor Curtis just before finals week to make sure that he agreed I’d get an ‘A’ even if I didn’t take the final exam, and when I told him that I found his grading system to be a strong motivation for keeping up with my studying, he explained that that was the whole idea with it.

  59. Becca says

    A few thoughts…
    First, good job! It does look like an interesting course. It seems rather overloaded (fantastic to spread out over four years, but over a semester?), but I think that happens with a lot of professors and brand new courses.
    I think the general approach of addressing questions from a historical perspective with stories of how researchers thought about questions is fantastic. One of the best courses I took in undergrad was very much like that.
    Speaking of which, although I vividly remember the role the phage experiments played in developing the central dogma, somehow I missed that it was *Martha* Chase. So yes, mention her. And Franklin too. It can’t hurt, and there might be someone who picks up on it as an important role model.

    I know your feelings on religion. Still, it is perhaps worth discussing when science and culture (or religion) are not viewed as in conflict. I would be truly impressed if you had a guest speaker, or at least discussed the writings of, an evolution expert who also happened to be religious. Just a thought.

  60. darius says

    Ichthyic (# 71):
    Actually, quizzes can be quite easy to grade now. There’s a device called an i-Clicker (essentially a remote control with five options, A through E, and a serial number that’s registered with the teacher and transmitted with every answer) that can be used to give quizzes during class. Give a minute per question and the quiz is done in 10 minutes, all the answers are in, and the teacher can move on with the lecture. No TAs needed.

    FTK (# whatever): this is, essentially, a history course about science. ID is relevant in this context because ID is being used to try to thwart science. Similarly, you wouldn’t expect to hear about the Scopes trial in a biology course, but you might in a history course that talks about biology.

  61. says

    Ban FtK.

    She is a creationist troll that censors those who even try to post at her ridiculous blog.

    She does not deserve the privilege of posting here.