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Seeking support for pure, empirical science education and teaching hasn't been the easiest mission for Dr. Brian Alters, a global leader in evolution education.
“We give out PhDs in evolutionary science, but about half the population thinks the teachers and the texts are wrong. They believe in pseudo-science.” Such thinking, he says, is “greatly damaging science education.”
The study and practice of science is based on observation, measurement and logical conclusions, he affirms. “I want to make science less threatening to people,” he says. “I’m still working on the silver bullet.”
He credits McGill with helping to establish an important precedent for science education. “McGill has given us the Evolution Education Research Centre. It’s a great space and facility,” says Alters. “We opened up in 2000 with half our professors from McGill and half from Harvard.”
The brain trust has attracted top graduates and postdoctoral students from the U.S. to Pakistan. Dr. Alters is proud to have helped many museums across Canada and the U.S. by providing research and educational tools such as articles in teaching journals, which give teachers direction on evolutionary science teaching methods.
Word has gotten out about the Centre's expertise. Alters was recruited as one of six expert witnesses for the plaintiffs in a United States federal trial on biological evolution, education and the U.S. Constitution. His testimony made headlines around the globe and contributed to a ruling that deemed the teaching of intelligent design in high school science classes unconstitutional.
For Dr. Alters’s team, the next bridge to build is to determine the role of evolution in Islamic culture and thought. For this research, he wants to send some Muslim students to Islamic countries where they can interview everyone from professors to children. “What’s their understanding of science?” he wonders. “I think it will be quite different.”