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2015 Darwin Day Colloquium Program


Sarah Duncan, Biological Sciences, University of Alabama
“The Relative Importance of Religion and Education on University Students’ Views of Evolution in the Deep South and State Science Standards Across the United States”

There is a negative relationship between education and religiosity and a positive relationship between education and acceptance of evolution, but how this manifests in college students who differ in degree of religiosity and prior educational experiences is unclear. We focused our study on the relative importance of education and religion on evolution understanding for college students at a large, public university in the Deep South.


Dr. Amanda Glaze, Jacksonville City School Board, Jacksonville High School, Texas A&M
Exploring Evolution: Acceptance & Rejection in the Southeastern United States”

Evolution has, for more than a century, been a point of great controversy among the general public, primarily in the United States. Nowhere is this more pronounced that in the Southeastern United States, a place that boasts a cultural richness and fundamentalist foundation that make it a unique setting within which to study the phenomenon of acceptance and rejection of evolution. Research in this region has given us ideas as to which factors explain variance in acceptance and rejection of evolution (Glaze, Goldston, & Dantzler, 2014) however, these factors provide only one side of a complex story. It is through detailed explorations of the lived experiences of those who live them, that we are able to begin to see the true complexity of the issue of acceptance and rejection of evolution. Not only what factors impact the choice, but the underlying worldviews that inform them and how they impact not only the individual but their choices in their learning experiences, and later their choices in the classroom. Through this lens we are able to see the potential pathways for adjusting our own approaches to pre-service teacher education and classroom instruction to begin addressing low rates of acceptance and, hopefully, have a positive impact on science literacy in the long-term.


Brett Smith, Geological Survey, University of Alabama
“How Evolution Will Shape the Future of Medicine”

Evolutionary medicine is beginning to converge with the grass-roots ancestral health movement as well as a subset of conventionally-trained physicians who aim to shift medicine toward treating the root causes of illness rather than merely symptoms, a practice known as “functional medicine.” My talk will give a brief sketch of how an evolutionarily-informed understanding of Westernized chronic, degenerative diseases can heuristically point researchers toward identifying the root causes of these illnesses, as well as the major events, people, and organizations involved in this revolution in medicine.


Ashley Daugherty, Melinda Carr, Anthropology, University of Alabama
“Fireside Relaxation: A Burning Question”

We propose that watching a fire is analogous to watching television.  Our previous research demonstrates the calming effect of a fire on participants. The question remains of which effect of the fireside is the most calming. To investigate this further, we expanded the study to include a naturalistic setting of an actual fireside to increase the external validity of our results. Additionally, we added a galvanic skin response component to analyze the data further.  Participants were exposed to a variety of controls and were measured after each to give an indication of their relaxation state. Implications of this study will reveal the appeal of television and address growing issues of cyber dependence.


Jessica Reynolds, Biology, Art and Art History, University of Alabama at Birmingham
“Form and Formaldehyde”

In concert with scientific progress is a relentless visual narrative that disseminates discovery. Illustrators of science have a unique and exciting opportunity to translate between investigators and the public. Illustrations can focus attention, simplify complex ideas, and provide record of changing scientific paradigms. In this presentation, the role of the biomedical communicator in depicting scientific ideas is discussed, and sample illustrations from Jessica’s undergraduate work are exhibited.


Juliann Friel, Anthropology, University of Alabama
“Reflections on Being Human”

As a frequent contributor for Scientific American and Slate, Jesse Bering has created a collection of his most popular essays. “Why is the Penis Shaped Like That – and Other Reflections On Being Human” combines wit, poignant commentary, and evolutionary theory into one.  It is an entertaining read, which is difficult to put down.  It is separated into VIII sections that each stand alone, with a specific focus on human behavior.  Including topics related to genital anatomy, especially focused on testicular shape and pubic hair.  It also highlights why some humans are more ‘randy’ than others.  It differentiates pedophiles and hebephiles, defines the ‘fag hag’, and talks about being ‘queer’.  Lastly, it takes a serious look at religion and the end of life.


Dr. Richard Richards, Philosophy, University of Alabama
“Philosophy of Evolution and Evolutionary Philosophy”

Philosophy and evolutionary thinking intersect in two ways.  First is the philosophical analysis of evolutionary thinking.  On this approach we might think about the structure of evolutionary theory, the evidence for evolution, the nature of selection, classification and more. Second is the approach to philosophical questions from an evolutionary framework.  How should we think about knowledge, ethics, political theory, aesthetics and more as the products of evolutionary processes?  Evolutionary thinking has the potential to radically revise our philosophical thinking in these domains.


Contest winners announced/break


Dr. Kilian Garvey, Psychology, University of Louisiana Monroe
“The Darwinian Irony: How the Process of Natural Selection Explains the Rejection of the Theory of Natural Selection”

The rate of public acceptance of evolution in the United States is, in spite of overwhelming empirical evidence, lower than that of every other scientifically advanced nation. Most explorations of this widespread public rejection of the theory of evolution have focused on socio-political factors such as level of education, religious affiliation, and political orientation. In light of what is known about the mechanisms of evolved cognitive architecture, bounded rationality, and motivated social cognition, it may be surprising that a complex biological postulate with deep existential significance like natural selection is accepted at all. This presentation will explore individual differences in cognitive style, affective vulnerabilities, and moral reasoning behind the failure to “believe” in Darwinian evolution.