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March 15, 2006
Contact: Hume Feldman, associate professor of physics and astronomy, (785) 864-4740.

Prominent scientists to discuss science, education and the public at KU

LAWRENCE — Four well-known scientists will be featured speakers in a lecture series at the University of Kansas.

“Science, Education and the Public” will bring the four speakers to the Dole Institute of Politics beginning Tuesday, April 4, to discuss topics such as “attacks on science,” the naturalism of science, the earliest history of life and the Kansas State Board of Education’s back and forth role in the debate over science standards.

“Most of us heard about the evolution-intelligent design ‘controversy’ but something more disturbing is happening which is less well-known. The Kansas State Board of Education has decided to redefine science and invite supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. The lecture series will explore the ramifications of this decision and discuss the effects of such a decree,” said Hume Feldman, associate professor of physics and astronomy.

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western Reserve University, will kick off the four-part series with his presentation, “Science Under Attack, from the White House to the Classroom: Public Policy, Science Education and the Emperor’s New Clothes” at 7:30 p.m. April 4. Krauss is the author of The Physics of Star Trek, a book that explores how the laws of physics apply to the famous science fiction television show, and Beyond Star Trek, which applies the same premise to popular culture including movies, TV and other popular lore.

His presentation will address how educators and policy makers can react to attacks on science and the evolution vs. intelligent design debates in Kansas and Ohio.

Barbara Forrest, professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, will present “The Naturalism of Science: The Only Way that Works” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 19. Forrest served as a witness in the Dover, Pa., trial in which it was ruled that intelligent design could not be taught in public schools. She is the author of essays “Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism: Clarifying the Connection” and “The Wedge at Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism is Wedging its Way Into Cultural and Academic Mainstream.”

Forrest will explain how scientific thinking is not unique to science and how the rules of logic and evidence of scientific inquiry apply to all disciplines.

William Schopf, a paleobiologist from the University of California-Los Angeles, will deliver “The Earliest History of Life: Solution to Darwin’s Dilemma” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 3. He is the author of Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth’s Earliest Fossils.

Schopf will argue that the earliest records of life Charles Darwin said were “missing” have been discovered. In his landmark 1859 work On the Origin of Species, Darwin said he could not answer the question of why scientists could not find fossiliferous deposits from Earth’s earliest periods. Schopf will state that technology has enabled scientists to study fossils in detail from as early as 3.5 billion years ago.

Joseph Heppert, director of the Center for Science Education and professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry at KU, will complete the series with “Understanding ‘Alternatives’ to Evolution” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 9.

Heppert’s talk will address how issues surrounding intelligent design were addressed in May 2005 hearings before a subcommittee of the Kansas State Board of Education on Kansas science standards.

For more information on the lecture series, visit mactania.phsx.ku.edu/Dole-series/. The series is sponsored by KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Office of the Provost, Kansas Geological Survey and the departments of physics and astronomy, chemistry, geology, ecology and evolutionary biology, molecular biosciences, philosophy, political science, religious studies, anthropology, psychology and economics.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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