I’m here in Las Vegas, and already my work is done. Genie Scott, Occidental College’s Don Prothero, and I did a workshop at 9am today about Defending Evolution in Classrooms.
Planning for this was complicated, because we wanted it to be a true workshop, i.e., to have interactive aspects, and time for people to work through exercises in small groups. But we didn’t know what sort of crowd to expect for the first workshop of the first day. Chatting about our plan, we joked about how embarrassing it’d be if only 3 people showed up, but we planned for about 30, and made 60 copies of the handouts.
About 350 showed up, packing the hall. The idea to split the audience into small groups of 10 who could work through some sample creationist workshops went out the window.
As planned, Prothero gave a great, and greatly compressed, version of his talk about the importance of evolution and the failures of creationist attacks. Then Genie took her standard, hour-long talks on the history of creationism and tools for refuting standard creationist arguments, and scrunched them into 10–15 minutes total. Then I presented a 20 minute version of weekend-long trainings in science communication and community organizing that I’ve been part of.
Then we posed a scenario to the attendees: what message would they try to bring to a state board of education meeting to convince wavering board members to avoid creationist revisions to state science standards? What messengers would they choose to bring that message?
We got great ideas, and a great discussion. For a plan created on the fly, I think it worked rather well, and the parts of the audience who came to chat with us afterward seemed to think so as well.
I saw Richard Dawkins come into the room at the beginning, but I think he had to bolt somewhere in the middle. Dunno how much he would’ve learned from the panel (which was intentionally fairly basic), but I’d have been interested to get his take on the audience discussion.