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KNOXVILLE — The national debate on evolution is increasingly affecting educators, but two University of Tennessee professors have taken the lead in helping “teach the teachers” about how to handle the myriad issues they face on the subject.

As part of UT-s annual Darwin Day program, Dr. Andrew Kramer, anthropology department head, and Dr. Gary McCracken, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will give a presentation entitled “Teaching Evolution in Public Schools: Current Challenges” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the Tennessee Valley Universalist Unitarian Church.

Held since 1997 in honor of scientist Charles Darwin-s Feb. 12 birthday, this year-s event will focus on themes in science, religion, and why the two are not mutually exclusive. Kramer and McCracken’s presentation, which will look closely at “intelligent design” and its emerging presence in education, is open to middle and high school educators from Knox and surrounding counties.

“We want to help teachers learn how to react most positively to challenges they may face,” said Kramer. “You don’t have to disrespect the ideas, but you do need to put them in the proper context of how science is conducted. It’s important to be honest, not confrontational.”

McCracken and Kramer teach a course that is open to students across a wide range of disciplines with a focus on the issues about teaching evolution, from conflicts with creationism to cloning and genetic engineering. Kramer also worked for a year with Knox County Schools as a “Scholar in the Schools.”

Other highlights during the Darwin Day event include:

– Two talks by Rev. Michael Dowd, a Christian minister. His first talk, entitled “Why Jesus Loves Darwin and You Could, Too,” will be held at 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the Church of the Savior, United Church of Christ, in Knoxville. Dowd will give another talk, “The Gospel According to Evolution: Great News Personally and Globally,” at 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Tennessee Valley Universalist Unitarian Church, also in Knoxville.

-A film and discussion series, featuring NOVA/PBS documentaries, beginning at noon on February 8 at the University Center Auditorium.

– A talk by Dr. Timothy Berra, a professor at Ohio State University, entitled “Charles Darwin: The Man, 1809-1882.” He will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 9.in the Cox Auditorium in the Alumni Memorial Building on campus.

For more information on Darwin Day, visit http://eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin.

Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)