Renowned scholar to tackle evolution, intelligent design

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Photo of Dr. Kevin .

Padian

KALAMAZOO--An internationally known paleontologist and leading expert on science education issues will visit the Western Michigan University campus at the end of March to deliver two community addresses that focus on the science of evolution.

Dr. Kevin Padian, professor of integrative biology at the University of California-Berkeley and curator of paleontology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology, will deliver two free public talks when he visits the campus March 29 and 30. His talks will explore how flight evolved and the reasons behind the dinosaurs' rise to dominance as well as examine national battles involving K-12 science education.

Origin of Birds and Their Flight
Thursday, March 29

  • Padian will deliver a major public lecture on "The Origin of Birds and Their Flight" at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 29, in the Fetzer Center's Kirsch Auditorium. Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the Fetzer Center.

Evolution, Intelligent Design and Education
Friday, March 30

  • Padian will deliver the Department of Biological Sciences' annual Theodosia Hadley Lecture, discussing "What Darwin Said (and Didn't Say): Evolution, Intelligent Design and Education," at 3:30 p.m. Friday, March 30, in 1718 Wood Hall.

Padian's research interests have revolved around the beginning of the dinosaur age and the flight of pterosaurs, which were the earliest vertebrates known to have powered flight. His career focus also has been on large-scale evolutionary changes and he has a reputation as a tireless advocate for science education standards.

Padian, who has been a UC-Berkeley faculty member since 1980, is a leading voice of support for science in national conversations about teaching evolution. He delivered expert testimony in the famed 2005 Kiztmiller vs. Dover federal court case in Pennsylvania in which 11 parents sued the local school board when it passed a resolution requiring that a statement be read in biology classes promoting "intelligent design" as science and denigrating evolution.

As the first case to test a school district policy requiring the teaching of "intelligent design," the trial attracted national and international attention. The parents won their suit and "intelligent design" was found to be a form of creationism, and therefore, unconstitutional to teach in American public schools.

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Padian is a prolific author of scientific articles and books whose work shows up in such journals as Nature, Trends in Ecology and Evolution and Paleobiology. He is a past president of the National Center for Science Education, which is a national non-profit advocacy group that promotes the teaching of evolution and climate change. In 2003, he was named the Western Evolutionary Biologist of the Year, and that same year, he won the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

Padian earned his bachelor's degree in natural science and a master's degree in teaching, both from Colgate University. He earned a doctoral degree from Yale in 1980, focusing on the evolution of flight in pterosaurs. A one-time high school teacher, he was principal author of the California Science Framework K-12.