In June, I wrote that maybe I'd report back on Summer Theology Workshop at Koronis Assembly Grounds in Paynesville, Minn. It went very well Food was good as always, weather was decent, discussions were stimulating, morning worship was excellent. Only drawback was low attendance, due to illnesses and an unforeseen schedule conflict. We are already planning for 2020.
But first: Remember overhead projectors? Profs could buy prepared OHP transparencies (e.g., lineup map of Rebel and Union troops at Gettysburg, diagram of the universal process of glycolysis in all earthly organisms, or map of NYC's five boroughs), and project them on a screen for a class to view. You could also make your own diagrams on plastic sheets using permanent markers, or copy items from texts or periodicals. You could even use erasable markers to write lecture notes on the glass of the OHP itself, erasing them later with a damp paper towel.
To write on a blackboard or a whiteboard or newsprint, I had to turn my back to the class. Once I had an OHP in focus, I faced the audience, never having to look at the screen. For a pointer, I'd point a finger or pen at the transparency next to me. I rarely used chalkboards in my later decades at BSU.
OHPs have almost gone extinct, replaced by PowerPoint and such. I've not yet seen a PP presentation that is superior to the equivalent OHP job, and don't think I've seen one where the speaker has not looked at the screen. You use a red laser pointer (the kind you devil cats with), and face the screen to point it.
Anyway, I have scores of OHP transparencies left over from BSU courses. Some of them are quotes, in large type, that students needed to know about (I did not say “memorize,” though some are memorable.) Fortunately, some of the papers separating the transparencies have the identical images on them. At Koronis, a major goof on my part made those and other items unavailable for participants to photograph with their cell phones.
We used several Teaching Company lectures I mentioned here in June, plus some picked by other discussion leaders. Our background reading was Philip Rolnick's “Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos,” a good book. He has an accurate, lay-level grasp of current understanding of biological evolution driven primarily by natural selection, and also of cosmological evolution of our 13.7 billion year old (BYO) astronomical universe.
Rolnick is professor of theology at St. Thomas University in St. Paul. He seems not to be ordained, but is an explicitly trinitarian theologian. Despite his understanding of evolution as a natural process, Rolnick seems to believe that God took an active role in it. Knowing that about half of most Americans polled cannot square current scientific knowledge (as they understand it) with religious faith (as they understand it), for years I devoted a late spring freshman biology session to dealing with student questions on that issue. Typically, a few days earlier I'd distributed lined paper containing this request:
“Please describe what biological evolution means to YOU. What comes to mind when you think of evolution, or hear or read about evolution? Write about what YOU think, not what you think I think. You might well be wrong about what I think.”
I'd later read these, make transparencies of some, and discuss the responses in class. (Actually, some were so special that I used them for years.) Here's an example:
“From what I gather from your lectures, you believe that from the amoeba → fish → monkey → man (or some sequence that resembles that). Please state your explanation of the bible (Genesis 1) where it says man was created from dust. No, I am not a Jesus freak, but this is the way my parents brought me up believing and I would like to hear how you explain it. (Please don't beat around the bush, either.)”
That handwritten response was on the screen for the whole class to see, but I'd not have beaten around the bush anyway. I generally capitalize Bible. The “dust” account is not “Genesis 1” (actually Gen. 1:1-2:4a) but the historically older account, “Genesis 2” (Gen. 2:4b-25).
Another example: “How does the paleobiological sequence compare to the 6-day creation sequence? Does any religion or science incorporate ALL (emphasis mine) of the aspects of 'special creationism' and evolution?” (I have mislaid one response reporting that the student was taught at church that “dinosaurs never existed.”)
Another: “How do you (meaning me, their prof) reconcile evolution and faith? Can you 'believe in' evolution and remain in good standing with your church?”
Finally: “I am disturbed that we will never KNOW (emphasis mine) the truth.” To be continued. Please cut out or photocopy the above questions for later. I promise there will be no “altar call.”
Evan Hazard is a retired BSU biology professor.