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The WSU Secular Student Alliance An Irreligious Community at Washington State Univeristy

About Darwin On The Palouse

Darwin on the Palouse, a free event to celebrate humanity, science, and rational thought, is held annually in Moscow Idaho and Pullman Washington.

In 2017, Darwin On The Palouse was hosted by the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Idaho. Our two speakers for 2017 were Dr. Kevin Folta and Dr. Cheryl Miller.

Dr. Miller will present the history of vaccinations and discuss common misconceptions and risks. She will also define how vaccines have impacted human health.

She holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has over a decade of experience researching highly infectious diseases. She is devoted to improving human and animal health by defining new targets for making vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tools.

Currently she is a postdoctoral scholar working at Washington State University researching the infectious bacteria, Brucella abortus, which causes abortion and infertility in livestock and can infect humans. Her work has been published in numerous scientific journals and the USDA currently funds her research. Her work can be used to create new drugs to prevent and fight bacterial infections.

Dr. Folta is a public scientist and educator interested in teaching the hard scientific information about the strengths and limitations of biotechnology. We’re excited to have him speak with us about GMOs!

Dr. Folta is a Professor and the Chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, overseeing and supporting teaching, research and extension efforts of more than 50 leadingfaculty in the nation’s #2 specialty crop state. His research program examines how light signals are sensed in plants and how different parts of the spectrum can change shelf life and high-value fruit and vegetable traits. His group also uses novel genomics approaches to identify genes related to flavor and disease resistance. An innovative new project is testing a method to create new small-molecule drugs for use in everything from plant growth regulation to MRSA. He has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles and edited two books, and led the 2011 publication of the strawberry genome sequence.

Dr. Folta is a noted expert in training scientists, farmers and physicians in how to speak about agricultural innovations with a curious and concerned public. He is a regular guest on popular podcasts, including Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Talk Nerdy with Cara Santa Maria, and the Joe Rogan Experience. Kevin also frequently writes for popular media, and runs his weekly podcast Talking Biotech. These communications conduits serve to spread an important message about sustainably feeding a planet in 2050—all technologies must be considered, and innovation only moves to application with communication.

In 2016 he was recognized with the prestigious CAST Borlaug Award in Agricultural Communications. He was recognized in 2007 as an HHMI Distinguished Mentor of Undergraduate Research, 2008 with the NSF CAREER Award, in 2009 with the Northern Illinois University “LA&S Top 50 Graduates”, the 2010 UFRF Research Professor Award, and in 2013 was one of two faculty recognized with the UF Postdoctoral Mentoring Award.

Kevin holds a BS/MS Northern Illinois University (1989/1992), and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago (1998). During his undergraduate career he was President of the forensics (intercollegiate speech and debate) team and was a national finalist in 1989.


In 2016, Darwin On The Palouse was hosted by the Secular Student Alliance at WSU. Our two speakers for 2016 were Dr. Richard Carrier and Glenn Branch.

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of the National Center for Science Education. Formerly a graduate student in philosophy at UCLA, where he won prizes both for scholarship and teaching, he is conversant with the philosophical debates surrounding creationism and “intelligent design”; he is also a long-time student of pseudo-science. Branch is co-editor, with Eugenie Scott, of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools, and the author or coauthor of numerous articles on creationism and evolution in such publications as Scientific American, The American Biology Teacher, and Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics.

Glenn Branch’s talk was titled, “After Kitzmiller, What’s Next For Creationism?”
Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching intelligent design creationism in the public schools, was a pivotal event in the history of the creationism/evolution controversy in the United States. Branch discussed why Kitzmiller was the effective end of the second phase of anti-evolution strategy and what the third phase is going to be like.

Richard Carrier has a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy from Columbia University, and is a published philosopher and historian, specializing in contemporary philosophy of naturalism, and in Greco-Roman philosophy, science, and religion, and the origins of Christianity. He blogs regularly, lectures for community groups worldwide, and teaches courses online. He is the author of many books including Sense and Goodness without God, On the Historicity of Jesus, and Proving History, as well as chapters in several anthologies and articles in academic journals. For more about Dr. Carrier and his work see

Dr. Carrier’s talk was titled, “Ancient Roman Creationism: Scientific Pagans Vs. Armchair Christians.”
Dr. Carrier discussed the ancient debate between creationists and natural selectionists, how ancient “intelligent design” advocates were far more scientific than their counterparts today, and what this means for the actual origins of real science. In the process he surveyed the achievements and methods of ancient science and how it laid the foundation for modern science, and then examined the rhetoric against it by early Christians and how it hasn’t changed in nearly 2,000 years.

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