Thursday, February 19, 2009

Please help Darwin's medical students URGENTLY!

This week for the first time I have been supervising a student-selected activity entitled "The Darwins, Evolution and Medicine". The rationale for these SSAs is to stimulate curiosity and critical thinking among medical students, who are otherwise burdened with a great deal of rote learning. There are seven students on the course and I offered them a selection of topics, which ranged from the matter-of-fact to the highly controversial. Here are the topics they chose:
  • Erasmus Darwin: Physician or Poet or both?
  • The Evolution of Lactose Tolerance
  • Should being a creationist automatically disqualify applicants for admission to medical school?
  • HeLa Cells: ethical nightmare, medical blessing, or evolution of a post-human species?
  • What killed Annie Darwin?
  • Why do humans reproduce sexually?
  • Evolutionary trade-offs: sickle cell disease and malaria
The students have been given the option of delivering a conventional powerpoint presentation tomorrow morning or posting on a purpose-built blog, Darwin's Medical Students, by 7 pm tonight. I offered this latter option as an incentive for them to explore and evaluate the blogosphere as a tool for academic research. At least three of them have taken up this option. 

Please feel free to look at what they have written and provide constructive comments on their postings, links to other postings or literature etc etc just as if they were regular bloggers! As I explained to them, in a real sense, blogging is more peer-reviewed than the regular scientific literature, as dozens or even hundreds of people can comment. BUT be gentle with them—this is their first foray into the blogosphere!

We will be meeting up to discuss what they have learnt this week tomorrow at 9.30pm, so please read and comment in the next 12 hours.


Karen James said...

Great idea, Mark. You might also like what Stacy Baker is doing with Extreme Biology, her teaching blog.

Deano said...

Cross posted to 'Bad Science':

Interesting - especially since there seem to be many people studying medicine who reject evolution and think it is of no relevance.

Mark Pallen said...

Just a brief note to say thank you to all the students and to all those who commented on their work. Generally the session went well, although as you have probably noticed, one student did wander severely off topic and had to be reminded of the importance of methodological naturalism.