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Anti-evolution insights

Recent CBS graduate Andy Hughes explored local roots of the evolution-creationism controversy in the Twin Cities.

“Don’t be afraid to undertake a large project even if there is some uncertainty and don’t be afraid to take risks.”

Andy Hughes knew parts of the anti-evolution movement in the 1920s had Minneapolis roots. After completing a paper on the topic in his Biology 3209 course (Understanding the Evolution-Creationism Controversy), he decided to continue his research working with the course instructor Dr. Randy Moore. After some additional digging -- even exploring old church financial records -- Hughes’ published a paper on the topic in the first January 2015 edition of Reports for the National Center for Science Education.
Minneapolis pastor William Bell Riley was a leader of the anti-evolution movement in the early 20th century. He introduced legislation to prohibit the teaching of evolution in schools or universities in Minnesota in 1927. The bill was eventually voted down by Minnesota’s legislators. While exploring this story in more depth, Hughes uncovered a new aspect of Minnesota history.
“To our knowledge, our research is the first time someone used quantitative, objective data to analyze the successes and failures of the [anti-evolution] crusade,” says Hughes. “What we found is that when the crusade was successful there was direct monetary increases to Riley’s church. However, following the defeat of his bill, there was a large decline in monetary donations. We were able to correlate money with the successes and failures in the crusade.”
The opportunity to create new knowledge on a debate that continues to echo in our current day motivated Hughes. “Doing the research was easy for me because it was all new information. I was constantly discovering things that weren’t covered in class.”
Having a publication under his belt is a big plus for Hughes, an aspiring physician. But he sees another upside to his efforts.

“This research process taught me is that you might think that you can always learn more about a particular topic,” says Hughes. “But all you need to do is find one more book or one more pamphlet and then your learning is further enhanced. I think the desire to constantly learn more helped me with the paper and it will carry over to being a successful oncologist.”

                                                                                                – Lance Janssen