Unique Experience in Science Education
Figure A. The history of a key phrase in modern antievolution bills that depict "evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning" as "controversial". This is a parsimony mapping of this trait onto the Bayesian dated phylogeny inferred in Matzke (2015)'s Science article.
The figure is free to reproduce and reuse, along with all of the other material (and data) I produced and put online at: http://phylo.wikidot.com/matzke-2015-science-paper-on-the-evolution-of-antievolution
Figure B. Figure 1 from Scott and Matzke (2007). This is a graph I made for the plaintiffs' legal team, while working as a researcher on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case in 2005. Looking at seven drafts of the "intelligent design" textbook Of Pandas and People, it shows word counts for the word "creationist" and cognates, and for the phrase "intelligent design." The dramatic switch in 1987 was due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Edwards v. Aguillard, which ruled "creation science" unconstitutional to teach in public schools.
The graph was used as an exhibit in the case, and has since appeared on t-shirts.
Figure C. Figure 2 from Scott and Matzke (2007). It shows fragments from two exhibits in the Kitzmiller case, from two 1987 drafts of Of Pandas and People. It can be seen that a "transitional fossil" was preserved while the Great Creationist Terminology Switch was occurring. Amongst evolution fans, the phrase "cdesign proponentsists" is now commonly referred to as "the missing link".
Some popular lore suggests that I discovered this missing link. In reality, it was discovered by Barbara Forrest. I was, however, the one who figured out that at least one creationist draft of the Pandas book must exist, and pointed this out to the Kitzmiller attorneys. They then issued a subpoena, and found five complete drafts. Forrest found "cdesign proponentsists", and I did the word count graph in Figure B.
My main message: understanding history is crucial, both in evolutionary biology, and in studying the antievolutionists!
While I have focused on research as a postdoc, my original motivation for getting a Ph.D. was to teach, as well as study, biogeography and evolution. These are some of the most interesting topics in all of science! Where do we, and all other living things, come from?
My Unique Experience in Science Education
My experience as an educator in evolutionary topics extends back before my Ph.D. From 2004-2007, I spent three years fighting the “good fight” for high-quality public education in evolution, when I worked for Eugenie Scott at the nonprofit National Center for Science Education, in Oakland, California.
While working at NCSE, I played a key role in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial that ruled “intelligent design” unconstitutional (see, for example, the Wikipedia page on me, which I swear I did not write; see also Matzke 2005, 2006, 2009).
My experiences at NCSE and in the Kitzmiller case give me a deep background in evolution education, in public understanding (and misunderstandings) of evolution, and an ability to communicate complex scientists to nonspecialists, whether students or members of the media, the public, etc. A key skill was to work hard to understand where someone is coming from when they ask a question about evolution -- very often, answering from the perspective of "pure science" is not the most helpful approach. Everyone brings different background assumptions and different knowledge base to their discussions of evolutionary topics, and a good instructor will try to bring these out in the open for examination.
Another key skill was the ability to put on a historian's hat: Whether the topic is creationism/intelligent design, science standards, scientific paradigms, or scientific software models, understanding the topic's historical development is crucial for a thorough understanding, and also provides guidance about how understanding in the topic can be improved further.
To this end, during and after my Ph.D., I have continued to contribute to the project of improving public education, although proportion of my time spent on this has decreased as my research has scaled up. I tend to focus on opportunities to explore the history of an issue; or, more recently, to actually use phylogenetic tools from evolutionary biology to trace the history of creationist efforts to impact evolution education. For more on this, see Matzke (2015; Science) and my webpage devoted to The Evolution of Antievolution After Kitzmiller v. Dover.