Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Here's a novel thought: instead of being taught as mindless, slavish dogma, evolutionary biologists have been busy in the last 150 years. 

They've been testing, retesting, modifying and in some cases rejecting aspects of Darwin's theory. This Power Point explains some of the major innovations, which (by the way) are all in the textbook:

Students who need to download this Power Point to complete their notes, and the Lecture Guide based on it, can do so here.

Students must finish these notes right away by completing the Lecture Guide, which will be distributed in class TODAY (Tuesday, June 2nd).   The Lecture Guide will be collected on the day of your final, Biology students, and treated as part of your notes.  Make sure it is completed!

In addition, there are notes on 'Comparing Primates' that goes with a lab activity to be completed by the end of class on Friday, June 2nd.   Some of this information, from Chapter 32, will appear on your final:

Again, students who need to download this Power Point to complete their note  can do so here.

Finals begin on a Monday, rather than later, so it will not be possible to have a Study Session in the final week of school.  A Study Guide, however, will be available on Friday, June 3rd, and students may now sign up for a Study Session the following Saturday morning (8:30-10:30). Significant extra credit can be earned by students who attend and complete activities. 

 The most important obligation for all students, however, is the ESSAY.  The Final Draft is past due.  Students who have not attempted this 600-point Project have been notice in class.  No essays will be accepted after Wednesday, June 8th.   

Friday, May 20, 2016


Students, we have reached the end of the semester.   That means a number of things:

  • First, as of Monday the 23rd, Mr. Hatfield is no longer taking any work from the previously-completed Unit 7, which ended on Thursday, May 11th.   The only work now being accepted is from Unit 8, shown below in the FINAL SYLLABUS.   Focus on the work that can make a difference.

  • The due dates for the first and second drafts of your Evolution Essay are now past due.  Mr. Hatfield has placed these items on the FINAL SYLLABUS and is still accepting them for full credit.   However, with only 13 days of instruction remaining, students have very little time to take advantage of these items, which allow you to receive detailed feedback from Mr. Hatfield to help you improve your final submission.   Make wise decisions with the time remaining.

  • As shown in the FINAL SYLLABUS, the final exam for Biology students will be given between Monday, June 6th and Wednesday, June 8th.  The final day of instruction (June 9th) is a minimum day, and Mr. Hatfield will not be available on that date to help students makeup their exam.   Plan on attending your final exam as scheduled.

  • Some students have passed or are about to pass the point where it is mathematically possible for them to pass the course.  That is unfortunate, but it is also a reality.  Mr. Hatfield will provide those students with documentation prior to the Memorial Day holiday, so they can meet with their counselor before semester's end.  Poor choices in the past can't be changed, but better choices now can lead to a better future.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


In considering our Essay Project, which was outlined in an earlier post, there are certain problems that crop up over and over again.  Before you submit your second draft, please review this post to avoid common errors.

 One group of problems is MECHANICAL:  that is, they are simply problems that have to do with proper formatting and organization of the paper.   The other problems are TOPICAL:  they are specific to one of the four topics.

First, let's consider common MECHANICAL problems.

Students are expected to use a STANDARD font (Courier, Times, Arial or Helvetiva).   Don't use oversized or non-standard fonts, like this....

Students are expected to have the font in 10-12 point, and to have them single-spaced.   Texts should be RIGHT-justified, just like a textbook.   A student's essay should never be CENTER-justified, like this....

Students are expected to have citations INSIDE the body of the text.   These will typically contain either an author's last name, followed by a year, or perhaps the name of an Internet text page, followed by the year, and look like this....

These citations refer to a list of sources that appear in a Bibliography at the END of the paper, which should be APA style, and look something like this....

To help students generate their APA-style citations, students should use www.citationmachine.net.   Go to the site, select APA-style, and follow the prompts to creation your own citations for books, magazine/journal articles and web pages.

Again, here's an example that compares an annotated, sourced version of an assignment students have received in class in the current unit, called "Show Me A Walking Fish".   This image clearly compares the first page of an article written by Mr. Hatfield with a bibliography at the end of the article, containing the sources used to write the article:

Now, let's review some common TOPICAL problems with Essay Topics 1 and 2....

Students must present lines of evidence of common descent.  Identify them, but also EXPLAIN them.  In Topic 1, students must present four such lines of evidence.   In Topic 2, students need only present one line of evidence, but it must be very well-explained, because they are required to present an alternative hypothesis for this line of evidence as well as the one of common descent.

In Topic 1, students must be able to distinguish between evolution, natural selection and speciation.   Here's the general outline...

EVOLUTION:  genetic change in a population  FACT

NATURAL SELECTION:  a process in which the environment affects gene frequencies in a population, causing evolution.   FACT

THEORY OF EVOLUTION by NATURAL SELECTION (TENS):  What is theoretical is not evolution, or natural selection (those are both  FACTS  ).  Rather, the theory is the relationship between these two facts, and the claim that life's diversity over time has largely been produced by this interaction between the genome and the environment...

Speciation:  also a  FACT   :   the production of a new species, which is just one possible outcome of TENS.   

Both Topic 1 and Topic 2 are expected to present a claim which argues against their topic, either 'Evolution of Species' (Topic 1) or 'Creation of Species' (Topic 2).   They should have a citation for this claim matching a source in their bibliography.  They should then present evidence, preferably the result of experiments or observation, that argues against the previous claim.   In other words, they should be prepared to show they understand 'Pro' and 'Con' arguments regarding their topic...an excellent habit of mind that prepares us for higher-level coursework, such as college.

Other common TOPICAL problems, that often occur with Essay Topic 3....

Students are asked to explain why the modern theory of evolution (TENS) is a synthetic theory.   To do that, use the meaning of the word 'synthesis.'

Students may be asked to present or explain 'probability arguments' against TENS, which argue (in effect) that the spontaneous production of complex life forms from simpler forms or mere molecules is unlikely.   Students may be tempted to use arguments from thermodynamics ('the 2nd Law') or against abiogenesis (the origin of life).   This is permitted, but a few words of caution:

TENS is NOT a theory about the origin of life.

TENS is NOT a theory about the origin of the universe.

What is the title of Darwin's famous 1859 book that introduced his original theory?   That is the subject that TENS attempts to address.

Monday, May 9, 2016


Students, in this blog post you will find many important resources and updates to the syllabus.  In particular....Your last regular Unit Test has been rescheduled for Friday, May 13th.   There will be an After-School Study Session beginning at 3:15 and going until 5:00 on the prior date, Thursday, May 12th.

To help prepare for that Test, here is the latest set of  Lecture Notesand here is the PDF file of the Lecture Guide based upon the notes.   The previous sections of notes to be covered appears here, and here.

Perhaps most importantly, here is the link to the previous blog post describing your 600-point final semester project  , which consists of writing multiple drafts of a guided essay.  The first draft was due on Friday, April 29th.   THE SECOND DRAFT IS DUE WEDNESDAY, May 11th!

Finally, the title of the latest group of notes, incidentally, is taken from the Daniel Dennett book which also inspired a two-hour episode of the NOVA 'Evolution' series.    This episode is being shown in class in its entirety over the course of several lessons, and students may eventually be asked complete a Study Guide based on this program. 

To help students master this material,   the entire video has been made available through this YouTube channel, broken into 11 segments, shown below:

(For your convenience, I have embedded all 11 videos on this page, but these may not be visible on FUSD computers or on others that do not have recent versions of Java to run flash-based media.  If you are unable to open the individual videos on this post, go to the link above and watch them directly on YouTube)

Chapter 1. Prologue
Chapter 2. Common Ancestry

Chapter 3. Ecuador and the Tree of Life

Chapter 4. Natural Selection

Chapter 5. Mutation and HIV

Chapter 6. Complexity

Chapter 7. How The Eye Evolved

Chapter 8. God

Chapter 9. A Scientist Discusses Religion

Chapter 10. The Human Question

Chapter 11. Humans and The Tree of Life Chapter 12. Epilogue

Finally, here is the PBS web site that accompanies the entire series.
You can also watch parts of the videos there, but they are lower in resolution.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


The Power Point Lecture Notes on 'Deep Time' are available here.

Students who were absent on any date between Monday, April 25th and Tuesday, May 3rd are almost certainly missing much of these notes. Mr. Hatfield will review the final slides with students in class on Tuesday, and make sure that they have the Lecture Guide based upon these notes.....

FACT: The fossil record (and other lines of evidence) show us that populations of living things have "changed over time" (evolved)....

QUESTION: How can we explain this pattern of change in terms of NATURAL causes?

Monday, April 25, 2016


Monday and Tuesday's classes featured excerpts from 'Extinction!', which isNOVA's 'Evolution' series (2001). The video begins with paleontologist Peter Ward hunting for Permian fossils in South Africa's Karoo Desert, and relates ecological pyramids (which are like a 'house of cards') to mass extinctions, which are believed to be rare but important events in the history of life. It then follows the work of American Museum of Natural History researcher Michael Novacek in building the fossil record of small, shrew-like mammals from the Mesozoic, representative of the lineage that will survive the next mass extinction (the K/T event), which will claim the dinosaurs.
Episode 3 from

It concludes with an examination of the role of human activity in accelerating the rate of extinction, with important attention to conservationists like Alan Rabinowitz.

Students have been given a worksheet based upon this video as homework, which is now due. I encourage students to watch the video in its entirety for themselves if there are points that they don't get in class. We simply do not have enough class time to review this, but I know many students will want to see the whole story again, either by going to Google Video or watching it here:

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Here is the syllabus for Unit 7:

These notes were given in class on April 14th - April 19th:

The purpose of these notes is to give students some basic tools to evaluate claims about biological diversity, which is important for understanding evolution and necessary to understand the material students will research for their essay project.

In the next few lessons, students will receive another set of notes, and these will be intended to give students some basic tools to evaluate claims about geological time and the fossil record, which is also important for understanding evolution, and also necessary to understand the material students will be asked to research.

The Power Point on "Diversity and Classification" can be uploaded here. The Lecture Guide, given in class today, based on the Power Point can be found as a PDF file here.