Friday, May 30, 2014


In considering our Essay Project, which was outlined in an earlier post, there are certain problems that crop up over and over again.   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   Go to the site, select APA-style, and follow the prompts to creation your own citations for books, magazine/journal articles and web pages.

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 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.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Students, in this blog post you will find many important resources and updates to the syllabus.  In particular....Your last regular Unit Test is Friday, May 23rd.   There will be an After-School Study Session beginning at 4:00 and going until 5:30 on the prior date, Thursday, May 22nd.

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 IS DUE MONDAY, MAY 19th!!!

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 episoded is being shown in class in its entirety over the course of several lessons. 

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 13, 2014


Today, students in Mr. Hatfield's Biology classes will receive instructions on their final Semester Project, which involves writing a 1,000-word essay in a series of drafts from a topic chosen by students related to the material in Chapters 15 and 16 of the text:

The essay has requirements in terms of format, bibliography and citations, sources and student integrity.   Mr. Hatfield discusses those requirements, at length, in the following video excerpt:

 Students who have additional questions about this assignment should refer to the syllabus and discuss their concerns with the instructor as soon as possible!

Friday, May 2, 2014


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

Students who were absent on Monday or Wednesday of this week are almost certainly missing much of these notes. Mr. Hatfield will review the final slides with students in class on Wednesday, 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?