Detailed information about the course

[ Back ]

[ANNULÉ] Understanding Evolution


Sept 22,29 - Oct 6, 2023

Lang EN Workshop language is English

Dr Kostas Kampourakis, UNIGE



Dr Kostas Kampourakis, UNIGE


Evolutionary theory is one of the most debated scientific theories, which has often been criticised on non-scientific grounds. Whereas the evidential basis for evolution is solid, and whereas evolutionary theory is one of the most successful scientific theories, its public understanding and acceptance are in many cases low. All this is due to conceptual obstacles that make evolutionary theory seem counter-intuitive and emotional obstacles that make the theory difficult to accept. Another issue is how people misunderstand the nature of scientific theories, and how science is done. In this course, we will explore all these issues in detail. We begin by a careful consideration of polls about the public acceptance of evolution in order to show that there is more to that than a conflict between science and religion. Then we explore the relation between evolutionary theory and religion, in order to show that they are not necessarily incompatible, as the conflict story suggests. Most importantly, we look at human intuitive thinking about the existence of plan and purpose in nature, and how this is the most important issue to address in science education and communication. Finally, we explore representations of the nature of science, and the expectations that one is reasonable to have from the scientific endeavor. The course concludes with presentation and discussion of essays written by the course participants that would aim to address one or more of the issues discussed in the course, and contribute to a better public understanding of evolution.

At the end of this course the students should be able to:

  • Understand the societal issues related to the public acceptance of evolution.
  • Analyze polls on the public acceptance of evolution and interpret their findings.
  • Address the concerns that non-experts have when it comes to evolution, especially human evolution.
  • Argue about the validity and the credibility of evolutionary theory to religious people, while addressing their emotional obstacles and concerns.
  • Explain evolutionary theory to non-experts, while considering the conceptual obstacles they have to overcome in order to understand it.
  • Create a short essay that is intended to help non-experts understand a specific aspect of or topic related to evolutionary theory.
  • Evaluate the short essays of other participants in terms of comprehensiveness and comprehensibility

University of Geneva


No exam.

All sessions must be attended to obtain the certificate of attendance.




  • Sept 22 & 29
  • Oct 6



University of Geneva, Science II
Anthropology Unit
Quai Ernest-Ansermet 30
1205 Geneva
4th floor, room 404 



PhD students of the CUSO biology programmes are eligible for the reimbursement of incurred travel expenses by train (half-fare card, 2nd class). Claims can be done online via MyCUSO when the activity is over.



CUSO participants: Free
Other participants: please contact the programme coordinator at ecologie-evolution(at)



Registration : extended deadline: Sept 20

spaces:15 for DPEE and 3 for StarOmics


CUSO members: free
Other participants: please contact the program coordinator at ecologie-evolution(at)

In case of cancellations before 06.09.2023: free
Late cancellations or no-show: 50 CHF administrative fee>



Deadline for registration 20.09.2023
short-url short URL

short-url URL onepage