I am teaching a second year cognitive science course this semester and we're focusing on evolutionary psychology (using Pinker's How the Mind Works as a text). Alas, South Africa's education system - specifically at secondary level - is broken and, moreover, teaching evolution is very controversial. As a result, many students reach college criminally uninformed about evolutionary theory. Obviously, before students can get to grips with evolutionary psychology, they need to have some understanding of evolutionary theory itself. Consequently, I'm forced to give my students a crash course in evolution: I screened the first episode of PBS's Evolution, made them read a bit of Mayr, banged on about common misconceptions (misunderstanding "fact" and "theory" being my favorite), and tried to get all the other basics across.
There is one issue, however, that I'm not quite sure how to deal with: students defending creationism. It's come up a couple of times now: one student said she felt offended by the theory, another that her uncle (a pastor) was aghast she was learning about evolution and a couple of objections to the evidence for evolution has surfaced as well. I don't have a fully worked out method for dealing with creationist students, so I responded off the cuff and I'd quite like to know how others deal with this and whether you think my response was adequate. Here's what I said: I was quite firm and adamant, first of all, that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and that creationism is not an intellectually respectable position. (I dealt with specific objections with specific reasons for preferring evolutionary theory). Then I pointed out that while some atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, etc.) and some religious people (the Discovery Institute folks, Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis nuts, etc.) think evolution and religion are incompatible, many religious people accept "theistic evolution". (Even the late John Paul II conceded in a speech that evolution is "more than a hypothesis" I told them). Since it also happens to be my actual opinion, I told the students I honestly see no logical contradiction between evolution and religion: one could respectably be religious and a Darwinist. I then pointed to Ken Miller (author of Finding Darwin's God) as an example of a devoutly religious person who is nonetheless a staunch defender of evolutionary thinking and suggested they read his book if they were troubled.
So... how did I do? Did I go too far by saying creationism isn't intellectually respectable? (I have no doubt that it isn't, just whether it's pedagogically sound to say so). Did I leave anything important out? Feedback would be much appreciated.