Spring Quarter, 2018, I took Karen Hogan and Allen Olson’s “Truth & Reason” class for 12 credits. Taking this class was the worst decision of my academic career. The faculty member in charge of teaching the evolutionary biology portion of the class, Karen Hogan, very clearly had no understanding of the subject she was teaching. If the college refuses to pay back FAFSA for the money they spent on me this quarter, then I will have no choice but to report this as a case of financial aid fraud. By allowing this travesty to take place, the college has stolen money from FAFSA and refused to provide the “product” (in this case a science class taught by an instructor with knowledge on the subject he or she claimed to be teaching) that they paid for. This is absolutely unacceptable and whatever department, staff member or staff members is/are in charge of making sure that faculty members have legitimate degrees and have been keeping up with their continuing education (if the college has such a department or relevant staff, which, judging by what I encountered when attempting to get resolution on this matter, appears highly doubtful) have obviously made a gross oversight with regard to Karen Hogan. I would like to see proof of her credentials as well as proof that she’s been keeping up with her continuing education, because I have significant reason to believe that this is not the case.
Karen also demonstrated gross inconsistencies in her arguments and presentation of facts, often back-peddling and claiming not to have said things that she’d unambiguously said, showing either pronounced signs of dementia likely related advanced senescence, or else extreme intellectual dishonesty.
The first “red flag” in this regard came in the first few weeks of the class, when I mentioned that humans are “basically a type of fish”. Karen immediately sought to “correct” me on this. I had to explain that tetrapods (such as humans) are descended from tetrapodomorph fish, which are members of the sarcopterygii, or lobe-finned fish. In fact, we are more closely related to some lobe-finned fish than those are to other lobe-finned fish. When I spoke to Karen about this after class, her response was that, “normally (Karen) think(s) of ‘fish’ as the osteichthyes.” I was appalled by this, because the osteichthyes, or “bony fish” includes both the actinopterygii (“ray-finned fish” — which account for the vast majority of creatures we commonly call “fish”) and the sarcopterygii (“lobe-finned fish” — you and I, for example, as well as all known mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, coelacanths, and lungfish), while the osteichthyes (“bony fish”) nests within the gnathostomata (“jawed fish”) along with the chondrichthyes (“cartilaginous fish” — sharks, skates, and rays), which along with the agnatha (“jawless fish” — lampreys, &c.) in turn nests within the vertebrata (“vertebrates” or simply “fish”). So yes, being not only vertebrates (fish) but also osteichthyes (bony fish) as well as sarcopterygii (lobe-finned bony fish), we tetrapods are very, very much a type of fish. There’s simply no getting around it.
Karen has thus demonstrated an extreme lack of knowledge of modern taxonomy, which favors natural, cladistics groupings over the highly artificial, extremely unnatural groupings of the old, anthropocentric, Linnaean system of classification (which, laughably, regarded the osteichthyes or “fish” as something qualitatively different from “land vertebrates”). The idea of a biologist lacking a basic working knowledge of cladistics is unthinkable in the modern age, and for Karen to argue so vehemently against a well-established fact of modern biology (that any monophyletic (natural) definition of the word “fish” which includes both ray-finned and lobe-finned fish would also have to include we humans) displays an absolutely unconscionable level of ignorance regarding post-1980s biological thinking.
This has happened to me in other classes here at Evergreen, but only in small, isolated incidents:
In Donald Morisato’s “The Gene: History of an Idea”, for example, Donald once incorrectly “corrected” me when I’d stated that breeding populations can vary in chromosome number and that individuals in such populations tend to procreate most often with individuals who are closer to themselves in chromosome number. Donald “corrected” me in front of a group of students and told me that individuals with different chromosome numbers can’t produce offspring and populations can’t vary in chromosome number because if two individuals have a different chromosome number they cannot breed and are therefore automatically different species. I found a number of research papers describing the well-known phenomenon referred to among biologists as “chromosomal polymorphism” (variation in chromosome number and/or size in a breeding population, a term that Donald wasn’t familiar with, since it’s a subject that generally only comes up in the field of evolutionary biology), which I promptly e-mailed him, and got no response. So I printed out the literature and confronted him personally, with the peer-reviewed research in-hand, after class one day. He admitted to me in a private conversation that I was right, but said that there “must be something else going on” with the examples I provided him, and though he never seemed to gather the courage to “uncorrect” me in front of the students he’d embarrassed me before, it was clear I’d earned his respect. I tried to be understanding of what a humiliating thing it would be for him to have to admit in front of the class that he didn’t know what he was talking about when he “corrected” an undergraduate student over something relatively basic that Donald probably should’ve been expected to know about, and since, on the whole, he still seemed to know a lot more about genetics than I did, I swallowed my pride and managed to develop a good relationship with him nonetheless (greatly aided by the fact that there were no repeats of this sort of incident).
Another example was when I took Lalita Calabria & Clarissa Dirks’ “General Biology: Cells, Populations, and Eco-Systems”. I had asked Clarissa after class what she thought of the Eocyte Tree and TACK hypotheses. She didn’t know what I was referring to at first, and I told her that it had to do with the eukarya nesting cladistically within the archaea, making the archaea a paraphyletic (and possibly even polyphyletic) grouping. She decided to “inform” me that “that’s not how it works.” Without going into too much detail, Clarissa was using the now very much out-of-date Woesean Tree of Life that appeared in our Freeman “Biological Science” text, which depicts the eukarya and the archaea as sister groups. We went to the blackboard together, and she drew that aforementioned sadly out-of-date Woesean Tree of Life, to which I said, “and if we share a more recent common ancestor with some of the archaea than with other archaea?” She added another branch to the Tree of Life, so that now it showed an initial bacteria-archaea split, and then instead of an archaea-eukarya split, it had an archaea-archaea+eukarya split followed then by an archaea-eukarya split: two branches leading to the archaea and one to the eukarya. “That’s not ‘nested’?” I asked. She gulped hard. I could tell she didn’t want to admit I was right. She ignored my question momentarily, looked at the family tree a bit longer, and said, “I think that’s probably the case.” While she did, hesitantly, admit that what I was talking about was probably true, why would she have assumed prior to going to the chalk board with me that simply because I was speaking to her about something she hadn’t heard of, something that wasn’t in our outdated text, that I must therefore be wrong? Why tell me I was wrong before even bothering to try and understand what I was talking about?
This was in stark contrast to my prior experiences with educators. A good counter-example would be Sharon Mitchler, in my humanities class at Centralia College. When I corrected the text, “Brunelleschi’s Dome” by Ross King, on using the terms “vault”, “arch”, and “dome” interchangeably by pointing out that the vault is a hemicylindrical “half-pipe” mainly used to ceil corridors, whereas the dome is a hemispherical “bowl-shape” based on the same arch cross-section, Sharon posted my (much more long-winded than I’d bother to give here) response to canvas for all the other students to see, with the comment “well said!” A counter-example from a less expected source comes from when I was a teenager, still a Christian and a creationist, and my youth pastor at the time got up on stage in front of 200+ teenagers and declared that we know the Adam & Eve story to be true because men have one fewer rib than women. I sent him an e-mail explaining sexual dimorphism, and the ways in which anthropologists can tell the difference between male and female skeletons, and informed him that the number of ribs is not one of the differences. The following week, he stood up in front of the entire 200+ youth group and admitted he had spoken without knowing what he was talking about.
Why is there comparatively such an apparently systemic lack of intellectual integrity among the faculty here at Evergreen? Where are the standards? Why would Donald Morisato and Clarissa Dirks both assume, before bothering to really listen to anything I had to say, that I must automatically be wrong about whatever I was talking about? Because all undergraduates must automatically be wrong about everything? Why do the teachers here correct me on things they have no knowledge of, and only after I’ve pressed the matter admit that I was right? Because if an undergraduate expresses a scientific idea that is unfamiliar to your faculty, the undergraduate must automatically have been misinformed? Why is it so much more of a struggle here than at other colleges, and even churches (of all places!)? It clearly isn’t because the faculty here actually know more.
In any event, I forgave Donald and Clarissa. Donald may have only admitted to my rightness in a private conversation, and never gathered the courage to admit in front of the students he’d embarrassed me before that his “correction” to my statements was itself incorrect, but at least I managed to earn his respect by vindicating myself with a stack of peer-reviewed literature. And Clarissa, after all, only doubted me momentarily and was quick to admit I was probably right, though it took a few minutes of work. Besides, I’d only had one such incident with Donald and only one such incident with Clarissa. Nothing I couldn’t overlook, especially from individuals who’d demonstrated far more advanced knowledge than mine in other areas.
The following week, Karen met me after class to inform me she’d looked up what I had said in class and admitted I was right about we tetrapods being a type of fish, cladistically speaking. I was hoping we’d gotten our one incident out of the way quickly, and that I could forgive her as I had Donald and Clarissa, and there would be no more incidents like this with the same instructor.
I was unfortunately very, very wrong.
In those earliest few weeks Karen and I would often converse after class about changes that had taken place in evolutionary thought over the past 40 or 50 years. We were having a conversation about why sex might've evolved and I mentioned the relatively recent realization that almost all eukaryotic organisms are capable of sexual reproduction. Her response to this was, “pretty much everything has sex.” I merely stood in stunned silence. To put this remark into context, one must realize that prior to c. 1977-1990, most biologists classified living things into 5 kingdoms: animals, plants, fungi, protists, and bacteria. Research by Carl Woese et al. over several years (including lipid, metabolic, and rRNA analysis, among many other things) showed that we should be classifying life into three domains: eukaryotes, archaea, and bacteria. The domains archaea and bacteria had formerly (and unjustifiably) been lumped together into the kingdom monera (in which bacteria were called “eubacteria” and archaea were called “archaebacteria”), while the four eukaryotic kingdoms, animalia (or metazoa), plantae, fungi, and protista, had each implicitly been given greater standing than two whole domains of life, one of which (the archaea) turned out to be more closely related to us than to the bacteria. Further study eventually revealed that the eukaryotes, cladistically speaking, should actually be nested among or near the Heimdallarchaeota phylum of the ASGARD superphylum, which in-turn nests in the protarchaeota kingdom of the domain archaea. In other words, Karen’s “pretty much everything” is actually only a subcategory of a sub-group of a subdivision of one type of living thing: an insignificant twig on the tree of life. Karen merely stared back at me for a moment, her brow furrowed with confusion over why I appeared so stunned, before finally her eyes widened as it dawned on her the mistake she’d made. She then corrected herself, saying, “well, except for prokaryotes,” and then added, “but who needs sex when you can transfer your genes horizontally?” It was clear from this conversation that Karen’s first impulse, even now, 30-40 years after a major, highly-publicized upheaval in the classification of living things, and subsequent refinements that would evermore diminish the place of eukaryotic organisms in the tree of life, was still to think of the eukaryotes as “pretty much everything”!
I didn’t say anything that time. I was hoping she’d simply misspoken due to momentarily lapsing back into old thought patterns. We do tend to contextualize our information by first exposure, and Karen’s old enough that her first exposure to a scientific conception of “life on Earth” would have been the now-laughably-obsolete 5 kingdom system. I tried to be understanding of this. I wanted to be understanding of this. Unfortunately, the “contemporary” evolutionary theory presented in the class was similarly and just-as-inappropriately archaic. More a decades-obsolete caricature of evolutionary theory, straight out of a sadly outdated high school biology textbook, that one would today more likely find portrayed in a rerun of Star Trek than in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
My first indication that there was something far more amiss than Karen simply lapsing back into old-fashioned ways of thinking, came in class one day while going over “why evolution was true” (the accompanying literature was a book by this name by Jerry Coyne, a relatively well-known anti-creationist who’s known for presenting very out-of-date science to combat the even-more-out-of-date creationist “theory”, and who’s really not taken seriously in the scientific community, though his work in combating creationism is appreciated enough that most scientists wouldn’t want to call him out on his decades-obsolete version of evolutionary theory, and is therefore tolerated in spite of his scientific incompetence), Allen Olson was showing us a slide of the geological column with many different sorts of organisms (mostly vertebrates and all multicellular animals) and flatly stated, “if evolution were true, we’d expect to see a smooth progression in complexity over the course of the fossil record, with no dips, spikes, or sudden bursts as might be predicted by an intelligent design or theistic evolution model, and when we look at the fossil record, that’s exactly what we see: a smooth progression in complexity over time.” I obviously objected to this very strongly, as anyone paying attention to the discoveries we’ve made in the last 50 years (or observations made by a prominently vocal minority of scientists even before that, which is what eventually led to the change in modern evolutionary thinking), or who has been paying attention to the changes in the way scientists have been talking about the natural world since the 1980s, would. “What’s your criteria for ‘complexity’?” I asked, to which Karen responded, “the number and degree of differentiation of cell types, the number and diversity of moving parts…” and then went into a full-on “Gish gallop”.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, the “Gish gallop” was made famous by a creationist named Duane T. Gish who often used this tactic in debates. It’s considered highly dishonest and completely inappropriate for intellectual discourse. The goal of the Gish gallop is to state so many “facts”, each one of which so contrary to reality and so steeped in rumor, overstatement, and/or faulty science and reasoning that to even properly address any one of said “facts” might take several minutes or hours of explanation to unravel all the fallacies and false information wrapped up in the galloper’s statement, and for the galloper to do this so quickly that his or her opponent is left stunned and dumb-founded by the tsunami of ignorance he or she has just been flooded with. Unfortunately, this tactic tends to be very successful as it leaves the audience with the impression that the galloper has a multitude of facts at his or her intellectual command that his or her opponent is ill-equipped to refute (and indeed, most instances of the Gish gallop also employ “facts” from such diverse fields of study that few if any actual scientists could be experts in all of those areas and adequately debunk such a vast array of shoddy science).
That Karen would choose to employ such a tactic to draw attention from the fact that she knew so little of modern evolutionary theory shows a complete deficit of intellectual integrity on her part, and this must not be tolerated.
In reality, the term “complexity” is considered in the field of biology to be notoriously difficult to define, and blanket statements like, “we would expect complexity to increase overtime,” are considered inappropriately hyperbolic at best and at worst patently untrue in the majority of real-world circumstances (under which natural selection actually takes place). When one skims through the abstracts of the peer-reviewed literature, one will find scientists being much more careful in their wording, particularly so over the last 50 years or so. Real scientists prefer to talk about specific instances of increase in genomic complexity, or morphological complexity, or some other very specific, clearly defined form of complexity, specifically to avoid hyperbolic and possibly even mostly untruthful generalizations. That Karen took no such care to avoid possibly untruthful hyperbole in her speech, nor did Allen, nor did Jerry Coyne (author of the work they were quoting from), is appalling. Scientists should take more care. Scientists have a duty to take more care.
Later, Karen would attempt to reach out to me by e-mailing me about a website dealing with observed instances of evolutionary changes in E. coli, saying “in class you’ve repeatedly expressed an interest in microbiology…” It was a facepalm moment, to be sure, but at least she appeared to be trying.
It seemed as though she was learning the subject matter as she was going, in an attempt to catch up to me, trying desperately to appear as though she had more knowledge on the subject than myself. While I appreciated the effort and hard work she was doubtless putting in, and was surely flattered by the fact that it seemed to take such great effort for her to try (unsuccessfully) to appear one step ahead of me, the duplicitous manner in which she went about it, trying to make it seem as though these new things she’d suddenly realized she needed to learn were actually things she’d known for years, raised big, bright, neon-crimson flags.
The next incident came when she informed us that the quiz on the Coyne text was coming up. Jerry Coyne is a writer and speaker with whom I was already very familiar. He’s known for committing numerous logical fallacies and making intellectually dishonest statements about “religion” (which is a word he very sloppily uses as shorthand for “the Abrahamic religions”, but makes no such qualifications except when bringing up stories from the Abrahamic texts; in all other contexts, he seems to argue from a point of view that presumes authoritarian monotheism for all religion, which, as any first-year anthropology student would point out, is very obviously wrong).
In a class titled, “Truth & Reason”, there is absolutely no excuse for presenting an intellectually dishonest author/speaker like Jerry Coyne as a trustworthy authority on any subject whatever, and I had an ethical duty to decline allowing myself to be tested on a standard set by anything Coyne had written, and politely requested some sort of alternative to taking the Coyne quiz.
She asked me why, and I brought up Coyne’s dishonesty and logical fallacies, which she immediately dodged, telling me to focus instead on what was contained within that single book he’d written. I responded that although I felt Coyne’s sentiments were correct (evolution is clearly true and creationism is clearly wrong) … and was prematurely cut off, to be told by Karen, “I don’t care about ‘sentiments’, I like this book for its factual information!”
No wonder. The version of evolutionary theory presented in Coyne’s book was almost as laughably out-of-date as the version Karen was trying to push in her classroom. I couldn’t deal with the level of ignorance I saw before me. I politely excused myself and walked out of the classroom, shaking my head.
From that time onward, every conversation I had with Karen would be characterized by a decided “deer in the headlights” look upon her face. Perhaps because she was frightened by the fact that she’d finally crossed paths with a student intelligent and astute enough to expose her feigned expertise in contemporary evolutionary theory? or one who might draw attention to the fact that she hasn’t been keeping up with her continuing education, and that her knowledge of contemporary evolutionary theory was woefully inadequate for teaching a class on the subject?
I was trying not to blame her for being stuck in an inappropriately old-fashioned mindset with regard to evolutionary theory. I told myself that she couldn’t help the fact that the original context in which she’d learned evolutionary theory was one in which “complex” multicellular eukaryotes were the only form of life most people, including the majority of biologists, seemed to care about; a context in which the fossil record was generally regarded as containing nothing of interest prior to the Cambrian explosion about a half a billion years ago; a context in which most biologists accepted without critical analysis that living things had appeared to become more complex over time. “It’s not her fault,” I told myself, “she’s only human, and probably far too old and set in her ways to change her mind, even when confronted with evidence to the contrary, and is possibly too senile even to retain new information or to keep herself from lapsing back into the scientifically backward, archaic mindset that prevailed when she was earning her degree.”
I kept trying to make excuses for her in my own mind. I kept trying to think of reasons why I shouldn’t be so offended. I wanted to simply do the work and earn the credit, but what she was teaching was so completely and totally contrary to modern evolutionary thinking that it was making it difficult to function in her class. I should’ve reported her earlier; I shouldn’t have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt by telling myself she might have merely been suffering from dementia.
Karen sent me an e-mail about this, threatening to dock my credits and informing me that her obvious threat was not a threat (why do people always say “this is not a threat” when they make a threat?). I was honestly, sincerely hoping this was just a test of integrity: If I knuckled-under, I thought, that was going to be how I would end up losing credit; this was a test to see if I’d stick to my principles.
That I never took the Coyne quiz, is what I’m most proud of about my performance in this class. Though I’d been disappointed in myself for allowing myself to be pressured (by fear of getting a bad grade and prematurely ending my college career) into doing animal experiments in Donald Morisato’s “The Gene: History of an Idea”, I was not going to allow myself to be again pressured or threatened into doing something I felt to be unethical. That Karen ended up using this against me is truly sick and twisted.
I should’ve realized her lack of ethics earlier.
Soon, Karen was looking for any excuse to catch me in a contradiction, and to try and poke holes in my statements. I tried to pass this off as her provocatively trying to get me to think about how to defend my positions, but after a while it got to be truly ridiculous:
In a discussion during class on human evolution, a student asked the question of, “if humans evolved from apes, why are apes still here?” Karen was visibly taken aback by such a question being asked in this day and age, as I doubtless was as well, but as Karen stuttered and stammered to come up with an argument, I broke in and (palaeoanthropology/palaeoprimatology being my specialty) said, “Two quick points: The common ancestors of humans and other apes didn’t necessarily have to look like any modern-day ape, and even if they did, it could be that the ancestors of chimpanzees were doing well enough in the trees that it forced our ancestors out onto the savannah, or perhaps our ancestors were doing so well on the savannah that the ancestors of chimpanzees were constrained to the trees.” Karen, to my astonishment, said, hesitantly and very sourly, “something like that might be true.” Later however, when I attempted to argue that apes technically were a type of monkey (in flagrant disregard for the common meme that monkeys have tails and apes don’t, which is clearly untrue when looking at such creatures as the Barbary macaque or the Mandrill) on the basis that, since apes (hominoids) and old-world monkeys (cercopithecoids) are both catarrhines (“old-world primates”, excluding lemurs and tarsiers), and since catarrhines are a sister-group to the platyrrhines (“new-world monkeys”), any monophyletic definition of the word “monkey” which includes both the new-world and old-world varieties would by definition also include the apes. Karen argued with this by saying that it contradicted what I’d said earlier about the common ancestor of humans and the other apes not necessarily having to look like a modern ape. How was this a contradiction? Humans are unambiguously a type of ape. Was she trying to say that if the common ancestor of humans and the other apes didn’t necessarily look like any modern ape, that it therefore would not be an ape? That would be awfully silly. I replied to her, “Not unless you want to argue that both the new-world and old-world lineages have independently ‘become’ monkeys through convergent evolution…” and she cut me off, declaring, “I’m not talking about convergent evolution!” and then quickly changed the subject.
At least she recognized that she was clearly outmatched on the subject of primatology. However, that did not excuse the fact that yet again, she demonstrated a complete inability to grasp basic cladistics.
In the following weeks she continued to harass and pester me about taking the Coyne test, and begged me repeatedly to change the subject of my paper to something less damning to the outdated version of evolutionary theory she was trying to push. Soon everything was a fight and an argument, albeit done under the pretense of false civility.
I was so fed up with her. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the library and printed out a few particularly relevant papers from the peer-reviewed journals, arranged them into a nice little stack, and prepared to storm into the classroom at our next meeting time to tell the students they were being lied to by an instructor who obviously didn’t know a damned thing about standard evolutionary theory.
At the last moment, I chickened out. I had what seemed at the time an “attack of conscience”. “How will you feel when you get old, and some hotshot undergrad who’s done a better job than you at keeping up with the research comes into your class and starts saying that everything you ever knew was wrong?” I asked myself. Still I continued trying to make excuses for Karen. Even after everything I’d put up with, I still had too much compassion to want to humiliate her. I just saw her as this frail, old, confused person who didn’t know what was happening in the world of science or even in her own classroom. She didn’t seem to know or understand anything at all. She was just this horribly confused deer caught in the headlights, reacting to a world that was confusing and terrifying to her old-fashioned sensibilities and obsolete scientific knowledge.
Or perhaps this was what she wanted. She wanted me to feel sympathy for her, and to be timid about humiliating her, because she realized how easily I could expose her scientific ignorance to the other students in our class.
I should’ve realized her dishonesty earlier.
Karen Hogan committed several logical fallacies (and accused me of committing some where I clearly did not) in her presentation of facts and in her grading of my final paper. A good example was when I stated, “[w]hile we can say with a high degree of certainty that there now exist on the Earth organisms far more morphologically complex than any that lived a billion years ago, and while it seems probable, though it is far from certain in light of recent theories regarding primal eukaryogenesis, that there were on Earth a billion years ago creatures more complex than anything that existed two billion years thither, which were, in turn, presumably, at least according to traditional and now it seems very possibly incorrect views regarding eukaryogenesis and abiogenesis, more complex than the first living things, it is not clear that this has been the overall evolutionary trend or that the cases of increasing complexity we've seen aren't actually the exception rather than the rule for evolution,” and she replied that the first part of my statement was contradicted by the last. That she would regard this statement as self-contradictory shows not only an obvious inability to read for content (the phrases “though it is far from certain in light of…” and “now it seems very possibly incorrect” are not in this context superfluous qualifiers — it quite honestly and simply is not clear that this has been the overall evolutionary trend or that the cases of increasing complexity we’ve seen aren’t actually the exception rather than the rule for evolution), as well as her over-exerting her mental reach to try and catch me in a contradiction, but also shows a disconcertingly inadequate knowledge of statistics (three or four data points which have yet to even be accurately measured do not a trend make!). She accused me of non-sequitors where I committed none, simply because she didn’t seem to understand the words I was using (again, this is appalling for someone claiming expertise in evolutionary biology), and even accused me creating a straw-man of her position regarding whether complexity has increased over evolutionary time (apparently she forgot that other students heard her original words, and at least one has come forward so far to back me up that the “straw-man” I supposedly “created” was in fact her exact argument from earlier in the quarter; she’s attempting to do the, “I never said that, what I actually said was the same thing you’re saying right now!” thing, which I can only attribute to advanced senility or else gross dishonesty covering up for inexcusable scientific ignorance).
Karen Hogan also lied in her evaluation of me. One particularly glaring example was her statement that I “correctly noted that the focus of the class was on eukaryotes”. This was not something I had merely “correctly noted”, this was something I had to fight Karen on. She and Allen had been making gross generalizations about “life on Earth” (or just “life”) that were patently untrue, taken from past observations about the more familiar multicellular eukaryotes (animals, plants, and fungi) which neglected to take into account the majority of eukaryotes (“protists”, as well as unicellular plants, animals, and fungi), let alone the majority of living things (archaea and bacteria, often lumped together as “prokaryotes”). These past observations are now regarded by modern biologists as having been the result of an anthropocentric selection bias. She bent slightly on this issue, after several discussions with her, and finally admitted, “well, the prokaryotes evolve differently; the focus of this class is on the things we can see and touch.” (Apparently Karen still isn’t aware that the overwhelming majority of eukaryotes are unicellular organisms, many of which have evolved from multicellular ancestors, contrary to her and Allen’s insistence that the theory of evolution predicts there should be an overall increase in complexity over time.) When we’d argued this in class, she had begged me to change the topic of my paper from whether complexity has generally increased as part of an overall evolutionary trend (which modern evidence says it probably has not, and may even have decreased, at least on average) to “the differences in prokaryotic and eukaryotic evolution”. This was not a simple eukaryotic/prokaryotic difference; whether complexity has increased on average even among eukaryotes is currently a huge question mark in the field of biology and has been for several decades now, and Karen Hogan’s assertions to the contrary reflect only the backward views of a more primitive era in science.
Again, there were other students in that classroom besides myself, and at least has come forward as willing to back me up on what Karen Hogan actually said not being the same as the position she’s back-peddled to in the intervening time.
Many of Karen’s other statements in her evaluation of me were similarly deceptive and self-flattering distortions of what had actually occurred. Many of her statements (particularly those along the lines of “did not participate”) were cover-ups for the fact that she’d created an unbearably hostile learning environment. Yes, I was absent a lot, but because of Karen’s hostility and her belittling, demeaning attitude; why should I lose credit for that rather than her having her paycheck docked?
The examples I’ve given above are but an infinitesimal fraction of what I had to put up with in that farce of a class, and could be multiplied manifold.
Karen Hogan has demonstrated an inadequate grasp of standard evolutionary theory, and what’s worse, she’s taken my corrections and back-peddled, claiming “I never said that!” or “I said that all along!” as the situation necessitated, in order to cover up how inadequate her grasp of standard evolutionary theory was (and still is). Karen has lied and distorted facts in order to endorse her archaic pet-theories about evolution, while lying and distorting facts to cover up how little she knew when the semester began, and this is clearly unacceptable.
When I complained of this to the deans’ office, I spoke with George Freeman, who immediately tried to reduce this issue to “a difference in worldviews” and then told me that he could not force a faculty member to give academic credit. When I asked him who was in charge of ensuring that the faculty members have legitimate degrees and have been keeping up with their continuing education, he quickly changed the subject (probably because no-one has actually been performing any kind of “quality control” with regard to faculty and the legitimacy of their credentials) to attendance and attempted to blame me for the hostile learning environment that Karen created. I then informed him that if the college was not going to ensure that the faculty members responsible for teaching science classes had legitimate degrees and have been keeping up with their continuing education, or at least that the science faculty can actually demonstrate accurate, reasonably up-to-date scientific information, and would do nothing to ensure I received full credit for this class in spite of having an instructor that didn’t actually know the subject matter, then the college would be responsible for paying back the money they took from FAFSA to pay for this quarter of my college. George Freeman flatly refused. George Freeman was therefore trying to cover up an obvious case of financial aid fraud while defending a science teacher’s right to teach quack pseudoscience, and hence is an extreme liability to this college. The college should be glad that he retired when he did, because by defending Karen Hogan’s right to teach such an inappropriately out-of-date model of evolution, he was about to make this school look incredibly foolish, and we would’ve lost respect in what is likely the only area left in which Evergreen is still taken seriously as a school.
Furthermore, if a science instructor can fail to provide accurate, reasonably up-to-date scientific information and fails to demonstrate accurate, reasonably up-to-date scientific knowledge, and absolutely refuses to do the work demanded by her position, and yet still collect a paycheck, then what right has said instructor to expect me to demonstrate anything, or to do any work at all, in order to receive credit? If Karen Hogan is allowed to collect a paycheck without having put in the work, then I should be awarded full academic credit for this class, regardless of whether I did the work required. That I’m being denied academic credit while Karen Hogan is allowed to continue collecting paychecks from this school, is the absolute height of hypocrisy! That Karen Hogan is being allowed to do this on my dime is what makes this a criminal case.
My repeated requests to be told what the title of Karen’s doctoral thesis was, to see proof that her degrees are legitimate, and to see proof that she’s been keeping up with her continuing education, have all been dodged or flatly refused. One staff member (who shall remain nameless) even told me that was an inappropriate request. Why? Why, if an instructor repeatedly demonstrates inadequate scientific knowledge in multiple areas that cast doubt on the legitimacy of her credentials, should it be deemed “inappropriate” to ask to see proof of said credentials? What is the college trying to hide?
What has transpired here is truly despicable. That individuals in positions of authority within this school would knowingly take money from students’ lifetime financial aid allotment, while doing absolutely nothing whatsoever to ensure the quality of their education, is not only a truly sick and depraved thing to do, but misappropriating funds from the federal financial aid reserve is a serious crime. At the very least, this is criminal negligence with federal funding.
In closing, I’ll leave you with the words of several individuals who apparently share my opinion:
“Karen Hogans [sic] performance as a professor was unacceptable. She was the worst professor I have ever had. She clearly put very little time and energy into the program. I was deeply concerned about receiving a fair evaluation from her and I hope no student will ever have to suffer the horrible experience that I had with Karen Hogan.” (http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, 2015)
“The worst college experience I have ever had has been with Karen. She lacks creativity and strength in her line of work. She will not answer your question if she is "not an expert" on th [sic] topic. She will not brainstorm with you or try to even discuss possibilities. She lacks in actually [sic] lectures and then quizzes you on stuff you never went over.” (http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, 2015)
“Karen is a horrible teacher and lecturer. I am a very engaged student; I got full credit. But she taught in such a way that NONE of the information connected. The class joke was, ‘just spend your lecture trying to figure out what she is teaching and then go home and research it yourself.’ I learned a lot from my own research.” (http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, 2014)
“Karen does not qualify in my books as a professor. She does not teach, her lectures are scattered with no direction. She mumbles, talks down to students and is plain disrespectful. Her ability to lead a seminar/discussion is meager at best very mono tone weird voice makes it very hard to concentrate. Highly recommend avoiding her for sure.” (http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, 2013)
“Evaluation process was a disaster... didn't bother to read my portfolio, had to reschedule eval meeting, minimal and even conflicting feedback given.” (http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, 2013)
“Karen can choose decent reading material but her lectures often make little sense and she loses her train of thought very easily when someone asks her a question. Sometimes, if she is too involved in her lecture, she will blatantly ignore students' questions. Her classes are very easy, but a waste of time and money.” (http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, 2009)
While neither the president’s office nor the provost‘s office responded to my complaint, I got the following response from Lee Lyttle, who took over for George Freeman (who retired just days after I’d made a verbal complaint to him) at the academic dean’s office.
I have read the letter that you sent to me entitled, ‘Karen Hogan’s Misappropriation of Federal Funds’ [sic]. It is indeed very disturbing. While I concur with George Freeman’s statement that the amount of credit awarded by a faculty is out of our hands because only the faculty can determined if you fulfilled all of the class’ [sic] academic work and attended all of the class meeting. At Evergreen this is best negotiated between the student and their faculty. Nonetheless, I am willing to meet with you to further discuss the situation if you wish though I believe that you will again not be satisfied with the outcome if you are unwilling to discuss this with the faculty.
You also request to have your FAFSA money reimbursed due to your view of incompetence of the faculty. Both of the faculty who taught ’Truth and Reason‘ [sic] do indeed have legitimate degrees and were qualified to teach that class. I am not qualified to dispute the factual differences with the faculty that you mentioned in your letter. I do not believe them to be relevant to your request for reimbursement. [Emphasis added] I am also willing to discuss this with you as well.
Please let me know your availability for a discussion.
Academic Dean for EWS, Tacoma, & Native Pathways Program