Teaching Evolution Balancing Education on Evolution and the Origin of Life

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As the journals Nature and Scientific American agreed in a joint issue on science education:

[S]tudents gain a much deeper understanding of science when they actively grapple with questions than when they passively listen to answers.

Yet, typically, such an approach to teaching is taken in every area of science in the curriculum except one — historical science, in other words, science dealing with events in the past. Especially when it comes to chemical and biological evolution, students often learn a dogmatic view.

This does students a disservice. First, and most importantly, dogmatic teaching fails to take into account the many and fascinating scientific debates over evolutionary theory taking place at scientific conferences and in scientific publications around the world. (See examples from Douglas Axe, Michael Behe, and James Tour.)

Second, this method of teaching is antithetical to scientific inquiry, and indeed can confuse students about how science works. In a general study about science education in the journal Science, Jonathan Osborne wrote:

Typically, in the rush to present the major features of the scientific landscape, most of the arguments required to achieve such knowledge are excised. Consequently, science can appear to its students as a monolith of facts, an authoritative discourse where the discursive exploration of ideas, their implications, and their importance is absent. Students then emerge with naive ideas or misconceptions about the nature of science itself — a state of affairs that exists even though the National Research Council; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and a large body of research, major aspects of which are presented here, all emphasize the value of argumentation for learning science.

On this website, you’ll find resources enabling you to acquaint your students with the scientific controversies over abiogenesis and biological evolution. These materials include:

  • Curricula, videos and other class resources.
  • Specifics on your state’s policies that apply to the teaching of evolution.
  • Information from an attorney dispelling common myths about teaching evolution. 
  • Public opinion surveys on teaching evolution.