Do You Believe in Evolution?
Jaskot, Bunny, The American Biology Teacher
This is a question that I have been asked mostly by students but even by family This is a question that deserves an answer. This is a question that, when uttered, perpetuates a major misconception about the nature of science, confusing it with the process of developing religious convictions. This is a loaded question!
Educators, I challenge you to refrain from uttering "belief" and "evolution" in the same sentence. It is up to educators to articulate the difference between a belief system and a system based on the principles of science. We can't do that with sloppy language.
The theme of this month's ABT is evolution, but it's really a theme of every issue. Our journal continually seeks to elucidate the distinction between a system that requires a basis of faith and openness to the supernatural and one that requires evidence obtained from the natural world.
It is not my intent to diminish belief. Belief sustains the spirit, the "heart and soul," and adds a dimension to our lives in the often stark natural environment in which we find ourselves. In our biology classrooms, however, we do not espouse belief. Science is our book; it is the story we tell. If we want that story to stick, according to Chip and Dan Heath (2007), we must start with the simple: What is the essential core information that needs to be shared? Second, we must capture students' attention with the unexpected and really engage them. Third, we must be concrete in presenting ideas with vivid imagery so that those ideas are understood. Fourth, we must be credible in that our ideas are based on research data. Finally, we must facilitate meaningful learning by linking our stories in ways that promote personal involvement: Tap into the connections.
This may seem simple, but according to the Understanding Science Web site, understanding the nature of science is actually difficult. Science is hard to define, and arguments about its definition have persisted for decades. So, how can we get our students to appreciate the attributes of the nature of science? Start by using peer-reviewed resources such as those you will find in the pages of this journal. Comparing an article with the following checklist from the Understanding Science site (undsci.berkeley.edu), ask students whether the article
* Focuses on the natural world
* Aims to explain the natural world
* Uses testable ideas
* Relies on evidence
* Involves the scientific community
* Leads to ongoing research
* Benefits from scientific behavior
Evolutionary thinking aims to produce natural explanations of how living things have changed over time using the processes of science. …