How I teach - Bust the myths of evolution

17th October 2014 at 01:00
How to teach the theory when pupils see it as a test of faith

"Evolution is absolutely false." At least, that is what approximately one-third of US adults believed a decade ago, according to a 2006 Michigan State University study. Recent debates around the issue suggest those numbers haven't changed much, which means that the US retains the questionable honour of having the highest percentage of Darwin sceptics in the developed world.

So how do you teach a scientific theory that so many people reject? Fortunately, I live in a community that overwhelmingly accepts that scientific theories should be taught in science classrooms. Although that might seem obvious, many American teachers have had to defend the practice of teaching evolution and keeping non-scientific "alternatives" out of science lessons. In some cases, the battle has made it into the courtroom. In all instances, the courts have sided in favour of evolution and science.

Face the facts

In US classrooms, it is not uncommon to hear comments such as: "I don't know what evolution is, but I don't believe in it." Although students who reject evolution and natural selection on theological grounds are unlikely to change their beliefs, they should at least understand what the theory states - and what it does not state. After explaining the definitions of evolution and natural selection, I discuss and correct some of the many common myths, such as the following:

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