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1 ONLINE ARTICLE The Evolution Solution : Teaching Evolution Without Conflict L LAMMER ARRY F This “fortress mentality” virtually assures defensive reac- tions and practiced arguments against the “evidence” from students with anti-evolution views (Farber, 2003). The program proposed here effectively addresses all of don’t believe in evolution, so why do I have “I this. It is built around a novel sequence of topics—using a to learn this stuff?” “We didn’t come from monkeys.” “Why series of classroom-tested interactive lessons—effectively and evolution, so we can don’t we learn about creation minimizing conflict while students come to recognize make up our own minds; isn’t that more fair?” many misconceptions and to understand why evolution is If such questions cause you to minimize or avoid evo- considered one of the strongest of scientific theories lution in your curriculum, maybe you should consider a (Nelson, 2000). different approach. Evolution is clearly a well-documented process that informs all of biology and its many applica- Background tions. It is a disservice to students to teach biology without an accurate and comprehensive treatment of evolution. The seed for this strategy came from the original BSCS Blue Version text (Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Surveys reveal that many in our society have an inade- 1963). Chapter 2 (“The Variety of Living Things”) includ- quate and inaccurate understanding of evolution (Alters & ed examples of some organisms difficult to classify, and Alters, 2001). Much of this can be traced directly to popu- presented information about the fossil record, raising lar misconceptions about the nature of science. This, in questions about some traditional views of the history of turn, can be linked to misrepresentation by those opposed life. Evolution was then introduced as a coherent attempt to evolution, although inadequate or ineffective treatment to explain those conflicts. by ill prepared teachers can also be a contributing factor. Teachers must do all they can to correct this; otherwise we This approach flowed smoothly, raised fewer objec- all lose many of the potential benefits that can come from tions, and resulted in better understanding than earlier a more scientifically literate society. formats. With increasing enhancements, the strategy evolved into the core of the author’s course. It was Another element could be the fact that many texts “College-Prep Biology” for sophomores for many years, tend to launch suddenly into evolution without any clear then for juniors when the department switched to a segue or solid connections to the rest of biology, and they Physics-Biology-Chemistry sequence for the past two defend the topic with numerous examples of “evidence.” decades. This was in a suburban west coast school with middle-to-lower socio-economic level students, becoming F LAMMER is a retired high school biology teacher and current L ARRY increasingly multiracial, with a similar mix of religions. ENSI (Evolution and Nature of Science Institutes) Webmaster There were always at least a few students in each class who . [email protected] from San Jose, CA; e-mail: f were strong creationists, based on their remarks and EVOLUTION SOLUTION 1

2 responses to survey questions. But once the format and “moving Sun” are familiar and generally recognized as described here was developed, objections to the strong natural illusions. However, many students are surprised to evolutionary content declined. In any case, due to its natu- learn that their “perfect” vision has holes (blind spots), the ral, logical, problem-solving and non-threatening nature, “face on Mars” is just a hilly area, and species really have this approach would probably work with any biology come and gone over vast periods of time. Science has course at any secondary or undergraduate level. revealed that reality is often not what it seems. processes of Even more important than knowing the Overview of The Evolution Solution nature of science is to have a deeper understanding of the science. From numerous surveys, much of the public is The effectiveness of this approach is closely tied to the clearly ill informed about those important features, which particular of topics, used as a strategy for building sequence are seldom adequately presented in textbooks. They interest and suspense. That sequence is include the realm of science, its limits, rules, social context, 2. An Overview of Life  1. The Nature of Science values and assumptions (Lederman & Lederman, 2004). (including classification and hominid anatomy), Using several ENSI Nature of Science lessons, many of raising many questions  3. An Introduction to those topics are interactively explored, including:  4. Using Evolution, to provide testable answers • Science can only deal with natural phenomena and Evolution as a unifying theme throughout the natural explanations. Supernatural explanations course. cannot be used because they are not disprovable, The second critical element is the selection of the les- or dis- and science operates largely by trying to test— sons used. Most of the material for this program can be prove —proposed explanations, not “prove” them, as found in the Evolution and Nature of Science Institutes popularly assumed. (ENSI) Web site—a collection of student-centered interac- • Scientific knowledge is inherently tentative and tive lessons and strategies gathered, designed, and class- uncertain. room-tested by over 800 talented biology teachers across the nation. The lessons are freely downloadable, with full • In spite of strategies to be objective, science is still instructions and handouts for use in the classroom. A con- biased. venient list of links to the specific lessons and online • Science is not fair or democratic. Beliefs or opinions resources mentioned in this article can be found in the alone—popular or otherwise—don’t count; critically Appendix. You can add further variety by selecting from confirmed observations do. the wealth of annotated resources found in the Wuerth • Science can be done well, or done poorly. article (2004). ABT Most of the resistance to science in general, and evo- For maximum effectiveness, it is highly recommended lution in particular, is built upon public misperceptions that you use the “5 E” framework to present the material, about these aspects of science. As a result, many people are as promoted by the BSCS program: Engage, Explore, easily deceived by a number of pseudoscience belief sys- Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. An excellent resource tems that claim to be scientific, but ignore the rules of sci- that demonstrates this protocol—and also expands on ence. Students need to know those rules. much of the content suggested here—is Teaching About (National Academy of Evolution and the Nature of Science Overview of Life Sciences, 1998). After two or three weeks on the nature of science, stu- The Nature of Science dents begin working with microscopes so they can see cells and microorganisms firsthand and begin to use one of The course opens with engaging experiences, usually the traditional tools of biology. Emphasized is the basic a number of illusions, a little sleight of hand “magic,” and similarity of all cells, especially between widely different some discrepant events that stimulate curiosity and raise organisms: plants, animals, and protists. This prompts the questions. Quickly, focus shifts to one of the illusions to question “Why are all cells so much alike?” Key questions see how a scientist might try to explain it. The idea is to like these should be posted on the board. begin early doing things that pique curiosity and pose problems. Specific examples of illusions, both contrived From here, it’s an easy step to explore the great diver- and natural, can be found on the ENSI site, especially in sity of life—both living and extinct, from microorganisms to the new “Perception is Not Always Reality” lesson. the more familiar macroworld of plants and animals—so students get a broad sense of what biologists study. Be sure Students work to solve one of those problems (or to show a scaled timeline diagram that shows the verte- other problems), getting a real taste of one of the process- brate classes (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and es of science, without the formal terminology. Labels and birds) making their first appearances about a hundred mil- connections can be added later, in the “Explanation” lion years apart, fully supported by the fossil and molecu- phase, after they have the experiences. lar records. The perimeter of your room can be scaled to To “Elaborate,” the focus shifts from these contrived 4.6 billion years (try 1 cm = 1 million years). Add time illusions to natural illusions. The seemingly “flat Earth” markers and graphics to illustrate important events. 2 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, ONLINE PUBLICATION, MARCH 2006

3 Students need to see that the so-called “Cambrian typically characterize modern humans. This novel place- intro- before Explosion” of increased diversity was not an instantaneous ment of an essentially human evolution lab event, but took over 5 million years (5 cm on the room ducing evolution is an idea promoted by anthropologist scale), and was built upon a pre-Cambrian diversity of soft- Nickels (1987), and it works! Wherever tried, teachers pro- bodied organisms (Parker, 2003). Out of this come other claim student enthusiasm. At the same time, this raises a questions: “Why is there so much diversity?” “Why have number of questions, mainly about how these observa- life forms changed so much over time?” “Why have so tions seem to conflict with the traditional sense of humans many new and different life forms first appeared in differ- arriving on the scene rather suddenly, fully formed as they ent periods of time, and then disappeared much later?” are now. If students don’t ask, prompt them to do so. Add these to the classroom list. Some Biological Problems Classification Note that there has been no mention of evolution up “With all of this diversity, how can we make sense of to this point. The students have merely experienced stan- it? How can we see patterns?” Such questions provide a dard biological topics, raising a number of puzzling issues: transition to introduce the formalities of classification so • Why are there basic features common to all life, yet students begin to recognize the nested organization of life there is a wide diversity of life forms? and some of the criteria used for classification. Use appro- • Why are some organisms difficult to classify? priate ENSI lessons along with your text material. Students • Why did diverse major life forms first emerge in dif- should gain a sense of biological relationship: that degrees ferent time frames? of similarity in structure suggest corresponding degrees of relationship, much like one sees in personal families, or • Why have so many major groups gone extinct over members of the cat or dog families. This is possible with- time? out any overt mention of common ancestry—or evolution— • Why do so many species exhibit imperfect adapta- at this time. However, students must see a number of tions, or features derived from others but used for not seem to fit eas- “intermediate” organisms, those that do different purposes? ily into any one major group. They possess traits associat- • Why are there series of human-like fossils suggest- ed with two different groups, making it difficult to know ing gradual changes accumulating over time, look- where to classify them (Table 1). ing increasingly modern? Then, using one of the “Contrivances” lessons, stu- Review these problems, and bring in others that may dents must discover that organisms are never “perfectly have arisen. A quest for resolution flows quite naturally adapted” to a particular environment, as commonly from these findings that may conflict with common per- believed. Instead, species exhibit many “adaptive compro- sonal views. If not initiated by students, you should ask mises” (imperfections or contrivances in structures and how their observations fit with popular ideas, such as the biochemical processes) such as the panda’s “thumb,” our idea that all life forms were specially created in one short “wisdom teeth,” pseudogenes, and many more. “Why are period of time, each independent of the other. there so many imperfections?” The Evolution Solution Hominoid Skull Comparisons “Any ideas about what might help us to find answers Since comparative anatomy provides one of the main to these questions?” Someone, by now, may have suggest- criteria for classification, a stimulating elaboration of this ed “evolution” as a possible solution. If not, this would be unit is the study of a series of hominoid skulls. Use full- a good time to use some prompts to help students suggest scale resin casts of the skulls of several extinct hominids— the process, such as “Has anyone heard of ‘evolution’?” prehistoric humans—plus the skulls of a modern human, chimpanzee, and gorilla. The “Hominoid Cranial “Let’s take a look at this thing called ‘evolution.’ What Comparison” and “Chronology” labs provide the structure is it, really? There are a lot of misconceptions about evolu- for students to discover that different series of humans not .” After going tion out there, so first, let’s see what it’s have existed over time, gradually accumulating traits that . is over a list of such views, take a look at what evolution Table 1. Intermediate Forms ORGANISM POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION MIX OF TRAITS chloroplasts (plants) and motile (animals) plant or animal? Euglena Peripatus annelid or arthropod? annelid-like excretory system, with arthropod-like respiratory system reptile or bird? Archaeopteryx dinosaur skeleton and teeth, with bird feathers ( reptile-like eggs, with fur and nursing reptile or mammal? Ornithorhynchus ) platypus EVOLUTION SOLUTION 3

4 Be sure to include that evolution is essentially the process topic that should have been explored in your Nature of in which all species come from earlier species, accumulat- Science introductory unit. For good discussions of the ing changes over time, and leading to all the groups of unscientific nature of intelligent design, see Miller (1999), organisms seen today. Show some phylogenetic trees for Alters and Alters (2001), or Ayala (2004), or search the NCSE (National Center for Science and TalkOrigins visual clarity. Emphasize that—fundamental to evolution— is the fact that species can and do change. They can Web sites. Education) become extinct, or they can evolve into new species, and this has been observed many times directly, for which you Caution TalkOrigins Archive can give some examples taken from the Do not fall into the trap of rebutting every challenging site (Boxhorn, 1995). A favorite is the Dandelion-like plant comment, because this becomes a purely defensive exer- of the genus in which two new species were Tragopogon, cise—even argumentative and emotional—with every rebut- produced as polyploids by natural hybridization, con- tal triggering a new challenge. There are cogent and valid firmed from their karyotypes and the fact that they could rebuttals to every argument made by anti-evolutionists, not reproduce with their parents. Excellent pictures from most of them mainly to correct the many misconceptions. the original paper can be used to show these new species, For students who are genuinely concerned, asking ques- their parents and their karyotypes (Ownbey, 1969). tions and trying to resolve their inner conflicts, send them Teams of students can read about the many series of sites. Ask them TalkOrigins and the NCSE to search in the fossils showing species-to-species changes, such as the some of their claims, focus against to search for arguments early lemur-like primates described in the ENSI back- on specific points of dispute, and then discuss the pros ground paper “Transitional Fossils.” As these changes and cons of including ID or creation in science classes, accumulate over time, students see major groups emerging using only objective scientific information. that can be quite different from earlier groups. The If students persist in raising anti-evolution issues, offer “Becoming Whales” lesson provides vicarious experiences to chat with them during lunch or after school. Remind in fossil discoveries that lead to a compelling sequence, them that religious beliefs are not appropriate topics to and then presents other kinds of studies that confirm the defend or discuss in detail in a science class (for the rea- biological connections of whales with certain terrestrial sons given in your introductory unit on the Nature of mammals. Science). Always be sensitive to and respectful of your stu- dents’ personal beliefs, and allow nothing less from their Challenges classmates. About this time, if you haven’t yet been challenged, Avoid revealing—unless prompted—the fact that teach- this is where it will happen. You may be confronted with ing creationism (in any form) in science classes has been statements similar to those that opened this article. Your deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (Scott, best response to “I don’t believe in evolution” should be 2004, p. 114). This produces more defensiveness and “Good! I don’t believe in evolution, either! In fact nobody bypasses the many good scientific reasons why any form of believe in evolution. It’s really not something you should creationism is inappropriate as a valid alternative to evolu- convinced should believe in, purely on faith. You might be tion in science classes, and your students should under- of its validity from the consensus of experts in the field, the stand those reasons. abundance of observations pointing to it, and the total lack Likewise, avoid directly stating that any of the exam- of evidence against it, or you might not. It does raise many ples or studies provide “evidence against creation,” as this questions and seems to conflict with some popular views, tends to be divisive and may lead to antagonism toward (or so it’s something you really need to study, question, and from) those with creationist views, and further defensive- decide for yourself whether the evidence is compelling or ness. Science has no quarrel with beliefs in “creation,” only do in it. In this class, I expect believe not. But don’t ever its misrepresentation as science. Remember that many understand evolution, what it is, you to make every effort to who hold strong religious beliefs or believe in some form what it is not, and how it seems to work, according to the of creation also support evolution, and most religions sup- experts.” port evolution (Nelson, 2000; Matsumura, 1995). In recent years, there has been a widespread effort by If you have provided a thorough introduction to the some evolution critics to insert the somewhat modified nature of science in your opening unit, it’s not likely that you creationist idea of intelligent design (ID) into school sci- will be seriously challenged on evolution in class. If you are, ence courses as a “scientific” alternative to evolution. This you can always quickly refer back to that material, with com- is often combined with appeals to “equal time” and “fair- ments like “Remember the kinds of explanations that sci- ness” which, as your students should now realize, are use? Why is that?” Then you can move ahead. not ence can never part of science. Regardless of the impressive aca- demic credentials of some of the ID proponents, this Let the lessons speak for themselves. They provide a approach is filled with the usual fallacies and unscientific series of positive experiences on which guided discussion premises long associated with “scientific creationism” and or even quiet reflection should encourage a more objective other anti-evolution movements. In fact, both ID and “cre- view of evolution, as held by nearly all practicing biolo- ation science” are excellent examples of pseudoscience, a gists. They are, by training, very skeptical people, who 4 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, ONLINE PUBLICATION, MARCH 2006

5 would welcome legitimate notoriety in their field, and Acknowledgments would be the first to reveal weaknesses in evolution, if they Gratitude is extended to the three ENSI directors: Drs. your students—if their minds haven’t been existed. At least Jean Beard, Craig Nelson, and Martin Nickels for their closed by defensiveness—will have a more accurate under- comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Their develop- standing of evolution, and they might even be convinced of ment of the ENSI program has been an inspiration to the its validity. ENSI and SENSI participants, and to the many teachers who continue to discover those lessons on ENSIweb. The Moving Ahead: Evolution contributions of one of our strongest ENSI supporters, Continues Shary Rosenbaum, is also much appreciated. From this point, you can follow the sequence and con- References tent of your regular Introductory Evolution Unit. This should include a little historical background: early assump- Defending Evolution: A Guide to the Alters, B. & Alters, S. (2001). tions, and early observations that did not fit those assump- Boston: Jones & Bartlett. Creation/Evolution Controversy. tions, especially the discovery of fossils and the patterns Ayala, F. (2004). Arguing for Evolution. In Bybee, R. (Ed.). Evolution they revealed. You should even consider Paley’s argument in Perspective: The Science Teacher’s Compendium (pp. 1-4). for design, and how it was firmly discredited (Dawkins, Arlington, VA: NSTA Press. 1987; Miller, 1999; Ayala, 2004). The story of Charles Darwin is always fascinating, especially when told with Biological Science: Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. (1963). videos and illustrations. Be sure to note that his observa- Boston: Houghton Molecules to Man (BSCS Blue Version). Mifflin. tions led to his ideas on evolution by natural selection to explain the many inconsistencies between those observa- TalkOrigins Boxhorn, J. (1995). Observed Instances of Speciation. tions and traditional views. Also insist that students learn Retrieved July 21, 2004, from www .t origins.or g/ alk Archive. to avoid verbal descriptions of natural selection that sound . faqs/faq-speciation.html in like Lamarck’s explanations, such as “Traits develop London: W.W. Norton The Blind Watchmaker. Dawkins, R. (1987). order to survive.” The “Lamarck vs. Darwin” lesson effec- & Company. tively teaches this. The Farber, P. (2003). Teaching evolution & the nature of science. As you explore natural selection, be sure your stu- (5), 347-354. American Biology Teacher, 65 dents have a chance to directly observe and measure vari- Lederman, N. & Lederman, J. (2004). Revising instruction to teach ation of some trait in a population; measuring peanut nature of science. The Science Teacher, 71 (9), 36-39. lengths could be one of your tastier labs! And, of course, do one of the many available natural selection simula- Matsumura, M. (Ed.). (1995). Voices for Evolution. Berkeley, CA: The tions, such as the “Stick-Worms” lab. If possible, your stu- National Center for Science Education, Inc. dents should observe selection in a living lab, using bac- TM Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Miller, K.R. (1999). , or other organisms. In any case, be teria, Fast Plants New York: Common Ground Between God and Evolution. sure to include ENSI lessons that present some of the crit- HarperCollins. ical but seldom addressed aspects of evolution, especially National Academy of Sciences. (1998). Teaching About Evolution and its cumulative nature and its mix of random with non-ran- Washington, DC: National Academy the Nature of Science. dom elements. Press. The strongest ideas in science are those with multiple Nelson, C.E. (2000). Effective Strategies for Teaching Evolution and independent lines of evidence (MILEs) all pointing to the The Other Controversial Topics. In J.W. Skehan & C.E. Nelson, same conclusion. This should be reinforced whenever your Creation Controversy & The Science Classroom (pp. 19-50). do investiga- students read about examples, or, preferably, Arlington, VA: NSTA Press. tions, that contribute to “MILEs” (Nelson, 2000). Nickels, M. (1987). Human evolution: a challenge for biology teach- Consequently, at some point in your evolution unit (or The American Biology Teacher, 49 (3), 143-148. ers. later, especially in your focus on human biology) be sure to have your students extend their experience with hominoid Ownbey, M. (1969). Natural Hybridization and Amphiploidy in the skulls by exploring other material that confirms common Genus Tragopogon. In P. Ehrlich, R. Holm & P. Raven ancestry in humans and other primates, such as chromo- (Selectors). (pp. 230-242). Boston: Little, Papers on Evolution Brown & Co. some and molecular comparisons. Finally, integrate evolution with all your standard In the Blink of an Eye. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Parker, A. (2003). Publishing. course units. To paraphrase a well-known quote, biology makes a whole lot more sense when evolution is used to tie Evolution vs. Creationism - An Introduction. Scott, E. (2004). it all together. As it turns out, both evolution and the Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. nature of science combined make excellent themes around Wuerth, M. (2004). Resources for teaching evolution. The American which to build a coherent and effective biology course, (2), 109-113. Biology Teacher, 66 where everything makes more sense, and it’s all much eas- ier to understand. EVOLUTION SOLUTION 5

6 Appendix. Referenced Links to Lessons and Resources. Nature of Science Realm and process of science (lesson): Perception is Not Always Reality www eb/lessons/per ~ .indiana.edu/ ensiw cep.htm Illusions (list): Illusions in Science, contrived and natural www .indiana.edu/ ensiw eb/lessons/unt.illu.html ~ Process and social context of science: Checks Lab (lesson) www ensiw eb/lessons/chec.lab.html .indiana.edu/ ~ Classification Contrivances (lesson): Blocks and Screws www ~ ensiw .indiana.edu/ eb/lessons/bl%26scr .html Pseudogenes (lesson): Pseudogene Suite (ABC): Vitamin C & Ancestry www ~ ensiw eb/lessons/psa.ball.html .indiana.edu/ Human Evolution “Skulls” (lesson): Hominoid Cranial Comparison (Skulls) ~ eb/lessons/hom.cran.html .indiana.edu/ ensiw www Chronology (lesson): Chronology Lab (hominid time-tree) .indiana.edu/ ensiw eb/lessons/chr onlab.html ~ www Evolution Introduction What evolution IS/is NOT (paper): Introduction to Evolution www ~ ensiw eb/lessons/unt.ev .indiana.edu/ .f.html Transitional Fossils (paper): class-to-class: A4; species-to-species: A5 ~ ensiw www .indiana.edu/ eb/lessons/c.bkg r nd.html Whales (lesson): Becoming Whales ~ ensiw www eb/lessons/whale.ev .indiana.edu/ .html Challenges Evolution/creation/ID info: TalkOrigins Archive .t alk origins.or g www Evolution/creation/ID info: NCSE: National Center for Science Education .ncsew g eb.or www Understanding Evolution (Univ. of California Museum of Paleontology) http://ev eley .edu/ olution.berk Moving Ahead Natural Selection (lesson): Lamarck vs. Darwin .html .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/lam.dar w www Natural Selection (critical lesson): Natural Selection: A Cumulative Process: .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/ns.cum.l.html www Natural Selection (critical lesson): Chaos: Living on the Edge www .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/chaos.html Speciation lesson: A Step in Speciation .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/step.sp.html www continued 6 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, ONLINE PUBLICATION, MARCH 2006

7 Appendix. Referenced Links to Lessons and Resources. continuation Integrating Evolution MILEs, Chromosomes: Comparison of Human & Chimpanzee Chromosomes ~ ensiw www .indiana.edu/ eb/lessons/chr omcom.html MILEs, Chromosomes: Chromosome Connection (lesson plans) www .becominghuman.or ning Center”) g (click on “Lear MILEs, Primate Proteins: Molecular Sequences and Primate Evolution ~ ensiw www .indiana.edu/ eb/lessons/mol.prim.html MILEs, Human Evolution/Behavior: Footsteps in Time www .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/f ootstep.html Geological Dating (lesson): Date a Rock www .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/date.les.htm Geological Dating (lesson): Varve Dating es.html .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/varv www Geological Dating (lesson): Time Machine www .indiana.edu/~ensiw eb/lessons/time.mac.html Biology Topics with Evolution: Integrating Evolution .indiana.edu/ ~ ensiw eb/lessons/unt.seq.html www EVOLUTION SOLUTION 7

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