Darwin in education
Tl;dr: darwin is an enlightening read on evolution's role in today's society, and should be a staple of education. many misconceptions surround the theory of evolution, and this has led to its rejection by an unexpectedly large portion of the general public despite overwhelming evidence to support it. the norton critical edition of darwin, selected and edited by philip appleman, is a superb argument for evolution, and it demonstrates why the theory should be an accepted part of mainstream knowledge. the book includes biographical information on darwin, the origin of species, the descent of man, selections from darwin's other works, selections from other papers of that time, and both contemporary and modern critiques on darwin's work. the origin of species is especially useful because give us the original evidence and reasoning. the many commentaries make sense of the ideas and give contexts as to why people have reacted the way they have. most importantly, the book presents many of the arguments for and against teaching the next generation of americans this pivotal theory. the work addresses one of the most common misconceptions about any scientific theory, which is the definition of "theory." colloquially, a theory is nothing more than a conjecture or a guess: i theorize that it was miss scarlet in the kitchen with the candlestick. in non-technical language, a theory can become a fact: in fact, it was professor plum in the library with the pistol. in science, a theory is the end result and cannot become a fact, because a fact is an observation whereas a theory is the explanation for why it occurred. for example, a fact would be an apple falls from a tree. the theory explaining why the apple fell to the ground would be the theory of gravity. most importantly, theories must give an explanation that can be proven or disproven using more observations, in nature or through experimentation. darwin begins his theory with the observation that organisms have many offspring, but only a few can survive. all life is a struggle for survival and a struggle to reproduce. this struggle can take many forms: it can be two organisms struggling against each other for resources, it can be organism struggling against their environment, it can be songbirds struggling to attract mates, or berry bushes competing against other fruit-bearing plants to have its seeds eaten and disseminated by animals (109). this struggle for survival results in natural selection: any inheritable trait that gives an organism an advantage, whether in surviving or reproducing, will make it more likely for that organism to pass on that trait to offspring. eventually, over many generations, that trait will be passed down more frequently until it eventually supplants other, less advantageous variations of that trait, and the species as a whole will have evolved to be slightly different than its ancestors. in this way, traits that are advantageous to an organism are naturally selected to be propagated, and this is the mechanism on which the theory of evolution hinges. evolution has been widely accepted by scientists as the central, unifying concept of biology. the national academy of sciences stated in 1984, "evolution pervades all biological phenomena" (534). many fields of study have grown with evolutionary concepts as their roots, including molecular biology and dna forensics (569). medicine, too, has improved by integrating the theory of evolution into its research and practices. for example, every year, a new flu shot is created through human application of the darwin's theory. the concepts first illustrated by darwin are accepted as truth in the scientific community and make up the foundation of advancements from which we all benefit today. it is therefore astonishing to find that there are many communities who would rather not see this fundamental theory taught to their children. much of the conflict arises because evolution is seen by some christians as a threat to their religion. the story evolution tells of how humans came to be contradicts the literal interpretation of the creation stories told by the bible. many churches have reconciled that fact, incorporating evolution into its doctrine. this includes the catholic church, mainline protestantism, and all but ultraorthodox judaism (539). many have done so by separating religion and science, placing them on two, orthogonal axes. pope john paul ii said in a message to the pontifical academy of sciences in 1996, "if the human body takes its origin from pre-existent living matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by god" (528). in fact, many churches opposed laws that forbade the teaching of evolution in classrooms. richard sjolund, a professor of biology at the university of iowa, stated in 1998, "children had better be preparing to understand the molecular basis of evolution" (569). he explains that to be an educated member of society, one needs to understand science and widely accepted scientific theories. to deprive children of that education, no matter the reason, still gives them a large disadvantage when they try to be contributing members of society. on the conflict between science and religion, the national academy of sciences stated in 1999, "scientific knowledge may enrich aesthetic and moral perceptions, but these subjects extend beyond science's realm, which is to obtain a better understanding of the natural world" (300). by definition, supernatural subjects do not fall under the jurisdiction of science, which can only explain the natural; therefore, science and religion do not conflict. evolution does not exclude the existence of a god; it only seeks to explain how the world that may or may not have been created by god operates based on observations of facts. the authorities on science and those on religion have made peace with each other. in the works included in the book, it is evident that the large majority of both support the next generation being taught evolution as the accepted truth of the workings of nature. darwin gathers many works and contains many sources, primary and secondary, that convey the importance of giving the theory of evolution its rightful place as a founding principle of biology and life.