We Need to Start Teaching Kids About Evolution

kids-readingMany children in the world today learn little or nothing about evolution in school. They learn plenty about Christianity, Buddhism, and other religions, which all have their unique explanation of how life here on earth came to be, but there’s no comprehensive course devoted to the scientific explanation of life. Hence, it’s not surprising that some children, as well as adults, don’t believe in evolution; rather, they think that some magical or divine force was responsible for creating life in its present form.

What should we tell our children when they ask us how life on earth came to be?

Virtually no scientists alive today don’t believe in evolution. Among the general public, however, opinions are more split. Public surveys have shown that in some countries, such as the U.S., more than fifty percent of the population doesn’t believe in evolution; they think God created life in its present form, not evolutionary forces. Some of them even think the world is only a couple of thousands of years old.

There are many possible reasons as to why they hold these beliefs. They may not have learned much about the history of life in school and have perhaps never been shown the scientific evidence that supports the “theory” of evolution; hence, they don’t possess the knowledge they need to make a well-informed decision regarding what to believe in.

There’s also a group of people out there who are so adamant about their religious beliefs that they simply refuse to acknowledge that evolution is a real thing, even when they are shown the scientific evidence. This is disturbing, as it indicates that the human brain is extremely prone to confirmation bias. We unconsciously look for information that supports our current beliefs, sometimes completely skipping over everything else. Even when we are presented with strong evidence that refutes our beliefs, we are not necessarily willing to change our mind.

Our opinions are not necessarily shaped by science, but rather by what one or more charismatic individuals have told us to be true, what we feel is true, or what the society tells us to be true. Often, we just accept the status quo. This is a dangerous practice, because it limits our ability to move forward as a species. We need to question things; however, we also need to accept theories that have been proven beyond any doubt to be true. Evolution is one such theory.

I see no problem with believing in a God. The problem arises when the belief in God overshadows everything else and the theory of evolution is rejected.

The science of evolution

It’s now well established that evolution is a real thing; it’s not something a bunch of wacky scientists made up – which is what some religious people seem to think. The fossil record clearly shows that humans, as well as other organisms here on this earth, have evolved over time, changing in shape, size, and structure. These processes were driven by evolutionary forces, such as natural selection, that shape the genetic make-up of plants, animals, and other life forms.

These notions are not just supported by fossil studies, but also by genetic sequencing data. By analyzing the genome of various organisms, scientists have been able to find connections between life forms, trace the origins of life, and estimate the rate at which mutations occur. By combining all of the scientific data collected from studies of both ancient remains and contemporary, living organisms, biological scientists have been able to create a model that depicts the tree of life.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about evolution and how life here on earth came to be. However, we do know for sure that life didn’t just magically happen; it evolved. Given that there’s massive body of evidence supporting the idea that evolution has occurred – and still is occurring – it’s puzzling that some people still think that life as we know it today was inserted on this planet in its present form by some divine force.

The theory of evolution has a more solid scientific foundation than virtually any other theory or concept that children learn about in school. It’s definitely a lot more solid than the scientific foundation that theories about religion rest upon – if such a foundation even exists. This is not to say that I think we should only teach our kids about theories that are supported by scientific data. The point I’m trying to make is that the concept of evolution deserves a spot in educational textbooks.

We need to provide children with all the tools they need to make well-informed choices

Today, there is a huge hole in our educational system, a hole that needs to be filled. I’d argue that students, both young and old, should learn about evolutionary biology, ancestral human populations, and Darwin’s theories. I’m not saying that we should force every child to believe in evolution, what I’m saying is that every child should be provided with the information he needs to make a well-informed decision about what to believe in.

If we don’t give our children all of the facts, but rather bombard them with biased, incomplete information, how can we expect them to make the best possible choices with their life? 

There are numerous advantages to carving out a relatively large place in the educational curriculum for biological sciences and evolutionary theory. Children will become more knowledgeable about their own body, how plants, animals, and other life forms came to be, and why the world is like it is. Moreover, they will acquire knowledge early in life that will likely prove useful as they get older and start narrowing down their educational pursuits.

Evolutionary biology is incorporated – or should be incorporated – into virtually every branch of science, and is also important in many non-scientific fields. Regardless of whether a child ends up studying to become a doctor, teacher, or economist, he will benefit from having knowledge about how the human mind and body evolved and what happened here on earth during the billions of years that took place before the present time.

Picture: Creative commons picture by ThomasLife. Some rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Hi Eirik. Good article, and I couldn’t agree more. I do believe in God, NOT because of what the various religious books teach, but because the evidence is visible all around us–evidence that has itself evolved from one millennia to the next. To me, it makes more sense to arm one’s self with all the available information and then base one’s beliefs on that which is obvious along with the scientifically proven facts. Our kids deserve nothing less.

  2. Well said. Too many people believe the two cannot coexist out of fear and ignorance.

  3. Religions perfectly works if you substitute the word Nature in lieu of God..

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