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According to the National Science Board's 2002 study Science and Engineering Indicators, only one-third of Americans can adequately explain what it means to study something scientifically. As a nation, we are easy prey for those promoting pseudoscientific claims, and the National Science Board survey blames education and the media for this.
The word "evolution" can evoke a variety of meanings, especially for students and members of the general public. For some, evolution is equated with natural selection. Others think that evolution addresses the origin of life. Still others impose a distinction between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Part of the issue stems from an unclear understanding of what evolution is in a scientific sense.
One source of confusion about the status of the science or theory of evolution stems from the difference between the "everyday" meaning of the word "theory" and the scientific meaning the word.
Below we list some common misconceptions about the term "theory" and describe a classroom activity that can help students rethink their understanding of this term.
Misconception 1 "Evolution is 'just a theory'".
Misconception 2 "Theories become facts when they are well supported and/or proven."
(Download this document as a pdf file here! )
Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes (ENSI)
Originally NSF-funded, the ENSI program focused on teaching teachers about the nature of science, using evolution as the exemplar. A site for teachers by other teachers. Lots of classroom-tested exercises.
A collaboration between the University of Kansas and local teachers and citizens focusing around the life cycle, migration, ecology and adaptations of the monarch butterfly.
Intelligent design creationist Jonathan Wells has written the insidious "Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution." These questions try to encourage students to doubt and distrust evolutionary theory.
Here are 10 brief answers to those questions. Please feel free to copy and distribute this document to teachers, students, parents, and others.
In the sections below, Wells's questions appear in italics.