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10 Answers to Jonathan Wells's "10 Questions"

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.

Embryology

The new field of "evo-devo"–an integration of evolutionary biology with our growing understanding of embryonic development–is an exciting a fruitful area of intense scientific research. A book purporting to "explore evolution" would do well to address this exciting field, yet the discussion in Explore Evolution is mired in disputes about what Darwin thought about embryos 150 years ago, and the legitimacy of illustrations by Ernst Haeckel 100 years ago.

What is Homology?

en español

Understanding why living organisms resemble each other has fascinated human beings for millennia, long before evolution provided a unifying concept for biology.

Cans and Can'ts of Teaching Evolution

by Eugenie C. Scott

High school teachers are in a quandary about teaching evolution. Sometimes they are pressed to teach creation "science" or "intelligent design theory", or "evidence against evolution"; sometimes they are pressed just to forget about teaching evolution. What should a teacher do? What, legally, can and can't a teacher do?

Science and Evolution

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.

Teach the "Controversy?"

Whether providing students with an opportunity to evaluate the scientific credibility of creationism actually advances their understanding of evolution depends on the level of students, the objective of the assignment, and how the assignment is designed. Research indicates (Verhey 2005) college students gain a better understanding of why evolution is accepted science, and why creationism, creation science, and intelligent design are not appropriate scientific topics when given an opportunity to examine antievolutionist claims.

Theory and Fact

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."

Opting Out - Not!

Dear NCSE: I teach 9th grade biology and the principal informed me that in response to the request of a parent, a student in my class has been given permission to opt out of the evolution section.

Anatomical Homology

Nested patterns of shared similarities between species play an important role in testing evolutionary hypotheses. "Homology" is one term used to describe these patterns, but scientists prefer other, more clearly defined terms. Explore Evolution would have done well to accurately present the way scientists talk about this issue, instead of building two chapters around a misguided attack on a particular word with a meaning that dates to pre-evolutionary attempts at understanding the diversity of life.

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