22 November 2011

Should evolution be taught in schools?

The answer is yes, and the reasons are these:

This video is the result of an ongoing discussion among a small handful of scientists and science communicators - Matt Shipman, Jamie Vernon, Andrea Kuszewski, Kevin Zelnio, an amazing video editor who wishes to remain nameless - and me.

The discussion started shortly after a video of the the Miss USA 2011 Pageant interview competition appeared on YouTube.  The contestants were asked that simple question - should evolution be taught in schools - and most of the answers were very disappointing for advocates of science. The discussion continued as evolution again became a salient topic in the presidential campaign. Everyone in our group had their own perspective and reasons for doing this, but here's what I saw as the question kept coming up:

  • conservative politicians saying "no" (without facts to back it up)
  • pageant contestants saying either "no" or "teach evolution and creationism and let kids decide"
  • prominent supporters of teaching evolution calling these other people idiots or otherwise mocking them 

The only thing I didn't see: prominent people explaining why evolution actually should be taught in schools.

That's not to say people aren't trying - there are organizations which have been at the forefront of this discussion for some time now, such as the National Center for Science Education, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association, and so many others.  They do great work.

But here were prominent role models - and as Matt wrote, mostly female role models - talking about teaching evolution. It just seemed like a good time to add more voices of smart female role models with more to say than "you suck."  So we reached out to a bunch of female scientists, asked them to record a video about teaching evolution, and a lot of them responded.  Our editor put it all together and the montage above is what we got.

Our informal group is under no illusions that this will fix everything.  It took several months just to pull this video together, with zero budget. If anything this gives me a greater appreciation for groups like NCSE, AAAS, and NSTA.  But if enough people do enough things to make science more relevant and accessible to everyone - projects like SciStarter or ScienceDebate or even the #scimom discussion - we will continue to make progress, and society will continue to, erm... evolve.

And that's where you come in.  It's also important for YOUR voice to be heard.  Leave a comment - or even better, a video response at the YouTube page - answering the same question - why should evolution be taught in schools?  All it takes is a laptop, a webcam, and a YouTube account.  Be a constructive and positive voice.  Your feedback is encouraged and appreciated.

By the way, I submitted the above video as a "response" the the original Miss USA 2011 video.  The owner of that channel needs to give permission to have it posted there as a response.  We'll see what happens.


Mom101 said...

Awesome David. Awesome awesome.

I suppose after hundreds of years of science, it's hard to believe that we still need rationale (beyond "you're an idiot") - but I suppose we do. Thanks for the reminder.

Matt Shipman said...

Brilliant, Dave. Wish I'd written it myself. Envy: the highest praise. :)