The removal of Darwin and evolution from schools is a backwards step

In recent weeks there have been alarming reports from both Israel and Turkey of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution being erased from school curriculums. In Turkey, this has been blamed on the concept of evolution – which is taught in British primary schools – being beyond the understanding of high school students. In Israel, teachers are claiming that most students do not learn about evolution; they say their education ministry is quietly encouraging teachers to focus on other topics in biology. Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum writes in The Guardian. 

This news follows the astonishing statements made by India’s minister for higher education earlier this year. Satyapal Singh claimed Darwin was “scientifically wrong”, and is demanding that the theory of evolution be removed from school curriculums because no one “ever saw an ape turning into a human being”.

At the Natural History Museum, we have a unique collection of over 80m specimens, which ranges from 2.7bn-year-old fossils to specimens collected in 2018. Accessed by our own 350 scientists and thousands of researchers annually from all over the world, this collection provides crucial baseline data against which changes in both the form and diversity of life can be measured over millions of years. The fantastic diversity of life and the molecular composition of life past and present in our collection is clear, concrete, accumulated evidence of evolution.

And yet … evolution is still questioned. Religious-based opposition aside, one reason for doubt seems to be the sheer unimaginable scale of what it describes. To understand evolution, you have to accept the concept of deep time – an immense arc of non-human history in which humanity’s time on this planet barely registers. Darwin himself said: “What an infinite number of generations, which the mind cannot grasp, must have succeeded each other in the long roll of years!”

So how should we respond to overt or insidious attempts to undermine this vital scientific concept? We must – of course – teach it in schools as the core part of any science curriculum. And we must speak up to defend scientific evidence and rational debate. But more than these things, we must inspire children with the sheer wonder and variety of nature, and ignite their curiosity in the world around them. These ideas are at the heart of all our public engagement at the Natural History Museum, because we believe that reconnecting with nature and empowering our visitors to understand how the choices we make could impact the world around us are urgent, vital tasks.

Read the full article The removal of Darwin and evolution from schools is a backwards step

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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