Natural Selection, Creationism and the Fork Bird Game from SALI
Setting Natural Selection in Context:
First asked students what evidence do we have so far that life has changed over time. Really necessary for them to put all the pieces together and to see the evidence that we have for the theory that life changed over time.
Natural selection is “just” a theory? We start off with a brief discussion using the word ‘theory’ in a sentence, then contrasting it with what a scientific theory is. Like “I have a theory why my sister is in such a bad mood.” to the scientific theory of gravity. Gravity is a good one because no one seriously doubts it as it fits with our daily observations and with a vast amount of scientific aka objective evidence. The theory of natural selection is on par with that.
Do you ‘believe’ in the theory of natural selection? Another tripping point – you don’t have to believe in it as a matter of faith, it’s a matter of the vast amount of scientific evidence supporting it. However, perfectly possible to have A faith in God, etc. AND accept the theory of natural selection. The Catholic church, the Jewish faith, mainline Christian faiths and Islam all are okay with natural selection.
Scientists do poorly in courts of law when defending natural selection vs creationism, according to a visiting UC Berkeley professor of biology – Dr. Huelsenbeck, because science never 100% proves anything. It only DIS-proves or makes alternate hypotheses less likely.
In a court case, a lawyer for creationism/intelligent design might ask “So you are not 100% certain this ‘theory’ is right. Isn’t it possible that life was designed and has a purpose and direction? Isn’t it just slightly possible it was created as it currently is?” And the scientist would have to answer “Well, HIGHLY unlikely… but I suppose possible…” and the response might be “So we should give equal time to teach opposing view points.” Headlines might read “Scientists not sure about evolution” and so on.
Told a quick version of Darwin’s story – the college drop-out beetle-collector version…
Natural Selection Games:
Natural selection has been woven into the fabric of our curriculum from the start of the year. Overtly in the microbiology and epidemiology where we did the SALI game about the evolution of antibiotic resistance (Science and Life Issues in the Micro-Life unit Activity 51 – The Full Course). Today, we’re reviewing the theory of natural selection using another SALI game – Activity 96 – Battling Beaks, involving Cheerios, forks and a lot of fun. Stay tuned for how that goes tomorrow!
What games have conveyed natural selection successfully to your students? What misconceptions and difficulties have you had? Please share!
Entry filed under: Evolution. Tags: Darwin, evolution, inquiry, middle school science, natural selection, nature of science, OIS, Science and Life Issues, science ed, scientific theory, SEPUP SALI, simulations.