The theory of evolution should be the basis of the entire course of biology at school. Darwin’s idea is the only reasonable scientific suggestion of how life on Earth developed. Even though the theory provides reliable data on the question of evolution, there are many other theories that can be helpful in creating a comprehensive point of view in students’ minds. Some believe that alternative theories should not be taught because they are not reliable enough. Others consider it a perfect opportunity to balance science and erudition within the school program. Teaching alternative theories of evolution in public schools is necessary because such an approach contributes to forming more diverse life-perception concepts in children’s cognition and develops erudition and analytical skills.
The general representation of the leading alternative evolution concepts should be provided before the arguments for these theories’ implementation into the education process. The variety of alternative models is usually grouped into Lamarckism, theories of directed evolution, and saltationism. All variations of Lamarckism are based on the principle of inheritance of acquired traits. Lamarckism asserts the “central dogma” of genetics as the methodological basis of biology, unlike how evolution is treated as a fact, not a theory by researchers such as Greg Graffin, according to Jean and Yixi (620). This theory solves the problem of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Thus, the most widely known theories on evolution are dogmatic and inflexible even when education is concerned.
Theories of directed evolution proceed from the recognition in organisms of a predisposition to change in a specific direction. Such approaches began to appear almost simultaneously with Darwin’s ideas, but these theories always represented a multitude of separate, very diverse currents. Recent research on the evolutionary theory states that subjective purposes caused by consciousness and ‘purposiveness’ have physical effects on the course of evolution (Gaudry). Gaudry states that this conclusion applies itself even to bacteria, claiming that amoeba could experience hunger, desire, and pain if they were a large animals. Saltationism postulates the “jump-like” emergence of new forms through rare single mutations (Jean and Yixi 620). Another theory that is worth mentioning is theistic evolutionism or evolutionary creationism. These similar concepts state that cores religious teachings about God are compatible with current scientific knowledge of biological evolution.
Mentioned alternative theories are diverse and related to the different spheres of human life. Moreover, some of the views are related to the other science directions. Public schools should focus not only on providing accurate knowledge but also on developing many character and personality traits of the students. According to Clemmitt, teaching strategies should aim to establish broad erudition, profound analytical skills, and diverse life perception (320). She adds that all discussions and disciplines should involve the programs to develop mentioned aspects of children’s cognition (321). Through presenting an eclectic overview of the world’s functioning, teachers prepare the student for adult life, contributing to the formation of the skills necessary for achieving successful life conditions.
In modern society, parents delegate the responsibility of broadening their children’s horizons and acquiring basic communicational skills in the contemporary world to schools. Therefore, teachers are primarily responsible for the general erudition level of the students. The theories of evolution are the educational basis that can be the starting point in understanding how the world functions. Teaching different ideas of evolution can help form a broad understanding of the problem in children’s minds. In other words, even unreliable theories can be helpful because students can compare and contrast the suggested information and options. The main advantage of evolving alternative theories in the educational process is the correlation with other spheres of life. For example, theistic evolutionism can help children understand that religion is a significant notion in human society, which is even reflected in biology and general science. The discussion of religious views on evolution should focus on the common ideas different religions have on the matter. The reason for it is that a detailed analysis may offend religious students by a wrong interpretation or a lack of an important element. Therefore, introducing the alternative theories of evolution into the teaching process improves the erudition level of students.
Developing Analytical Skills
A person, to be successful, needs to be able to quickly assess the information and different situations. Clemmit states that analytical abilities are based on students’ skills to mentally divide the whole into its parts, highlight what is necessary to solve a specific problem and determine further actions (324). She lists skills such as analysis, synthesis, analogy, comparison, generalization, and establishing causal relationships (Clemmitt 320). One of the primary analytical skills is the critical processing of the information, which involves checking for completeness, consistency, sufficiency, and validity of the received data. Thus, it is important to teach analytical skills to students as they help in processing information, with the most important aspect being employing criticism while doing so.
Providing students with the opportunity to analyze different approaches to identifying evolution helps to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills. According to Clemmitt, some researchers believe that such theories as theistic have no right to exist and should be extracted from the educational process (323). The argumentation of this idea includes the fact that such approaches decrease the accuracy and the quality of studying biology as a science (Clemmitt 325). On the one hand, this point of view is rational. Undoubtedly, scientific research and teaching should focus on the most supported and reliable theories, representing the current generally accepted consensus in their respective scientific fields.
Nevertheless, alternative points of view are possible in this regard. Approaches such as the aforementioned one are more relevant for higher education, as evidenced by Clemmitt (325). Public schools aim to provide general knowledge about the world and prepare children to choose the sphere of their future activities. Focusing only on genuinely scientific theories can limit the process of children’s cognition and information comprehension. Moreover, students also should be taught to learn about contrast notions. For example, the advantages of Darwin’s theory can be efficiently discussed only in comparison with the other approaches’ features. However, it is worth noting that the teacher should make this comparison carefully not to confuse the children. Thus, students should be taught about the existence of theories, which are alternatives to what is commonly accepted in science, as they need to learn to compare and analyze.
The Synthesis of Science and Life
Alternative evolution theories represent the development of human thought. These ideas reflect the process which took place in the history of science. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that children learn about the experience of the past generations (Jean and Yixi 625). Some researchers try to counterargument this position, stating that biology teachers should not be devoted to balancing scientific theory and life experience. However, public school disciplines are not created to ensure in-depth knowledge of the subject. Specialized schools or further education can allow people to explore the genuinely scientific perspective regarding this issue. Such an approach is dangerous because it limits cognition and prevents children from understanding evolution from different perspectives. Teaching strict scientific concepts is inherent to the universities’ programs. Not all children plan to continue their education after grade and high school. Therefore, it is much more vital to provide a general overview of the possible evolution theories allowing us to form a broad understanding of human thought formation.
Based on the conducted analysis, alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution should be taught in public schools. Despite all the disadvantages and limitations related to a low level of validity and reliability, these theories positively impact school students. The primary argument for the teaching of alternative theories is that schools strive to provide general knowledge and prepare children for more in-depth education. Implementing a solely scientific point of view into the program is unnecessary. Moreover, these theories of teaching contribute to the enhancement of the students’ erudition and analytical skills. Therefore, school programs should not be absolute but integrated with past experiences. Through the comprehensive balance of science and life experience in education, children gain a diverse perception of the world around them.
Clemmitt, Marcia. “Teaching Critical Thinking.” CQ Researcher, vol. 25, 2018, pp. 313–336. Web.
Gaudry, Justin Dominic. “Liking What’s Good for You: Evolution, Subjectivity and Purpose.” Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 14, no. 3, 2018, pp. 359+. Gale Literature Resource Center.
Jean, Jason, and Yixi Lu. “Evolution as a Fact? A Discourse Analysis.” Social Studies of Science, vol. 48, no. 4, 2018, pp. 615–632.