Darwinism Essay, Research Paper
Should Darwinism Be Taught In Schools?
Whether or not we should allow the Darwinism Theory of evolution to be taught in schools is a controversial issue that has affected the United States since the late 1800 s. Teaching evolution in the public schools most likely will remain a contentious battle between scientists and certain sects of Christianity even though it has been close to 80 years since the first attempt to stifle the scientific theory. The theory of Charles Darwin should be taught to and studied by students in both today s public and private schools, for there is not and should not ever be a limit on learning and education.
Charles Robert Darwin was a British scientist who laid the foundation of multiple evolutionary theory s with his concept of the development of forms of life through the process of natural selection. Darwin was born in England on February 12, 1809, and after attending the elite school in Shrewsbury, England, attended the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. In 1827 he dropped out of medical school and entered the University of Cambridge, becoming a painstaking observer of natural phenomena and collector of specimens. Graduating from Cambridge in 1831, 22-year-old Darwin was taken aboard the English survey ship HMS Beagle, as an unpaid naturalist on a scientific exploration around the world.
Darwin s job as a naturalist aboard the Beagle gave him the opportunity to observe the various geological formations found on different continents and islands along the way, as well as a huge variety of fossils and living organisms. After returning to England in 1836, Darwin began to record his ideas about the ability of change in species. Pointing to variability within species, Darwin observed that while offspring inherit a resemblance to their parents, they are not identical to them. He further noted that some of the differences between offspring and parents were not due solely to the environment but were themselves often inheritable. Darwin reasoned that, in nature, individuals with qualities that made them better adjusted to their environments or gave them higher reproductive capacities would tend to leave more offspring; such individuals were said to have higher fitness. Because more individuals are born than survive to breed, constant winnowing of the less fit, a natural selection, should occur, leading to a population that is well adapted to the environment it inhabits. When environmental conditions change, populations require new properties to maintain their fitness. Either the survival of a sufficient number of individuals with suitable traits leads to an eventual adaptation of the population as a whole, or the population becomes extinct. Thus, according to Darwin’s theory, evolution proceeds by the natural selection of well-adapted individuals over a span of many generations. Natural selection is only part of Darwin s vast conceptual scheme; he also introduced the concept that all related organisms are descended from common ancestors. Also, it provided additional support for the older concept that the earth itself is not static but evolving.
Darwin s theory was first announced in 1858 in a local newspaper, and his complete theory was published in 1859, in a book called On the Origin of Species. Often referred to as the “book that shook the world,” the Origin sold out on the first day of publication and subsequently went through six editions.
The reaction to the Origin was immediate. Some biologists argued that Darwin could not prove his hypothesis. Others criticized Darwin s concept of variation, arguing that he could explain neither the origin of variations nor how they were passed to succeeding generations. The parts of Darwin’s theory that were the most difficult to test scientifically were the inferences about the heritability of traits, or characteristics, because heredity was not understood at that time. This particular scientific objection was not answered until the birth of modern genetics in the early 20th century. In fact, many scientists have continued to express doubts for the following 80 or so odd years. The most publicized attacks on Darwin s ideas, however, came not from scientists but from religious opponents. The thought that living things had evolved by natural processes denied the special creation of humankind and seemed to place humanity on a plane with the animals; both of these ideas were serious contradictions to standard religious studies.
Based on a 1987 Supreme Court decision, schools can not ban the teaching of evolution. Despite the Supreme Court s announcement, citizens and state lawmakers continued to argue that the creation story, as told in the Bible, should be taught in public schools if evolution could be taught. Creationism is the belief that God created the world in six days. So for many accepting Charles Darwin s views of species gradual change meant ruling out God. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in 1987 that creation science is not a science but a religious idea that cannot be mandated to be taught in the public schools. The fact of the matter is teaching Darwinism s theory of evolution is not about ruling out God or making any student s religious beliefs insignificant, it is about studying, observing and debating biological hypotheses and theories. The evolutionary theory is significant in biology, among other reasons, for its unifying properties and predictive features, the clear empirical testability of its fundamental models and the richness of new scientific research it fosters. Teachers can respect diverse beliefs, but contrasting science with religion, such as belief in creationism, is not a role of science. Science teachers can, and often do, hold devout religious beliefs, accept evolution as a valid scientific theory, and teach the theory s mechanisms and principles.
In conclusion, schools and students are only being harmed when they exclude important, legitimate points of view. Charles Darwin s theory of evolution, along with other scientific theory s, is fundamental to biology, and it is not receiving proper treatment in schools because of pressure from religious groups. Evolution is the central organizing principle that biologists use to understand the world. If we want our children to have a good grasp of science, we need to help teachers, parents, school administrators, and policy-makers understand both evolution and the nature of science.