Darwin's missing link—a novel paradigm for evolution education


  • This paper was edited by former Editor Nancy W. Brickhouse


Microevolutionary mechanisms are taught almost exclusively in our schools, to the detriment of those mechanisms that allow us to understand the larger picture—macroevolution. The results are demonstrable; as a result of the strong emphasis on micro processes in evolution education, students and teachers still have poor understanding of the processes which operate at the macro level, and virtually no understanding at all of the history of life on our planet. Natural selection has become synonymous with the suite of processes we call evolution. This paper makes the case for a paradigm shift in evolution education, so that both perspectives—micro and macro—are given equal weight. Increasingly, issues of bioethics, human origins, cloning, etc., are being cast in a light that requires an understanding of macroevolution. To deny our students access to this debate is to deny the call for universal science literacy. A methodology from professional practice is proposed that could achieve this goal, and discussed in light of its utility, theoretical underpinnings, and historical legacy. A mandate for research is proposed that focuses on learners' understanding of several challenging macroevolutionary concepts, including species, the formation of higher groups, deep time, and hierarchical thinking. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed90:767–783, 2006