Counterpoint: Belief, understanding, and the teaching of evolution

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Abstract

If we are to be successful in teaching evolution, we must take into account our students' worldviews as well as their individual understandings and misconceptions. This article makes several recommendations for how this might be accomplished in a way that respects individual student backgrounds and beliefs but is also scientifically appropriate. It is important (a) to know our students—their cultures, personal histories, cognitive abilities, religious beliefs, scientific misconceptions, and so forth; (b) to take this opportunity to teach about the nature of science and its distinctions from nonscience; (c) to address directly the likely cultural/religious concerns with evolution and to do so early on so as to break down the barriers that keep many students from hearing what you say; and (d) to present evolution appropriately as conflicting with none but the most fundamentalist religious tenets that demand a literal translation of the Bible. I have also argued that the approach advocated by Cobern in the previous article that focuses on belief in evolution is ill-advised on several grounds, principally because students may understand the term belief as synonymous with faith, opinion, or conviction and not as equivalent to the scientist's meaning of the term acceptance.

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