Fri Nov 6, 2009
Tolman 5101, 11 AM–1 PM
|Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Andrew Shtulman (Occidental College)
Developing an Understanding and Appreciation of Biological Evolution
Evolution by natural selection is a theory that has unified the biological sciences but divided the general public. In this talk, I shall discuss how early-developing constraints on the conceptualization of biological kinds influence (a) one’s understanding of evolutionary phenomena and (b) one’s acceptance of evolutionary claims. Data from three studies suggest that students initially construe evolution as the uniform transformation of all species members - a view consistent with early views of evolution in the history of science. Only through specialized instruction are students able to shed their “transformational” misconceptions and embrace a correct, “variational” view of evolution, in which evolution is construed as the selective propagation of within-species variation. This transition is marked not only by an increased understanding of what evolution is but also by an increased willingness to accept evolution as true.