Why Scientists Believe in Evolution

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Video Text
Subjects
Let's Talk Science
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9.23

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Scientists have accumulated so much evidence in the theory of evolution that it is one of the most widely-accepted theories in science.
Myths and misconceptions about evolution (2013) by Alex Gendler, TED Ed (4:22 min.)

Evolution is the change in genetic traits of populations that occurs over successive generations. We have evidence that populations have changed over time. The most commonly known evidence comes from the fossil record. This record shows that over time, populations have had modifications that led to their physical structure today.

Other evidence comes from the current distribution of species around Earth. One such piece of evidence is the differences between species on islands compared to their relatives on the mainland. Evidence such as this is further supported by our understanding of genetics. For example, we know that every organism shares the same basic genetic code. The pattern of this code between species matches the relatedness we had concluded from the other kinds of evidence. Comparing the genome of species is also considered a repeatable experiment: a scientist in any lab around the world can get the same results in comparing the DNA of different specimens of the same species.

Because of this, most scientists see evolution as a fact (i.e., it is an observation that has been confirmed many times, and in many different situations, that scientist see it as certain). When scientists refer to “the theory of evolution” they are referring to the models we use to explain how life evolves on Earth.

Scientists have suggested different ideas about how evolution works. Many people use powerful metaphors to explain these ideas.

Do these examples sound familiar?

  • Evolution is “survival of the fittest.”
  • “Genes want to make more copies of themselves.”

These metaphors don’t accurately explain what scientists believe about evolution today. But metaphors are easy to remember, so they stick with people. These metaphors can easily become misconceptions. And they’re hard to get rid of!

This video explains the origins of some common misconceptions about evolution. It also explains why these explanations are not correct.

We cannot observe evolution directly. However, scientists have accumulated a lot of evidence to show that organisms evolve. The theory that explains how evolution occurs is one of the most solid theories in all of science!

Starting Points

Connecting and Relating

  • As you watched the video, did you identify any evolutionary myths and misconceptions that you had? Which ones? Were your surprised they were misconceptions?
  • Have you used a metaphor to explain a difficult idea? What was it?
  • Do you think humans are evolving right now? Do you think that human biodiversity will help humans evolve to survive the changes on Earth caused by climate change? Why or why not? 

Connecting and Relating

  • As you watched the video, did you identify any evolutionary myths and misconceptions that you had? Which ones? Were your surprised they were misconceptions?
  • Have you used a metaphor to explain a difficult idea? What was it?
  • Do you think humans are evolving right now? Do you think that human biodiversity will help humans evolve to survive the changes on Earth caused by climate change? Why or why not? 

Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment

  • One of the misconceptions mentioned in the video is that evolution is a result of reproduction, not survival. Individuals with random genetic mutations reproduce and pass on those mutations. Sometimes these mutations are beneficial, but sometimes they’re not. If given the option, would you choose to have your genetic makeup analyzed for mutations before having children? Why/why not?
  • Should people be permitted to be tested for mutations that might result in a child with a serious disease? Who should pay of these tests? Explain.
  • Evolution is a widely accepted concept in the scientific community. However, there continues to be controversy surrounding the concept of evolution. Why do you think this is the case?

Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment

  • One of the misconceptions mentioned in the video is that evolution is a result of reproduction, not survival. Individuals with random genetic mutations reproduce and pass on those mutations. Sometimes these mutations are beneficial, but sometimes they’re not. If given the option, would you choose to have your genetic makeup analyzed for mutations before having children? Why/why not?
  • Should people be permitted to be tested for mutations that might result in a child with a serious disease? Who should pay of these tests? Explain.
  • Evolution is a widely accepted concept in the scientific community. However, there continues to be controversy surrounding the concept of evolution. Why do you think this is the case?

Exploring Concepts

  • Who was Charles Darwin? Why is he significant to the topic of evolution?
  • What is natural selection?
  • How does natural selection differ from evolution?
  • The word “fittest” in the concept “Survival of the Fittest” is not necessarily indicating the strongest or toughest organisms but instead the organism with the best “evolutionary fitness.” What is evolutionary fitness and how is it important to evolution?
  • How does recent scientific evidence show that evolution is continually taking place? Provide specific examples.

Exploring Concepts

  • Who was Charles Darwin? Why is he significant to the topic of evolution?
  • What is natural selection?
  • How does natural selection differ from evolution?
  • The word “fittest” in the concept “Survival of the Fittest” is not necessarily indicating the strongest or toughest organisms but instead the organism with the best “evolutionary fitness.” What is evolutionary fitness and how is it important to evolution?
  • How does recent scientific evidence show that evolution is continually taking place? Provide specific examples.

Nature of Science/Nature of Technology

  • Do you think the use of the word “theory” in the title “the theory of evolution” affects what people believe about evolution? Explain.

Nature of Science/Nature of Technology

  • Do you think the use of the word “theory” in the title “the theory of evolution” affects what people believe about evolution? Explain.

Media Literacy

  • Have you watched a movie or television show recently that has touched on the concept of evolution? Was the concept of evolution portrayed accurately? Explain.
  • In what ways do you think the news and popular media have helped spread myths and misconceptions about evolution? Explain.

Media Literacy

  • Have you watched a movie or television show recently that has touched on the concept of evolution? Was the concept of evolution portrayed accurately? Explain.
  • In what ways do you think the news and popular media have helped spread myths and misconceptions about evolution? Explain.

Teaching Suggestions

  • This video supports Biology and Nature of Science teaching and learning related to the concepts of evolution, Natural Selection and adaptation. The video helps explain the common misconceptions that can happen when using these terms.
  • After viewing the video, teachers could have students complete a Concept Definition Web learning strategy for the concept of evolution. Ready-to-use Concept Definition Web reproducibles are available in [Google doc] and [PDF] formats.
  • As a research extension, teachers could assign the following project: “Proof of evolution is all around us! Research evolutionary changes and find a specific example of an organism that has evolved. Provide pictures of the evolutionary change, explain the original mutation and why it lead to evolutionary change.”

Teaching Suggestions

  • This video supports Biology and Nature of Science teaching and learning related to the concepts of evolution, Natural Selection and adaptation. The video helps explain the common misconceptions that can happen when using these terms.
  • After viewing the video, teachers could have students complete a Concept Definition Web learning strategy for the concept of evolution. Ready-to-use Concept Definition Web reproducibles are available in [Google doc] and [PDF] formats.
  • As a research extension, teachers could assign the following project: “Proof of evolution is all around us! Research evolutionary changes and find a specific example of an organism that has evolved. Provide pictures of the evolutionary change, explain the original mutation and why it lead to evolutionary change.”