A failure to grasp the fundamentals of biological systems may be leaving K-12 teachers and students vulnerable to claims by intelligent design creationists, new-age homeopaths and other "hucksters," according to a University of Colorado at Boulder biology professor.
On the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's classic book "The Origin of Species" that first described natural selection in detail, polls still show that only about one third of Americans believe evolution is supported by scientific evidence, said Professor Mike Klymkowsky of CU-Boulder's molecular, cellular and developmental biology department. "The questions we are asking ourselves as scientists and educators is what the problem is here, and what are the objections to evolution," he said.
Klymkowsky said the disconnect is due in part to the inability of students and the public to understand the evidence for and the mechanisms behind the evolutionary process. There is difficulty in grasping the idea that random biochemical events can produce novel and useful adaptations, he said, and an inability to understand how such random events take place at the molecular and cellular level to generate evolutionary change.
"We can't leave students with mysteries about how biochemical processes work, because that's when nonscientific information sneaks in," he said. Klymkowsky gave two presentations on innovative science education programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting held Feb. 12-15 in Chicago.
Klymkowsky and CU-Boulder Research Associate Kathy Garvin-Doxas co-developed the Biology Concept Inventory at CU-Boulder, which includes online surveys to measure undergraduate understanding of fundamental biological concepts. The inventory is especially useful when it is administered to students prior to course instruction to allow professors to better understand the needs of students in particular courses, he said.
The BCI effort
|Contact: Mike Klymkowsky|
University of Colorado at Boulder