"Science is the key to our future, and if you don’t believe in science, then you’re holding everybody back. And it’s fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don’t believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don’t believe in science, that’s a recipe for disaster. We talk about the Internet. That comes from science. Weather forecasting. That comes from science. The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong." - Bill Nye
I had a number of students who came into my class without a solid understanding of evolutionary theory. As science teachers, it’s integral that our students leave high school with a firm understanding who they are and where they really come from.
But what I realized is that students are taught evolution in Texas in such a timid, muddled way that it’s no wonder so many grow up to reject it. One way that Texas standards cause teachers to shy away from the truth is in their minimization of sexual selection as a driving factor in evolution.
What we need is to explain evolution in ways that our students can understand, and pass onto their friends and family. Here’s a shot.
Basically, every living thing on Earth wants to do two things:
I asked one of my students:
Mr. G: “S*, if you had to get married tomorrow, who would you be more likely to marry–a smart, attractive guy or a dumb, unattractive guy?”
S: “The smart, hot one!”
Mr. G: “OK. Now, a female peacock gets to choose between a plain-looking bird, or a bird with some sweet colored feathers to show off. Who does she choose?”
S: “The colored feathers!”
Mr. G: “Exactly. Now imagine that kind of decision is being made, at this very second, by billions of different species all over the world. And it’s been like that for hundreds of millions of years. We think we’re special because we go to the club and get to dance and match up with someone who dances in a way we like. But fruit flies do the exact same thing, dancing for each other to strut their stuff. We’re simply following a pattern of behavior that goes all the way back to our earliest days on Earth. We try to not die, and then when we’re ready, we try and make more of ourselves by finding a mate.”
Obviously, sexual selection is not the only driving factor. But it’s a good one to get the neurons firing, to get students to start seeing their evolutionary tendencies in their everyday lives.