Everything I Need To Know About Evolution I Learned In Kindergarten

Let me say up front that I do not mean by this title that I learned all the biology I need to know in kindergarten. That is definitely not true. Rather, in alluding to the title of a famous book, I am suggesting that there are basic principles that we learn early on that some voices in current debates about evolution seem to be missing. Here are just a few of them.

1) Teachers know more than we do. There are individual exceptions, but this basic principle about our teachers, taken collectively, is presumably valid. It is even in the Bible, in Luke 6:40. So what should someone do in light of this principle if they cannot understand why the overwhelming majority of biologists, geneticists and other scientists find the evidence for evolution persuasive, there is a logical action to take. Read more books by biologists! Take remedial biology! The appropriate response to not following an educator’s argument is not to disbelieve it but to get some tutoring. Being willing to critically examine what a teacher says is a virtue. Assuming that the educated are generally wrong is not.

2) Don’t spend all your time looking at picture books. It may not matter that much in kindergarten, I admit it, but if you don’t start reading as advanced books as you are capable of reading, you will not keep progressing and will consistently be at a disadvantage. Similarly, if you spend all your time reading ancient literature and books by lawyers and hydraulic engineers instead of books by biologists, it won’t be surprising if you find yourself at a disadvantage in understanding the more academically challenging arguments and perspectives of experts in the field.

3) Your best friend today may not be your best friend next week. There was a time when physics was felt to be the enemy of faith and biology its ally – the former seemed deterministic, the latter seemed to provide evidence of design. Today, the tide has reversed significantly, and far more feel comfortable relating physics to religion and they do in the case of biology. Rather Orwellian in one sense, but it is a basic truth we learn early on.

4) You’ll understand this when you’re older. We all hate to hear that. But sometimes, even though we don’t like that answer, we can at least become aware that our minds often change over the course of a lifetime, and perhaps burn fewer bridges when we are still young.

5). Don’t pick your nose. This has nothing to do with evolution. Not everything that is important does. But it would be a shame to focus so much on evolution that we forget how many other things are important. Plenty of religious groups and associations have an official position on evolution, but have no official position on other important issues like torture.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14201735520753301516 athenenike

    Why should we assume that we know everything there is to know? There is always an opportunity to learn.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks for the comment! I certainly wasn’t literally claiming to know everything, or even everything important, even in this one area. It was an allusion to a famous book, which suggested that the really important stuff in life – play fair, share, put the blocks back when you’re done playing with them – we learn in kindergarten.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14201735520753301516 athenenike

    Silly! I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to all the people who SHOULD be reading your blog. I think warm milk, cookies and a nap every afternoon would make the world a better place.:)


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