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Online Course for Teachers: Teaching Evolution

About this Course 

SESSION 5

SESSION 5: How Did Humans Evolve? Is Evolution Still Happening?

National Science Education Standards
Addressed in SESSION 5

Science Standard A:

All students should develop:

Abilities to do scientific inquiry

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Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations

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Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models

 

Understandings about scientific inquiry

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Scientists conduct investigations for a wide variety of reasons.

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Scientific explanations must adhere to criteria such as: a proposed explanation must be logically consistent; it must abide by the rules of evidence; it must be open to questions and possible modification; and it must be based on historical or current scientific knowledge.

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Results of scientific inquiry -- new knowledge and methods -- emerge from different types of investigations and public communication among scientists.

 
Science Standard C:

All students should develop understanding of:

The molecular basis of heredity

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In all organisms, the instructions for specifying the characteristics of the organism are carried in DNA, a large polymer formed from the subunits of four kinds (A,G,C,T). The chemical and structural properties of DNA explain how the genetic information that underlies heredity is both encoded in genes (as a string of molecular "letters") and replicated (by a templating mechanism). Each DNA molecule in a cell forms a chromosome.

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Changes in DNA (mutations) occur spontaneously at low rates. Some of these changes make no difference to the organism, whereas others can change cells and organisms. Only mutations in germ cells can create the variation that changes an organism's offspring.

 

Biological evolution

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Species evolve over time. Evolution is the consequence of the interactions of (1) the potential for a species to increase its numbers, (2) the genetic variability of offspring due to mutation and recombination of genes, (3) a finite supply of the resources required for life, and (4) the ensuing selection by the environment of those offspring better able to survive and leave offspring.

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The great diversity of organisms is the result of more than 3.5 billion years of evolution that has filled every available niche with life forms.

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Natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the fossil record of ancient life forms, as well as for the striking molecular similarities observed among the diverse species of living organisms.

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The millions of different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that live on earth today are related by descent from common ancestors.

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Biological classifications are based on how organisms are related. Organisms are classified into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups based on similarities that reflect their evolutionary relationships. Species is the most fundamental unit of classification.

Science Standard D:

All students should develop understanding of:

The origin and evolution of the Earth system

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Geologic time can be estimated by observing rock sequences and using fossils to correlate the sequences at various locations. Current methods include using the known decay rates of radioactive isotopes present in rocks to measure the time since the rock was formed.

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