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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution


Why Is Evolution Controversial?

Back to LESSON 7

Activity 1: Teacher Notes

Activity 2: Scopes Trial

Activity 2: Teacher Notes

Activity 1: Controversy through Time

For more than 20 years, Charles Darwin kept his revolutionary theory of evolution by natural selection secret while he continued gathering evidence. When he finally published his results, nothing sparked more rage than his view of humankind. One critic roared, Darwin's story "begins in the mud, has a monkey in the middle and an infidel at the tail." But Darwin also had many supporters. One of the first scientists to accept Darwin's theory, Thomas Huxley, became his most passionate supporter. Huxley remarked after reading Darwin's Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, "How stupid of me not to have thought of that!"

Darwin's revolution -- perhaps the greatest in the history of science -- inspired a counter-revolt that still rages. In this activity you will look at the history of the battle over evolution. Can science and religion ever reconcile their differences? Let's look at the history of evolutionary theory's acceptance in the scientific community and its rejection by some religious groups.



You may work alone, or your teacher may divide the class into five groups. Each group may choose or be assigned to a particular time period in the history of evolutionary thought. Time periods: 1600-1900, 1900-1925, 1925-1970, 1970-1988, 1988-the present.


Launch the Evolution Revolution Web activity.

 Screen grab from the Evolution Revolution Web activity.

Evolution Revolution


Notice that this timeline includes four distinct types of entries or themes:


Rise of Evolution: A radical theory becomes the bedrock of biology.


Evolution Challenged: The rise of creationism and other challenges.


Battle in the Schools: A history of the hottest debate in American education.


Reconciliation: Efforts to find harmony between science and religion.


Scroll through the timeline until you reach the time period assigned to your group. If you are working alone, choose a time period.


In this activity you will concentrate on the Evolution Challenged, Battle in the Schools, and Reconciliation entries. (For an activity involving Rise of Evolution, see Lesson 2, Activity 2.)


Examine each of the entries that show up in your time period. If working in a group, you may want to divide the themes among your group members.


Summarize the entries you have investigated to the other members of your group so you all have a familiarity with many different significant events in the history of the evolution controversy.


Next, pick one event that you have summarized, and explore it in detail using your favorite Web search tool.


Prepare a short presentation about your chosen event. The presentation should include as much background information as you can find, but should only take a minute or two.


Explain where in the timeline your event falls and under which theme it belongs.


Give your presentation to your entire class.


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