Evolution for Kids

| 15 Comments

Please don’t tell anyone, but I bought my granddaughter, Alex, a new book for her tenth birthday. Her birthday is in April, so that gave me plenty of time to read the book - and what a splendid book it is!

The book in question is Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas, by Kristan Lawson (Chicago Review Press, 2003, 144 pp., $16.95).

It is a well-formatted book, printed in two colors. The bulk of the printing is brown, so the wonderful old photographs and engravings appear almost sepia. The 21 activities are printed on a light-green background. At least few of the activities could well inspire science fair projects among the 9-and-up set for whom the book is intended.

Lawson occasionally defines a term for her younger readers, but she never talks down to her audience. Indeed, I am several times 9 years old, and I found the book very much to my liking and not too simple for a technical writer whose model is Hemingway.

I recently made a pilgrimage, so to speak, to the Galápagos, and some of my fellow travelers were surprised at how an Anglican priest could visit there for a short time and suddenly develop the theory of evolution. Lawson puts Darwin’s life into better perspective, and we realize that Darwin’s formal education was not half as important as, for example, his apprenticeship with Henslow, his taxidermy lessons with Edmonstone, and his hobby of collecting beetles. Further, Lawson makes clear that the theory of evolution had historical antecedents. Darwin did not invent the concept of descent with modification but rather discovered the mechanism now called survival of the fittest. Finally, the theory did not just spring from Darwin’s head while he was in the Galápagos; he spent decades mulling over his observations and verifying his hypotheses.

My only quibble with the biographical sections is that they did not fully describe Darwin the man, as opposed to Darwin the scientist. Thus, we know that Darwin was afraid of controversy and consequently afraid to speak in public - but what was he like to his friends and family? I also have some doubt that the younger Darwin was the hypochondriac Lawson makes him out to be; I suspect he was really sick (though I admit he could have been both).

The last chapters discuss the theory of evolution in detail. I am not a biologist or even a lawyer, but I thought that those chapters were clear and, as far as I can tell, accurate. They cover not just Darwin’s theory, but also genetics, the modern synthesis, genetic drift, and sexual selection. I thought Lawson was possibly a bit too deferential toward social Darwinism, which is not a “controversial philosophy” but rather a pernicious doctrine used in various guises to maintain a rich upperclass and a poor underclass. On the other hand, she does not pussyfoot around creationism but states clearly that evolution is universally accepted among scientists and that only “misinformed nonscientists … insist that evolution does not exist at all.”

If you have 10-year-old grandchild or if you do not, run out and buy this book, and read it cover to cover. You won’t be sorry.

15 Comments

If others chime in with juvenile book recommendations, please list the appropriate age range. Thanks.

I bought Carl Zimmer’s Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea for several of my relatives. I’d feel just slightly better about it if he hadn’t included quite so much detail about the, um, ‘social’ lives of bonobos. ISBN: 0060958502 Should be suitable for anyone with a high school education.

Wamba:

Should be suitable for anyone with a high school education.

Somehow, though, I still doubt that Larry/Andy/Early is going to be able to get a lot out of it.

I’d feel just slightly better about it if he hadn’t included quite so much detail about the, um, ‘social’ lives of bonobos.

one, it’s a book, and sex sells.

two, the evolution of sex as a social function is quite an interesting and important topic, and nowhere has it been better studied in nature than in bonobos.

I’d say if your relatives were offended, they might be just a bit too prudish.

one, it’s a book, and sex sells. … I’d say if your relatives were offended, they might be just a bit too prudish.

Not to parents. Like its my fault that I’m from the Midwest?

Not to parents. Like its my fault that I’m from the Midwest?

lol.

touche’

Not to parents. Like its my fault that I’m from the Midwest?

Parents shouldn’t complain. After all, how did they become parents?

Ha you kwazy Evolutionists! You’ve managed so far to withstand the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Creationists, but here comes a new attack on evolution from a different direction:

Is There a Bigfoot in Your Backyard? Michigan Author Offers Explanation of Unique Signs and Clues

Since 2003, Michigan author and Bigfoot expert Lisa Shiel has found and photographed Bigfoot signs and established a rudimentary two-way communication with them — all in her own 40-acre backyard. In her new book — “Backyard Bigfoot: The True Story of Stick Signs, UFOs, & the Sasquatch” — she details Bigfoot’s history, challenges modern theories of human evolution, and describes the Bigfoot-UFO connection. With over 100 photographs and drawings and dozens of endnotes referencing a wide array of published research, “Backyard Bigfoot” offers exciting and educational insights into an elusive phenomenon. …

Check out Shiel’s blog, Strange Origins. She must be very lonely. There’s hardly any comments at all. Here’s a thread (can it be called a thread with no comments?) on the definition of “species” that might interest some of you: Species…Just a Word

I’d say if your relatives were offended, they might be just a bit too prudish.

Just supposing I were to start expounding here at the Thumb on the “g-g rub”, do you think the blogmeisters would notice and start to worry about nanny filters?

Yes, Dave. And as well as the Bible, he also got her “Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas”

Ha you kwazy Evolutionists! You’ve managed so far to withstand the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Creationists, but here comes a new attack on evolution from a different direction:

Is There a Bigfoot in Your Backyard? Michigan Author Offers Explanation of Unique Signs and Clues

Heck, “Dr” Dino has been telling people for decades now that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster disprove evolution. And Hugh Ross co-authored an entire book explaining that flying saucers come from the Devil.

Serious. No joke.

Another great one is the Sandwalk Adventures. It’s a graphic novel

http://www.jayhosler.com/Sandwalk.html

Hosler is Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Juniata College

The book is charming, my 10-year-old twins loved it.

In the original post

Matt Young Wrote:

I recently made a pilgrimage, so to speak, to the Galápagos, and some of my fellow travelers were surprised at how an Anglican priest could visit there for a short time and suddenly develop the theory of evolution.

This sentence left me with the impression that you share with your former fellow travellers the misapprehension that Darwin was an Anglican priest. While he did complete an ordinary arts degree at Cambridge with every intention of becoming a country parson, he was never in fact ordained. If Lawson’s book makes the same mistake, that would be a serious black mark against it, in my opinion.

(Apologies in advance if I have misread between the lines.)

Matt Young Wrote:

On the other hand, she does not pussyfoot around creationism but states clearly that evolution is universally accepted among scientists and that only “misinformed nonscientists … insist that evolution does not exist at all.”

Don’t forget the handful of informed scientists and other professionals who mislead them, such as with their “micro” vs. “macro” nonsense.

As for Sasquatch, I just found out that far-right talk show host Michael Medved is a believer of Sasquatch. He has also endorsed ID several times.

First, the Raelians endorse ID, then Michael Behe admits under oath that ID is like astrology, and now this. What next?

Regarding David Wilson’s comment, I should have been more clear that, as far as I konw, Darwin was never ordained, and I do not think Ms. Lawson says he was. Mr. Wilson’s between-lines reading was a very plausible interpretation but not what I meant to say. I do not remember how many people thought Darwin had been a priest; my point was (or should have been) that many people think, in effect, that some layman just popped over to the Galápagos and invented the theory of evolution. They are unaware that Darwin was a trained naturalist and spent years mulling his observations before announcing his theory. I am sorry for the confusion.

Didn’t you realize Matt that you are indoctrinating your grandchildren ? (I’m only kidding by the way !) That’s what the creationists would probably claim.

Seriously though, I must take my two eldest down to the Ulster museum some day which, as I’ve mentioned before has a very good natural history section. My wife tells me they were bored when they went with their schools but they do ask a lot of questions like “what are stars” and since they are heavily into Scooby Doo at the moment “where do aliens come from” etc.

For those folks living in the UK a real life creation scientist from the UK is on TV this week. Check out Revelation TV, Sky Digital 765, 9PM on Thurs. 23/3, where you can watch AIG’s Paul Taylor. The host (who’s also a strict YECer as well) opens up the phone lines so you can have a go at challenging him if you wish. Although he’s qualified in chemistry I’m sure he’ll know all about biology, astronomy, astrophysics, paleontology, and geology etc. The subject he will be talking about is how schools lie about the facts when it comes to teaching evolution, so it’s a bit like the point David Wilson raised about scientists miss informing the young !

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on March 20, 2006 1:30 PM.

Nancy Pearcey: The Creationists’ Miss Information was the previous entry in this blog.

Chance and regularity in the development of the fly eye is the next entry in this blog.

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