Sadly, it seems to be a pervasive trend in many countries to deemphasise the proper teaching of evolutionary biology. There are probably a few causes of this, ranging from anti-evolutionary pressure from religious traditions who dislike children being taught something that they feel denigrates their belief system, to unenthusiastic school boards and curriculum committees that, for whatever reason, come to the conclusion that evolution is not an important enough subject to teach students in detail. There are also numerous anti-evolution-education voices in the media (primarily in the US) that go unchallenged, influencing the opinion of a public that doesn’t know the whole story.
A group of scientists and science communicators – Matt Shipman, David Wescott, Kevin Zelnio, Jamie Vernon and Andrea Kuszewski – noticed this trend and those voices, and decided to do something about them: by asking female biologists and science communicators to submit videos explaining why evolutionary biology is so amazing and important, and why it deserves to be taught in schools. These submissions were then edited together into a single, succinct video entitled “Let’s Talk About Evolution”.
Matt explained the rationale behind the project, as well as why they chose to ask exclusively women to participate, in a recent blog post:
Evolution shouldn’t be controversial. But, in some circles, it is.
That point was driven home earlier this year via, of all things, the Miss USA competition. This year’s competitors were asked whether they thought evolution should be taught in schools. The majority of them said no.
Many girls look up to young women like the Miss USA contestants. So when these role models overwhelmingly speak out against evolution education, that’s a problem.
We came up with the idea of creating a video, featuring scientists, which would explain evolution and why it is important to teach evolution in schools. We wanted to avoid divisive behavior and name-calling. Instead, we thought we could convey the fact that evolution is an amazing, uplifting discovery that has served as the genesis of countless advances in many fields of science.
Then someone, I think it was Jamie, suggested that we focus exclusively on female scientists. This was a great idea. In addition to talking about evolution, we could highlight positive role models, showing that women can be scientists and researchers, as well as beauty queens.
David also weighed in:
The discussion started shortly after a video of the the Miss USA 2011 Pageant interview competition appeared on YouTube. The contestants were asked that simple question – should evolution be taught in schools – and most of the answers were very disappointing for advocates of science. The discussion continued as evolution again became a salient topic in the presidential campaign. Everyone in our group had their own perspective and reasons for doing this, but here’s what I saw as the question kept coming up:
- conservative politicians saying “no” (without facts to back it up)
- pageant contestants saying either “no” or “teach evolution and creationism and let kids decide”
- prominent supporters of teaching evolution calling these other people idiots or otherwise mocking them
The only thing I didn’t see: prominent people explaining why evolution actually should be taught in schools.
It just seemed like a good time to add more voices of smart female role models with more to say than “you suck.” [emphasis in original]
It was a great idea, and I hope you’ll agree that the finished product is pretty great too! If you agree with the aim of the video – to promote the message that evolution is a topic worthy of a place in every science classroom – then make sure you spread it around on all of your social networks. It’d be amazing to see this really rack up some nice viewing figures.