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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Selling Darwinism to students:

David Sloan Wilson, noted above, also wrote an essay about a course aimed at selling Darwinism to students in Binghamton, New York. (Note: This link is a .pdf, so you may not be able to use your back browser button to get back here.)

Much of it is pretty much what you might expect, but note the following:

Choosing the subject of infanticide, I say that superficially it might seem that organisms would never evolve to kill their own offspring, but with a little thought the students might be able to identify situations in which infanticide is biologically adaptive for the parents. I ask them to form small groups by turning to their neighbors to discuss the subject for five minutes and to list their predictions on a piece of paper.

After the lists are collected, I ask the students for some of their predictions to list in front of the whole class. They are eager to talk, and reliably identify the three major adaptive contexts of infanticide: lack of resources, poor offspring quality, and uncertain paternity, along with less likely possibilities, such as population regulation, that can be set aside for future discussion. I conclude by attempting to convey the simple but profound message of the exercise: How can they, mere undergraduate students, who know almost nothing about evolution and (one hopes) know nothing at all about infanticide, so easily deduce the major hypotheses that are in fact employed in the study of infanticide for organisms as diverse as plants, insects, and mammals? That is just one example of the power of thinking on the basis of adaptation and natural selection.

I'm hardly surprised that the students are eager to talk.

Wilson coyly writes that one hopes the students "know nothing at all about infanticide." All I can say is, oh come ON! Many of them know way more than is good for them about the modern version of infanticide, abortion.

Apparently, 52% of all U.S. women who end the life of one of their children by abortion areunder 25, and abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States.

No wonder students get co-opted by a course like this into inventing excuses for prehistoric infanticides. It is for their own actions and those of their friends that they are offering the rationalizations. What I find most intriguing is that we are all supposed to read the account of "prehistoric infanticides" and act as though Norht American teens today have never heard of anything remotely like that.

Don't be surprised if this course or one like it is offered at a school near you. It will be offered with taxpayer funding, but you can be pretty sure that no course that addresses post-abortion grief will be offered with taxpayer funding at the same institution. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Darwinists are not kidding, m'kay?

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