Evolution confusion: Human vs. geological time scales

Florida Museum conducted a study saying that only 31 percent of visitors to at least one of six participating museums could accurately explain natural selection, a key part of evolution. Apparently, one thing that stops some people cold is not comprehending the vast scale of time.

He [Bruce MacFadden] said the problem is that most people tend to think on the human time scale, which is on the order of hundreds of years, instead of the geological time scale, which is millions and billions of years.

The problems weren’t in understanding when dinosaurs lived, but instead the time difference between when humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth.

The study was presented at the Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America annual meeting. Scrolling down on that page I see that there was a symposium on “Teaching Organic Evolution for K-16 Students and Pre-Service Teachers: Viewpoints, Techniques, and Approaches.” That sounds interesting, especially in light of what is written at the end of the newspaper article:

Larisa Grawe DeSantis is presenting a way to teach evolution.

She said the idea is to teach students, grades six through 12, the concepts of evolution without ever using the word “evolution.”

Often some people will close their minds when the word comes up because of their beliefs, she said.

I have to say I initially disagree with DeSantis. I understand where she is coming from, but it’s not the word that turns people off, but the fact that the concept runs counter to some people’s deeply held beliefs. Treating the e-word like a dirty word I think just reinforces their preconceptions and even plays right into the anti-evolutionists’ hands. Here’s a press release about the various presentations done by Florida Museum.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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