Misunderstanding “Darwinists”

An op-ed in The Guardian reminded me once again of the dangers of dichotomous thinking–and of unfairly accusing others of such an approach to seeing the world: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/08/attack-darwin-evolution-science-an-wilson

Written by Jules Howard, the argument is that while many in the public realm remain engaged in a debate over evolution and creationism (parents, pastors and their congregations, school boards, and so on), most scientists are less interested in choosing a side. Rather, they are engaged in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge about  the complexities of life–how it began, how it has and hasn’t changed, the ways in which it continues to amaze and surprise. Of lesser concern is promoting or defending Darwin, who was actually one of many scientists thinking and writing about evolution and natural selection in the mid-19th century.

One thing that I love about the academic life is being constantly reminded about how much I and other scholars DON’T KNOW. When you read and think and question and engage for a living there’s often little time (or interest, for that matter) in declaring that one idea is RIGHT and anything contrary to that idea is WRONG. Ideas are far too interesting and perspective-driven to waste time in either/or wars.

I’ve been teaching college students since my early 20s, and I know that the surest sign of success in the classroom is when my students leave dichotomous thinking at the door. Better yet, when they lose interest in reclaiming that kind of thinking as they leave my course. Life is so much more exciting when we dwell in the grey areas.

 

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