Mailvox: how to teach evolution

Mindy asks how to teach evolution to homeschooled children:

I’m off to purchase materials at a homeschooling conference in couple days. I was wondering what your thoughts were on teaching evolution to grade school level students. I want to introduce a more formal science curriculum but all of the conventional materials are saturated in evolutionary timescales and theory. 

Personally, my thoughts on creationism are rather fluid.  I don’t know that the six days of creation should be taken literally though I don’t believe man evolved from any other animal.  I would like to give my kids a firm foundation in Bible based science before teaching the conventional theory but am not sure whether to use the literal fundamentalist version to start with. Normally, when teaching younger children, we do so from the position of having a definitive answer instead of a more or less open question and yet I don’t want to confuse my first grader with my waffling.  At some point they will need to be introduced to the conventional theory of evolution.

When would you do this and how? Any science curricula that is especially good for grade school kids? I look forward to some new ideas on this. I do so enjoy your home schooling threads.

Many parents prefer to keep their children in the dark concerning intellectual concepts with which they disagree. This is true across the political spectrum. I consider this to be a huge mistake.

If you have read RGD, then you will know that my description of Keynesian economics, which I consider to be utter bollocks, is nevertheless so complete and correct that people have described it as one of the better summaries of it that they have ever encountered. My belief is that if something is false, the best way to understand its falsity is to know it better than its advocates. So read the sources and read the current champions, then critique it.

And if you’re not capable of doing that, how do you know it is wrong?

As for the Theorum of Evolution by (probably) Natural Selection, Biased Mutation, Genetic Drift, and Gene Flow, or TE(p)NSBMGDaGF, I would recommend a child be 15 or 16 before studying it. Any younger and they won’t be able to identify the obvious flaws and will be tend to be inclined to simply accept whatever they are told, whether it is TENS, monetarist economics, or magic garden fairies.

Start with an abridged version of The Origin of the Species. Then read one or two of Richard Dawkins’s books; The Selfish Gene is much better than The Greatest Show on Earth because it is an explanation whereas the latter is an apology. That will ensure that the child is better-educated and more up-to-date on evolution than any graduate of the public or private schools.

Then introduce two or three of the critics. I can’t recommend one, because I’ve never actually read any of the various books by TENS critics as I have no need to bolster my own reasons for being skeptical of the theorum. But there are plenty out there and I’m sure the readers here can recommend a few of them.

The point is that there is never any need for those dedicated to the truth to shy away from falsehood or fear it. Hit it head on. Study it. Master it. And then you will be able to explain its weak points to others. That being said, I can see the need for an Evolution curriculum; if we can find a suitably credentialed skeptic, we will likely publish one.