Nature of Science


 Teaching Evolution & Nature of Science


 Evolution vs Creation Issues

 Human Evolution


Scientific Argumentation:
What it is, several TST articles with teaching strategies,
and several ENSI lessons for teaching scientific argumentation

What IS the Nature of Science?
Larry Flammer. Page explaining the difference between the Processes of Science (e.g., the mythical "Scientific Method") and the Nature of Science.

The Importance of Teaching the Nature of Science
Larry Flammer, Guest Editorial in The American Biology Teacher, April 2006 issue
Teaching Intelligent Design as a pseudoscience

The Nature of Modern Science and Scientific Knowledge
Martin Nickels, ENSI Co-Director

FAIR TESTS: Basic Model for Critical Thinking in Science
....(How Scientists Pick Better Answers)

Craig Nelson, ENSI Co-Director (based on comments at NABT Phoenix 1995)

Theoretically Speaking: Lessons for teaching process of historical science
Laura Henriques, CSU Long Beach, CA,
in the CSTA's California Classroom Science, March 2005
Using Checks Lab (and other models) to show how science works.

Revising Instruction to Nature of Science- Using Stages of Mitosis
Lederman & Lederman in The Science Teacher (NSTA) - Copy on Understanding Science site.

Confirmation Bias by Physicist Chris Lee (Go to Women’s Brains, scroll down to Extensions & Variations, then to Confirmation Bias in Science). Possible alternative to the "Women's Brains" lesson.
Here is an interesting (and perhaps easier-to-read) article describing two examples of confirmation bias. The article was written by a practicing scientist who points out the value of double-blind studies where judgment is involved in the results (as is common in many pseudoscience topics, where double-blind tests are not used, or used poorly). 

The author also shares one of his own experiences with a new scientific idea, develops a theoretical model, and tests the model (tries to destroy the model). He then shares what happened when he presented the idea to his peers at a conference. Discussion questions and key provided.


Macroevolution: Alive and Well In Sticklebacks - Evo-Devo
James E. Platt,
University of Denver
Guest Editorial, ABT journal, January 2006

Microevolution to Macroevolution, and Classification: Diagram
Diagram and directions for use, by Larry Flammer. Shows graphically how microevolution, amplified over time, becomes macroevolution, and how the taxonomic levels that we assign relate to that macroevolution and extinctions. Perfect for the overhead projector.

A Collection of Resources that demonstrate macroevolution.

Chromosome Connections: Compelling Clues to Common Ancestry
Article by Larry Flammer published in the American Biology Teacher (NABT journal, February 2013).
Students compare banding patterns on hominid (human and ape) chromosomes, and see striking evidence of their common ancestry. Additional comparisons test (and confirm) that common-ancestry hypothesis. Students also find the “molecular fossil” of telomere fusion in our cells. This engaging inquiry demonstrates the power of multiple lines of evidence.

How first chromosome changes get passed to future generations.
Comments and resource links from ENSI Co-Drector Craig E. Nelson

How chromosomal changes can survive and lead to new species
Comments and resource links by Robert Williams

Macroevolution: Change Above the Species Level
Dr. Kristin Jenkins, NESCent. Paper presented at the NABT Evolution Symposium, 2006.
Includes comments about macroevolution and speciation, phylogenetic trees & molecular studies, EvoDevo, extinction, and radiation (rapid diversification).

The Evolution Arms Race: Antibiotic and Insecticide Resistance ...
Are We Losing the Battle?

Stephen R. Palumbi, Harvard University
Presented for Society for the Study of Evolution
at the Evolution Symposium, NABT Convention, Montreal, 7 November 2001

Defending Evolution in the Classroom
Brian Alters, McGill University
at the Evolution Symposium, NABT Convention, Montreal, 7 November 2001

Molecular Clues to Evolution: "A Teaching Guide to Evolution"
by Thomas G. Gregg, Gary R. Janssen, and J.K. Bhattacharjee
NSTA journal The Science Teacher of November, 2003, pp. 24-31

Evolution: Variation is the Theme

Focus on heritable variations in DNA and speciation, forensics, genetic engineering;
Horizontal Transfer: "Gene-Hopping"; antibiotic resistance, drug discoveries.
Marta L. Wayne, University of Florida
For the Symposium Presented by the Society for the Study of Evolution
"Building the Web of Life: Evolution in Action" : NABT Ft. Worth, 10/99

Applied Evolution: Technology for the 21st Century
A sampling of the many practical applications and major importance of evolution.
James Bull, University of Texas at Austin
For the Symposium Presented by the Society for the Study of Evolution
"Building the Web of Life: Evolution in Action" : NABT Ft. Worth, 10/99

Patterns and Processes of Macroevolution - Examples from Dinosaurs
Problems mapping macroevolutionary patterns; radiation of living dinosaurs: birds;
humans as the most severe cause of dinosaurian (bird) extinction today.
Timothy Rowe, University of Texas at Austin
For the Symposium Presented by the Society for the Study of Evolution
"Building the Web of Life: Evolution in Action" : NABT Ft. Worth, 10/99

Evolution as a Framework for Genome Analysis
Linda Strausbaugh, The University of Connecticut
Presented for the Society for the Study of Evolution
at the "Teaching Evolution" Symposium: NABT Reno, 11/98

Why Evolution Matters
Stephen R. Palumbi, Harvard University
Presented for the Society for the Study of Evolution
at the "Teaching Evolution" Symposium: NABT Reno, 11/98

Macroevolution: Evolution on a big scale
David Jablonski, University of Chicago
Presented for the Society for the Study of Evolution
at the "Teaching Evolution" Symposium: NABT Reno, 11/98

Building a Web of Life: Evolution in Action
Reference List for Educators (incl. Texts and Web Sites)
Presented for the Society for the Study of Evolution
at the "Teaching Evolution" Symposium: NABT Reno, 11/98

Transitional Fossils: Information, and Many Examples
An excellent source of info by Kathleen Hunt. This abbreviated version was taken largely (with permission) from her more expanded version on Talk Origins.

Evolution: Education & Outreach journal for teachers - June 2009 Issue on...
Transitional Fossils, Natural Selection Myths, and Evolutionary Trees.
REVIEWS by Larry Flammer,: "More Summer Reading" - with links.

Chromosomal Speciation Discussion INDEX
Discussion and clarifications of the role of chromosome changes in speciation and hybrid formation. An informative exchange between ENSI-using teachers and ENSI Co-Director Craig Nelson.


The De-riving Force of Cladogenesis
Revised June 2007
Clear & concise explanation of the terminology of the concepts & terminology of cladistics.
Andrew J. Petto, University of the Arts, and Editor of RNCSE
Reports of the National Center for Science Education (RNCSE)
May/June 1999

Dinosaurs and Birds - an Update
Kevin Padian, NCSE President, UCMP, UC Berkeley
Excellent review of cladistics, and its role in assigning relationships between birds and dinosaurs.

Phylogenies & Tree-Thinking
David Baum & Susan Offner in The American Biology Teacher, April 2008
Review of article, with lots of links and teaching resources for Phylgenies, Classification and Tree-Thinking.


DNA and Early Human History: Neandertals and Early Humans ...
But Did They Mate?

Linda Strausbaugh and Sally Sakelarisc, The University of Connecticut
NABT Convention, Montreal, Evolution Symposium, 7 November 2001

Twelve Lines of Evidence for Evolution of Humans and Other Primates
Martin Nickels, Anthropology Program, Illinois State University
Presented at NABT Convention, Reno NV, November 1998, and again in Ft.Worth, TX, October, 1999.

Australopithecus garhi: A New-Found Link?
Colin Groves. This is an excellent summary of the latest hominin discoveries and a discussion of their interpretations. Reprinted from Reports of the NCSE.

Science Article Summary for ENSI by Craig E. Nelson (26 Feb. 2002)



Evolution: Education & Outreach (Index to Journals):
Professional journal dedicated to publishing articles to help teachers teach evolution. Includes research reports, reviews and articles.

Teach MACROevolution:
How to Win the Evolution War - Teach Macroevolution
By Kevin Padian, UC Berkeley
With NGSS commentary and links to useful resources.
Evolution: Education Outreach (vol. 3, issue 2), 30 June 2010

Using Historical Explanations - Teaching How Science Works.
Jean Beard. Published in Connect - A Magazine of Teachers' Innovations in K-8 Science & Math, Vol. 20, No. 3, Jan/Feb, 2007.

Abstract: Many ancient explanations are based on non-technical, but careful, observations. These phenomena are still observable and indeed are part of the first knowledge gathered by young people. A number of these observations, e.g., the Flat Earth idea, can be used as the basis for learning how science works. [Magazine no longer accessible.]

Better Biology Teaching by Emphasizing Evolution & the Nature of Science
Martin K. Nickels, Craig E. Nelson, and Jean Beard
Published in the American Biology Teacher 58(6), September 1996, pp 332-336

This article presents the philosophy and general content of the authors' ENSI program. It makes the case for the importance and potential effectiveness of presenting, in any proper biology course, first the elements of the nature of science (what it is and is not, its uncertainty, yet its usefulness), followed by an introduction to evolution, preferably using the study of human evolution as the most powerful vehicle for teaching both the nature of science and the nature of evolution. All of this is best done with a series of open-ended, hands-on critical-thinking lessons. The article is about 5 pages long.

Evolution Unmuddled: Fact of Evolution vs Theory of Evolution
by Larry Flammer,, ENSI webmaster
Printed to the NSTA Biology Listserve, July 2006
Clarifies the actual status of evolution as a fact, and evolution as a theory, and how these concepts and terminologies can be used in the classroom, with less confusion!

The Evolution Solution: Teaching Evolution Without Conflict
Larry Flammer
Online article by ENSI webmaster Larry Flammer in the March 2006 issue of the NABT Journal,. Ideal for new teachers still searching for an effective approach to teaching interactive biology with strong nature-of-science and evolution themes throughout. Classroom tested over many years. Direct links to many ENSI lessons and resources in context.

Observing life seems to contradict traditional ideas and raises tantalizing questions.
Show how evolution answers those questions and provides unity throughout your course.

Abstract: A strategy for teaching high school biology that opens with an intensive nature-of-science unit followed by question-raising topics, leading directly to evolution as a solution and a unifying theme. This special sequence, using specially designed student-centered lessons, is compelling and non-threatening for students and teachers.

Fossil Patterns in Time: by Larry Flammer
Article in the NSTA journal for middle school teachers: Science Scope, February 2011, Vol. 34, No. 6, pages40-45. Summarizes the essence of the ENSI lesson: Patterns in Time, which introduces a novel but perceptively intuitive scale for getting a familiar sense of deep geological time, AND an engaging example of the spaced-out emergence of the major groups (classes) of vertebrates, showing that they clearly did not appear all at once (and therefore providing compelling evidence against the traditional idea that all the major "kinds" of animals appeared within a very short period).

Synopses of the several lessons on the ENSI site that focus on molecular evidence for evolution. Also links to other teaching ideas to use with molecular evolution.

Mistakes That Argue for Evolution
Article in NY Times by Ken Chang: Describes Ken Miller's analogy of plagiarism and inferred common ancestry when same mistakes appear in different papers (species). Also Miller's explanation of why humans and apes have slightly different chromosome numbers. Link at end to the Creation Museum explanation for these observations. - perhaps suitable for critiquing pseudoscientific ideas.

High School Students' Perceptions of Evolutionary Theory
[With Implications for Instruction]

by C. Sheldon Woods, Ph.D.DePaul University,
and Lawrence C. Scharmann, Ph.D. Kansas State University
December 2001
Condensation of article in the Electronic J. of Science Education, with emphases added.

How Biology Students in Minnesota View Evolution, the Teaching of Evolution & the Evolution-Creationism Controversy.
By Randy Moore, et al, in The American Biology Teacher. May 2006. Vol.68, No.5. Online Article. This study shows that most high school students want their biology classes to include evolution, while most of those classes do not emphasize evolution, defying state standards. This is associated with a high level of serious misconceptions about evolution (in high school and college). Read further for some notable comments in the article, and how ENSIweb can help.

Building a Web of Life: Evolution in Action
Reference List for Educators (incl. Texts and Web Sites)
Presented for the Society for the Study of Evolution
at the "Teaching Evolution" Symposium: NABT Reno, 11/98

Is Evolution Weak Science, Good Science, or Great Science?
Craig Nelson
, Biology Professor Emeritus, IU, ENSI Co-Director
.Strategy for teaching how we can compare the relative strengths of theories

Teaching Evolution Effectively - A Central Dilemma & Alternative Strategies
Craig Nelson
, Biology Professor Emeritus, IU, ENSI Co-Director
Special Edition, McGill Journal of Eduction, vol. 42, No. 2, Spring, 2007, pp. 265-283.
Appeal to post-secondary Biology teachers with alternative strategies for teaching evolution more effectively. Also applicable to secondary Biology teaching.

Teaching Evolution
Special Edition, McGill Journal of Eduction, vol. 42, No. 2, Spring, 2007, pp. 265-283.
.Articles by several specialists on the subject. This links to abstracts and titles, with link to actual articles, freely available.

An Effective Strategy for Teaching Evolution
The Natural Selection: Identifying & Correcting Non-Science Student Preconceptions Through an Inquiry-Based Critical Approach to Evolution.
By Jennifer R. Robbins and Pamela Roy
The American Biology Teacher, vol.69, no.8, October 2007, pp. 460-466
See Review and Links by Larry Flammer

LAMARCK VS. DARWIN: Dueling Theories
Richard Firenze
A short article which offers an excellent classroom strategy to help students resolve the all-to-common confusion of Lamarck's mechanism for evolution with Darwinian natural selection. I, too, have encountered this widespread problem regularly: students explaining evolution by natural selection by using phrases e.g. "organisms adapt by changing their structures of behavior in order to survive", suggesting that the changes individual organisms undergo provide the underlying mechanism of natural selection, a clear confusion of Lamarck's ideas with Darwin's.



This site prefers to focus on lessons which clearly point to evolution as a viable explanation of the real world, rather than engaging in argumentative dialogue with young-earth creationists. However, part of that reality is the fact that all teachers can expect verbal challenges from students and parents from a deeply entrenched creationist perspective, usually based on misconceptions of the nature of science and evolution. Therefore, teachers should be prepared to deal with such confrontations, both tactfully and knowledgeably. The following are excellent resources for this. Remember, even as science teachers, we can talk about religion (if appropriate), but we cannot legally (or ethically) advocate nor ridicule any particular belief system.

Design Isn't Science:
Why Biology Classes Shouldn't Teach Intelligent Design

Craig E. Nelson
ENSI Co-Director Craig Nelson wrote this article for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Perspective page, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005. He discusses four common reasons why ID should not be taught in biology classes: 1. It is not science; 2. It would be unconstitutional; 3. Defending such requirement would require substantial legal costs; and
4. It would hold back local or regional economic development.

He adds a crucial fifth reason: teachers would be forced to critically confront religious beliefs of students, probably resulting in non-productive defensiveness by students, and precious time focusing on the false claims of ID and creationist proponents.

Answers to Jonathan Wells'
"Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher"

From the National Center for Science Education
Jonathan Wells, the author of Icons of Evolution, composed "Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution", based on the anti-evolutionary claims he makes in his book. However, many of Wells' claims are incorrect or misleading; Icons of Evolution and "Ten questions..." are intended only to create unwarranted doubt in students' minds about the validity of evolution as good science.

Wells is wrong to think that his questions pose any challenge to evolution. In the interest of responding to Wells' erroneous claims and setting the record straight, NCSE has prepared answers to his ten questions.

You will also find a very nice PowerPoint presentation available from this page (thanks to SENSI teacher Tony Hiatt).

Is Life Too Complex to Have Simply Evolved?
A Critical Review of Behe's Darwin's Black Box, with many useful bits of information.
David Ussery
Associate Research Professor at the Danish Technical University in Denmark
Design YES, Intelligent NO - A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory and Neocreationism
[This link takes you off-site] An essay by Massimo Pigliucci, published in The Skeptical Inquirer, Sep/Oct 2001, pp.34-39. The claims by Behe, Dembski, and other "intelligent design" creationists that science should be opened to supernatural explanations and that these should be allowed in academic as well as public school curricula are unfounded and based on a misunderstanding of both design in nature and of what the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is all about. Clear and revealing, addressing some of the rebuttals of IDT proponents to their critics. If you are getting challenges from your students about ID, read this.
The Children's Crusade for Creationism
A Guest Editorial in The American Biology Teacher by Steve Randak, ENSI 1990,
reporting on the recent effort at his school by students to include creationism in the science curriculum, and how it was played out.

Articles Effectively Addressing the Evolution vs Creation Issues for Teachers
These articles, mostly appearing in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education, and many of them written by its Executive Director, Eugenie Scott, provide excellent insights and strategies for dealing with these issues in the classroom. Here are are the titles to some of the best articles:

Dealing With Anti-Evolutionism (Eugenie Scott, article in RNCSE 17(4), Jul/Aug 97)
Science, Religion, and Evolution (Eugenie Scott, 12/7/00 at the Paleontological Society)
The Creation/Evolution Continuum (Graphics from previous article, 12/7/00)
Cans and Can'ts of Teaching Evolution (Eugenie Scott, 2/13/01, PBS Online)
Problem Concepts in Evolution: Cause, Purpose, Design, and Chance (Eugenie Scott, 10/1/99, Paleontological Society)
The Textbook Chooser's Guide (William V. Mayer and James P. Barufaldi, 7/9/01)

Pamphlets from the National Center for Science Education
Convenient flyers from the NCSE (dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools). E-mail requests to Here's a sampling of titles:

Creation or Evolution?
Facing Challenges to Evolution Education
Facts, Faith, and Fairness
Origin Myths
Scientific Creationism, Evolution, and Race
The Evolution of Creationism
The Record of Human Evolution
What's Wrong with "Theory not Fact" Resolutions?
Would We All Behave Like Animals? A Conversation

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