Friday, October 8, 2010

Does Steven Pinker have kids? He should.

World-renowned psychologist Steven Pinker of the brilliant mind and ridicu-tastic hair was on Countdown with Keith Olbermann the other night. He was chatting about, of all things, reasons to teach kids evolution. I'm all ears, Steven.

You can watch the whole interview here, but to me this is the interesting bit:
Olbermann: Why is it so important that we teach kids evolution?

Pinker: "There are some practical reasons. Some of the greatest technological advances of the next few decades are going to be in the biological sciences. And you can't do biology unless you understand evolution. There's going to be a race between us and the superbugs, the viruses that are going to attack us. Their big weapon is that they can evolve fast. If we don't have a generation of science students and scientists who understand evolution, we're not going to be able to understand our worst enemies. Also, great advances in diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are often going to come from research on other animals because you obviously can't give cancer or give Parkinson's disease to a human. You can to a mouse. We have to understand what the relationship is between a mouse and a human in order to interpret that science.

But also, what could be more fundamental than knowing where we came from? The theory of evolution is one of the most magnificent intellectual accomplishments of our civilization. It's a tragedy to deny children of the evidence, the line of argumentation, that led to this magnificent achievement in this essential bit of knowledge to understanding who we are and where we came from."

Ah, masterful. I love both his points but I have to say that the second one is my favorite: why deny kids the magnificent story of the evolution of life?

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