12 Feb 2008

Darwin Day

Today, February 12, is Darwin Day, a time to commemorate the life and work of Charles Darwin, born on this day 199 years ago, and the first person to explain and providence evidence for, the complexity of life on earth via evolution and a process of natural selection. It's also a day to celebrate how the process of science has contributed to human knowledge, understanding and advancement, including a more rigorous, modern theory of evolution.

I had seen this fish image, on the blogs of a few USA homeschoolers and discovered The Evolved Homeschooler Wiki, a list of blogs and web pages by and for home-educators interested in promoting rational explanations for life on earth. I thought it would be an apt image for this day in particular. It never struck me before that I should explicitly indicate that my children would learn about evolution; it's obviously the best explanation of life available and nothing else comes even close to providing a viable alternative. But in the past year, there have been a few instances of encroaching endarkenment in Northern Ireland public life, like a local council voting to write to all their secondary schools, advocating the teaching of creationism (aka intelligent design) and a request to the Eduction Minister, that children will not be penalised for answering science exam questions with creationist answers. Which creation myths would be acceptable, I wonder? (I do teach my children about various creation myths, but would not expect them to be mistaken for science.)

Funniest of all, is the group, with support from some politicians here, who claim that the famous Giant's Causeway rocks were formed about 4500 years ago, during Noah's flood!

Science for my family, is mainly just another aspect of everyday life. It's in the many, many questions the children ask, only a small portion of which I can answer fully from memory. When I don't know enough, everyone knows some of the other places to look; the internet, our books, the library, their Daddy. The children are natural scientists. They try things out, use all their senses, see what happens when...

We use the language of chemistry when we cook together; the solid butter melts, the water boils, steam is a gas, the ingredients, like everything else, are chemicals, the food we eat is broken down by our digestive system and used by our bodies. Physics too is everywhere, in playing with a ball there's momentum, energy, gravity, in the sky there's sunlight, blue sky, rainbows, distant stars, and the only way to explain these phenomenon is by science.

Duncan doesn't really ask questions. With him, right now, it's all about experiences. I talk to him and tell him things but mostly, he learns by watching and doing things for himself. He is curious, but doesn't think of me and Gordon as having the answers. Well, except about things like where the chocolate might be hidden. He wants to discover things for himself, so I have to make resources available for him to do that.

So far, none of them have picked up the notion that science is 'boring' or 'hard'. I don't know if any of them will choose science based careers but I want them to know how to apply rationalism in their lives and to know enough to make good and safe choices.


Colin Purrington said...

Activities for Darwin Day here, if you're interested: http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/evolk12/slm/darwinday.htm.

Club 166 said...

There's certainly nothing quite so exciting as watching inquiring minds at work, eh?


Marla said...

I had no idea there was even a Darwin day. That is so cool. We named our dog after Darwin.

Sharon McDaid said...

Thanks for the link, Cpurrin1.
It's not working via the comment, so here it is again.

Joe, you know all about kids and science!

Marla, is your dog very intelligent and distinguished? Good name source anyway.