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Why is it important to teach evolution? 

Understanding evolution is critical for understanding biology. As the preeminent scientist 
Theodosius Dobzhansky stated, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of 
evolution.” Evolution is the only scientific explanation for the diversity of life. It explains the 
striking similarities among vastly different forms of life, the changes that occur within 
populations, and the development of new life forms. Excluding evolution from the science 
curricula or compromising its treatment deprives students of this fundamental and unifying 
scientific concept to explain the natural world. 

Teaching and learning about evolution have immense practical value that extends beyond 
understanding our world. The principles of evolution underlie improvements in crops, livestock, 
and farming methods. Natural selection accounts for the rise in pesticide resistance among 
agricultural pests and informs the design of new technologies to protect crops from insects and 
disease. Scientists are applying lessons from evolutionary biology to environmental 
conservation: plants and bacteria adapted to polluted environments are being used to replenish 
lost vegetation and to clean up toxic environments. Species from microbes to mammals adapt to 
climate change; studying the mechanism and rate of these changes can help conservation experts 
formulate appropriate measures to protect species facing extinction. 

Understanding evolution is also central to the advancement of medicine. Indeed, the entire field 
of “evolutionary medicine” is devoted to using the principles of evolution to study and treat 
human illness and disease. Concepts such as adaptation and mutation inform therapies and 
strategies to combat pathogens, including influenza. Models developed by evolutionary 
biologists have shed light on genetic variation that may account for an increased risk of 
Alzheimer’s and coronary heart disease. Knowing the evolutionary relationships among species 
allows scientists to choose appropriate organisms for the study of diseases, such as HIV. 
Scientists are even using the principles of natural selection to identify new drugs for detecting 
and treating diseases such as cancer. 

Studying evolution is an excellent way for students to learn about the process of scientific 
inquiry. Evolution offers countless and diverse examples of the ways scientists gather and 
analyze information, test competing hypotheses, and ultimately come to a consensus about 
explanations for natural phenomena. Understanding science is essential for making informed 
decisions and has become increasingly important for innovation and competitiveness in the 21st
century workplace. It is critical, therefore, that students receive a sound science education 
including evolution. 

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