Have you ever wondered why people look the way they do? Why our hands and feet have five digits instead of six? Why we stand on two legs instead of four? It took 350 million years of evolution to produce the amazing machine we call the human body and in Your Inner Fish, a three-part series based on the best-selling book of the same name, author and evolutionary biologist Dr. Neil Shubin looks into the past to answer these and other questions.
The ideas of Charles Darwin and the concept of evolution by natural selection continue to have a profound influence on modern biology – they permeate almost every area of scientific exploration. The Academies have long been involved in educational activities and publications on many aspects of evolution, and especially during the past five years. For example, in 2008 the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine jointly published Science, Evolution, and Creationism, to help people who are interested in evolution better understand its underlying principles and how evolution is an integral component of scientific research and thinking.
In 2009 the National Academy of Sciences joined many other organizations in the international scientific community to celebrate the 'Year of Science,' which commemorated Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his masterwork On the Origin of Species. Information about some of the events we hosted as part of this celebration can be accessed through our event archive.
In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences awarded its most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal, to Dr. Eugenie Scott, Director of the National Center for Science Education, for her distinguished work to "…improve public understanding of both the nature of science and the science of evolution” (from comments by Dr. Ralph Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences during the presentation of the Public Welfare Medal).
In 2011, the National Research Council’s Board on Life Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences organized a convocation to bring together people from the life sciences community to explore ways to infuse concepts of evolution into all areas of biology education. Thinking Evolutionarily: Evolution Education Across the Life Sciences (2012) explains the major themes that recurred throughout the convocation held in Washington, D.C. They include the structure and content of curricula, the processes of teaching and learning about evolution, the tensions that can arise in the classroom, and the target audiences for evolution education. Videos from plenary sessions, interviews with participants, and resources from the convocation that led to this report may be accessed here.
In 2012 the National Research Council also released the report A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas as a first step toward developing the next generation of K-12 science education standards. The study of evolution is one of the themes running throughout this report with section LS4 focusing specifically on biological evolution. The Next Generation Science Standards were published in April 2013.
Research about evolution also has served as the basis for technical reports and research conferences that have been hosted by the National Academy of Sciences during the past five years. They include: