, Volume 19, Issue 6-8, pp 637-654

Charles Darwin and Evolution: Illustrating Human Aspects of Science

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Abstract

Recently, the nature of science (NOS) has become recognized as an important element within the K-12 science curriculum. Despite differences in the ultimate lists of recommended aspects, a consensus is emerging on what specific NOS elements should be the focus of science instruction and inform textbook writers and curriculum developers. In this article, we suggest a contextualized, explicit approach addressing one core NOS aspect: the human aspects of science that include the domains of creativity, social influences and subjectivity. To illustrate these ideas, we have focused on Charles Darwin, a scientist whose life, work and thought processes were particularly well recorded at the time and analyzed by scholars in the succeeding years. Historical facts are discussed and linked to core NOS ideas. Creativity is illustrated through the analogies between the struggle for existence in human societies and in nature, between artificial and natural selection, and between the division of labor in human societies and in nature. Social influences are represented by Darwin’s aversion of criticism of various kinds and by his response to the methodological requirements of the science of that time. Finally, subjectivity is discussed through Darwin’s development of a unique but incorrect source for the origin of variations within species.