My Evolution Assembly. And the Young Creationists.

Jan 26, 2016

Photo credit: Slide by Tom Sherrington

By Tom Sherrington

“Charles Darwin had a big idea; arguably, the most powerful idea ever.” — Richard Dawkins

That’s the quote I used to start my assemblies this week.  To me, it’s the most important and extraordinary story children should know and understand.  The story of evolution, of how we came into existence as Homo sapiens roaming the Earth on a small ball of rock orbiting a star.   The purpose of the assembly is to give prominence to the idea of evolution by (non-random natural selection) and to present the range of areas of science that support our understanding of it.  I linked it to something current by referencing the amazing gathering of planets visible in the early morning sky. Every day this week I’ve seen Venus and Jupiter from the top of my road.  Mars and Saturn are in between, albeit quite faint.  I told my students that, looking at Venus, gives an idea of how Earth looks from Venus- just a small object in space, reflecting light from the Sun.

I think we might do too many preachy moral message orientated assemblies; sometimes it’s good just to tell students something really very interesting and complicated, without patronising them.

A key thing to challenge is the common misconception that humans ‘evolved from chimpanzees’ – or monkeys or dinosaurs…(I like to give those in the know a little chuckle with the subtle South Park reference – it seems to go safely over the heads of most students. The ‘fish-squirrel’ thing is hilarious).   The idea to get across is that of common ancestors.  In the assemblies I was promoting reading Richard Dawkins’ brilliant book The Ancestor’s Tale.  It’s one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read, telling the story of the ancestors of every living thing and how they meet up at various rendezvous points as you go back in time.

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16 comments on “My Evolution Assembly. And the Young Creationists.

  • 2
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    The chart caption “Humans in last 6 million years” is innacurate. It should read “Hominids in last 6 million years”

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  • The argument i hear most from creationists that “you might come from monkeys, but i don’t”
    i think they just don’t grasp the fact, or its never been properly explained, that we actually share a common ancestor. Which was probably a monkey type creature but not quite like today’s monkeys or humans.
    For me arguments like this proves that we need better education in our schools and less religion!

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  • Orientated? 2nd paragraph. Really? C’mon, we’re trying to educate and a non-word like this makes us look bad. The word is ORIENTED. Grammar lesson over. My Christian mom pointed this out without saying anything negative. 😀

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  • Earliest evidence of life on Earth is from 4.1 billion years ago…to what living organisms does the 2 billion years ‘start-up’ refer to?

    6 million years for humans is also misleading. Humans as we are only appeared about 1 to 2 million years ago depending on your favourite theory/evidence. The 6 million years figure even predates the australopithecines.


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    We don’t do this on this site, Joe. For one thing, it is not a constructive contribution to thoughtful discussion of the topic of the thread. For another, it rapidly inflames and derails further comments and makes it less likely that the content of the OP will be properly discussed (we have removed the other replies to your comment for this reason). And for another, the people complaining about bad spelling or grammar are frequently insufficiently aware of variant usages in different geographical locations, or that the website is used by people all around the world, including many for whom English is not their first language and/or who may have other reasons why spelling and/or grammar pose particular difficulties.

    In this case, the author of the article in a headteacher from Islington, London. In British English ‘orientated’ is more usual than ‘oriented’, which tends to be associated with American usage.

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  • That’s a great chart. It makes the order accessible and understandable. Unfortunately it is not suitable to introduce evolution to exactly the people it was intended for.

    The problem is the log scale in the Y axis. Most people, and certainly people that have no knowledge of log charts, will assume that the dinosaurs lived about 1/2 way from the beginning of time til now.

    The chart needs to be linear even if it makes it difficult to read..

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  • James, I find it humorous that we can’t expect “the people it was intended for” to understand the difference between log and linear. We aren’t trying to explain calculus to a cat. These creationists, “the people it was intended for” are not low-IQ morons. The problem with trying to explain facts to them, whether using mathematics or logic or pictures, is that they have a huge mental block which prevents them from following simple math or logic if that path leads to something which they don’t want to believe. When Tom encourages his students to look at Venus to get an idea of what earth looks like far away, you have to respect that this student actually believes that but, from what I’ve witnessed personally, they don’t deserve that respect. I have a friend who recently “turned Christian”. We walked outside of a restaurant and I innocently said, “Look at Mars! Isn’t it incredible that we can see it so clear, 100 million miles away.” With a look of anger on his face he shouted, “How do YOU know?” Whoa! The guy was clearly unperceptive to looking at evidence because he has the same mental block.

    We have to stop this fantasy of ours that we can offer them clear, simple logic to prove our points and that they will accept it. Such a mental bock can only be destroyed by emotions. We have to toy with their emotions.

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  • Astronomy, astrophysics, and evolutionary biology are very difficult to explain and to understand. That is the reason so many people want a simple explanation such as “god did it all”. All of creation took place in 7 days by the hand of god. That is very simple to understand. Never mind relativity, radioactive decay, pleiotropy, multiple allelism, population genetics, the Hardy-Weinberg Principle, and natural selection! As one person emailed me and said “when I see a dog hatch out of a chicken egg, then I will believe in evolution.” Dualism, teleology, and anthropocentrism dominates their flat earth way of thinking.

    Not only did the human species only partially evolve bipedalism, but also to the ability to think or reason.

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  • HGLDR – I have no reason to think that the chart is intended for creationists. It looks like something you would see in a High School biology textbook. If the target audience is mostly pre-High School or first year High School they are almost guaranteed not to understand the chart. I didn’t say nor do I think that they are low-IQ people but realistically they are probably more interested in the opposite sex or MTV (I remember those days well) so why make it unclear.

    The point of the chart is to show that “Wow it took a long time didn’t it so evolution might be possible in spite of what I was told by my preacher” but the log scale hides this relationship.

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  • 15
    fadeordraw says:

    Mr. Sherrington should be encouraged for his efforts (the full article gives helpful teaching ideas for the presentation). What he is trying to undertake is the de-programming of pre-teens who have been indoctrinated with the Bible/Koran by introducing the story of evolution. He doesn’t provide, however, success rates for his program, but one does wonder how successful it would be for those deeply brain-washed. Of value might be a simplified chart on the evolution of the Bible and the Koran; where the various stories originated, when they were written, etc. The key is the understanding, I should think, that they are evolved (evolving) creations of humankind. Including them as part of the evolution story, which they are, as opposed to the alternative to it, might be more productive.

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  • An excellent assembly! The wonder of science far surpasses any wonder induced by religion through myth. The religious (Muslims and Christians in particular ) have such a problem with the monkey connection….anyone who has ever seen a monkey cannot fail to see the similarities:fingers, ears, expressions. Why is it so offensive to them? Is it because Mohammed used the word ‘apes’ as an insult? To describe infidels? And that there are similar references in the bible? How extraordinary.

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