How Natural Intuitions about Agency and Purpose Influence Learning about Evolution
Natural selection is the process responsible for the functional adaptation of biological organisms. Despite its basic and applied scientific relevance, it remains one of the most widely misunderstood concepts of contemporary science. In this chapter, the conceptual underpinnings of some of these misunderstandings are explored and it is argued that many of them have their roots in cognitive biases that are observable in preschoolers and elementary school children. Central among these is the teleological tendency to explain phenomena by reference to function. The chapter presents developmental work exploring this tendency and also reviews recent findings concerning the possible origins of the bias. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of this and other developmental research for early evolutionary education.
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