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Planet Earth

Aristotle, Darwin, Watson, and Co. Now Online

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerFebruary 6, 2004 7:40 AM


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A while back I had the pleasure to join a team of scientists and teachers to build web site that explains evolution. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation, it charts the history of evolutionary thought (both before and after Darwin), and lays out the different lines of supporting evidence for evolution, as well as its relevance to everyday life. It addresses some of the common misconceptions about evolution, and lays out the nature of scientific inquiry. Science teachers can also find ideas for lesson plans and tips for answering common student questions. It's now live, and I think they've done a great job of creating an elegantly simple way to navigate lots of information. (I'm speaking as someone who barely knows the difference between Java and HTML.) I contributed the history section of the site. Writing for the web reveals to me some of the illusions that ordinary writing can create. History--particularly the history of ideas--does not proceed in a linear fashion like lines of words across a page. It is more like an expanding net, with different people influencing each other across the disciplines and from centuries past. On the Understanding Evolution site, we decided to lay out the history of evolutionary thought as a set of tangled branching vines, with plenty of links joining it all together. While books remain my first love, I'll admit that the web sometimes gets closer to the shape of reality. Anyway, check it out. As always, comments are most appreciated.

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