Abigail Lustig testimony in Texas.

I feel very strongly that scientists should know the history of their discipline, as this is of substantial importance in guiding new research and preventing the same tired arguments from continually resurfacing (case in point, the myth that “junk DNA” was dismissed as totally nonfunctional or that epigenetics represents “neo-Lamarckism”). In this sense, the lessons provided by historians and philosophers can be relevant for modern science. Familiarity with the history of science is also critical for effective teaching, so again, historians can play an influential role in improving science education. This is true not only for university-level science courses taught by professional scientists, but also in protecting education standards at the high school level.

Here is an example of that — Dr. Abigail Lustig, a historian at the University of Texas Austin, presenting her testimony before the Texas Board of Education. It is very brief, but eloquently clarifies the crucial distinction between evolution as fact and as theory, and the substantial difference in historical debate and timing of acceptance of Darwin’s ideas on these two issues.

For my take, see Evolution as fact, theory, and path in E:EO.


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