11 February 2008

Urbanization and biology education

Lewis Black's take on creationism is not, shall we say, work friendly. Those who are offended by profanity will be offended by this.

Seeing this made me think about something, though. Fossils. Where I grew up in southern Manitoba and southern Alberta, there were a fair number of fossils to be found if you looked around. Manitoba used to be a shallow inland sea, so there were lots of shell fossils. Quite a few people had gravel parking lots in the town I grew up in, and sometimes I would look through rock after rock in a parking lot with that obsessiveness that kids have, and occasionally would find something.

Alberta's fossil riches are really well known because of Dinosaur Province Park and the Tyrrell Museum, but I picked through limestone in Frank Slide, too. Limestone is great for fossils.

I had direct experience with finding fossils as part of my general running around in the countryside as a kid. And in talking to my colleagues, a lot of them seemed to have that same sort of experience with the outdoors when they were kids.

This got me thinking about whether part of the reason so many people express doubts over evolution is not just because of religious fundamentalism (which undoubtedly is big), but because more and more people are growing up in urban environments were they have less and less contact with anything biological. Even setting aside the urban thing, I suspect that more and more parents so closely regulate and monitor their kid's every move that there's a lot less time for kids to go mucking about on their own in the outdoors environments they do have available to them. Woodlots in parks, say.

There's a huge difference between reading about fossils and finding them yourself. It stops being theoretical. Now it's a real thing that you might want to have some explanation for.

And since seeing Black, I really want to find a fossil that I can carry around in my pocket. Maybe on my keychain. Maybe a trilobite or a small ammonite, but even a simple shell would do. So that, when necessary, in discussion on evolution, I can pull it out, point to it, and say, "Fossil."

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