Chapter

“Two-Thousand Years of Stasis”

Susan A. Gelman and Marjorie Rhodes

in Evolution Challenges

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730421
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949557 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199730421.003.0001
“Two-Thousand Years of Stasis”

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This chapter examines how psychological essentialism poses a set of conceptual obstacles to a full grasp of evolutionary theory for ordinary (non-expert) children and adults. Specifically, this chapter describes five essentialist assumptions that are common in everyday thought and are inconsistent with evolutionary theory, including: assumption of category stability and immutability, assumption that category boundaries are strict and impermeable, failure to understand within-category variability, by either denying its existence or treating it as ‘noise’, treating causes as inhering in individuals rather than resulting from population-level forces, and viewing categories as progressing toward an ideal state. Some of these obstacles impede acceptance of evolutionary theory; others impede understanding evolutionary theory. The chapter concludes with speculations about implications for science education.

Keywords: essentialism; understanding evolution; accepting evolution; categories & concepts; science education

Chapter.  8434 words. 

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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