Darwin and Mendel: evolution and genetics

Bizzo, Nelio; El-Hani, Charbel N.
June 2009
Journal of Biological Education (Society of Biology);Summer2009, Vol. 43 Issue 3, p108
Academic Journal
Many studies have shown that students' understanding of evolution is low and some sort of historical approach would be necessary in order to allow students to understand the theory of evolution. It is common to present Mendelian genetics to high school students prior to Biological Evolution, having in mind historical and epistemological assumptions regarding connections between the works of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. It is often said that Darwin 'lacked' a theory of heredity and, therefore, he had not been able to produce the synthetic theory of evolution himself. Thus, schools could provide a prior basis for heredity, so that students could begin to study evolution with a proper background in genetics. We intend to review some research on the history of biology, attempting to show that, even if Darwin had had notice of Mendel's works -- which we think he did -- he would not have changed his views on heredity. We examine this belief and its possible origins, offer some considerations about Darwin's views on heredity, including his knowledge of the 3:1 ratio, the consequences for the work on Nature of Science (NOS), and finally give five reasons to consider alternative possibilities for curriculum development.


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