I have been taking with my daughter, who is 12, recently about evolution. She already knows more than any creationist or IDer out there, which is a good thing.
Today I was reading Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, which is a completely engaging and wonder evoking book about evolution. It brings the incredibly beauty of evolution to life in a way no other book I’ve read about evolution has.
I showed my daughter some pictures of the skeletons of different animals like a bat, a pterodactyl, a human, and a couple of other animals and which illustrate the wonderful similarity of all of these skeletons have to one another. Yes, some specific bones have changed, some growing, some shrinking, but it is obvious that the wing bone in a bat corresponds to little finger in a human, or the middle finger of a human corresponds to the hoof of a horse. You can see that the skull, the spine, the ribs and pelvis in all of these vertebrates all correspond to each other. It it thrilling and amazing to see.
I showed some of these to my daughter and she got visibly excited, “Oh! Are there more pictures of animals in there?!” So I showed her some more and we talked about how these different animals had changes to suit their environments, but are still very much the same from a skeletal point of view.
Later, as I was reading about Darwin’s discoveries in the Galapagos, she asked what I was reading about now. I told her about Galapagos turtles and finches. She became excited again, “Oh yeah! You mean that guy Darwin’s finches! That’s so cool!”. So we talked about how on islands only a few miles apart, different species of turtles and finches had evolved to take advantage of their environments.
It really excited me to see her so interested in evolution. She’s a smart girl and I’m doing everything I can to encourage her to study and learn about everything that interests here. I try to teach her how to think critically and how to avoid the pitfalls of logical fallacies. She still just 12 so not everything I say automatically clicks, but a lot of it does.
She’s already thinking about what she’d like to do when she grows up, with zoology being one of those things. I try to share my wonder and excitement with the beauty and breadth of life here on earth with her, hoping to encourage her to continue learning.
I have also taught her to believe in herself and it shows. She doesn’t let herself be put down or put upon. She calls out anyone who would try to treat her as anything other than an equal. I wish every father (and mother, for that matter) would do the same with their daughters.
We have come a long way since I was 12, when it was openly taught that a woman’s place was at home in the kitchen. I was just reading in The Atlantic that women now make up 60% of the workforce in the U.S. It postulated that in 10 to 20 years, woman may dominate most sectors of society and the economy as they become better educated and more literate than men.
I want my daughter to know that she can be and do anything at all, with nothing to hold her back. These trends make me hopeful that she, and other girls the world over, will be able to be all that they can be.
I privately hope she will stick with zoology or some other science. Having women in science, I think, just might lead to the break throughs that we need if we are to survive as a species. I think this because I believe that women bring perspectives and ways of thinking that just don’t exist in most men and it is these novel (to us men, anyway) ways of seeing the world that will allow insights into the deepest questions of science, and subsequently to break throughs that will dwarf almost any that have come before.
And who knows, maybe my daughter will be one of those women who will change the world. After all, a father can hope, can’t he?
James Walker http://freethinkingfordummies.com @jpwalker1960