What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Evolution is Not an Obvious or Intuitive Concept

January 26, 2014, 12:00 AM
Shutterstock_133811405

Do you know that you are related to a strawberry?

This is not an easy concept to grasp. On some level it requires us to channel the abstract thinking of a poet. Consider these lines by Walt Whitman:

I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits, grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco’d with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons...

In these lines, from "Song of Myself," Whitman restructures our sense of reality. The concept of the "self" is not fixed, but fluid. Not only are all men related, but so is all of nature. This is not how we tend to apprehend the world around us. After all, we observe the world in the time frame of an hour, or a day, or a lifetime - not in the context of the deep time of evolution and cosmology. 

So what is the best way to teach this complex idea?

Since the time of Darwin’s discovery that humans are descendants from other forms of life, we have gained a wealth of information about evolution. The Human Genome Project has given us "the ultimate tool for mapping our position in the rest of the tree of life," says Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History. Furthermore, Johnson says that museums have played a crucial role over the last hundred years in the public discussion of evolution. 

By presenting dinosaur skeletons and other exhibits, Johnson points out that museums are able to "frame the three-dimensional evidence that we have for evolution." A current exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History called "Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code" aims to do just that.

While Johnson sees museums as "the most accessible portal for understanding science that we have," a Big Think video featuring Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" has prompted an online debate between the science educator and creationists - most notably the leadership of the Petersburg, Kentucky-based Creation Museum. Nye will debate evolution with the creationist Ken Ham on February 4th. Some have criticized Nye's decision to do so, arguing that "debate is a sport, not the way we decide scientifically how the world works."

Kirk Johnson, for his part, says he has had "many rational conversations with creationists who often feel that they haven’t seen the evidence for evolution." And so, the most powerful way to educate, Johnson says in the video below, "is to walk through an exhibit and say 'here are the elements of evolution manifest.'" Because, after all, "evolution is not an obvious or intuitive concept."  

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

More from the Big Idea for Sunday, January 26 2014

Deep Time

We often think of museums as places that collect the dust of the past, not the guide to the future. Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History, sees museums much differently.... Read More…

 

Evolution is Not an Obvious...

Newsletter: Share: