“Why doesn’t everyone believe in evolution? It’s a fact!” A recent article from the University of Pennsylvania, “Following in Darwin’s Footsteps to Teach the Public about Evolution,” highlights this confounding problem for secularists. According to a recent national survey conducted by the university, approximately 25% of those surveyed were some form of creationist. How could this be? Penn researchers Michael Weisberg, professor and chair of the philosophy department, and Deena Weisberg, a senior fellow in the psychology department, decided to look into the issue in search of a solution. They recruited a team of undergraduates who conducted interviews with the general public. The goal was to determine the “misunderstandings” of evolution deniers. Their broad conclusion? “A lot of people have no idea what evolution is.”
So how to fix this problem? Well, the tone of the article would seem to suggest that since the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and since any rational person would believe evolution if they really understood it, the flaw must be in the way evolution is being taught. And since Michael Weisberg and Deena Weisberg are scientists who study how people learn, this is a problem right up their alley.
The next step was to have their research team watch dozens of nature documentaries from the past 30 years to pinpoint what really worked to bring evolutionary enlightenment. The documentaries fell into three basic categories: traditional narrator, cinema verité (attempts to make the viewers feel as if they are there), and behind the scenes (the “making of”). Each one was determined to have its own strengths and weaknesses.
From there they followed Darwin’s steps and traveled to the Galápagos Islands to create “a documentary series about evolution, the aim of which is to grasp how much people really know about this subject and the best way to teach it.” They shot a lot of footage that will be spliced together to form three different documentaries on the same subject of evolution. Like the documentaries the Weisbergs studied, each documentary will be a different style: traditional narrator, cinema verité, and behind the scenes (the “making of”).