A review of evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson’s new book discusses this field a little. I hope to read a lot in that area after I retire. I know little science, little biology, but I have two friends who know a great deal and they will help me.
What I wanted to say here was that while the book and the project it’s based on do sound weak, I disagree with the reviewer in this one matter: education. He asks how can we teach math and other intellectual pursuits of the Enlightenment by relying on the dad passing on knowledge to his son model. We can. Teachers do it all the time: they set up the conditions in their classrooms and in their relationships with their students to do exactly this. At least that’s how it feels to students lucky enough to have a teacher like that.
The reviewer, a scientist himself, no doubt was one of those blessed ones who could sit through abstract lectures in high school and instantly relate it to what he’s read in the textbook already, and so on. People like this just can’t understand why we can’t teach science on an assembly line basis. They so loved learning and science in particular that that sort of teaching appealed to them. I enjoyed lectures of that sort in history; most of my fellow students did not. I can also sit and listen to lectures on arcane grammar points for hours; can you, dear reader?
We cannot base teaching on a mere handfull of people who happen to be wired unlike most people. The more natural or “evolutionary” approach can work in classrooms. Of course, the structure of education would have to be radically – and I mean radical in its ’root’ meaning – changed. Reformers want to change education, too, but they unfortunately want to make teaching less and less friendly to our evolutionary propensity to learn from people rather than websites.