What Exactly Is Evolution?

Module #1 – What Exactly is Evolution?

Age Level: Senior Science (Age +15)


  • BI30‐LE2 Examine the significance of evolution as a key unifying theme in biology through the principles, processes and patterns of biological evolution. [SI, DM] from SK Curriculum


  • Identify common misconceptions (e.g., individuals evolve, natural selection is evolution, evolution is random and evolution is a theory) regarding biological evolution. (K)

Guiding Question:

What is evolution and what are the common misconceptions associated with it?



  1. What is Evolution?
    a. The change in variety of traits in the genetic pool of populations over time influenced by changes to the environment, potentially leading to speciation.
    Simply put: organisms have changed or evolved throughout the history of earth. Humans didn’t evolve from monkeys, but we share a common ancestor with them! The changes can be caused by natural selection, migration, genetic drift, or mutations!
  2. Addressing common misconceptions (what they are and corrections to them)
    a. Individuals evolve
    Activity (10 seconds): Try as hard as you can to evolve. You can’t! We may have a means to adapt, but we never evolve!
    Populations evolve, not individuals – the genetic combination you got, you’re stuck with.

    b. Natural selection is evolution/evolution is random
    Activity: Using the pets (if you have four cats like me) or people in your household (or individuals in your friend group), think about the characteristics they share and don’t share.– Roll a dice to determine a selective pressure to introduce to the environment that is your household (use an app if you want) – you may want a means to record what occurs:
    1-2 (introduce a predator), which one of you would be most likely to survive given the predator and why? How will this affect the “pool” of characteristics in the household?
    3-4 (introduce a change in climate), which one of you would be most likely to survive given the change in climate and why? How will this affect the “pool” of characteristics in the household? 
    5-6 (introduce a new food that will exclusively be eaten in the household), which one of you would be most likely to survive given the specific food type and why? How will this affect the “pool” of characteristics in the household? 

    Whomever was left over, is more likely to reproduce, effectively changing the population. Who got to survive in your activity?
    While the “selective pressure” was random, the change in population wasn’t as the individuals with certain traits may survive longer to reproduce..

    c. Evolution explains the origins of life.

    It explains how the genetic make-up of populations of organisms change over time, not how life began.

    d. Evolution is a “just a theory”

    “Theory” is a misused word in common language as it is used synonymously with “idea”. A scientific theory is backed by a large multitude of independent studies explaining a phenomena. Additionally, a theory never becomes law in science – they are separate (a law simply states a phenomenon). 

  3. Cultural perspectives/Relevance to current events
    a. Opposition to science: Evolution, Climate Change, and Anti-Vaxxers
    Is it okay to actively go against what is more than likely fact?

    b. Ramifications of this.
    If we can’t accept fact, can we have a rational discussion?
    c. Why is evolution important?
    d. Why it doesn’t need to exclude cultural beliefs (assuming beliefs are open)?
    Science and faith are not mutually exclusive. Just because something may likely be true, shouldn’t shatter your faith.

Additional Resources (Optional):

OpenStax Biology Textbook – Chapter 18.1 Understanding Evolution

OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 7, 2017 http://cnx.org/contents/185cbf87-c72e-48f5-b51e-f14f21b5eabd@10.99.


Go to Socrative Student Login
Socrative Room Name: 98QHCGFW7

Available: Sept 5th, 2017 – Sept 15th, 2017

How did you do? If you got things wrong, maybe you need to watch the video again, visit the textbook resource, or ask questions in the comments of the video or on this page!

Group Discussion Prompt Flipgrid:

Why do misconceptions of evolution persist? Which misconception is the most prevalent? Why is it hard for people to “see” evolution?

–> Create a video answering one or all of the above – then watch and comment on at least two other people’s videos asking a question about what they said or whether you agree/disagree and why?

Flipgrid Topic Link
Password: biology
Topic Code: ef8160
Grid Code: iuy1vt4